Is your CRM implementation a success? Only if you raise more money

Our department launched a new customer relationship management (CRM) system this fall, following a 20-month implementation. We finished on time and under budget. Our data migrated successfully and is probably cleaner than it’s ever been. We developed or improved many business processes in order to leverage the power of the new tool. We’ll be able to track activity like never before. There are some lingering issues, which we’ll deal with eventually.

But was it a success?

An oft-quoted statistic has it that about one-third of all CRM projects fail. This stat is based on an average of a dozen analyst reports which have come up with failure rates ranging from 18% to 69%. (1)

Even at the low end of that wide range, CRM projects are clearly risky. Many go off the rails in terms of time, budget, front-line adoption, and promised functionality that never materializes.

So yes, our implementation was a success in that it avoided the problems that have felled so many others. Our implementation is a technical success. Whether it is an actual success is too early to say.

Such a large investment must lead to revenue growth. Our CRM must enable us to raise more money, and facilitate alignment of private support with the public mission. CRM is a tool for the development team to embrace and use effectively, it’s a tool to integrate early-stage engagement with development. It is not a tool for merely carrying out administrative tasks and reporting on them.

When CRM implementations are measured against this higher bar, the average failure rate is probably much higher than one-third. (2)

If you have not yet started down the path of finding your CRM solution, your first step will be to define your goals and must-haves. I suggest you put revenue growth and alignment with mission right at the top. Everything else flows from there.


  1. What to do when your CRM project fails,” CIO Magazine, September 18, 2017
  2. Why CRM Projects Fail and How to Make Them More Successful,” Harvard Business Review, December 20, 2018

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