Setting your Business up for Successful CRM: Organizational Structure is Key

 In Clients, Microsoft Dynamics CRM Blog

In my last post, The Key to Long Term CRM Success, I focused on the CRM Ready Model.  It is a model based on the systems and processes we have seen the most successful organizations implement to get the most from their CRM initiative.

I covered the three primary building blocks at a high level:

  1. Org Structure
  2. Training System
  3. Cadence

In this post, I want to provide some detail on building block #1 – how these companies organize themselves to support the initiative.

It is important to note that the structure is not project based.  Many companies create a structure similar to the one we are about to describe, but then disband it once the installation “project” is complete.  In the CRM Ready Model, installing the software is not THE objective.  The software is one of several tools to support the objective and because of that, this mindset is critical.

The difference in these high performing organizations is that they view CRM as an initiative not an installation.

The triangle below depicts the three primary components of an organizational structure including the executive leadership, the core team and CRM admin.


The first component of the org structure is leadership. Typically, there is a leadership or executive team that is directly responsible for the initiative – this team often includes the CEO or Owner.  The responsibilities of this group include:

  1. Formulation and communication of the overall CRM strategy and targeted business outcomes
  2. Reinforcing the non-negotiable nature of CRM use to help drive adoption; and
  3. Regular measurement and feedback related to adoption, tactics and business outcomes

In our review, we have found that there is a direct correlation between the level of executive engagement and long-term success.  The more engaged leaders are – the more success they have.

Core Team

The second component of the CRM Ready structure is a core team. When CRM is implemented, many companies assemble a team of Subject Matter Experts (SME’s) representing various parts of the business.  In high performing organizations, the core team is an ongoing construct.  The members may change but there is always a group of business SME’s that have CRM as part of their job.

A key attribute of the members of this team, in the vast majority of cases, is that all the members of the core team are what we call power users.  They have a deep knowledge of CRM functionality, not administration or configuration, but how it is used and what it can do right out of the box.

The obvious benefit is that they are more productive and better able to help others understand it.  Because they understood how CRM works, they could work and communicate more effectively with their CRM administrators to enhance the system without custom development. They were also able to identify other areas in the business that could benefit from CRM with little effort.


As the primary interface to the organization, these core team members are a key driver of adoption. The core team is a communication hub in many ways.  They communicate with:

  • Leadership to understand the strategy and desired outcomes
  • CRM admin(s) to deliver requirements to be configured
  • Themselves to keep the roadmap aligned with the needs of the organization and
  • Also with their stakeholders and the user community

They have a ton of responsibility, and it never ends. They’re constantly taking in information, understanding how to push that out into the organization; staying up to speed on whether the strategies and objectives are changing and what they need to do around it. It’s an ongoing job. It is not a full time job but it does require ongoing effort.

CRM Admin

The third component of the CRM Ready structure is the concept of a strong CRM admin (or admins). In high performing organizations, the admin focuses on more than the “technical” aspects of the initiative, they also have an understanding of what the business is actually trying to accomplish and why.  They get that understanding through regular communication with the core team.

That is not to say that they are not technical.  The best admins have a deep understanding of CRM’s native configuration capabilities.  In some cases they have a development or data background, but that was not key.  What was critical was that they understood how anything external (ERP, Portal, etc.) is connected to CRM whether they were responsible for building and maintaining it or not.  Another common practice for these admins is that custom development is a last resort not a first option.  Many have spent time struggling to maintain or upgrade over developed solutions and realize the trouble it can create.

Bringing it all Together

From an internal perspective, this is how high performing organizations structure themselves to support their CRM initiative.  What we have yet to cover is how they relate to their CRM partner.

A strong relationship with their software partner is critical, but just as important is the concept of ownership.  In the early phases, the partner is very involved in the details as the internal team is learning how to be CRM Ready.

Over time though, the partner relationship becomes less hands-on.  The partner is there to help them with strategy, best practices and understanding the product roadmap.  The partner also becomes a coach, helping to the team to use the tool to stay accountable to each other and their strategic objectives.

Of course, the partner provides support and technical assistance when tasks or problems arise that the organization cannot solve on their own.  The key to success in the CRM Ready Model, is that you own your solution and your initiative.

If you are building a business case for CRM and in the quest for a successful CRM, I’d recommend that you read The ROI of Everything CRM White Paper.

Patrick Lewis
As the Director of Business Outcomes and CRM Success, Patrick has more than 25 years in customer relationship management. He’s worked across Manufacturing, Professional Services, Sports, and Financial Services industries. Patrick’s primary areas of focus are organizational change management, and business process.
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