Planes, Trains and CRM Implementation Philosphy

Four feet 8.5 inches. Not exactly a number that rolls off the tongue but a significant one none the less. It represents the distance between two railroad tracks on modern railways across the USA. The story goes that its width was handed down from the original makers of trams that were pulled by horses around England. It’s only real significance was that when a buggy was pulled down the tracks, the rails needed to be far enough apart that the team of two horses that was charged with this task could do so without catching a hoof on one of the tracks. To determine the optimal distance, the inventor of the tram lined up the two largest horses, measured the distance between their outer hooves and voila… four feet eight and half inches! Today, The US railroad industry includes about 560 railroads with combined annual revenue of about $60 billion and over a quarter million miles of track and, dare I say, all because of the largest horse’s rear end the inventor could find!

Now you might be asking what this has to do with your implementation of Dynamics CRM. There is an important lesson to be learned about what we can do when looking to change how effective or efficient our organization can become if we are able to change what we do by looking at why we do what we do currently without the constraints of “this is the way we have always done it”.
In the world of railroads, changing the width of track could have huge benefits. Perhaps we could employ smaller locomotives as modern technology has been able to create machines that are far more powerful than their predecessors at a reduced size; smaller gauge would mean less metal required and iron is certainly not cheap. Tunnels and bridges could be built with less material as could the ties used to bind the tracks together. Of course doing so now would be very expensive, so changing the size is not feasible. Fortunately, the “tracks” that many businesses run on are far less extensive and expensive to replace.

I have been in a number of requirements gathering meetings where the list of systems and processes for how a business is currently run is listed and discussed and it is ubiquitous how few people know the real “why” behind the “what” that they do. Often they have processes to create records in a database solely to generate a report that is no longer read or data is captured that is no longer relevant.

Our job as consultants is to take a long look at how a business currently runs and to not only replicate that process in a new technology, but to refine it to let that new technology drive the business in ways that have yet to be discovered. We come in to see things “outside of the box” and add perspective as well as to help implement a software product. I like to think that a consultant is striving to leave a company with a better knowledge of the clients business than many of the people that work there!

This endeavor is most successful when a client works hand in hand in this effort to really look at not only how to replicate what they have now but also to enhance it in ways that were not possible in the past.  Keep the following in mind as you decide who to partner with, be it implementing CRM or any other enterprise-wide software. Are you being asked the “why” behind the “what”? Is the process getting the same amount of emphasis as the product? Are you being challenged to defend the status quo?

Let any implementation, and especially your CRM implementation be your opportunity to check the gauge of your tracks. Make sure that the decisions made in the past are still valid today.  Allow every assumption to be questioned and take a deep look to make sure you are not investing in a software system that merely duplicates what you do today without examining how it can be improved.

by Customer Effective, Microsoft DynamicsCRM  Partner

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