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CRM Journey
CRM Software Implementation Success

quote Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing. quote

- Abraham Lincoln

CRM Implementation Success Factors

What are the key factors that facilitate a successful CRM software implementation? Study after study have been done on this issue. Several key areas come up again and again, for any software implementation. Most apply to a Sales Force Automation implementation, but there are a few that are specific to a Client Relationship Management implementations.

Obtaining Executive Sponsorship
This is vital whether you are a multi-billion dollar firm or a small family owned Internet company with a sales team. Either way, if the VPs don’t buy-in or dad never made it to the information age, the implementation will fail. Guaranteed. Executive sponsorship must go beyond agreement. The executives must promote the software passionately. A lackluster acceptance is not enough.

Consider Corporate Culture When Choosing CRM Software
It's less than an obvious point, and its often missed. Remember that midmarket financial software giant (Great Plains) who chose the leading Client Relationship Management system (Siebel Systems)? They were based in the mid-west, in a small town, and had the kind of corporate culture where the company picked up the tab for the taxi home if anyone drank too much at a pub. An almost cult-like, informal, CEO’s door was always open atmosphere. The CEO even turned up often at office birthday parties. They picked a CRM software solution that suited a buttoned-down, starched-shirt organization like IBM. The solution was difficult to customize, had little flexibility and we they requested the type of support they routinely exhibit, the cultures clashed. Square peg, round hole, didn’t fit. The implementation was doomed from the start. If your organization is a jeans and t-shirt dress code, pick software with great flexibility, and easy customization. If you’re Colgate Palmolive supporting operations in almost every country in the world, you may need something with rigid processes, enforceable workflow and no room for deviation. In other words, know your business processes and culture and recognize that CRM will touch almost every employee.

Align the Processes of Key Departments
Before you begin documenting your requirements for the CRM solution, do a performance analysis of each department. Document your business processes for each department. If possible, establish current measurement factors for processes you need to improve such as waiting time for support calls, turnaround time for an information request or lead to close ratios. These establish a baseline for measurement of your success. Many implementations fail in the eyes of the users because failure to measure the baseline means improvements can’t be demonstrated factually. Many businesses develop processes for a one-time spike that never occurred again, or have processes for two objectives that can be combined into one. Streamline every process for simplicity, clear response, and measurable objective. Throw out any process with an objective that cannot be justified. Be ruthless, you can always add it back. Co-ordinate the business processes between the departments, recognize inter-departmental dependencies and obtain consensus on the processes from which the key benefits will arise.

Clearly Identify the CRM Software Requirements
This sounds so simple but it’s amazing how often it’s omitted or performed erroneously, especially if you skip aligning and documenting the needs and business processes. Prioritize each department’s needs in detail and map the needs to specific software capabilities. What is driving the company towards an automated CRM solution? Define the crucial factors, and keep them to the minimum. If there were only three issues you could fix, what are they?

Ask Marketing, Sales, and Service what they want the system to do. Have them identify no more than five major issues that need to be addressed immediately. Get the key players in a room and let them decide a total of five key issues (use an old technique to speed up the decision, make them do it on a Saturday in the summer, tell them it’s a shorts dress code, and put them in an air conditioned room, turn the thermostat down to 40, works every time). Five and three are arbitrary numbers, but you get the idea, keep it to the basics. The bells and whistles can be added in, after you define what the software absolutely must do.

Oftentimes the critical issues are not current, but future regulations or plans. Think HIPPA, Sarbanes Oxley, pending immigration reform. If future legislation is forcing the CRM implementation, then the reporting factors involved have to be a priority. If you are planning an IPO, will future SEC reporting be a factor in any aspect of the Client Relationship Management implementation? If you are a governed state body, then the implementation may revolve around state regulations, and again, these have to drive your CRM software requirements.

Make sure you include support and training in your requirements analysis, particularly if you fall into the following: state governed, publicly traded, or have a large number of employees. Regardless, training and support are key factors for CRM implementation failures; you must include these in your CRM requirements and make them a priority. Recognize that training and support can be deployed through many channels including the Internet, on-line tutorials and knowledge bases. Decide which are necessary for your culture and make them part of your requirements.

If you are an Internet company, your employees may prefer on-line training - make sure it’s part of the training delivery menu your CRM software vendor offers. On the other hand, if you are not technology oriented then seminars or classroom training may be more appropriate, just ensure to include your desired training and support delivery options in your requirements.

Use Several Measures For Choosing Your Vendor
Think of your CRM vendor as your business partner for the life of the software. Software fit is very important for a successful implementation, but recognize that no off the shelf software will match your requirements precisely and use a best of fit approach. The actual CRM pricing is an important issue but it should not be paramount. The total value of the deal, implementation, training, etc. must all be taken into account.

We’ve already covered the CRM and support requirements. There is one other factor to throw in the mix. If the software package you decide upon will require customization, ask the vendor how that’s handled technology wise? Will all customizations have to be re-written with each successive new software version? Before you purchase, ask the vendor for a detailed customization specifications document with associated costs. Even if you have to pay for it, do so. This could help you avoid a colossal mistake.

