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CRM Success Criteria

In our work with Higher Ed institutions, we often notice a similar stumbling block. Many institutions take the same approach to CRM procurement and implementations as they do to ERP procurements and implementations—with a focus on features, functions, and configuration. But there are significant differences between these solutions that lead me to suggest that a different approach is needed for CRM.


Critical Differences

ERP systems, by and large, are relatively mature and have built-in support for standard Higher Education business processes such as registration, fund based accounting, financial aid, etc. The focus in an ERP implementation is on configuration, data conversion, and changing current established business processes.

Further, success of ERP projects is often rooted in how little disruption to the institution and its constituents was introduced in the transition to a new system. If all goes well with the implementation, no one notices, or barely notices. If all does not go well with the implementation and students have difficulty registering or receiving financial aid disbursements or employees are paid incorrectly or the CFO cannot report with confidence on the financial status of the institution, well, everyone notices—and that is not a desirable outcome.

The Proof is in the Potential

A CRM system, on the other hand, represents potential. Another way to think about CRM is that a CRM system has the potential to enhance and extend current business processes. In other words, CRM systems do not have built-in processes to support Higher Education, although some vendors are attempting a move in this direction. And interestingly, if a CRM project fails, very few people notice because core business processes continue to function.

At its core, CRM systems:

  • Offer an approach to track communications and social media interactions
  • Offer an approach to understand relationships, for example, among and between
    • Individuals
    • Corporations
    • Foundations
    • Government Entities
    • High Schools
  • Offer capabilities to identify a subgroup to target or report on for whatever reason
  • A capability to obtain a 360º view of an entity

Better tracking of communications, better understanding of relationships, the ability to target subgroups, and having a 360º view are not, in my view, success criteria. Instead, institutions need to clearly define anticipated business outcomes (e.g., better yield, better retention, increase alumni participation, etc.) and focus on process and change management if they want to be truly successful implementing CRM.

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