Starting a CRM implementation project can have great but impactful implications to your organization’s process, technology, budget and staffing. As a partner, our goal is to ensure teams are prepared, informed, and self-sufficient. This article is a culmination of our suggestions for teams looking to implement a CRM in their organization. While this information is tailored toward teams considering or implementing Salesforce, plenty of these tips are transferable. 

1 | Defining a CRM:

We know…this may be a little too simplistic. However, understanding what a CRM is and what it can accomplish for your organization is imperative. A CRM stands for Constituent Relationship Manager (or Customer Relationship Manager) and gathers constituent interactions across all channels into one place. 

The opposite of a CRM is a point solution, which fulfills a single purpose. For example, this could be an email tool that doesn’t connect with other systems. Organizations that have disparate point solutions tend to have siloed data that makes it difficult to report on constituent engagement and share information with other team members or departments. By contrast, CRMs are enterprise or platform solutions that connect systems and centralize data to improve constituent experience, satisfaction, retention and service. 

It’s important to note that there are products that call themselves a CRM, but they aren’t flexible enough to be a true CRM. Salesforce has specifically designed its CRM solution, Education Data Architecture (EDA), to meet the needs of education organizations, including K-12, Higher Education, and Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. Salesforce’s open API, the AppExchange, and outside systems (such as an event management tool, form tools, and Student Information Systems, etc.) can be connected to a Salesforce CRM providing a centralized “view” of a constituent record. 

2 | How to find a partner (and why)

Embarking on a Salesforce CRM implementation (or the implementation of any enterprise solution) will take a significant investment in time and resources. Many organizations will need to use the services of an implementation partner to help support the implementation project and supplement the project specific roles.

Partners as Experts:

Partners bring advanced and tailored skills that an organization might not have in-house. For example, an experienced Salesforce developer can be utilized to support specific tasks such as integration with outside systems. Partners also bring experience implementing large, multi-phase projects and can help coordinate project teams and stay within scope, saving your team resources like time and money in the long run. 

Partners as Advocates:

Partners can also be advocates by developing an implementation roadmap, enforcing best practices that best utilize resources, and show value to your stakeholders. They can also help train and support your end-users and upskill your internal technology team. 

When looking for a partner, we suggest identifying those with specific experience in building Salesforce solutions for the education industry. The best place to start would be the Find a Partner directory. Look for partners that have Salesforce Education Cloud certifications, review their partner status with, read their reviews in the AppExchange, and see if you can connect with prior and/or current education client references. 

3 | How do I know what products I need (Salesforce)

It sounds simple but familiarize yourself with the different products and features. Salesforce has extensive demo videos, fact sheets, and events that are virtual and free! If you are an existing Salesforce customer, there are community groups you can join through the Power of Us Hub to learn from best practice within the education industry. Don’t forget to reach out to your implementation partner as well. Experienced partners have knowledge on recommended products, new features, as well as product changes and can help provide options that best fit your organization’s needs. Last but not least, talk to your Salesforce Account Executive (AE) so they can provide details on pricing and licensing and may have the “inside scoop”.

Chapter 4 | How do I prove value

Now that you’ve identified what you want to implement and who is going to help, it’s important to gain support within your organization.

Sponsors: Sponsors are the internal advocates that get your project up and running. A sponsor (or sponsors) should be a leader in your organization that has decision-making power, can help inform teams about your CRM solution and sees the organization-wide value for a CRM. Think big picture ROI. Once you have a sponsor identified, they can help educate higher-levels within your organization (President, Board Members, Legal, etc.), assist with the project logistics such as RPF and contract negotiation, and be a go to for departments who have functions included in the project scope.

Department Leaders and Power-Users: Include functional area leaders and power-users in your organization that can evangelize to their teams. These leaders will need to understand the value specifically created by Salesforce for their functional area and role. For example: the Director of Admissions will want to see how a CRM will help improve their admissions pipeline.  An Admissions power-user will want to see how a CRM will help them get more students through the application process. Once you have these leaders identified, they should be a part of the implementation roadmap, process design, and testing. They can also be advocates of the CRM to the larger department or team.

Imperative IT Teams: If you are a business leader looking for a CRM solution, don’t forget to include your IT department throughout the implementation process. Early on in the implementation, IT will have insight on existing technology and will help identify legacy systems that can be replaced by the CRM or active systems that need to be retained. IT should be an integral part of the build and decision-making process since they will ultimately need to support the solution. 

Chapter 5 | What it takes to implement

Be Flexible: With any enterprise implementation, things will inevitably change – and that’s ok!  It’s important to start preparing with a roadmap to established priorities and project phase dependencies. As the project moves along, sometimes priorities will shift or things will happen that are outside your control. Regularly (quarterly or annually is best practice) revisit the roadmap to accommodate changes.

Time Commitment: Be prepared for a several-month, multi-phase implementation. As an example, a typical connect campus implementation can take anywhere from 2-3 years. Even if you aren’t planning on a connected campus implementation, understand the time commitment for project team members. This chart displays an estimate of hours per week by project role.

Make Sure End-Users Are Included: As a good rule of thumb, it’s important that whoever will be using the system is part of the project process. While you don’t need all end-users included at every point in the project, identify potential power-users early on to communicate pain-points, provide details on process requirements, and test the final solution. Power users are also instrumental in helping support the larger team after go-live.

Go-Live Does Not Mean Done:  Your CRM should (and will) always continue to evolve, scale and change over time. Typically, the first month or two after go-live will be focused on making minor enhancements, identifying break fixes, and general end-users support and training. Plan to set up a support process or ticketing system to identify and prioritize changes to your implementation before go-live. Once the initial post-go-live rush is over, set up a governance process, like a Center of Excellence, to maintain your roadmap and prioritize larger enhancements or future phases.

The main themes threaded through all of this: research ahead of time and seek the support of a partner. 

Our team is here to listen, advise and support. If you have questions about CRMS, an upcoming implementation or a past implementation, let us know. Connect with us through our website or email us at

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