CRM Implementation: Steal this proven process

Best Practices

Here Is The 13-Step CRM Implementation Process Used by Insightly’s Implementation Pros

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation is an essential ingredient for a successful CRM project. Our team has helped more than 25,000 businesses successfully implement their CRM system to meet their unique business needs, and we’ve done so with companies of all sizes, across many industries. 

Here is the CRM implementation process developed over years of onboarding new customers. Read on and see how you can optimize it for the best CRM rollout at your company.

Why you need a CRM Implementation Plan

Up to 69% of CRM projects fail because of poor implementation. If done incorrectly, your users will be frustrated or worse. A poor experience could lead to lost customer trust and even lost revenue as customers move away from your business solutions. 

A successful implementation of your CRM makes all the difference in user adoption, customer data integrity, and, ultimately, ROI and your bottom line. It ensures your team will be productive and happy with your system. It also ensures your new CRM software will have enhanced functionality and contribute to customer retention. 

13 Steps To Successful CRM Software Implementation

Whether you run a small business, are heading a start-up, or planning a new CRM system for a large company, your CRM implementation strategy matters. 

Not only will it streamline your sales process and make life easier for different end-users on your team (especially your sales reps), but the right CRM will improve customer satisfaction and enhance workflow for salespeople and managers alike. 

Despite the compelling reasons to switch, organizations continually find themselves settling for what’s familiar. The simple truth is that CRMs can feel risky and costly at first glance – which means staying put feels like a safer choice than taking this leap into uncertainty. 

Here are the 10 steps Insightly takes with every client to maintain our unbeatable customer satisfaction track record. 

1. Gather Your CRM Implementation Team

Before starting the process, you’ll need two key elements to build your team: a CRM owner or sponsor and a CRM implementation team that includes cross-functional specialists and advocates. 

Choose an owner

By choosing an owner, you not only gain a crucial resource to help communicate business needs throughout the organization, but you also get someone committed to its success. Shared ownership for multifaceted CRM implementations can result in no ownership at all, leading to poor and ineffective implementations.

Structure your team

Below is a typical CRM implementation team with cross-functional specialists and advocates.

  • Owner: This person will guide and offer organizational perspective and own its success.
  • Project Manager: This person will act as the leader throughout the CRM planning process. 
  • Application Developer: Their role will be to oversee system customization. 
  • Application Analyst: Responsibilities include data cleansing and migration. 
  • QA Test Engineer: This person will lead testing efforts. 

Involve stakeholders and future users

Additionally, you’ll need to gather a sampling of representatives from all essential user groups to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. 

  • Sales Managers
  • Sales Team
  • Delivery Managers
  • Marketing Managers
  • Marketing Team 
  • Customer Service Reps 
  • Project Managers 

As you gather your team, it’s crucial to think about each member’s role within the CRM implementation project. They are there to help your company meet the goals and KPIs set when you decided to choose a CRM system. 

Pick team members who believe in CRM, can get others on board, and will work to make it a success. 

2. Benchmark your current CRM performance

What are you currently using for a CRM or in place of a CRM (e.g. spreadsheets) Take some time to document what is working with your current system and where there are gaps. Many of these may be the exact reason you started looking for a new system. This data will come in handy post-implementation as a way to see if the major pain points were resolved with your new system. 

3. Assess Your Needs And Define Your Goals/KPIs

The next step is to figure out what solutions your CRM technology will offer your company. Identify goals you want to achieve by outlining how you expect your team to use the CRM system. 

After you run a CRM needs assessment, you are ready to set goals. Your goals for the new system need to include tangible, specific results that are measurable by your business performance within a particular time frame. Established goals will help you identify an actionable plan. 

How to define your CRM goals

Take a look at some examples of measurable goals you can use to design your own. 

Consider CRM pricing at this stage since it may expand or contract the providers you can consider. For instance, Salesforce is a high-priced CRM for the Fortune 500. Microsoft Dynamics is as well. Are those in your price range? Likely not. Does your organization have an ERP? Do you have an ecommerce platform? These considerations may limit the pool of CRMs from which your team can choose. A tool like HubSpot may be appealing, but keep in mind that it was a marketing automation platform first, so it’s CRM function isn’t its strength. Plus, it’s on the pricer side as well. Should it be considered?

When you create goals from your company’s unique needs, you will improve your CRM implementation plan by designing the most useful CRM solution. 


4. Collect And Prepare Your Data

Data management is a big headache that is often overlooked during the CRM implementation process. If not done correctly, it can result in higher implementation costs. Manipulating data once it’s been imported is challenging because the new CRM will use it in a new way. With this in mind, you’ll want to strive to get it right the first time.

