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Considerations in finding the best Project Manager for your CRM Project

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Initiating a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Project at your company? One of the first people you should get on board is a skilled Project Manager (PM). This is the person who will communicate, plan, encourage, guide, and lead your project team through the typical and unforeseen obstacles ahead. Vendors and service providers will provide their own PMs – but it is essential that your organization appoint an individual in the pivotal role between your stakeholders, your project team and the vendor project team.

Many of our clients have difficulties finding suitable internal candidates for this role. The majority don’t rush to volunteer for extra work hours, additional stress, and the prospect of managing already overworked colleagues to new deadlines. Most organizations don’t have the luxury of a Project Management Office (PMO) from where experienced PMs can easily be plucked and placed.

So how do you find a PM when there is no obvious choice? Here are some questions you most likely will consider:

  • Should we outsource the Project Management of our CRM project? Can we hire a subcontractor?

It goes without saying that the most important qualities of a PM are strong communication, listening, and organizational skills; and the ability to command respect and offer a balanced approach. An outsourced PM with these qualities can absolutely be a successful CRM PM, as these skills trump all else. I would add that a successful CRM PM should also have previous experience managing similarly-sized IT projects.


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Whether or not you can outsource the CRM Project Management is really a question of how important it is that the PM knows your business, your industry and your culture. My quick answer is that it does matter – but a skilled PM can easily learn what they need to know to facilitate a successful implementation, regardless of their familiarity with the industry. They also have the advantage of (hopefully) being able to stay out of internal politics and (again hopefully) the ability to make decisions that are not swayed by those politics. An important element here is that they are given the necessary decision making authority.

So the short answer is a resounding YES, a successful client CRM PM can be outsourced; in fact it is often a BETTER choice.

  • How is it that the CRM Project Manager be technical?

I’ve got a friend who is a great PM. She manages printing projects but her skills don’t naturally translate to IT projects. A CRM PM doesn’t necessarily need to know how to write code, but they need to understand the inherent risks associated with IT projects. They don’t need to be able to deploy solutions from one environment to another – but they must understand the importance of maintaining separate environments (Development, Testing, and Production) and that the data sets need to be housed in each. A CRM PM won’t be the person developing scripts to convert data from an old system to a new one – but they should know the work needs to be started early – and that it will drive the architecture of the system.

  • How important is it that the CRM Project Manager is familiar with CRM? Or that they have previously managed a CRM project?

Your CRM PM doesn’t require in-depth knowledge of CRM but it certainly helps if they have experience managing enterprise application software projects (ERP will do) and it is very important they have the ability to follow a proven implementation methodology. They should also understand the project roles and responsibilities and how the work integrates together.

Thus, your best PM candidate can certainly come from outside your organization. An experienced ERP or CRM PM with superb communication, listening and leadership skills is your ideal choice. But if that person isn’t available – someone with interpersonal skills and proven IT Project Management experience of any type will do a great job for you.

Cathy Brown is a Senior Manager with the BDO Solutions CRM practice.


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