Best Practices When Developing a CRM System

talina gallowayWhen developing a CRM system, there are several things that you should consider to make the user experience a lot easier. Our CRM team lead, Talina Galloway, shares some best practices:



Form Setup

  • Only require essential fields, so Users won’t see completing the form as a burden
  • Avoid text fields in favor of picklists or radio-button selections
  • Add fields that are for Users, rather than reports (nickname, pronunciation, pets)
  • Relationship Type is important
  • Contact status is important (decision-maker, deceased, vendor contact)
  • List all contact info, and include a way to indicate BEST contact method / time
  • Include extra fields for home phone, home email, etc.
  • Preferences area, if relevant (day / time for contact, service provider, contact method)
  • Be conscious of when to allow multiples (job roles) vs. just 1 selection (job title)

Getting User Buy-In

  • Include User input when deciding options for picklists
  • Ask Users what measure they will use to decide whether or not the installation is a success, then include those items
  • Manage expectations by letting them know what is within scope and what is not
  • Map as many fields as possible to avoid duplicate data entry
  • Training!!! This is the #1 way to attain User buy-in

Security Roles

  • Who will be able to see what information?
  • Who will have access to everything?
  • Are there entities that need to be restricted to only certain job titles? (credit card info)
  • Is usually upside down from the organizational chart. People on the bottom do the most amount of work and often need the widest access

Reports, Views, Charts, Dashboards

  • Start at the end and work backward
  • Decide what pieces of info you will want to see, and make sure fields are included to give you that info in a format that will show well in the desired format
  • If there is anything that you will want in the future, be sure fields are included from the beginning so Users are in the habit of completing them

Data Integration

  • Decide which direction info will flow (A to B, B to A, both ways)
  • Include fields that will be used to integrate to other systems.
  • Consider the format of the info that is needed when pushing to another system
  • Determine what info should be read-only, and what should be editable

Workflow Processes

  • Start at the end and work backward
  • Decide what the process will accomplish, then figure out how to make that happen
  • Decide which steps can be automated (email notifications) and which steps will need User input (shipping date)
  • Factor in quality checks (automatic escalation after a set number of days of inactivity)
  • Get input from Users who will be required to use the process
  • Make sure all necessary fields are present to accomplish the process
  • Make sure you can duplicate the process manually before attempting to automate
  • Testing – Use a variety of login types (Admin, User) and security roles (Admin, Manager, Salesperson) when testing, to assure the process works in all relevant scenarios.

New entity vs. adding to a form

  • Decide when you will need a new entity, and when you can add fields to an existing form
  • Example: Yearly Cost Tracking Info
  • If putting just a few months on the Opportunity form will work, great
  • If you need to keep more than a few months, you probably need a separate entity


  • Use terms that make sense to your staff
  • Change the display names of entities as appropriate (rename “Literature” to “Sales Tools”)

Establish business rules that tell Users how to enter info in text boxes

  • Common abbreviations (Co., Inc., Jr.)
  • Use of other abbreviations (Hosp., Assoc., Int’l.)
  • Whether or not to spell out numbers (First National Bank, Fifth/Third)
  • The, A, An at the beginning
  • Establishing naming conventions – (Example: Start all case names with product type)


  • Make a field read-only after data has been entered, to preserve initial entry
  • Perform calculations based on data entered
  • Create dependent picklists
  • Optimize mapping to attached entities (Account info maps to Contact)
  • Automatically format fields as appropriate (phone number, initial caps on names)
  • Specialized entities for your area of expertise
  • Webinar registrants / attendees
  • Survey responses
  • Tweaks performed by a software company
  • Billing information
  • Keeping secure information (credit cards)
  • Warranty tracking

Form Setup

  • Tab Order
    a.  Can make your Users more likely to use, or less likely
    b.  Tab consecutively to items that go together. (fields across vs. fields down)
  • Divide info into logical segments
    a.  Too many divisions = a busy form that is hard to read
    b.  Too few divisions = long pages of text that blur together
  • Constrain fields to specific # of characters as appropriate (account number, phone number)
  • Automatic formatting of standard fields (phone number, Zip code, Account Name)
  • Make the top portion as concise as possible for the folks who don’t want to do much data entry
  • Add extra fields at the bottom for people who want to record everything about a client

Data Entry Habits

  • Attach email in only one place (account or contact, not both)
  • Enter sub-records from parent to take advantage of mapping (Enter Contacts from Account)
  • Always review the Allow / Do not Allow in the Contact Methods area
  • Follow established business guidelines for all text fields
  • Enter all the info you know every time


  • An absolute must! It is ridiculous to spend money on software and customization, and not spend money on the one item that will actually get people to use the system.
  • Users who are not confident will not use the system
  • Always include hands-on practice
  • Divide training into functional segments, and have people only attend training that is relevant to their work
  • Ramp up training as skill sets improve
  • Provide advanced training for Power Users
  • Provide a contact who will quickly answer User questions, especially in the beginning
  • Provide specialized Administrator Training

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.