The CRM Center of Excellence Maturity Model

A Journey to Best-in-Class Performance


  • CRM software performance gains are seldom achieved and almost never sustained when tackled as individual pursuits. A better approach is to use a CRM Center of Excellence Maturity Model as a diagnostic tool and roadmap. It surfaces strengths and weakness, shows where you are compared to where you can be, and confirms what steps are required to get the next level.
  • A Maturity Model is a grouping of application capabilities which are ranked in ascending maturity and organized in an evolutionary framework.
  • It's also a progressive framework whereby each investment builds on the prior and contributes to the next. Otherwise, CRM software improvements and investments are a series of one-off, disconnected fixes that are short lived and fail to create momentum.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

How to Transform Performance Results and ROI

A proliferation of new channels, devices and consumer technologies on top of increasingly informed and empowered customers and a competitive marketplace can make setting CRM priorities a challenging and fluid exercise.

That's why Customer Relationship Management optimization is a journey best pursued with a roadmap built on a progressively phased maturity model.

The Johnny Grow CRM Center of Excellence Maturity Model is a data-driven, asset-powered roadmap that brings increasing and sustained improvements to user adoption, software utilization and technology ROI.

It's born from Center of Excellence research data that reinforces a holistic framework to vision, guide and drive progress toward measurable targets. It brings structure, clarity and simplicity to application performance improvements.

Growth Evolution

Only when CRM software is in a constant state of improvement does it deliver increasing value to users, customers and the company.

The Maturity Model is a roadmap to increased technology value.

It shows what capabilities are needed to achieve successive advancements, and what business outcomes are realized with each iteration. Each successive maturity tier delivers increased revenue contribution and ROI. The previously referenced research shows that top adopters achieved a median ROI of 85%. That's impressive.

There is an endless number of CRM improvements that can be pursued. Knowing which are distractions and which are strategic and knowing the investment and payback for each can cut through the clutter and design a roadmap to meet targeted objectives and financial goals.

The Johnny Grow Model

We have built our Maturity Model over many years and we're sharing it here as much of it can be replicated by others.

CRM Center of Excellence Maturity Model

It's a results driven model that segments capabilities into five essential categories that directly link to the most important business outcomes.

Here's some additional context for each tier.

Level 1: Lagging

CoEs at this stage are characterized by their operating model, limited services, minimal impact and inability to evolve.

They are often IT driven with a focus on software features and functions.

Sometimes these CoEs are really just user support helpdesks with a fancier name. They operate as cost centers, so the top goal is cost containment. When company costs get tight or budgets are reduced, they incur a disproportionately higher hit.

Most services are delivered to a single department and they have little reach into the rest of the company.

The CRM software user experience (UX) takes a more is better approach. There are a lot of fields on a lot of screens but little information and even less prioritization.

There is little business process automation and even less data transformation, so information reporting is limited to historical data and simple activity-based performance measures.

User and customer engagement is reactive and ad hoc. Both are viewed as a homogenous groups. User satisfaction and customer intelligence is minimal.

A limited budget forces them to be efficient but prevents them from being effective. Staff focus their time more on the urgent than the important.

They generally operate without a strategy and roadmap.

Staff skills are comparably low and processes are mostly manual.

Improving CRM software performance is an idealistic goal but lacks systemic execution. Because the CoE delivers no differentiating value and little to no measurable revenue contribution, company management believe they are costly and inconsequential.

With little to no focus on meaningful improvements this group is unintentionally decreasing profits and holding back company growth. Many times, they are in a death stall and don't know it.

These CoEs seldom make it past phase 1.

Level 2: Efficient

At this stage the CoE is characterized by its adoption of CRM strategy, customer focus, expanded services and technology automation. Attention has shifted from application features and functions to staff productivity and outcomes.

The CoE has advanced from cost center to profit center so there is less of a focus on cost minimalization and much more emphasis on investment maximization.

Efficient CoEs lead with a customer affinity strategy to achieve prioritized customer and company financial outcomes.

