The Right CRM Team Structure – Do You Have It?

It took years of planning. You (and a team of colleagues) spent months evaluating vendors, gathering requirements, building your CRM solution, and testing the product.

You’ve just deployed a new CRM tool, had a major upgrade to an existing tool or released new functionality that will change the way your client facing staff interact with clients. You are finally done and you can take a victory lap as the hard part is over – but is it?  Operationalizing the tool and driving adoption is a constant challenge and one that needs a team of professionals to ensure the investment you have already made delivers on the promise to drive revenue, change the sales culture, and provide a better client experience. You’ve accomplished the WHAT, now it is time to prove the WHY. It will take an (small) army of relentless CRM pioneers to get the job done and push the boulder of change up the hill. 

While there are various and well documented reasons why some CRM solutions fail to live up to their promises, one that is often overlooked is the need for a solid, knowledgeable and enthusiastic team of professionals that manage the post- deployment production needs of the tool.  This team of CRM Professionals is a business team and they act as the liaison between technology and the business in order to drive adoption, promote process change and encourage the cultural shift that was envisioned by the project sponsors (senior management). “Without a doubt one of the single most important factors for success is the realization that efforts like these are not just technology programs but really business transformation efforts that are always triggered by the business but rarely truly owned by them” cautions Hazem Gamal, an independent consultant to the financial services industry.

The purpose of this white paper is to identify some of the key roles and their functions that should be considered for post-implementation to achieve the proper return on your overall CRM investment.   This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather directional and depending on the size of your installation, these roles may even be combined depending the size of your user base and complexity of the processes your CRM tool supports.  While this research does not mean to imply that the formula below is a ‘one size fits all’, the functions of each role are critical and plays an important part in your overall capacity to fulfill on your intentions. It is fine to combine some of these roles but none of the functions should be overlooked. “CRM should be a living breathing thing that should adapt and change to business needs” says Chris Trivers, Senior Vice President of Sales Force Effectiveness at TD Bank. Chris adds “In order to accomplish that aspirational goal, the business needs a great CRM team for the implementation and for ongoing support. The CRM team plays a critical role translating business needs into the CRM tool. The CRM team acts as internal consultants translating the business needs to the IT or external consulting team to ensure that functionality is implemented in the appropriate manner”. 

1.      Head of CRM: This role is the lead role and most critical role of any CRM implementation. The Head of CRM (sometimes referred to as the Director of Sales Applications) is often an after thought or tacked-on to an existing role that already has significant responsibilities or provides critical functions to the organization (i.e.: Head of Marketing, Head of Sales, Chief of Staff, etc). Failure to define this role correctly or combining it with other functions, increases the risk of failure and allows the mission and scope to expand impacting the success of your CRM implementation.  This person is the ‘business owner’ of the tool and drives the overall strategy, vision, management, roadmap and direction of the tool. As the CRM strategy lead, the Head of CRM will often work with the Chief Sales Officer, the Chief Marketing Officer, the Chief Operations Officer and sometimes, depending on the size of the implementation and company, the CEO. The Head of CRM will also work with the project management office, the developers, middle-management and all levels of end users to be ‘the voice of the client’ where client is defined as an internal employee/end user.   

2.      Project Manager: Often times, the role of a Project Manager (PM) is delegated to the technology department (IT). For technology driven projects, this makes complete sense and for the technology pieces of a CRM project, this is appropriate.  However, CRM is a BUSINESS driven cultural shift that is supported by the tools and the technology department. Having a project management role in the business and giving it the authority to drive the business agenda is essential to the success of your post-implementation projects.  Far to often, the business sponsor thinks the heavy lifting is complete after the first release or the completion of a major upgrade. The ‘heavy lifting’ is continuous as the business needs change and adapt to market and industry fluctuations. The business must remain agile and fluid in order to maintain competitive.  Unfortunately, while the business is fluid, the technology is sometimes viewed as rigid and often unable to change as quickly as the market demands. When the management of the various CRM enhancement projects and initiatives are driven by IT, the CRM strategy begins to morph into a rigid ‘process obsessed’ black hole causing confusion and dissension from the people you are trying to serve (client facing staff). 