Collect existing customer data

It’s important to determine ahead of time what customer data needs to be brought over to the new CRM system and where it is currently located. Your team will also need to identify how they will use it in the new CRM. While bringing over everything may sound like a good idea, you don’t want to clog up your new system with non-actionable data. Be selective.

Build your data model

Once you’ve decided what will be migrated, build a model and see how that data maps from your old system to your new system. Take time and put a lot of detail in this step. It will save you many questions down the road.

Choose the right CRM fields

Your team can transfer company, contact, and contract data from your existing business systems by simply using a CSV file generated through a spreadsheet. Ensure that the data goes into the right fields using the model you set up in the previous step. If custom fields are in order, now is a great time to create and populate them.

Most CRMs have a tool that will automate the import process. Since every solution handles data migration differently, you’ll need to evaluate what is required from the get-go. This will depend on your CRM vendor and can impact your implementation costs drastically. Insightly makes it easy to cleanse your data and migrate all of your data. 

5. Setup Your CRM Properly

Your new system is shiny and clean…yay! You’ve determined how to load your data so it’s all in the right place. Now it’s time to think through the administrative functions. Who needs access to what? You want to provide as much information as possible to users without jeopardizing security and opening yourself up to issues with personally identifiable information (PII). Giving someone too much access is typically worse than giving someone not enough access, so err on the side of caution here.

6. Connect Your CRM Integrations

The beauty of CRM integration is that you connect apps you already use into the new technology, allowing your team to access unified data from a singular platform. It saves time and makes your team feel more interconnected. 

You’ll also want to integrate any program known to enhance the customer experience and automate business processes.

Here are some of the most popular integrations: 

  • Communication Platforms
  • Accounting Packages 
  • Social Media Management Tools 
  • Lead Generation Programs 
  • Email Applications and Automation Programs 
  • Analytics Tools 
  • Live Chat Programs 
  • Project Management Tools 
  • Help Desk Applications 

The downside of integrations is that, with some systems, they can be complex and expensive. For example, legacy CRMs like Salesforce typically require you hire an integration partner or use your dedicated Salesforce team to create an integration. Newer, modern CRMs make integrations significantly easier.

Insightly has endless integration possibilities that are low-code/no code via AppConnect. AppConnect offers customized integration that will align all of your teams and processes to eliminate the need for time-consuming manual tasks. This will allow you to close deals at a faster pace. 

7. Import And Verify Your CRM Data

You’re getting closer to success with your new CRM system. You’ve done the prep work above to model out and plan your data migration. You’ve isolated the data that will be brought over. Now, it’s time for one last cleansing session. 

Clean up your CRM data

It’s vital to cleanse your data before transitioning to a CRM platform. You know the types of data you want to bring and the data you want to leave, but within the data you want to bring, you should be critical. Your team should review it to ensure unnecessary data is removed and data that you will transfer is formatted properly. This last cleansing step will ensure your new system is top notch. 

It’s time!  Now it’s time to make the move; it’s time to import it to your new CRM system. 

Once the transition is complete, verify that the data has been imported successfully by testing a few processes against the old system. This will make the rest of the implementation process much smoother since you can identify and fix any issues before you get too far into the project.

8. Test Your CRM Implementation 

As you near the end of your implementation process, you’ll need to test your CRM software to verify it’s fully functional and works according to the requirements of your business needs. 

As you test, you’ll see how each component works, and evaluate customer touch points connected to the CRM to ensure they work properly and will not impede the customer experience. 

Here are the key elements you need to test:

  • Contacts: Ensure all data fields assigned are fillable and recognizable. 
  • Pipeline Tracking: Check management systems to see if deal columns match the sales process. 
  • Automated Tasks: Look to see if triggers for automated tasks work correctly. 
  • Email Capture: Email exchanges should be connected to the proper contact, and dual email sync works as it should. 
  • Website Forms: Ensure all forms display correctly, all present fields are fillable, and a completed form is routed to the proper channels. 
  • Migrated Data: Double check that all imported records match the appropriate fields and no duplicate data exists. 
  • Integrations: Review all of your company’s integrated apps to ensure they are correctly connected. 

No matter your level of experience, CRMs are typically simple to set up and maintain. Insightly offers support for all aspects of your new CRM features to ensure a smooth integration. 

9. Onboard And Train Your First CRM Users 

Now that you’ve tested your new CRM and rolled out all components, it’s time to offer CRM training to your first users. While onboarding for all new tech is an important step, the onboarding for a CRM is likely the most critical process your business will face.  If this process doesn’t go well, the CRM will be useless and the implementation will likely fail.

How to onboard your first CRM users

Starting with a beta group is a good approach. Identify this group and put them through your planned onboarding training sessions. Then, sit back and listen. What went well? What areas are they struggling in? What were the common questions? Use this intel to bolster your training program before rolling it out to all teams.

