Managing Change in a CRM Project

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I once did an implementation for a very large organization that had a combined ERP/CRM project that spanned 18 months.  The end-goal was to implement SAP, combined with a CRM application suite, which would manage the SFA (Sales Force Automation) processes, along with handling the trade funds management and deduction management functions.  After a long engagement, which cost the organization millions of dollars, the CRM application eventually was removed.

So why did this happen?  Who was to blame?  How can an organization spend over $40 Million dollars and have nothing to show for it?  Is that possible?  Absolutely. 

Typically there are a number of causes to implementations not succeeding, but usually the most likely culprit is “Change Management”.  From Wikipedia, “Change management is a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It is an organizational process aimed at empowering employees to accept and embrace changes in their current business environment. In project management, change management refers to a project management process where changes to a project are formally introduced and approved.”  Out of this broad definition, the most important part occurs when employees must “accept and embrace changes”.  This is not an easy task.  Inherently, people do not like change.  People like consistency and routines.  Whenever a company decides to change a process or add an application, this consistency is disrupted – and there are bound to be differences of opinion and possibly conflict. 

With this concept of “Change Management” in mind, I’ve put together some good areas to focus on BEFORE and AFTER a CRM implementation that will help ensure that your CRM implementation is successful.


Before the Project Starts:

Project Sponsor:  Define who is going to be the “Project Champion”.  This person should be fairly senior in the organization.  He/she should conduct both a company-wide presentation, as well as a web-based meeting to introduce the project.  During this presentation, the key areas to cover include:

  • Project Purpose
  • Project Timeline
  • Key Project Team Members

Covering these areas in a public setting will ensure that everyone in the company is aware of the project and it's’ importance.  Additionally, it will lay out the timeline and introduce the people on the project team.  This will help people to identify who they can reach out to should they have any questions.

Project Kick-Off / Launch:  “Excitement. Buzz. Did you hear? Wow!”  These are the kinds of expressions and feelings you want around the launch.  “Mediocre, bland and boring” are not feelings associated with success.  In order to achieve the former, Kick-Off and Launch the new application in a fun environment.  If possible, get the employees away from work.  Taking employees out of their environment helps to enforce, “Hey, this is NEW!!”  If you have the Kick-Off Meeting or Launch meeting in the lunch room or a conference room at the office, it says, “Same ole’ thing” to everyone involved.  It doesn’t have to be a Space Shuttle Launch, but take some time to make it seem “New and Different”.  Your team members and employees will appreciate the effort.

Status Updates:  The key here is communication.  Make sure to update non-project employees about the status of the new implementation as well.  This will keep them informed and up-to-date on events related to the upcoming launch.  Additionally, it will prompt non-team members to discuss the project.  This, in turn, might influence people to provide feedback and get more involved with the system.

After the CRM System is Live:

Go-Live and Turn-Off:  We’ve already talked about the Kick-Off and Launch meetings and their importance in re-enforcing the project with the company.   However, one area we have not covered is the idea of “Turn Off”.  The best way to cover this is with a good example.  Company XYZ has just implemented Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 in order to enable their sales organization to manage their customers, products and promotions.  During the second day of training, I was helping a sales person with her Opportunity Records.  As we were still loading data, not all historical records had made it into the system.  After reviewing the data, the sales person says to me, “Well that’s OK.  I’ll just keep tracking everything in old tool.”  This type of "doing things the Old Way” can be the death-blow to a new system.  With this in mind, legacy systems and processes should be “retired”, in favor of the new CRM system.  You do not want people doing things “twice”, simply because they can’t let go of “how they used to do things”.  If possible, literally have the applications “Turned Off” and uninstalled from the network and user computer systems.  It’s harsh, but necessary.

Training:  This is a tough area to get right.  When someone receives an Outlook invite for “Training”, the usual response is a groan, followed by a moan.  In order to flip this general response, make sure to add some excitement in the training.  Ultimately, the employees will need to learn to use the CRM applications, but if they can have fun doing it, that is a plus.  Conduct the training “Out of the Office”.  Even if your organization has to rent office space at an off-site location, it is a “change”, which is what you are trying to enforce with the participants.  Break up the training sessions with some interesting exercises, speakers and even entertainment.  The best training I ever attended brought in the comedy team of Penn and Teller to do a presentation and team “Pep Talk”.  It was immensely successful – and everyone talked about it for WEEKS.  It was expensive for the company, but ultimately getting everyone in the company to talk about the CRM Application Launch Event for 2 months was worth every penny.

Feedback:  This needs to be a two-way street.  Putting a “Contact Phone Number” and “Feedback E-Mail” at the back of the training manual is not going to really get anyone to be pro-active in their feedback.  Key team members should be designated to conduct “User Interviews”.  These can be set up as a simple lunch meeting – but going out and getting the feedback, rather than waiting for it to come in through the proto-typical “Helpdesk Phone Lines” is faster and, usually, a better source of information.

Post Go-Live Go-Live:  Similar to the actual application launch, people want to know “How Things are Going”.  Periodic, weekly e-mails soon become ignored in everyone’s Outlook Inbox – so in order to re-engage the organization in the CRM Application’s success, conduct a final off-site meeting.  The purpose of this meeting will include:

  • Summarize the performance of the system to-date
  • Review all feedback received
  • Review system changes
  • Analyze the impact of the system on the organization
  • Outline future developments
  • Congratulate the Team

This meeting will help re-enforce the application’s involvement in the organization.  By highlighting these areas, everyone will see the impact that it is making.

I hope these ideas have prompted you to approach your Dynamics CRM 2011 implementations a little bit differently than you “Normally” would do things. 

Good luck with your implementations in 2011!

 by Patrick Picklesimer, Customer Effective a Georgia Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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