A CRM is worthless without data—it’s the basis of a business’s knowledge about its customers, its ability to make accurate sales forecasts, and its justification for driving organizational change.

Consequently, poorly kept data can pose real risks to a business, costing up to 30 percent of its revenue.

The key to avoiding the risks of bad-quality data is a strong CRM architecture. As the storage house for customer data, CRM software needs an architecture that prioritizes organized data collection and storage. Without it, a business risks hurting its bottom line.

What is a CRM Architecture?

A CRM architecture outlines the strategy, structure, and processes necessary for successful customer relationship management. CRM software plays a central role in implementing this architecture.

Strategy: Your CRM goals will determine your CRM strategy and guide your software selection process.
Structure: The structure of your CRM will prioritize data collection and organization.
Processes: CRM processes will outline the workflows for executing on CRM goals.

In other words, a company’s customer relationship management strategy will be the backbone for adopting CRM software. The structure and processes will be it’s practical implementation.

CRM architecture chart

Below, I’ll go through the importance of having a CRM architecture that considers strategy, structure, and processes, and how your CRM data would be affected without it.

The 3 components of successful CRM architecture

CRM Strategy

 THE RISK:  Without a strategy, data doesn’t have a home

Customer relationship management is a strategy that reinforces the continuous nurturing of customer relationships to increase revenue and profitability. Despite a standard focus on building customer relationships, every company will have its own slightly different take on what its CRM strategy should look like. What won’t change is the role of CRM strategy as the high-level, big-picture outline of a CRM architecture.

Spelling out the reason behind adopting a CRM lays the groundwork for the structure and processes that will help execute on goals. This includes considering the role that CRM software will play in aiding with customer relationship management.

Questions to ask when developing a CRM strategy


  • Is our goal for customer acquisition or customer retention (or something else altogether)?
  • What are the biggest pain points in our current customer management process?
  • What are the biggest opportunities for improving our customer experience?

CRM Structure

 THE RISK:  Without a structure, data is disorganized

If strategy is the big picture, a CRM structure is a more detailed map of the components that make up that strategy. The structure will be tailored to a company’s sales cycle, customer journey, and customer profiles to provide a practical roadmap for achieving CRM goals.

In terms of software, a CRM will be structured with specific fields, modules, and integrations that support customer contact, service delivery, and data collection.

The structure itself will lay out different stages of the customer journey and consider any marketing or customer service touch points that a customer may encounter along the way. Having integration with other software will be especially important here to get a holistic view of a customer.

The structure is also where a company decides on the types of data that it wants to collect, as well as the logic and structural rules for making sure that the data remains clean (i.e., not duplicated or outdated). Data that can be used for analysis and recommendations should be prioritized for collection.

Questions to consider when developing a CRM structure


  • What does our sales cycle look like?
  • What type of data will help me learn more about my customers?
  • What data can be integrated from other software to provide a more holistic view of the customer?

CRM Process

 THE RISK:  Without a process, data falls through the cracks

Processes are the final pieces of the CRM architectural puzzle. Processes outline the more practical considerations and actionable aspects of executing on customer relationship management, including the how and when of dealing with customers on an individual level. Think of these as the “if this, then that” scenarios of the customer journey.

Processes ensure that employees are leading customers along the appropriate journey based on previous actions or interactions. CRM software aids in this process with the help of rules, triggers, and automation, which notify employees of pending actions or opportunities to connect with customers.

Processes also ensure that employees are taking the right steps to collect data or record interactions with customers when necessary. Processes can also apply to lead sourcing and scoring as a way to capture data before the lead becomes a full-fledged customer.

The data collected during this part of the journey will form the basis for creating customer personas, monitoring sales performance, and making forecasts of future sales outcomes.

Questions to consider when developing CRM processes


  • How did this customer reach me?
  • What actions can I automate to help move customers through the pipeline?
  • How can I interpret the customer data that’s being collected?

Create a strong but flexible CRM architecture

A CRM architecture needs to be strong enough to support the goal of customer relationship management, but it shouldn’t be rigid. It must be able to adapt to the changing needs of customers, employees, and even technologies that can inadvertently but inevitably throw strategies, structures, and processes off course.

According to Gartner (research available to clients), one of the keys to successful CRM implementation is to architect for ongoing innovation. Here are some tips for maintaining a flexible CRM architecture.

  • Work with other departments. CRM does not operate in a silo. Work with representatives from other areas of the business, especially marketing, to ensure that the architecture aids the goals of the business (not just the sales department).
  • Leave room for integration with different applications. Even those applications which you might not think are directly related to CRM could have data that provides insight.
  • Revisit features on an ongoing basis. There might be features that you’re not using that could actually be valuable to improving your processes. Revisit your CRM or look to see what’s available on the market to see where there’s opportunity for streamlining processes.

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