When showing people how the system works, follow a hybried approach: allow them to watch a live demonstration, followed by some hands-on training. 

Be sure to collect your team’s feedback to discover critical insights on improving the system and making it work for your company. This will minimize roadblocks and system issues down the road. 


10. Built the right CRM dashboards and reports

Dashboards are data visualizations used to discover insights and chart progress towards your goals. You want to have your CRM create dashboards and reports to share among your team, with other team members and with leadership for a top-level view of what’s going on in the organization. As users are onboarded, ask them what types of dashboards they need and find valuable. Follow-up to ensure they are being used. For example, a CRM dashboard could include data on new leads, what’s in the pipeline, team KPIs, and recent activities and and upcoming events and activities.

11. Actively Look For Bottlenecks And Improvement Opportunities

Even those most dynamic implementation processes can yield trouble spots and areas that need improvement. This typically happens when users input workloads too quickly for a team to handle. They create costly delays for your company and cause issues with team members who may already be skeptical of the new CRM. 

Common CRM bottlenecks is information being held up? Examine these areas and look for ways to make improvements. For example, there is a bottleneck in the change from lead to opportunity. Do you need to add an additional step or two in that area to clarify and better communicate the state of the lead?

Build a feedback loop with your users

Take the time to keep a close eye on your CRM to identify these bottlenecks in the sales process, as well as areas that you can improve upon. Keep asking users for their input and make improvements that make sense for your unique situation. This could take many forms, like sending an email, hosting a regular meeting, creating a Slack channel for suggestions, and more. 

Iterate often

Re-evaluate requirements and improvements in your CRM. Choose a cadence and stick to it. For instance, you may plan to make changes and updates ones per month, every other month, or every quarter. This lets the team know that you are committed to responding to their needs and that the system is an ever-evolving part of your organization.

12. Scale Your CRM Implementation as You Grow

A successfully implemented CRM solves your immediate needs, but new needs always arise. Therefore, try not to see the implementation as being “done.” Instead, view it as a continuous effort to evolve and align your current state to the ever-changing marketplace. 

Maintain your growth and business goals as the driver for flexible and scalable enhancements. Gather stakeholders and power users often to identify, update, and prioritize your CRM roadmap. By doing this, administrators can ensure an implementation grows to meet any needs or challenges as they evolve

Scale Your CRM Implementation

The scalability of your CRM determines how easily it will be to use your CRM software with a much larger or smaller group of users and locations. 

The chances are that you onboarded critical members of your company whose buy-in you needed to make the CRM a success. Now it’s time to scale your CRM software for the entire team. 

Regular meetings can help your team scale CRM implementations. These meetings allow teams to prioritize features so system administrators can make changes in real-time. This approach offers flexibility and scalability for your team.


13. Measure User Adoption And Implementation Success

You’ll need a customized dashboard that pulls out critical data to target and track consistently to best measure implementation success. 

Pay close attention to critical metrics and whether or not your CRM is meeting the goals you initially set at the start of the implementation process. Here are some key metrics Insightly uses to evaluate the success of our CRM implementation projects. 

Quality of Inputs: An audit to assess whether the quality of all system inputs will be beneficial. It’s best to check inputs that have the most significant possible quality variable. 

  • Business Metrics: It’s a good idea to look at broad business metrics and see if you can find connections to your new CRM software. 
  • Record Updates: Check to see if users engaging with the CRM are updating records as expected. 
  • System Activity: Review the number of actions completed by a specific user in the system. This high-level check will see which users are logging in and actively engaging with the system. 

By evaluating user engagement and the overall implementation process, you can be more confident that the new CRM adds value to your company. 

CRM Implementations Made Easier with Insightly

Implementing CRMs are not simple one-and-done initiatives. While most CRM systems can technically work as purchased, to maximize your investment, you need to make sure that the implementation, configuration, and Go Live phases have all been properly planned and deployed.  

The experts at Insightly are highly trained in integrating, testing, customizing, training, and gathering feedback on your CRM solution. They take the guesswork out of CRM implementation and free up your valuable time to focus on other business processes that need your attention. 

Test out the Insightly CRM free of charge with a free trial. Sign up today to see all the great features!



How long does the CRM implementation process take?

The timeline varies depending on unique business and technology needs, though with Insightly CRM customers can begin to become productive and see benefits within 35-45 days. Whereas platform implementations take between 60-90 days. However, depending on the complexity and number of integrations needed, or the platform’s flexibility, the CRM implementation process can take several months.

Does my business need CRM and marketing automation? 

Yes, your business needs both CRM and marketing automation to effectively engage customers at all steps of their journey. Insightly Marketing is native to the CRM platform and enables your marketing and sales team to leverage the same view of customers and provide the best experience for customers.