The Four Key Roles for a Successful CRM Implementation

Fiona Buttars, PMP

Manager, Professional Services

Fiona has managed projects including system selections, system implementations, data conversions, integrations, customizations, report development, database support, needs assessments, pricing studies, and customer behavior analysis.
May 02, 2023

So, you’ve selected a new system, outlined a plan to make the change, and now it is time to think about who will help with the CRM implementation. Before outlining names and responsibilities, it is important to think about the skill sets and characteristics you’ll need from your team. Who will help is important, but what you need them to do is a crucial definition in your implementation project planning. There are four main roles for a successful CRM implementation:

  • Champions  
  • Organizers  
  • Experts  
  • Change Agents  

Each role has a part to play in the implementation journey by helping bring the project together. Let’s take a deeper look at understanding each one. 

The Champion 

A champion is the glue that holds the implementation project together. The champion’s primary role is as the sponsor of the project. Ideally, the champion is a member of the senior leadership team with decision-making authority as the project sponsor 

Key responsibilities include:  

  • Serve as the leader of the implementation with executive-level oversight. The champion is responsible for the eventual success of the project.  
  • Serve as the project spokesperson, the voice of the project at all levels.  
  • Generate and sustain buy-in and support across the organization that the project itself is a priority and it is a priority for staff to spend time on project work.  
  • Build excitement about the system change, and implementation, as the primary cheerleader.  
  • Serve as the primary promoter, supporter, and encourager. While others may question the process, or the product being implemented, this person must keep their eyes on the prize. If staff start to fear the unknown of a new system, the champion is there to remind everyone why they are on the path toward implementation, why it is important, and what positive impact the change will bring.  
  • Prioritize the project, including defending staff from outside influences and changes that may affect the ability to work on their implementation role. The champion is to determine priorities when conflicting requirements occur, both defending and supporting the priorities of the project as critical organizational focus areas.  
  • Negotiate conflicts that could relate to schedule, budget, project priorities, and staff availability.  

Steering Committee members can also be project champions and provide executive support and guidance of the project. Committee members represent teams or departments with a significant stake in the project’s success and are responsible to: 

  • Monitor overall project progress. 
  • Monitor risks. 
  • Monitor project quality. 
  • Resolve escalated project conflicts and issues. 
  • Provide expertise when required. 

The Organizer

While the champion is the glue, the organizer lines up the pieces of paper that need to be glued. The organizer also known as the project manager serves the role of compiling and communicating the plans, keeping everyone on track, coordinating details of the who, what, how, and when of the overall project. The project manager is accountable to the project sponsor for the success of the project.  

Key responsibilities include:  

  • Compile project plans, including budget, communication, roles and responsibilities, risks, and schedule.
  • Communicate key deadlines, responsibilities, and progress.
  • Monitor project progress and deliverables.  
  • Control project schedule and budget. 
  • Identify, monitor, and respond to risks. 

There may be multiple project managers who are involved representing your organization, vendors, implementation partners, and/or third-party companies. In the case of multiple roles, it is critical to set expectations for each project lead role, including both internal and external resources.  

The Expert

Working in concert with the champion and organizer, the project experts fill out the critical details on the pieces of paper that need glued together. Their superpower is their expertise, be it in reporting, major giving, communications, custom interfaces, third party applications, or any other area of the organization and related databases. These crucial members of the project team serve as both key sources of information and the critical thinking skills to translate the system requirements into system use for implementation success. These project experts may be functional experts or more technical staff, including database administrators and IT staff. 

Key responsibilities include:  

  • Translate system requirements and business needs into system use, based on area of expertise (department, project, etc.).  
  • Critical thinking of systems design and use cases.  
  • Analysis of technical aspects of systems planning.  
  • Training staff on use of the new system.  
  • As super users of the system, educating staff about the system and incorporating feedback for its optimized use, communicating critical details with the larger project team.  

The Change Agent

And finally, change agents are the mobilizers. Once the details have been filled into the paper by the project experts, structured by the organizers, and glued together by the championthe change agents are the ones who create excitement about the details, communicating and celebrating the impending changes. The change agents are informed of the project details, involved in its execution, and support the overall implementation effort by encouraging and motivating staff to embrace the changes, and use them. These team members are focused on the people impacted by the project, and help assess, provide feedback, and communicate the changes that will impact staff and various stakeholders. Without the paper, the details, and the glue, the change agents wouldn’t have the information and excitement to share. Change agents are a critical component, and without them, the project might only be communicated from the topbut it must be shared from the base of the organization too.  

Your CRM implementation is critical to the successful setup, use, and adoption of your new system. By defining the key roles in the project, you not only establish clear responsibilities for your team, but also foster buy in throughout the process—organization-wide. The smoother the transition, the more likely for positive change to elicit feelings of excitement for the new system, and ensure a successful implementation of critical technology needed to achieve your goals.  

You’ve Chosen Your CRM. Now What?

You’ve made the big decision—and now it’s time to implement. Don’t risk doing your CRM Implementation alone. When implemented well, your CRM can ignite productivity and achieve your organization’s strategic goals. JCA’s independence from any single software vendor, along with our 30+ years of experience, makes us your trusted partner. Whether you’re considering a system change, are in the middle of an implementation, or are post-go-live, JCA can help.

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