Navigating the Challenges of Higher Ed CRM Implementation

Posted: February 15, 2024

Joy George and Danielle Attanasio CRM Strategist

Is your institution getting the most out of its customer relationship management (CRM) software? Or do you need a little help knowing how best to use it?

Never fear! Our CRM team is here, ready to help.

Whether you’ve recently gotten a new CRM or your school has one but needs some guidance, here are six key challenges we help our client partners with at VisionPoint and a little guidance on how to get the most out of your CRM.

Challenge 1: Not preparing ahead of time

The word is out around the office. You’ve chosen a new password and you’re supposed to jump right in. We see this time and time again.

Before you do this, pause. Take a breath.

Creating a robust roadmap or plan for implementing a new CRM is crucial. What should you focus on with this roadmap?

  • Listing out all of the components required for the entire project.
  • Setting start dates and due dates for each item.
  • Identifying responsible parties for each task (as well as external stakeholders that would have to be brought in).
An example of part of a roadmap we set up for a client partner

Without a high-level plan, the implementation project will be more challenging to manage over time. If you’d like to know more about CRM roadmaps and download our templates, we’ve written an article on them.

Challenge 2: Not establishing a realistic timeline

In an ideal world, you would allot at least six months for a CRM implementation to allow you to go in phases and approach everything with enough attention to detail. However, timing can present a major challenge during implementation. Sometimes, you might be asked to complete the implementation faster to meet a closer deadline.

Setting benchmarks will help you pace your implementation into realistic steps. Setting benchmarks is about more than just one final launch date. Having benchmarks throughout the implementation helps to keep the project on track. Some examples include having the application built by a specific date, having automated recruitment emails running by a certain date, and importing historical data by a certain date. Also, be sure to include planning for building training documents into your timeline. You’ll want to have those ready for rolling out the CRM system.

Challenge 3: Not allocating an appropriate amount of resources

Let’s be honest. It is impossible to drop everything and focus solely on the CRM implementation project. You’ve got other job expectations.

However, it is crucial to acknowledge that this is work that will take a lot of time and requires resources that might mean compromising in other areas. The implementation team should be prepared to dedicate the time necessary to meet the timeline set up in their implementation roadmap and preparation stages.

Sometimes, it is just not plausible for an office to implement a CRM entirely on its own, which is where our team at VisionPoint can help.

Challenge 4: Collaborating across campus

Sometimes a CRM implementation requires conversations between offices or people on campus (like IT, admissions, marketing, etc.), and getting the right people in the room at the correct times can be challenging.

In some cases, these offices may not typically collaborate this way, so it can definitely spark new relationships and maybe even difficult conversations. In this collaboration, the team will likely encounter:

  • Competing opinions from different stakeholders
  • Resistance to change – The implementation team may hear things like “Well, we’ve always done it this way.”

Don’t lose heart. Implementing a new CRM is a great time to rethink processes to make them more efficient for the new system. If you’re looking for more help here, check out our article on CRM governance for extra tips on the centralization of decision making and ownership of all things CRM.

Challenge 5: Being overwhelmed by customization options

Depending on the CRM, a wide range of customization options may be available to you, which can overwhelm the implementation team. It may not be as easy as just setting something up the way that it has to be done, but you may have to decide which setup is the best fit for your processes.

The team may also encounter unique processes and workflows that don’t fit standard CRM configurations. Customizing the CRM to align with these processes can be time-consuming and may require specialized expertise.

Setting up your CRM to be easily maintained and adaptable to change is also essential. Colleges are dynamic, and processes can evolve. The CRM system needs to be adaptable to changes in policies, structures, and requirements.

Challenge 6: Rolling out the new system

Once the CRM is implemented and ready to use, the next big challenge is getting people to use it. Documentation, training modules, training sessions, and staff involvement are crucial. Be flexible with these, though! Issues may come up in training that should be added to the training materials. Remember: The initial rollout of a new system will lay the groundwork for how users interact with that system for years to come.

Offering continuous training opportunities is one way to offer more support and allow for users to become more comfortable with the new CRM over time rather than just following one broad training session and a user manual.

Work With Us

The benefits of setting up a dynamic CRM system that suits your institution’s needs far outweigh the challenges. If you’d like to discuss your higher ed CRM needs or get a free CRM audit to see how your current system is working, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch!

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