They are adept at technology automation. They have a technology strategy and have shifted from a patchwork of piecemeal point solutions to application platform solutions that begin to consolidate data siloes and facilitate broader workflow automation and information reporting.

At this level the UX has improved. CoE staff discover that with CRM software less is more. They apply role-based user-centered design and methods such as user journey maps for improved ease of use and more intuitive navigation.

They have implemented multi-channel customer engagement, but siloed communication channels make conversation fidelity and tracking digital footprints difficult as prospects and customers transition from one channel to another.

Most importantly, they are no longer stagnate and periodically, but not continuously, implement application performance improvements.

Level 3: Leading

At this level the CoE has advanced from a centralized to a hybrid CRM Center of Excellence operating model.

The CoE now provides a performance advantage, but not competitive differentiation. These CoEs are always profit centers and proficient at converting annual budgets into company revenues and showing clear and increasing ROI.

They have evolved from a customer focus to customer-centricity, meaning they have data-driven customer intelligence for each type of customer and defined processes to use data to deliver differentiated customer experiences.

The focus has shifted from user software improvements to user, customer and business outcomes.

The UX is now driven by Design Thinking Hills which surface the most important and highest impact user and customer goals. The application has advanced from a customer data management system to a system that facilitates growing customer relationships.

The CoE has shifted from doing things right to doing the right things. They know efficiency and effectiveness are complimentary but distinct. Becoming highly efficient in low value or non-essential services does not improve customer value or technology performance.

There is a clear recognition that if CoE processes don't create value that customers care about or are willing to pay for, it may not matter how efficient they are. This recognition redirects efforts from low to high value actions.

Customer engagement has advanced from multi-channel to omni-channel, meaning they can track customer fidelity across channels and use that data for relevant, personalized, contextual and predictive customer experiences.

Most software processes are refined and optimized, but they never stop improving. The top sources for improvements are user and customer feedback. They proactively engage users and customers and act on that input.

Based on more than three decades of CRM software consulting I've uncovered an interesting finding about this level. It's common that CoE staff classify themselves in this tier while their users place them in the prior (Efficient) tier.

Level 4: Exceeding

The operation is now a federated model that delivers competitive differentiation and sustainable competitive advantages.

The CoE is characterized by its direct alignment with company priorities, continuous process improvements, innovation services, customer advocacy, and rising revenue contribution.

At this level, the CoE is the CRM technology champion and is disseminating its expertise across the company to deliver a force multiplier productivity impact.

Everything that is repeated is automated. Information reporting has advanced from hindsight to foresight. Artificial Intelligence (AI) delivers next best offers, next best actions and prescriptive advice at precisely the time and location it can be applied.

Because today's differentiation becomes tomorrows table stakes, the CoE embraces innovation and reinvention, is driven by change agents and has mature change management processes and programs.

Change is driven by customer behaviors and key performance measures. So, these CoEs are in a continuous pursuit of improvements that most matter, such as customer conversions, customer lifetime value (CLV) and customer retention.

The CoE has now made the technology and itself indispensable to the company.

See how a CRM Center of Excellence Maturity Model makes CRM software indispensable to the company.

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Next Step, Begin Your Journey

Different companies will start at different stages. Some may start at the beginning. Others midway. But irrespective of where you start, you need a roadmap that defines the highest impact destination, the shortest route to get there and the best practices that can be replicated to reduce risk and accelerate time to value.

The Johnny Grow Maturity Model is a framework that identifies a short list of capabilities that most influence, and sometimes springboard, advancement from one tier to the next.

It starts with an assessment to measure the five most strategic impact areas, prioritize your limited budget and identify the highest uplift opportunities.

Maturity Model Measurement

Once you objectively assess your baseline performance and starting point, the maturity model can help identify a few pathfinding opportunities that deliver quick results and create momentum. When early projects show a quantifiable ROI, skeptics will be relegated to the sidelines and the shift toward a transformational journey will begin.

And one final note. You don’t need a complex CRM scorecard as the only metrics that really matter to the C-suite are ROI and increased revenue contribution. Placing focus on the methods, best practices and actions that drive these two measures will create an unstoppable transformation.