CRM Reading Lounge: The Essential CRM Guide

Key Appointments for CRM Success: This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials ebook series.

Updated October 2020

Appointing the right people to key positions is crucial for the success of the CRM system. Start thinking now about who will fill the roles of system administrator, project sponsor, and project manager. Not having clearly defined roles and responsibilities for these three positions will trip you up as the CRM implementation proceeds.

Project sponsor

The sponsor is accountable for the success or failure of the CRM project. This is, potentially, a responsibility that can make or break a career; so it is no surprise that the role of the sponsor includes selecting the project manager. Other tasks are:

  • Championing the project by promoting and supporting it throughout the company
  • Sourcing the necessary funding for the project
  • Resolving issues that the project manager is unable or unwilling to resolve
  • Ensuring that only the necessary function is delivered and that scope creep doesn’t introduce nice-to-have features at greater cost
  • Deciding, at each stage of the project, whether the project goes ahead or is abandoned
  • Chairing the project steering committee, should there be one

Despite the responsibilities, this is not a hands-on position. By far the bulk of the day to day detail is delegated to the project manager. Of course, for a project with a very limited scope and a small project team, the sponsor could also assume the role of project manager, but this is rare and not recommended. The ideal is to have a sponsor who is senior enough to have the necessary influence and interested enough to play an active role when and where needed.

CRM Project manager

The project manager is responsible for detailed planning, for the day to day management and control of the project, and reports directly to the project sponsor. This is often a senior manager within the organization, but may also be a specialist who is contracted to get the job done effectively. Among the responsibilities are:

  • Defining roles and responsibilities for the project team and getting agreement from the team on those roles
  • Planning everything from information gathering to data analysis, from system requirements to risk analysis and contingency planning
  • Designing project control mechanisms and reporting procedures
  • Managing, in conjunction with the project sponsor, CRM project scope.
  • Staying within the agreed-upon budget and timeframe
  • Managing and reporting progress
  • Being accountable for quality

System administrator

The earlier this person is identified, the sooner their grooming and training can begin. Although the duties of the system administrator only really begin once the system has been installed and commissioned, getting the designated person involved from the beginning is a must. To perform well, a system administrator must have a blend of technical skills, people skills and management ability.

The system administrator’s prime responsibility is to support and maintain the system, and to plan for and respond to any problems that may arise. Other duties may include:

  • Project management for systems-related projects
  • Supervising or training technical support staff
  • Being the consultant for problems beyond the knowledge of technical support staff
  • Applying software system updates, patches, and configuration changes
  • Installing and configuring new software
  • Adding, removing, or updating user account information
  • Answering technical queries
  • Performing backups and ensuring system recovery procedures are in place
  • Documenting the system configuration
  • Troubleshooting any reported problems

Division of labor

A mistake more common than you might think, is not knowing who does what. And it is so easy to avoid this sort of problem. Basically, you take all the work that needs to be done to get your system running and divide it up between the team. Not only does this make your staff aware of what is required, it also prevents two large problems:

  • Two people trying to do the same job because they both think it is their responsibility, a situation that often leads to a breakdown in working relationships.
  • Things falling between the cracks because everybody thought somebody else was taking care of it – a situation we are all familiar with.

Once defined, the roles must be discussed with the team and adjustments made, if necessary. This is vital for clear understanding of who is expected to do what. Allow time for full discussion of the roles and responsibilities. Simply producing a list of who does what and emailing it to team members falls far short of promoting complete understanding. It needs to be talked through, and reviewed as the project progresses.

Risk analysis

Be warned that no matter how thorough your preparation and specifications are, there are still risks in a CRM system selection and installation process. You need to have done a complete risk assessment. Look carefully at every aspect of the business and think about how it may be affected by a CRM system. Then do a risk analysis and consider your options for contingency plans. What is the worst that could happen, and how would you deal with it? Also, read our free The Essential Guide to Best Fit CRM before making any final decisions. Your career and or your business may be on the line, so don’t skimp on this.