International CRM Rollout – What You Should Consider

Not only large companies and groups, but also medium-sized companies are internationally positioned today. Therefore, when introducing a CRM system, the idea of rolling it out to the individual national subsidiaries and branches is obvious. But what should you keep in mind?

Is an International CRM Rollout Worthwhile?

There are good reasons for an international CRM rollout, because the globally uniform view of certain data brings many advantages: Cooperation for the customer on joint projects and processes across departments, locations and countries is considerably simplified and made more efficient. In particular, the permanent availability of all relevant contact data, figures, activities and documents in a central system offers team members completely new possibilities.

The multiple benefits of a globally rolled out CRM are promising. At the operational level, employees worldwide benefit from fast access to information and automation that facilitates their daily work.

Management benefits from key figures and analyses that are generated in real time from the “raw data” in CRM and can be used as a basis for decision-making. A worldwide uniform controlling in sales, marketing and service is thus made possible.

The acceleration and professionalism that the use of a CRM solution brings with it in customer-related processes ultimately benefits the customer in particular. This more in terms of quality and speed of response as well as the knowledge of customer needs pays off.

Good Planning as the Key to Success

The right planning is also the prerequisite for success here. Some aspects need to be considered with particular attention.

If the CRM project is not only a cross-departmental topic, but is also to cross national borders, it is important to involve representatives from the individual locations in addition to all relevant specialist departments. If possible, avoid assembling the team exclusively from employees with only one level of responsibility or only one specialty. A healthy mix with different responsibilities and expertise is ideal.

It is not possible without a project management that is recognised by all those involved. Experience and assertiveness – in the entire company – are prerequisites. Ideally, the management either sends its own representative to the team or maintains at least one hot line to the project management. Without the involvement and support of top management, which is visible from afar, the project risk increases immensely.

Create a project roadmap that defines exactly who has to do what and when. The CRM rollout must be designed from both an overall and a detailed perspective, scheduled, task packages delegated and tracked. You should always allow for a certain degree of flexibility in order to absorb unforeseen delays and integrate learning effects that arise during the rollout process into the rest of the process.

Before a concrete definition of the target state can be made, the actual state must be analysed. The prerequisite for this is to record the initial situation in the individual organisations in order to adjust the planning accordingly.

Do not be afraid to hold regular meetings (e.g. via telephone conference) with the responsible teams and subject-specific working groups in order to create a platform for best practice exchange. Rollout errors made in one area of the group do not need to be repeated x times in other areas.

The highest-possible standardization of task packages for all units, such as the consolidation of legacy data and its migration (uniform format templates), the training of key users, administrators and users (uniform training documents) can bring enormous efficiency advantages.

Overcome Rollout Problems Safely

Resistance and problems are normal in such a large project. Note: Only projects that are irrelevant always find full acceptance.

In an international CRM project, you have to deal with specific problems in each organizational unit. It is important to ensure from the outset that these problems can be solved promptly and sustainably. Ideally, one CRM manager per location is responsible for this, who has the necessary competencies to prepare the CRM introduction, carry the application into the respective teams and provide ongoing support there. For problems that cannot be solved on site, robust escalation management must be in place. Who’s in charge on the second and third lines? Who’s in charge?

Consider the typical risk factors during rollout planning: Fluctuation or loss of important decision-makers and information carriers, delays that can emanate from the suppliers involved, failure of technical infrastructure, regional specifics (mentality, authorities…). Please also bear in mind that not every branch can, due to its size, release the necessary personnel resources for the project.

The Right Technique for the Rollout

Ensure that each organization is technically prepared for the CRM implementation. Depending on the application scenario, the internal hardware and network status as well as the connection to external networks must be checked and, if necessary, improved. In less developed regions in particular, only weak lines are often available. The project planning should therefore include an appropriate time buffer for the purchase or construction of additional line capacities. Do not make lazy compromises on the subject of cables. The most powerful CRM software helps little if the wires are too weak and unstable.

Analyze the existing IT landscapes worldwide. Which ones have to be connected to the new CRM system (ERP, DMS, groupware, telephone systems…)? Which of them contain old data and should be completely replaced by the new solution? An appropriate migration concept helps you not to lose the overview at this level either.

Once the actual software rollout has been completed, a viable concept must be developed for the recurring rollout of adaptations, upgrades and patches. Here it is advisable to always act from the head office in the direction of branches. Changes are recorded and tested in the head office and distributed only after thorough examination.

Integration and Adaptations – an Expensive Topic?

Keep in mind that not every subsidiary in the group has the same CRM requirements as the corporate headquarters. Even a high-turnover national company may have different needs than a small sales office.

Nevertheless, the first question to be asked here is whether all organizations in the group have a comparable business and can therefore use the software in one and the same form.

In general, the following applies to every international CRM project: The fewer specific adjustments (customizing) are necessary for the individual companies, the sooner budget and time targets can be met in the rollout. Also with interfaces to third party systems like ERP, DMS, Groupware etc. it has to be considered that these have to be specified, implemented, tested and maintained.

Safety First: Protect Your Data

Companies thrive on their knowledge of technologies, processes and markets. For this reason, it is important to protect this knowledge in a CRM system used worldwide. Already in the planning phase of the CRM project, it should be determined which data is public, internal, confidential and secret. This classification must then be integrated into the safety concept. In order to be sustainable, this concept must be developed in consideration of the respective processes in the user companies. Of course, it is important to define responsibilities clearly. Who is responsible for the security concept and who is responsible for data security in which area?

The access management of the CRM software solution can finally be used to determine which individuals, groups, profiles and roles can read, write and/or delete which data. Encrypted data lines, secure password policies and professional backup management are essential in this context.

Extensive tests are important here: Has the security concept been fully implemented? Do interfaces to third-party systems or reports not offer any possibilities to access sensitive data? Do users have enough rights, but not too many, to complete their tasks?

Is Your CRM Solution Fit for Worldwide Use?

The CRM solution should already support multilingualism and different national currencies in the standard as well as master international units of measurement.

Note, however, that it does not always make sense to store all data only in the respective language, unit, or currency. Information such as minutes of negotiations or contracts should always be kept in parallel in the company language (e.g. English). Transparency within the group of companies can thus be ensured without great effort, especially from the perspective of management and controlling.

It also makes sense to maintain a company or local currency (e.g. euro) in addition to a uniform company language. Projects or activities (business opportunities, quotations, orders) can be numbered in parallel in the relevant national currency. Automatic conversion mechanisms enable central controlling including forecasts in the company or local currency.

Of course, the software should also support international address formats and operation across different time zones.

Conclusion

The use of a suitable CRM solution in all locations of a group of companies brings with it a number of advantages. The planning of the CRM rollout should be carried out conscientiously and in detail at various levels in order to be successful with the project. In order to solve problems promptly, organisational measures must be taken.

On the technical side, care must be taken to ensure that the preferred CRM software meets the basic requirements for international use. It must also be ensured that the technical infrastructure at the sites to be connected is sufficient. Data security must be guaranteed by an appropriate concept and practical tests.