Many think of "change management" as an add-on to an already costly implementation, one that involves simple, though not always effective, training and communication plans. This is a misconception. Although training and communication plans are important aspects of change management, true and effective change management involves the total integration of people with new processes and technology.
Having strong change management procedures in place to support this integration is critical, especially to CRM initiatives. Many CRM projects fail because most organizations do not pay attention to all the criteria needed to succeed. Companies alter processes and adopt new technologies, but do not prepare their people for these changes or reconfigure organizational factors to sustain the change.
For example, an employee of an organization that had just automated its sales force felt he had been given a $4,000 legal pad rather than a laptop. He did not understand the reason for, function or importance of the tool, and therefore was selling the same old way he had always been. Neither the employee nor the company was realizing the benefit of their CRM investment.
Early implementation of change management procedures can combat these and other pitfalls associated with implementing a CRM package. The best practices of total change management include:
Leadership and Management: The most important factor in the success of a CRM implementation is leadership buy-in. Management must sell the importance of the CRM initiative to the sales representatives on business, organizational, sales, customer service and personal levels. This way, sales reps will understand how the project affects them, their sales quotas and the overall organization, and-"get on board."
Communication and Selling: Create a communication plan and use it as a living document to market the project internally to your people. Doing so will ensure effective and efficient ongoing communication and information-sharing throughout the CRM implementation.
Measurement and Accountability: Organizations should have a strong underlying business strategy with clear goals and objectives as the foundation for any CRM project and make all project decisions based upon this plan.
Motivation and Incentives: Provide tangible incentives to your sales people that will motivate them to accept the new automated sales systems and selling processes. Rewarding desired behaviors should lead to positive business results, increased sales and better customer service.
Skills and Capability Development: To ensure that the entire organization has the skills, knowledge and competence to function and excel in the new environment, companies should provide training, education and knowledge transfer on their redesigned selling processes and CRM systems.
Organization and People: Create and sustain an organizational and cultural environment that will support and adhere to the new business processes and systems.
Once you have decided that change management is indeed important to your CRM initiative, what is the best approach to implementation? A successful change management approach should contain the following steps:
Assess: Conduct an assessment to determine their readiness for change, based on the change management best practices outlined above. This will provide a snapshot of where they are today, and where they need to change in order to reach their envisioned future state.
Envision: Develop a vision for the project and for their future state in all areas outlined above that integrates with the transformation or technology they are implementing.
Plan: Develop plans for the project, for the transition and for the future state in all change management areas that integrate into their overall project plan.
Execute: Execute tasks and produce deliverables for each phase of the project to reduce risks, improve organizational effectiveness and ensure results.
Improve: Create processes, systems and practices that allow for and reinforce continuous improvement.
The integration of your people with your new processes and technology is a critical spoke in the success of a CRM initiative. Organizations that take the time to plan and correctly implement these change management principles will undoubtedly experience quicker return on investment, shortened implementation cycle times, less employee resistance, lost revenue and lost employee time.