In theory, a CRM is a business' single, indisputable source of truth. All the information on the health of the organization—past, present, and future—should be contained within the system. 

The all-too-frequent reality is that the CRM is a poorly managed source of inconsistent data that only occasionally produces the comprehensive, actionable analytics necessary to an organization's success. Data integrity often decreases as an enterprise grows. Rather than usage becoming more standardized and reliable, data becomes more siloed and specialized to each team. 

That specialization, however, can be leveraged as an asset. Useful BI can be wrung from a CRM even if it is touched by stakeholders across departments with a variety of aims and needs. And a surprisingly small investment of time and effort can take a CRM from generally usable to genuinely useful. 

The key to a successful CRM is centralized ownership that defines and enforces roles, profiles, and permissions. 

Profiles keep the CRM clean  

One of the most overlooked challenges when implementing a new platform—especially a CRM—is granting an appropriate degree of access to stakeholders. 

A common impulse is to grant unlimited access to all users. Admins may think, "We're paying for a seat, so they might as well use it," or they may simply be suffering from choice fatigue. After selecting a CRM, migrating the data, and customizing the system settings, choosing how each user interacts with the platform can be one choice too many. 

This issue can be overcome by creating and defining user profiles. 

Profiles control who can input data, what kinds of data, and where. 

Rather than determining access levels for each user individually, create a profile with the proper settings assigned, then add users during initial rollout or as their responsibilities change. 

Clearly designated profiles can reduce the effort required for the CRM admin during implementation and on an ongoing basis. They also help with the implementation of new technology

Leigh is a new account executive whose manager wants to be the only one to create or delete deals. Rather than changing every setting individually for Leigh, the admin assigns them a User profile that can create, modify, and delete leads but only modify deals. Everyone saves time, which Leigh can use to make more calls and sit down with their manager to work through his control issues. 

Fewer users will be able to input data that affects teams beyond their own. Fewer users will be able to change settings that affect the entire organization. The CRM will be less polluted by irrelevant data being entered and attached to a contact or account record. 

Administrating a CRM in the same way as a partner management platform, individual users' data can and should be siloed, so that only the appropriate stakeholders can gather insights from across boundaries. 

Leveraging those insights will improve UX for CRM users and customers alike, but only if access is controlled for viewing as well as entering data. 

Roles keep the CRM useful   

Just as it can be tempting to throw open the CRM doors to every user, many admins feel the impulse to restrict access to a tiny group of people. Paranoia about data integrity and possible record misinterpretations is well-founded, but it leads to a system that yields few insights. 

To overcome this challenge, implement roles. 

Roles control who can view and report on data. 

At the most basic level, roles determine what a user sees when they open the CRM every day. Everyone is less distracted by irrelevant information. 

Matching CRM roles to the org chart does more than formalize the division of responsibilities (although any elimination of ambiguity—especially where lead and customer interactions are concerned—is a welcome exercise). It's also an opportunity to define who receives what kinds of training. It's not difficult to find examples of the wrong people being trained on tech they won't need to use

Improving users' ability to take action within the CRM keeps all action trackable, and trackability is essential to reporting on successes and identifying areas for improvement. 

Leigh needs to track the length of their meetings for a weekly check-in with their manager. The manager doesn't want AEs comparing meeting numbers, which aren't always comparable 1:1. So the manager assigns Leigh an AE role to limit what metrics they can compare against each other. 

Whether the CRM user is a marketer accountable to their manager or a CEO accountable to their board and stockholders, tracking and reporting success is a constant and essential component of forecasting. 

Sharing rules should also be leveraged based on role. Someone will need to be able to track when a deal is transferred between owners, but who should get that alert, and what action should they take? System admins will need to see when records are deleted and by whom, but not every deletion is going to matter enough to warrant an alert. A hundred leads being deleted could be routine data cleaning. A single module being deleted could be an apocalypse. 

Leigh's manager doesn't want a free-for-all every time a deal type changes to renewal, so they set up the alert to go to the Sales manager only, who then decides that Leigh is ready to step up on this particular deal in this particular circumstance. 

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, those same automations that save time on an ongoing basis will need to be fine-tuned on an ongoing basis. So will the entire CRM. 

Admins keep the CRM flexible   

Think of the CRM admin as a UX professional whose customers are their fellow employees. No matter how helpful the automation and segmenting settings are today, needs might change tomorrow. 

Whoever is responsible for administering those settings should have the latitude to experiment and iterate to improve UX and efficiency. Software, after all, ought to be designed for its users rather than its developers

With that in mind, CRM admins should be adjusting the language and labels throughout the system to match the organization using it. If a team refers to leads as "prospects,"  an admin should change the name of the Leads module to reflect that. This is the simplest form of what's being called "DIY UI." 

More drastic customization and changes might be necessitated by a change to the business itself: creating a new service line, targeting a new industry, or drastically restructuring the workforce. The savvy CRM admin will take advantage of the permission- and role-based settings to edit the field as it's created, then utilize centralized settings screens to adjust fields generally in the future. 

With an eye to automation, some of these individual adjustments can be avoided. Data can and should auto-populate across modules, and the customization of those modules can likewise replicate itself across the CRM. When you change the name of a field from System to Network in one module, it ought to update itself in all corresponding fields. 

Leigh doesn't have to remember to log every call in the CRM because of the integration they set up to add a record to the system every time they hang up. Their manager doesn't need to wonder what was said on the call, because the transcript is linked in the lead's CRM record. 

Customization of the user interface, system features, and integrations that link other systems to it enables a highly efficient user experience, which in turn encourages more engagement. More engagement creates a more efficient organization. A more efficient organization becomes more successful, which opens up new areas of business and opportunity, which brings us back full circle. It's time to customize, experiment, and improve all over again. 


Zoho offers a suite of intelligent enterprise business software, including an award-winning CRM suite, the industry's only comprehensive analytics and BI platform, and a powerful low-code development ecosystem.