Successfully Rolling out a Customer Relationship Management Solution in Your Organization

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So you’ve gone through the long and difficult process of finding the best solution for your company from a technological standpoint, and you are ready to implement a CRM system. Or are you? How will you ensure that the investment your company is about to make will have a meaningful and positive impact on your organization? How can you make sure the project is a success and not just a waste of money? Well, here are some ideas that might help.

Planning and a Partner Most CRM systems are pretty flexible and will allow for a lot of customization. This is great from a technical standpoint, because you can get a system that is tailored to your needs, but this can be difficult to manage up front because there are so many options to choose from. Without careful planning, there is a significant risk of getting lost in the options and not defining a process and sticking with it. This is where having a partner organization, already familiar with the technical abilities of the CRM, can be a huge benefit. The partner should be able to guide you through the process of laying out the problems you are trying to solve and mapping solutions to those problems into the software.

Also keep in mind that a CRM system should involve the entire organization to some degree, so make sure you consider the big picture as well as the details. With a highly-configurable system, there is frequently more than one way to solve a problem. Keeping the big picture in mind while designing the solution will help ensure that you solve the problem in a way that will work for every department instead of tailoring it so much to one department that other areas of the business have a difficult time using that feature. You don’t need to implement every department at the same time (in fact, later we’ll explore why you shouldn’t), but you want to make sure the plan takes everyone into account.

Executive Support Support from the executive team is key to any large business application deployment, CRM or otherwise. However, this is especially critical with a CRM application due to its central role in the organization. In order to maximize information-sharing between employees, everyone needs to use the system – and that “everyone” needs to include the top-level executives as well as the customer service reps on the front lines.

The most successful CRM implementations have at least one executive (preferably the CEO) who is really excited about a CRM system and is very eager to begin using it. Executives are generally less interested in the process of using the system on a day-to-day basis (entering customers, tracking opportunities, etc.) but are usually interested in the high-level reporting that can be driven from this information. That excitement will lead to a desire to see reports, and reports will be empty without data. Translation: an excited executive will drive usage of the system, and make sure that there is top-down enforcement for using the CRM. If there is no support or excitement from the executive team, the users implementing the system will try to get others to use it, but adoption will be slow and users will soon resort back to their old methods for accomplishing work – because those old methods are still what the executives expect. If the VP of sales is still using spreadsheets emailed to him/her by sales reps to track opportunities, why would a sales rep put any opportunity information into CRM? CRM becomes extra work for no benefit, and no user will tolerate that for long.

Phased Implementation A highly configurable system like a CRM can be a very big target, and frequently a moving one at that. As users get into the system and begin working in it, they will have feedback, changes, adjustments, problems, etc. that will affect how the system is designed. A CRM implementation is never static in an organization (if it is, nobody is using it!) and because of this, it can be very difficult to meet everyone’s needs and roll the system out to all areas of the company at once. A more successful approach is to break the project into phases, sorted by priority for the business, and implement portions of functionality or individual departments at a time.

This approach has a couple of tangible benefits. First of all, it is a lot easier to define requirements for and train a smaller group of people, especially when all of them have the same or similar job functions. Second, smaller phased projects allow for better budgetary control and oversight. It can be a lot easier to spread out three or four $10,000 projects over the course of a year than to push through a single $40,000 project. With a smaller project, it’s also easier to control budgetary overruns or unmet timelines. Third, rolling out a CRM by department will ensure that only one area of your business is interrupted for a roll-out at a time. Instead of having to shut down your entire business for a day to cut over, you can keep other areas operating while just the sales department cuts over to CRM. This can also make it easier to schedule a go-live, because you don’t need to get every department to agree on a single day to cut over.

End User Support Every software implementation, on the day of go-live, will have support available for any end user questions or problems. Something to keep in mind with CRM, however, is that users may not use all of the functionality that relates to their job in the first day, or week, or even month. They are also likely to forget how to perform functions in the system that they do infrequently. There are a few components you can use to ensure that end users feel supported in using the system, and this support will help them feel comfortable with the CRM so they will actually use it.

The first, and most obvious component, is end user training. Every technology vendor should be providing end user training, but make sure that this training is close to, if not on, the go-live date. A great practice is to train users in the morning on the day of go-live, and then send them back to their desks to immediately begin using the system. Using what they’ve just learned right away will help cement it into their minds and keep them from forgetting how to do what you just taught them.

A second component is having experts, or at least power users, of CRM in each functional area or department that are available to users for questions or help. These should be users that understand the processes of the department they are in and who have a better understanding of how CRM is configured to help that department than does the average user. These might be power users who were involved in the initial system design, or they might simply be users who have picked up CRM faster than others. Regardless of who they are, their role is to match the processes of the users to the functionality in the CRM – making them the ideal first stop for questions or problems that end users might experience. Higher-level support needs to only get involved when these power users are unable to answer a question or solve a problem, thus distributing the troubleshooting work around the organization instead of overwhelming IT or the partner’s support.

Another component is on-going education for all users, whether they are administrators, power users, or end users. Consider having trainings on specific CRM functions on a regular basis for end users to attend. These trainings might help remind them of features they have forgotten about since their initial training, or help them realize how they might expand or improve their own usage of CRM. Keep administrators up-to-date on changes, improvements, or new features for the CRM, so that they can be aware of anything that might further benefit users or the organization. Continually revisiting CRM functions is also a great way to make sure users understand that your organization is committed to using CRM and that should improve overall adoption and usage as well.

Keep Evolving No business is ever completely stagnant – every organization is constantly growing in some areas, shrinking in others, shifting from one focus to another, and experiencing new pains. A CRM should be the central repository for data for your business, and as your business changes, so should your CRM. Any successful implementation will continue to change and evolve over time, so make sure that you keep CRM in mind as something to continually monitor, assess, and improve. If a process has changed and CRM isn’t helping anymore, modify the process in CRM before users give up on the system for that process and develop offline workarounds. This guarantees that your data stays in CRM where you can see it, analyze it, and report on it, and it keeps user faith in the system as well.

Conclusion With these points in mind, any CRM implementation can be successful, and a successful CRM implementation makes everyone’s job easier. Contact the OTT, Inc. Team (email or call 651.262.2600) to talk with our experts and learn how OTT, Inc. can help your organization successfully roll out Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Happy CRM’ing!

By OTT, Inc., a Minnesota Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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