Skip navigation
All Places > Partner Corner > Blog > Author: Bridgett Colling

Partner Corner

2 Posts authored by: Bridgett Colling

By Elizabeth Mankowski


So your company acquired a new business (or you’ve been acquired yourself!). What does that mean for your CRM?


Imagine this: you’re the Vice President of Sales at Acme Co. You rolled out a newly configured SugarCRM to your field sales team last year. Adoption was strong: opportunities and leads are logged, and everyone uses the CRM for their weekly check-ins. You have better visibility of your opportunity revenue forecasts than ever before.


This year, your firm acquired another organization that runs a related business. They did not have a CRM, so you want to bring them into your existing CRM. But their sales cycle is a little different because they often provide product samples, but you rarely do. Their products are a little different: your widgets vary only in color and size. Theirs vary by color, size, and materials. They prefer monthly reports, while your team works toward quarterly goals.


How will you decide how to use the CRM going forward as a combined team?

Enter: CRM Governance

CRM Governance is a fancy way to say, “Who, how, and when will we make changes to our CRM going forward?”

As Director of our CRM Practice at Highland, I have identified five key strategies for implementing a successful CRM Governance:


1. Share the vision

Make sure everyone in your organization understands what strategic initiatives the CRM is designed to support. This includes more than just your Sales and Marketing team members. IT, operations, finance — all these folks should be able to articulate your Sales Vision and how the CRM helps to achieve it. If you have a third-party implementation partner, share the vision with them as well.


2. Share the timeline

Most strategic plans are framed in a timeline of two to five years. Your customer experience platform will also evolve over this timeline. Articulate for yourself and all your supporting team what changes are expected when. Define dependencies and major business events.


A sample timeline for CRM Governance | Image provided by Elizabeth Mankowski

A sample timeline for CRM Governance | Image provided by Elizabeth Mankowski


3. Delegate and empower

Identify one or two CRM administrators within your organization who are responsible for executing the vision and timeline. Check-in with them periodically, but free yourself from the day-to-day management of CRM enhancements.

4. Gather the right expertise

Identify representatives from your current sales team and the newly acquired team to participate on a joint team or governance board. Pull in additional resources as needed. When deciding who should be involved, it can be helpful to create a system map showing how your CRM will connect to other essential technology systems within your organization:

CRM System Map | Created byTyler Etters


Are you ready to integrate your CRM with a marketing automation platform to scale your digital campaigns? Then call a meeting with your CRM administrators and the marketing automation experts. Promote transparency around expectations, scope, timeline, budget, and any other project variables.


When considering integration between your CRM and ERP systems, bring your IT leaders to the discussion. Articulate your vision, then let your experts craft a solution proposal. Scheduling regular meetings during the solution definition phase, as well as throughout the project, will provide checkpoints to validate that everyone is still on the same path, moving toward the same vision.


5. Set an ongoing cadence

Leveraging the most value from your CRM rarely happens by taking a one-and-done approach. Just as your product offerings continue to evolve through research and development, so too should your CRM platform. Regular channels and cadence for receiving feedback from the field reps on the front lines, who use the system the most, can provide insights you may miss. When your sales processes grow and change, your system should reflect those changes in a timely manner.

Scheduling regular meetings for each of the groups involved with CRM governance, implementation, and usage will help everyone keep the focus on the strategic vision and over-arching timeline.

Successful CRM Governance is like farming— you need to till the land to harvest a strong crop.


An analogy that may be helpful here:


A gardener once bought a plot of land covered with rocks, trees, and an old broken-down fence. She spent the first spring and summer clearing the land to make it tillable.


By late summer, she had sowed her first crop of winter wheat. As the first snow fell, she harvested this wheat and considered her real estate investment a success. The next season, she planted wheat again, although the crop yield was slightly less. Her neighbor advised her to rotate her crops, so the third season, she planted corn, and again reaped a bountiful harvest. In the fourth season, she again planted corn, but drought hit hard, and the harvest was meager. In the fifth season, all the prognosticators called for drought again, so she planted chickpeas.


