The below October 2012 CIO Magazine article is a must read for anyone planning a CRM deployment and trying to determine the roll-out sequence to user groups. I’ve added my thoughts from experience below (in Italics).

Before Installing CRM Systems, Consult Your Org Chart
– CIO Magazine, October 2012CIO Magazine - Click or Tap on Logo Image to view the linked article on CIO.com

With most enterprise systems, it’s immediately clear who should be users and what they should be able to do on the system. Not so with CRM — and, over time, more and more employees and departments will need to be on the system.

If CRM access is so important, then you want everyone on the system ASAP, right? Not so fast, Kemosabe. Ironically, the area of the system that has the widest interest—analytics and reports—is the part you need to go slowest in exposing. Why? The more elegant the analysis, the more purely distilled the data quality and semantics problems that are epidemic in CRM. (The perfectionists will howl, but the reality is that CRM data, due to its diverse origins, is almost guaranteed to be the dirtiest data in the enterprise.)

The inclination to roll-out CRM to sales users first is a common instinct for many organizations. Isn’t it logical that sales users be among the first to use Sales Automation? In my opinion, this is not true for the simple fact that sales users are demanding consumers of information but terrible providers of information. It may make sense to circle the wagons and deploy to users all around “sales” first, so that by the time sales users begin using CRM, valuable data, processes, and other users have already adopted and provided value for the sales users. This encourages adoption and improves the overall quality of data for reporting.

Whether you’re doing a greenfield system or a CRM conversion project, the first users to make happy are the folks manning the phones: telesales and customer support. In doing their jobs, they are at their desks and on their computers all day long, so it’s easy for them to leverage automation in a way that fits naturally with how they do things anyway. Since these folks type data for a living, their usage can fill the system with high quality data in a hurry.

The below sequence is an example that represents the main point of this article. Of course the sequence is determined by many more factors such as culture, legacy systems, and business priorities to name a few.

The exact sequence of user adoption will depend on your organizations processes and preferences, but it’s usually something like this:

  • Telesales and customer support
  • Their immediate managers
  • Marketing
  • Sales engineers, support engineers or field engineers
  • Their immediate managers
  • Sales representatives
  • Sales operations
  • Financial and contracts personnel
  • Sales management
  • VPs of sales, marketing and customer service
  • CFO and VP of manufacturing/distribution
  • The entire executive suite