3.      Business Analyst: Similar to the Project Manager role, the role of the Business Analyst (BA) for a CRM project should sit within the business and strive to align the sales culture with the technology and industry best practices. Chris Trivers suggests “that the BA’s be certified in the CRM platform that the company has selected and that the ratio of 1 BA to every 500 users for large scale implementations is recommended”.  Most vendors offer an educational path for certification that should be leveraged so that you do not over customize the tool. To be clear, there is still a place for both a Project Manager and a Business Analyst within IT, but the majority of these resources should sit within the CRM professionals business team as they act as internal consultants that translate requirements and system limitations from the two clients they serve (business and IT) .  There are several ways that CRM focused BA’s can be aligned within your organization. Some firms focus on and assign projects as they are identified. Others, and a best practice for consistency, is to align your BA’s with ‘domains’ or areas of expertise like Marketing, Service, Reporting (BI) and Sales. 

4.     Culture Change Agents / Trainers / CRM Evangelists (CCA): It is best to avoid using the term “trainer” when describing this essential role and the people that inhabit it.  “Trainer” minimizes what this team does as they are the heart of the CRM professionals team. Christopher Hopper, a leader in CRM staff recruitment sees this role as one of the most critical. “This individual is responsible for nurturing and consulting within the end user community to address their concerns with the application and drive the benefit of the change in business process”.  “A CCA’s role is to keep ‘Spreading the word’ while providing the directions to the final destination of culture change says TONY BUSACA, President of the CRM Forum. “The CCA develops the blended learning approach to help client facing staff adopt and ABSORB the new processes, the various tools and the overall mindset that is really what CRM is all about” says Jason Faux the CCA Manager of a Global Team at a major financial services firm. CCA’s connect the dots between data and clients, business processes and performance, clicks of the mouse and business value.  CCA’s provide the communication strategy, the infrastructure to support the tool and the voice of the end user back to the BA’s and the Head of CRM for further development and alignment. “I like to think of them as ‘user advocates’ who, as a result of thinking like your users, are the best at helping them adopt the CRM system into their daily routines and also offer the most insightful opportunities for improving the overall CRM effort” adds Hazem Gamal.

5.      Data Governance or Data Quality team: Without quality data, your CRM system will either fail or be perceived in a negative way. This means that the value of your tool will always be in question and you will find yourself constantly playing defense in an environment that requires and offensive strategy for success. The CRM vendor you choose is not responsible for the data migration during the loading process or the quality of the data that is captured post implementation.  If your strategy is to delegate the accuracy of the data to client facing staff (sales executives) you will never have clean data. While the goal is to automate as much as you can to eliminate the creation of the bad or duplicate data, the automation process if often slow and happens of a period of time and through multiple releases. Therefore, establishing a data governance team that inputs, reviews, aligns and adjusts data in order to maintain quality is critical. While this can de completed through off-shore resources, when your data governance team maintains the hierarchical structure of your company along with the quality of all data, a best practice is to maintain this role within the business (sometimes the technical team) to ensure alignment is maximized.  

6.      Process Owners: Without the process owner, the work of everyone else is often lost, or at best, not fully realized.  Process owners pick-up where the CCA’s exit the development cycle and often work with management to operationalize the change and breakdown the barriers of resistance to adopt the process (and tools) by Management.  Unlike the other positions, this role is best described through example: Let’s assume the Chief Sales Officer has mandated that each client facing sales professional must complete 15-20 client interactions each month (meetings, conference calls, sales presentations, etc.).  The best way for Management to measure the performance and effectiveness of these interactions is through the CRM tool (which is hopefully embedded in Outlook or whatever email platform you use). However, what often happens is that a process or governance model is not established in order to operationalize this new metric.  This is where the process owner steps into the mix and works with the BA, the reporting team and the CCA’s to develop a playbook that unifies the various tools that have been developed in order to coach, provide feedback, measure the effectiveness and evaluate the results of the mandate. Process owners attend the meetings, they lead the conversation, they establish the best practices, and they create the attestation processes that confirm the behavior. Once the new process becomes “standard operating procedure”, they move on to the next process, the next team and the next enhancement.  They ensure that the money that is spent for development is leveraged in meaningful and strategic ways that drive culture change.