Like this gardener who evolved her plantings with weather and soil conditions, so too must your CRM evolve to meet market conditions, new product offerings, company mergers, and staffing changes over time. Adaptation will allow you to continue to recognize value from your investment, whether that be a tract of land or a CRM system.


This blog was originally posted on The Highland Journal

By Elizabeth Mankowski, CRM Practice Director, Highland Solutions



Like many consulting firms, Highland Solutions groups our team into several practice areas. The CRM practice distinguishes itself from the other Highland practices by focusing only on CRM (of course!) and by supporting multiple active clients instead of a single client’s custom development initiative. These clients range in size from family-owned custom fixture businesses to global manufacturing firms.


We have a small but experienced team of dedicated CRM experts at Highland Solutions who support about 25 clients. So how do we do it? Here are 6 guidelines that help us work at a sustainable pace while delivering excellent work to our clients.


1. Prioritize often

We do a diverse range of work for our CRM clients, which often includes:

  • New CRM implementations
  • Major enhancements for an existing client
  • Production support requests
  • Upgrade testing

This work varies in its predictability (how far in advance can it be scheduled?) and its unknown risks (how well can it be defined before we start?). As a team, the areas of greatest risk are usually prioritized higher, as shown in the matrix below.

Image by Jeff Blanchard

We take time on Monday mornings to review the week ahead and rank by client and type of work. 


2. Limit work in progress

Highland is a people-first organization. We are spouses, parents, friends, and caretakers, as well as technology professionals. Like you, we have a limited number of hours in our day and we don’t spend all of them working. When we are working, focus is critical to quality and completion. Context switching between Jira stories, client meetings, and internal tasks can be taxing, so we limit the number of stories assigned to each team member at any given time. We use Jira quick filters to highlight what’s assigned to whom at stand-up.


3. Maximize work not done

This is driven by the Lean principle: minimize or eliminate any steps that do not create value for the customer. We often ask ourselves, “what if we don’t do this for the client?” and we ask “what if we don’t do this today?” Then we weigh the consequences in dialog with our clients and help them evaluate when a request is a “must have” or a “nice to have.” We like to remind each other, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”


4. Shorten client feedback cycles

We don’t prepare a large requirements document up front. We educate our clients on Agile software development during our kick-off meetings, and we shepherd our joint team through a rapid story definition, implementation, and demo cycle. We present changes and enhancements to clients early and often, and we turn around feedback quickly.

This shorter cycle keeps the information fresh in the minds of Highland team members and our clients. Our clients are often busy sales and marketing professionals with day jobs that are not configuring CRMs. Keeping their focused attention and reminding them frequently of what we’re doing on their behalf results in more valuable feedback for us and a better end product for them.


5. Specialize but have a back-up

We can’t afford to have every team member become an expert in every client’s CRM, so generally there are one or two experts per client. That said, some cross-training provides benefits when we need to spread out testing tasks or when a team member takes time off. We also use a secure tool to save and share credentials, ensuring we can access clients’ Sugar CRM environments without passing around usernames and passwords on post-it notes.


Photo by Bridgett Colling


6. Communicate

From internal daily stand-ups to weekly or bi-weekly client demos, the importance of communication cannot be overstated. We are committed to being transparent and open with our clients and with each other. Occasionally we will miss a deadline or misinterpret a requirement, but frequent check-ins ensure that trust remains high and corrections are timely. Every CRM engagement is a partnership, and candid communication is the strong fiber binding us together.



Taking the best from Agile methodologies, lean principles, and about 50 years of collective technology experience helps Highland’s CRM team keep our day-to-day workload manageable while still delivering high value to our clients.

While these guidelines help us manage our work today, we’re always improving our process and tweaking it as our needs change. If you lead or work on a team that’s managing multiple clients, leave me a comment and let me know how you’re applying Agile or lean principles to your work.


This post was originally featured on the Highland Solutions Journal 

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: