CRM on the Skids: Three Ways to Save Your CRM Implementation
Most organizations implement a CRM system because management is trying to address a pain, such as a need to know more about the forecast or funnel, or to achieve a 360 degree view of their customers. It’s true that a CRM system can provide a great top-down view, but what I really want to discuss is the effect a new CRM can have on its daily users.
We need to appreciate that when people use a CRM system, we are asking them to enter a lot of data. For example, in a competitive situation we want to know who the competitors were, how we compared to them on solution, pricing, capability and many more aspects. This means that users actually need to add far more information than just that which is required in order to get the most out of the system and have it become an asset, and in turn we need to consider the ways in which we can set up the CRM such that it encourages this behaviour.
The key rule to make a CRM successful is to minimise data entry, especially multiple copies of the same data in different systems. Rather than just being a reporting tool, with well thought-out and integrated processes, the CRM can become an asset for all its users, where entering thorough records are their own reward. Imagine a salesperson who has taken the time to acquire their contacts’ birthdays and social media personas. Why not integrate the data and processes and make them available on mobile, so that the salesperson receives an automated reminder of their contact’s birthday along with information on recent discussions and projects, leading to a call and productive conversation?
I was still thinking about this case while at the SalesforceOne World Tour in London recently, and while there I had several conversations where similar warning signs came up. I wanted to share some top tips for rescuing CRM implementations, but be aware: most of the time, it’s not the technology that’s at fault…
1. Use champions to secure buy-in
The first problem was that the CRM implementation was surrounded by negativity, and not just because the project was in a hole. It felt like everyone, whether a user or IT, did not believe that the project was worthwhile. It seemed like everyone I spoke to felt that their cheese had been moved, and was convinced that their jobs would be more complex after the implementation.
This is a natural reaction because in any major IT project like this CRM implementation, you change the way users go about their daily tasks and it is perfectly normal for a user to be concerned: no matter how Byzantine the existing system, if you have a way of accomplishing what you need to then it can feel like any change will just put you back at Square One. In fact, the more complex and sub-optimal the existing system, the more resistance there can be to change: in a simple, easily understood system, users are more confident that they can adapt.
These objections can usually be headed off by finding influential people within affected departments and empowering them to champion the project to their colleagues. The champions are ideally people who really understand the pains of the average user, who can identify areas where their colleagues will spend a long time entering data for little payback, and also identify opportunities for integrating data or developing a mobile screen that will create significant benefits. The problem in this organisation was that although a champion had been appointed, that person had since left the company and there had been no handover to a new champion.
This actually shows two potential problems, because not only should you ensure that your champions are engaged and that the role continues, but there should be several of them.
Champions aren’t just there to cheer everyone up; rather, they should have a deep understanding of what their department of function does, so they can articulate potential concerns to management. In this example, the IT department, sales and marketing, and operations staff were all affected, but in different ways depending on the workflows of the different business areas. Therefore each area should have had a champion, and these would also have mitigated the risk of one champion leaving.
2. Know what you want to achieve
It’s all very well for me to say that champions were needed, but they are most effective if they can point to a definite plan and identify issues; and in this case it seemed that while a senior management figure had decided that a CRM implementation was needed, there was no clear guiding vision behind the project.
That comment may come as a surprise, whether you are a CRM customer or implementer, because the majority of projects start from a very clear goal, usually to provide management dashboards for reporting. Dashboards and reporting are key selling points of CRM solutions, as CRM vendors and implementers target CEOs, sales managers and marketing managers and show them the benefits they could expect from their CRM. These functions are vital to the business and absolutely must be implemented in a bullet-proof way, but this top-down management view is not the only one you should consider.
Having been involved in many CRM implementations on both sides, everyone talks about wanting to make back-office processes faster and easier, to increase efficiencies and boost collaboration, but for all these good intentions many CRM implementations actually make simple tasks take longer, frustrating your system’s users and reducing the amount of information they are willing to put into the system. Given that the real value of a CRM for these users comes from being willing to input more information than necessary, thus making the CRM their go-to tool, this risks making the CRM a “business prevention tool”.
This is usually caused by the realities of the sales process. As a CRM vendor, you have a system that can delight the management stakeholders you need to court, but you can see that ensuring the organisation’s foot soldiers have access to all the information they need might be an issue, because some of this is held in different systems that cannot be easily connected. Fixing these issues would appear to require a lot of custom coding, and that would make your solution more expensive than the competition. This should not be seen as a fault of the CRM vendor as such; rather, it is a management issue on the client’s side because if the management stakeholders insisted that the users’ processes were genuinely made easier, vendors would have to make it happen.
As a CRM client, use your departmental champions and knowledge of your business processes to understand exactly what your users need to do on a daily basis, and be aware of where data resides. Don’t be afraid of insisting that users’ processes are automated and accelerated both within a CRM system and ecosystem and beyond into other systems, as business process integration tools can build and automate these workflows, accessing and updating data across multiple systems.
3. Define the processes
Even with a clear idea of how the organisation should work you can still run into problems if the processes aren’t clearly defined and followed: in this situation you can build the most bulletproof process and data integration imaginable but it will have only marginal benefit if it doesn’t match the processes users need to follow. There are many reasons for organisations to lack clearly defined processes:
Processes may never have been put in place, and employees manually transfer data as needed on an ad-hoc basis.
Mergers, acquisitions and expansions could have left the organisation with overlapping systems, and no clear master data source.
The organisation may work off spreadsheets or from a single master data source, using batch processes to update this source.
In many cases, formal processes were not perceived to be necessary before the CRM implementation kicked off. In today’s increasingly complex and interconnected business environments the ability to seamlessly share data between systems and to mobile is only becoming more important, and defined, automated processes can improve ROI and business process efficiencies.
Clearly defined processes are especially useful when considering enabling greater mobile access to your systems and data; in fact, I often find that a mobile project is the driver behind integration needs. Users may dislike entering multiple copies of data or switching between widows on desktop, but on mobile this is nearly impossible. Instead, users really need to have their data presented to them in an easily understood way, regardless of where it sits, and it needs to update seamlessly as they work.
To make the most of your new process-oriented business, ensure that processes are clearly defined and followed before automating them. This goes hand in hand with the multi-stage implementation I described above, because it allows you to check that your automation fits the users’ needs.
In short, most of the organisational challenges behind running a successful CRM implementation can be handled with careful planning and a methodical approach. I’d recommend always working with an experienced integration partner to benefit from the lessons learned from myriad similar projects in the past.
David Akka is Managing Director at Magic Software Enterprises UK. David is a successful executive manager with a proven track record as a general manager with a strong background in sales, marketing, business development and operations. Past experience in technology and service delivery include both UK and European responsibilities.