7.      Business Intelligence Expert (BIE): The data contained in your CRM system is invaluable for measuring the experience of your customer from prospect to client – and beyond.  Let’s face it, regardless of the platform you use, pulling data from your CRM system and aligning with internal data or external sources to tell a more robust story is what management is looking for. Providing data in a way that allows for data driven decision making is often justification for the expenses associated to a CRM implementation. The BIE works to define and develop business intelligence solutions. The BIE is tasked with developing purpose driven reporting and often responsible for drawing business conclusions from the data as they have a unique view of the data. Furhtermore, the BIE is an expert in creating reports that are both relevant to the business and actionable in what the next logical business action is required.

Additionally, even though you have bought a cloud based solution, once the business team is set up, a technology team supporting the new CRM application will also be needed.   The technical team has many critical roles as well and many areas of responsibility that are unique to the technical accepts of the system. Three roles are listed below for consideration:

1.      Technical CRM Project Manager:  As the CRM system continues to gain traction and increasingly drive the sales, marketing and service strategy within the business, it is inevitable that additional needs will arise as the business changes and the scope of your CRM tool expands.  The CRM Project Manager (PM) manages the technical details and day to day development of the tool to ensure that the solution aligns with the requirements and is delivered on time, on budget with the expected functionality. Additionally, no matter how careful we are, new bugs will be found, and future projects will be born to extend the use of the application. The PM will then be responsible for controlling the outcomes of those requests while ensuring budget, resources and timelines are adhered to and reported back to the Head of CRM and associated stakeholders.

2.       Technical Architecture Lead (TA):   Is responsible for ensuring that out of the box functionality is leveraged whenever possible (80/20 rule), vendor enhancements are incorporated correctly as when needed, and the flow of data in and out of the system is streamlined and aligned to corporate standards and best practices.   The TA should be the most technical person and experienced team member specific to the CRM technology being implemented. Yes, this means you are looking for or should have persons with the various certifications needed to be considered an expert in the tool being deployed. Their role includes setting up a series of standards and best practices to help ensure the 80/20 rule is being applied between using the declarative configuration features versus highly customized code where the out of the box features cannot meet the business requirements. Additionally, the TA will be coaching, mentoring and managing the junior developers ensuring consistency across coding patterns and developing skills to ensure personal advancement and development. Ultimately, the TA provides the green light for any migrations of the application through the various environments after thoroughly confirming the stability, consistency and business requirements have been met correctly

3.     External Consultant: With the approval of the new tax code, the role of the external consultant becomes more attractive not only to the employer as it helps reduce overhead and costs, but also to the Independent consultant that can work independently and enjoy the new tax benefits of being a entrepreneur.  Having an external resource that has worked on several projects across various industries can provide significant value. Yes, they can be the objective third party between the business and I.T., but they can also help get things done in a systematic and diplomatic way as they are void of the political positioning that is sometimes present with large projects and foster significant change.  Ensure that your external consultant is a subject matter expert in the specific CRM functions and application that’s been selected at your firm. While understanding the tool is critical, do not underestimate the importance of selecting a resource with a solid understanding of your business, the overall industry and the scope of your specific implementation. This role is particularly effective when a System Integrator (SI) is involved and the external consultant can play “good cop, bad cop” between the client demands and the SI doing the work. The external consultant needs a strong personality as they will often get pulled in two different directions with competing agendas, but when it’s the right, qualified individual playing the role, the outcomes of your CRM system will increase tremendously.

So WHY are these roles so critical for you to understand?  A successful CRM deployment is only achieved when the right mix of people, process and technology is deployed.  Often times, we focus on the technology. Once the technology is determined, a focus on the business process and the alignment of the system to that process becomes the primary focus. “CRM programs focus too much attention, resources and BLAME on the technology and tools. In order to remotely realize any of your business goals you must provide equal commitment to the alignment of business processes and as we are discussing here, building a thoughtful community of support to achieve your visions in the mid to long-term” adds Hazem Gamal. But while CRM missions and strategies seem simple and straight-forward, the impact of the change the system will bring to the business is often underestimated.  Change management is something that needs to be addressed daily and reinforced with each enhancement. The expectation that a cloud-based system needs little support is a misnomer. While the total cost of ownership is reduced from an IT perspective, the cost benefits seen on the IT side do not translate as easily to the business side. CRM is a business tool and the business support is essential for success. 

For more information about developing a CRM governance model or in finding the technical resources to support your CRM implementation, please contact Edward Garry at Diolachán Consulting ( or Christopher Hopper at The CRM Recruiter via LinkedIn or (

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

Related Posts