One firm in the flower business bought a $49,000 system and ended up spending $292,000 on customizations. The vendor didn’t understand the flower wholesaling industry and the client wanted no change in the interface from their old UNIX system designed to their specifications.

Recognize that changes to reports are also customizations. Give the vendor a list of the reports you expect to obtain from the system. Detail these, by column headings, subtotals, and sorting. Very few firms use the systems’ canned reports. If there is a report writer, consider training one or two employees on its use and have this included in the costs as well.

Ask for documentation on the vendor’s implementation methodology and ensure you thoroughly understand it. Obtain a detailed implementation plan before you decide on the software. Require estimates attached to each timeline and associated measurable objectives. Expect to work with your vendor on this - otherwise the results will be unrealistic. If your vendor counts this as a billable function, negotiate to pay for it if you don’t purchase the software, but obtain a credit for the payment if you do.

Request a meeting with the consultant(s) who will be assigned to your project and his or her supervisor. If you are at all uncomfortable with any of them ask for a change in personnel and repeat the process.
Clearly Define the Business Objectives of the Implementation
Strive to identify clear and quantifiable objectives. If a goal is qualitative, ensure it can be measured. You can only claim your implementation successful if you can measure it. Ensure your measures are applicable, and specify when they will be measured, particularly the user adoption rate. Involve your vendor in this discussion. Your vendor’s past experiences with firms of your size and similar objectives can guide you in setting realistic goals. Credibility and increased user adoption of the software hinges on demonstrating achieved goals and is a pre-requisite for a successful implementation

Take a Phased Implementation Approach
Divide the implementation into small, measurable phases. Identify the key features required to get you up and running and initially implement only those. Deciding on a complete CRM implementation is planning for the knockout punch in the first round. Do go ahead and plan the complete implementation using phases, but don’t get too detailed beyond the first phase. Recognize implementations are dynamic and once you start using the software you will likely change your approach and perhaps your initial objectives.

Divide the first phase in terms of timelines and corresponding milestones. Publish reaching these during the implementation. It begins building the software credibility, user interest, and ultimately, user adoption. Budget the first phase of the implementation in terms of costs and time. Be sure to build in vacations, personal time, and other time resource eaters into the timeline. Add in a factor for changes to the scope of the implementation and another for any identified customizations. Then add another for unexpected events, hurricanes or chicken pox. Revise your timelines accordingly and add the additional factors to your budgeted dollars for the cost of phase one.

Plan your post-implementation evaluation to start the day you go live. People have short memories and if you start the post-implementation weeks after the go live date, they may not remember half of the issues that arose. Make sure to document all issues, even minor ones. They are learning experiences.

Build in Change Procedures
Start with a CRM steering committee. If you’re doing this in-house, the potentially bad news is you must have IT involved. Make sure players who will champion the software for each department are represented, including your consultant (s). You must persuade at least one executive sponsor to be on the committee and be active.

Establish the functions of the committee as it relates to the implementation. Generally, the principal role of a CRM committee should be steering the project to a defined completion. Vote a leader. Think about developing a project name, it solidifies the whole event to everyone in the organization and sparks team spirit.

Again, because implementations are dynamic in nature, plan for change. Develop a decision approval system for changes in the scope of the implementation with a specific, appropriate response period. If you have identified customizations, determine with your CRM vendor the appropriate response times for estimates for the customizations so that changes in timelines can be dealt with realistically.

Give change approval authority to the head of the committee and a backup. Develop a method of disseminating information to everyone concerned. Figure out a detailed approach to selling the change to the organization. If possible, involve the executive sponsors from every department in selling the change.

Begin Training Before Implementing
Have a preview room with the software running. If electronic tutorials are available, set them up on every workstation. Train the CRM committee members first, they are their department champions for the CRM software, and motivate them to publicize recognized benefits as timelines approach.

Start getting user buy in – during regular department or company meetings have the CRM committee members discuss a new feature they learned. Make sure software support is available from the beginning.

If you have a company newsletter or blog, start a regular column to inform everyone in the organization when objectives are achieved. Recognize and reward employees who take tutorials or other training during this period. Publish the types of support users can expect. One of the most important measures of a successful CRM implementation is adoption of the software by users, campaign for it. After all, that’s your business, marketing.

Recognize that the Sales Department Drives Successful CRM Implementations
Although the Marketing and Service departments benefit significantly and are integral to CRM utilization, the bulk of the data for that central repository requires input from each salesperson. The VP of Sales must champion the software and each salesperson must adopt and use it religiously. Choose two of your most enthusiastic sales personnel for the CRM committee and involve them in the adoption rate you expect for phase one. Give them an incentive if the adoption rate is met on time. Meet with these two weekly for updates on the project, and listen to what they have to say. Act on constructive suggestions, and dissect anything you don’t agree with before rejecting it.

Bring your existing data in early on, and have each salesperson validate the accuracy of his or her accounts and leads. Plan to hold the hands of the entire sales department when you go live, and go live with as few features involved as possible. Add on in small increments. Creep before you walk.

Of course, all of the above applies to both Service and Marketing, but the sales department is crucial.  More CRM Journey

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