10 Signs of a Bad CRM Implementation

So you’ve decided to implement Salesforce as your business’s CRM. Now what?

Going through a CRM implementation is one of the riskiest business initiatives you can take on. Realizing a return on your technology investment needs to be priority #1. And getting a good implementation outcome – one that’s on time, on budget, and functional – is a huge part of your CRM ROI.

Knowing the steps to take for a successful implementation is a good place to start. But you should also be aware of signs that your implementation is going poorly.

When you’re implementing a big system – like a CRM or ERP – risk increases. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it can go south … fast. It can be easy to see all the great demos and imagine how a tool like Salesforce will suddenly transform your business. But there are real challenges to overcome during your implementation.

What starts as a Utopian view of endless CRM possibilities can quickly spiral into a nightmare if you don’t know how to tackle the Salesforce implementation process.

When will you find the time to do all the implementation work on top of your current responsibilities?
Who will lead the project?
How do you know if you’re implementing things the right way?
What about your data? Is it ready to move over?

Knowing the warning signs of a bad Salesforce implementation is just as important as knowing all the things you should be doing. Here to help keep you on track, we’ve identified the 10 signs to watch for so you don’t end up with a bad Salesforce implementation.

How to Avoid a Bad Salesforce Implementation

1. Ready – Fire – Aim

Failing to plan is planning to fail. This old adage holds true – particularly during a Salesforce implementation.

Salesforce CRM is a relatively easy solution to configure, but this can be a double-edged sword. It can be tempting to move forward with customizations before you fully understand the system design. But shooting before you’ve scoped your shot is never wise – or safe.

Not planning your whole implementation before you start customizing will often lead to more work or bad “Band-aid fixes” down the road. Not exactly what you want for your business CRM.

2. Bad Data

Nothing destroys your end users’ and management’s confidence in a new tool like bad data.

Whether it’s duplicate records or inaccurate/missing info, bad data is a sure-fire way to find yourself in the middle of a bad Salesforce implementation.

There are a number of tools that can help you clean up your data and prevent bad data from finding its way into your Salesforce org. That said, most data issues will require a significant amount of “pick and shovel” manual work to get the long tail of data issues cleaned up. But it’s worth it. Take the necessary time up front to get your data clean. Then set safeguards to keep it clean.

Most of the bad CRM implementations we’ve seen started with bad data from the start. Save yourself some stress and take the time to address your data early in your implementation.

3. Responsibility Russian Roulette

Salesforce implementations have a lot of moving pieces. But that’s to be expected with a technology that touches so many parts of your business.

From sales to service and marketing, everyone involved needs to clearly understand what they are responsible for and how their efforts impact the overall outcome.

Lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities creates team division, frustration, and costly functionality gaps. The outcome? A very bad Salesforce implementation experience and a final product that doesn’t work – essentially shooting your investment in the foot.

Everyone needs to take accountability for their tasks, and how it will impact other parts of the implementation. The more your team understands their role in the process, their responsibilities, and how to work together as a whole, the more likely you are to avoid a bad Salesforce implementation.

4. Unrealistic Expectations

It’s really easy to think of a new tool as a “cure-all.” It’s nice to imagine that suddenly all your process and sales woes will be fixed at go-live. That this new technology will be your business’s magic pill.

Wouldn’t it be perfect if you could just install, step back, and watch it magically transform your business into a well-oiled machine?

In reality, there’s a lot of thought and effort that go into a functional Salesforce implementation. If you want specific results, you need a specific strategy.

A bad Salesforce implementation is an implementation that doesn’t address your business needs. When this happens, it’s often because the business didn’t realistically tackle their objectives and take the time to outline them thoroughly.

5. Long Gone Leadership

We get it. Leaders are busy. You may be tempted to delegate a lot, if not all, of your Salesforce implementation.

But senior management must stay actively involved throughout the implementation process.

There are so many questions and unexpected twists-and-turns along the way. Too often, leaders are engaged in the beginning and then go back to their day-to-day, dropping in occasionally for quick “fly-by” updates. When this happens, by the end of the project, the implementation is often off-course and over budget.

In order to get the outcome you want – and to protect your timeline and budget – leadership needs to stay involved. This ensures the integrity of the organization’s vision and your investment in Salesforce as your CRM.

6. Misguided Management

Another mistake leaders often make during a CRM implementation is to set aggressive, unrealistic timelines and budgets without coordinating or discussing with their team. Bold goals are great. But you don’t want to set your team up for failure. Not only will you lose the trust of those around you, but you’ll put the entire implementation at risk.

Instead, once your Salesforce scope is set, meet with the implementation team to discuss goal setting. This helps gather input and gain buy-in from those that will be heavily involved in the process.

7. Devaluing Proper Project Management

Project management isn’t a tangible line item. Its value is hard to measure sometimes and that makes it hard for leadership to see its real impact.

Project management is all that “stuff” done behind the scenes. It’s what keeps a project moving forward efficiently. But a lot of organizations forgo dedicated or experienced project management to cut costs. Undervaluing project management is one of the quickest ways to go over deadline and budget.

Without project management, you marginalize your implementation’s communication, urgency, budget awareness, coordination, risk management, and much more. So trust us, it’s worth it. In our experience, those without a project manager are far more likely to end up with a bad Salesforce implementation.

8. Shiny Object Syndrome

It’s impossible to anticipate every requirement ahead of time. When your implementation kicks off and new functionality presents itself, it can be very tempting to do everything.

But you need to have a balance between including what’s important and addressing what’s within project scope. If you get distracted every time something new comes up, your implementation will have one nasty case of scope creep.

Set clear criteria for including new requirements, because they will pop up. And distraction is all too easy in these types of projects. Failure to remain focused will either: A) Put you at risk of a multi-month implementation that never moves forward and costs you far more than you budgeted, or B) Leave you with a Salesforce implementation that isn’t functional because you didn’t address necessary requirements.

9. Poor Governance

Governance is a polarizing topic. But a strong governance model is absolutely essential to the long-term success of any Salesforce org.

The goal of a governance model is to provide structure for users, stakeholders, and management to use, improve, and understand the system. Without it, your users can become disengaged and an adversarial relationship can form between them and the CRM. Once that animosity and distrust have been established, it can be very hard to turn around. Keeping your team engaged with improvements and usage should be your #1 goal in any governance process.

10. Non-Technical Admins

Sales reps, marketing personnel, controllers, and IT team members are often selected to be Salesforce administrators. Because Salesforce is very user-friendly and Trailhead provides great training, there can be a temptation to promote team members who are ambitious and show interest in learning Salesforce to an Admin role.

While there’s nothing wrong with this, you should always consider the long-term technical skills required to architect and develop an effective Salesforce organization when setting role permissions within your team. Admins with a limited technical ceiling will be a boat anchor in your Salesforce implementation. Keep this in mind when you’re defining roles and permissions. The integrity of your system long-term must be considered.


Salesforce is an amazing CRM, and a good implementation can transform your business. But it isn’t a magic solution. Solving your business challenges with a new CRM technology will take focus and attention.

Avoiding these implementation pitfalls will go a long way to help.
Knowing the 5 essentials to a good implementation will go even farther.

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