A Healthy Dose of User Adoption

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Jim Lane is happy to have taken his medicine. As the vice president of national accounts for UnitedHealthcare (UHC), a carrier handling the healthcare accounts of millions of individuals (and the healthcare-spending accounts of many more), Lane knows his company now has the opportunity to use CRM as a differentiator.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t always possible, thanks to an antiquated on-premises solution and a group of salespeople who were less than inclined to make use of it. In 2002, Lane recalls, UHC implemented a CRM solution from Siebel Systems that took 20 months to develop—an interminable period that actually wasn’t all that uncommon at the time, given the size of the deployment. Just four years later, however, the system was already in failing health.

“The cost to keep it current and to keep up with advances in technology and user interfaces became too great and too much for the company to swallow,” Lane says. To make matters worse, salespeople were no longer showing affinity for the solution. Adoption started out high—roughly 80 percent—but usage later foundered, dropping to a lowly 20 percent in 2007. 

UHC’s CRM was in desperate need of a face-lift, but given tight budgets and parameters, there wasn’t room for another failed implementation. Lane took charge of implementing a new solution and with a team of supporters chose to stay with Oracle as the company’s CRM vendor. (Oracle had acquired Siebel back in 2005.) This time around, however, UHC would opt for CRM delivered via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, in the form of Oracle CRM On Demand. 

“Rather than sink deeper into the existing on-premises system, we decided to move forward with a new solution,” Lane says. “We didn’t have a capital budget so that’s when we started to look more closely at a SaaS solution.” Not surprisingly, UHC was won over in part by the most common benefits of an initial switch to SaaS: the freedom from having to maintain any infrastructure and the promise of up-to-date software features without labor-intensive upgrades. Before the go-live of Oracle CRM On Demand, UHC executives held an off-site summit to gather feedback from some of the company’s sales leaders—what salespeople felt they needed to effectively close deals and how a CRM system could help them manage new accounts. 

“We had the advantage of knowing what failed in our past system so we knew what to avoid and we knew what to strive for,” Lane says. “We had both sides of the equation in front of us.” Throughout the implementation, UHC kept what Lane refers to as a limited-budget mentality. “There was no safety net,” he says. 

Because of strict adherence to budget, schedule, and objectives, the project was completed on time and under budget and went live in December 2008. However, as with many CRM implementations, the official launch was just the beginning. With Phase 1 rolled out to users, UHC expanded the scope of the system’s offerings, adding components such as sales intelligence and customer survey results—both of which, Lane reports, significantly impact sales reps’ compensation. 

The CRM system has become more than merely a place where salespeople are obligated to record the status of their pipeline, Lane says: “They can also get information from the CRM about information pertinent to them.” UHC also gave its salespeople access to InsideView, a SaaS solution that aggregates sales data from traditional and social media. (InsideView was named a Rising Star in CRM’s 2009 CRM Market Awards.)

That second round of CRM add-ons had a serious effect on user adoption. Following Phase 1, adoption of Oracle CRM On Demand hovered around 60 percent. That figure has now risen to the 80s, and Lane predicts that it will cross 90 percent once UHC implements a business-planning solution that’s in the works. Aside from a tremendous boost in adoption, Lane says overall effectiveness is also vastly improved. With Siebel, he says, sales reps had become lazy—often asking an administrator to handle updating their sales numbers. 

“It was a terribly inefficient way of capturing relevant and critical CRM information,” Lane says. Now, the CRM system encourages accountability and increases productivity. Staffers even bestowed a pet name on the solution: Merit. “They came up with [that],” Lane says. “[It’s] described as ‘having value and quality.’” 


Since implementing Oracle CRM On Demand, UnitedHealthcare has:

  • reduced the number of clicks required to navigate its system by 25 percent;
  • cut by 29 percent the amount of time needed to enter information;
  • saved 33 percent in system-maintenance costs; and
  • increased user adoption by 81 percent.

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