The process of implementing a CRM program often goes wrong because of hurried projects that are implemented simply for technology sake with unrealistic project timelines and poorly documented goals.
Posted Oct 20, 2003
Too often field automation projects are known for their dramatic impact, either positive or negative. But the process of implementing a CRM program often goes wrong because of hurried projects that are implemented simply for technology sake with unrealistic project timelines and poorly documented goals. Adding to the risk of project failure is a lack of understanding of the company's requirements and needs by the implementers or consultants.
So what is realistic to except from adopting a CRM program? And, what is really true about this business buzzword? Read on to dispel common CRM myths and learn the keys to success.
Misconception 1: All associated CRM functions--including sales, marketing, customer support, and management--simply need to be automated and there is no need to do any analysis.
Pitfall: If an analysis is not performed early in the process, you may be unable to implement an effective CRM automation system.
Truth and solution: Effective CRM automation at a company starts with a diagnostic analysis. This helps identify the business functions that need to be automated. It may even help uncover the technical features that are required. A suitable approach requires face-to-face interviews with users and management, visits with sales reps in their field environment, and questionnaires for those out of reach geographically. The goal is to create a report for executive management and sponsors with user recommendations for the automation functionality desired.
Misconception 2: Top management's inclusion in the CRM initiative only takes place when the software has been selected and functionality is being reviewed. After all, it is a software buy and others in the company have far greater knowledge about software than top management.
Pitfall: Not understanding upper management's strategic direction for the CRM initiative may result in considering the wrong application. In contrast, companies that successfully automate CRM functions with management support tend to view the software as a business enabler not merely a technological tool.
Truth and solution: Gain top-management support and commitment by demonstrating that automation:
Supports the business strategy (e.g., automation delivers the information required to make the key decisions, which in turn enables business strategy to be realized).
Measurably impacts and improves results (e.g., improved win rates, improved margins, higher sales revenues, and higher customer satisfaction ratings).
Reduces costs (e.g., lower general sales costs) and thereby pays for itself over a specified time period. It is best if you can document your case for automation based on business impact.
Misconception 3: Our CRM solution must meet everyone's needs throughout the company. As such, we will implement the software when we have 100 percent buy-in. It is an all or nothing proposition.
Pitfall: Common sense dictates that you cannot make everyone happy all the time. Automating an inefficient business process can be a costly mistake.
Truth and solution: You wouldn't make other business decisions with this philosophy, so why start with your CRM project? To ensure that you only automate what needs to be automated, the CRM diagnostic should address a wish list of how salespeople, marketing personnel, customer support staff, and management would like to improve their work processes. Once articulated and reviewed, it is easier to identify those concepts and ideas that need "automating" and which concepts can be left on the table or provided for in a later phase.
Misconception 4: Pick any of the top-selling CRM packages. After all, they are all the same: It's basic contact management. You can't go wrong.
Pitfall: Not all applications are the same, nor do they all allow you to change as your business grows.
Truth and solution: Selecting the right technology does matter. For example, if you conduct business across many regions or between several offices, you need a software application that permits easy data synchronization between information held on field computers (laptops) and information held on regional or headquarters computers (servers and desktops). Further, different software packages offer different customization options, as well as the ability to modify or alter in the future. Ensure that the technology you select not only meets your needs today, but for years to come.
Misconception 5: It is fine to just roll out software with the standard out-of-the-box functionality--that is how it was designed to be used.
Pitfall: Companies that assume that out-of-the-box software supports their business process will be disappointed.
Truth and solution: There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Tailoring and prototyping your CRM automation system to your business needs allows for experimentation on a smaller and less costly scale, tests the system's functionality, highlights required changes in organizational procedures, and most important, demonstrates that automation objectives can be met. Users benefit by seeing the application and its ability to meet their needs, which encourages acceptance.
Misconception 6: Project ownership should be delegated at implementation time.
Pitfall: Failure to have users sufficiently represented early in the project often results in a revolt against the system implemented by Big Brother as yet another means to watch over them.
Truth and solution: Secure ownership by your future CRM users early in the project. Not only does this enable acceptance, but it also allows you to address their needs during the software development. Large companies sometimes seek input from a cross-section of users and managers who have a stake in the success of the project.
Misconception 7: Once implemented, the users will see all the software can do and they will be excited to use it.
Pitfall: After the initial euphoria of a new system rollout, people tend to go back to doing what they have always done. Only now, the new technology gets in the way.
Truth and solution: Trends come and go within an organization and it is critical that you determine ways to maintain individual motivation and commitment towards the CRM automation system. Some companies even launch an internal marketing campaign, including an Intranet site for their sales and marketing automation effort to keep people involved and excited. CRM automation succeeds when users are motivated by the system's ability to help them obtain their objectives, as well as improve the company's bottom-line.
Misconception 8: We don't have time to take our salespeople out of the field to train them.
Pitfall: Expecting the users to understand both a new software application, the process that goes along with the software, and their responsibilities without training is a recipe for CRM failure.
Truth and solution: The best way to change work habits and to ensure CRM success is through an ongoing training program. Train your users before, during, and after implementation (through refresher courses). Proper training includes a verbalization and definition by management of the expectations of the CRM system, as well as a demonstration of how to access and utilize the data. Users should be provided with understandable documentation that is frequently updated or available online.
Misconception 9: CRM systems do not need administration once implemented.
Pitfall: Leaving long-term system administration to the IT department can be disastrous if they are understaffed, removed from the business processes of the company, or lack knowledge of sales and marketing initiatives.
Truth and solution: It is important to not only assign the administrative responsibility and long-term welfare of the CRM system early in the project, but also to look beyond merely handing the task to the IT department. The person/department assigned should serve as a gatekeeper and ensure that the data is timely, relevant, easy-to-access, and serves to positively impact users. As such, that person or department must have the knowledge and authority to interact with all areas of the company and effect change.
Misconception: Once management has signed off on the CRM project, it is up to somebody else to make sure the software delivers on the promise.
Pitfall: Left alone CRM initiatives simply fade away.
Truth and solution: Key to project and long-term success is management involvement beyond cost approvals. Establish a committee that includes senior staff, IT, and users from the sales, marketing, and customer service departments. This committee should be charged with meeting on a quarterly basis and reporting issues to senior management.
Truly great CRM projects are not easy and the strongest solutions are usually a result of fighting through a variety of stumbling blocks and challenges. Only with a strong management sponsor to serve as the link between the implementation team, users, and management will you succeed. Such a representative or team becomes the voice to develop, articulate, and then remind your company about the reasons for embarking on the CRM program in the first place.
About the Author
Rene Litalien is founder and president of TASK (www.task-group.com), management consulting firm and a systems integrator that provides business process analysis, reengineering services, document management, and turnkey enterprise solutions. With nearly three decades of management experience, Litalien has managed multiple plant operations, including production, sales, and distribution, as well as interfaced with major retail buyers in negotiating technical solutions to aid the selling process. He founded TASK in 1997. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org