When you're in the early stages of investigating CRM software or starting out on a CRM project, you need some idea of how long the project is going to take. As independent CRM specialists, "how long does it take to deploy a CRM system?" is a question we're commonly asked at TSG.

Unfortunately it isn't that easy to give a quick answer. To provide a realistic timescale, your CRM business partner will need as much detail as possible on what you're looking to achieve from your new CRM system. Your business partner will need to talk to you about your business, your aims and objectives, the software you're using and the complexity of your project. Unless you do this, the answer to "how long does it take to deploy a CRM system?" will probably be "it depends!". For larger projects in particular, you'll need to work with your business partner to properly scope your project and define your requirements before they will be able to provide you with a realistic estimate.

However, you need to know what you're getting in to before you begin a CRM project. So, what defines how long your project is going to take?

The key factors to consider to ensure successful deployment of your CRM system and define the project timescale will typically include:

  • Analysing your business requirements, internal processes, project objectives and the scope of the CRM project
  • Configuring the software and workflow, and if it's highly bespoke, customising the software
  • Software installation
  • Data cleansing and data formatting
  • Importing the data
  • Testing the system
  • Administrator training
  • User training
  • Documentation development
  • System reviews

The above steps are not exhaustive and will usually involve your business partner, project managers, administrators and end-users. And because CRM is a cultural shift for many businesses, other factors such as getting user buy-in, availability of internal resources, support and effective project management are as critical to the success of the project as setting up the software. These can all add to the length of the project. You also have to factor in 'thinking' time, plus the time it takes to get agreement and sign-offs for each stage of the project within your business.

Not all CRM projects will involve all the above points, but you should give consideration to them as they will influence the amount of time the project will take. Using an agile, systematic approach with a defined project methodology will reduce implementation times while at the same time reduce risk and rework. A project methodology will also increase the chance of the long-term success of your CRM project.

No two CRM projects are the same, but to put some figures on how long it takes to deploy a CRM system, here's a typical example. Let's assume you have a 20-user CRM project, your requirements are fairly straightforward, and you've chosen a proven, robust CRM solution such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Sage CRM. Both of these products have powerful sales, marketing and customer service capabilities, integrate well with Outlook (a common requirement), and can be configured by qualified business partners to accurately meet your business processes. Both are available as on-premise or cloud options (although if you've decided to go with a cloud option and need much configuration you would probably choose Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online), and both fall into the 'best in breed' category of CRM software.

Cloud deployments are generally quicker (although not always), so in the above circumstances you should be able to effectively deploy a solution in two to four weeks. If your requirements are more complex, for example you need more configuration, development or integration with other systems, it could typically take around three-months. That's not to say CRM projects don't take longer than that - where a lot of development or customization work is needed, say for multi-site projects with high numbers of users, they can take longer.

If you have a CRM project and require a more accurate idea of how long it's going to take, the best way to find out is to talk to an independent CRM specialist such as TSG. We'll be able to talk you through all the options and provide you with a realistic estimate or a formal quotation. So to find out how long your CRM project is going to take, please contact TSG.