In our previous blog, we outlined the many changes that have affected the CRM industry, including ever changing customer and user expectations. We stressed the importance for organizations to adopt a new mindset of continuous improvement and new approaches to managing their CRM technology and processes investments over time.
But how can that actually be done?
In our experience working with successful organizations, there are a few common characteristics that have made it work.
Require leadership buy-in and support.
Executive sponsor – there needs to be one person who ultimately has accountability and is willing to stick their neck out for the on-going continuous improvement and investments that come with implementing a program. The individual ultimately clears impediments and works with other executives to build support and consensus for on-going changes.
Governance and/or steering committee – there should also be a small body of individuals to represent the different lines of business within the organization. Each line of business may have unique needs in the way that they market, sell, and serve customers, so it is important to have the entirety of your business represented to prioritize and evaluate improvements.
Cross business communication – the right hand needs to know what the left is doing, so no changes are approved that could have ill effects on others.
Create an action-oriented, cross-functional work group focused on CRM
A defined working group is how things will actually get done. We have seen clients call this small group a “Functional Task Force” (FTF). It is one level deeper than the executive level, the individuals that lead the day-to-day work and know the details. Companies that have a team like this seem to have more success in getting things done, taking action, and moving forward with the project.
At Crowe, our team consists of someone from our Information Systems team, our Marketing & Data team, our CRM development team and our Product Owner – this group of 4 people update the backlog, plan our monthly sprints, discuss new ideas as well as issues, and serve as the body that makes change happen. This group reports and provides updates to our Governance team on a quarterly basis.
Define a 9 to 12 month plan for on-going improvements and investments.
A CRM Program Roadmap should exist which defines the big rock investments, ideas, and themes that will be focused on over the course of the next 9 to 12 months. Any less than 9 months is probably not thinking far enough out, and too much can change more than 12 months out, so this range seems to be the sweet spot. The roadmap is living and should be continually refreshed. Creating a roadmap ensures your entire organization understands where you’re going with business process improvement and technology enablement. When done well, it not only builds consensus among leaders but it builds excitement within the user community. When users see their organization is committed to changes that help them sell and serve customers more effectively, perceptions will change. Continuous improvement creates a sense of accountability and ownership among all users.
The working group fulfills the roadmap by continually defining and prioritizing a Backlog. A backlog is simply a list of all the ideas, enhancements, defects, etc. which have been grouped together and prioritized based on importance and value to the organization. Backlogs are meant to be fluid, new things (hopefully) will continually get added to the backlog, and the priorities can shift based on the needs of your organization. The working group should largely manage this process. Strive to have two to three sprints worth of activities prioritized and ready to go in your backlog – doing so ensures consistent delivery and high quality of your releases.
Update on a consistent schedule.
Having leadership support, a core team and roadmap of changes is great – but it won’t mean anything unless users consistently see enhancements and new ideas released in their CRM environment. A consistent release schedule means something new or a resolution to a defect is pushed to the production environment on a recurring basis. At Crowe, we have monthly releases, even if it’s something small, into our production environment on the 2nd or 3rd weekend of every month. The value in this process is the consistency of delivering something new over and over again. This consistent behavior can help change the perception created by a stagnant CRM environment and apathetic user community.
Each release should have documented Release Notes that describe what changes or fixes to defects are included in the release and a little justification around the importance (the “why”) for each item. If the working group has done a good job of creating business requirements around the items in the backlog, then producing a simple Release Notes document becomes a simple process. The release notes should be compiled and distributed before the actual release with key users or user groups – this helps to eliminate surprises within your user community which can generate negative feelings about a system.
Increase the emphasis on high quality.
Naturally, more frequent releases to an environment increases the likelihood of issues or defects occurring. However, the core team working to make and implement changes can’t accept lower quality as a cost of more change. There must be a focus and mindset on delivering high quality. Continually introducing defects that impact your user’s ability to do their job will undermine the entire CRM as a program approach. If your organization can’t consistently deliver new enhancements without impacting the stability of the CRM environment then implementing quality processes and protocols must come first.
Strive to create test cases and scripts around all new features. Create regression test scripts for those most critical areas of your business that cannot be impacted. Depending upon the size of your team and the volume of development that is occurring, implement best practices like peer-to-peer code reviews and code quality goals related to the number of defects per release. More than anything embed a Quality Mindset and Focus into your overall CRM program.
Ongoing training and support are crucial. It’s not just about testing but also using it the right way.
Provide an easy mechanism for users to submit ideas or report defects.
Apathy around a solution grows when users don’t see or believe change will happen. When users consistently see changes happening their willingness to contribute and participate in the change grows quickly. Create a simple way such as a web page, email inbox, or even a custom CRM entity embedded right into the environment that allows users to submit new ideas. Once they are submitted – follow up and vet the concept. I’ve met very few individuals unwilling to contribute new ideas when they know their ideas matter!
Provide consistent two way communication. One side is the outgoing; the other is the incoming ideas, needs, and suggestions.
Budget for R&D Time
Microsoft is continuing to push the concept of “One Version” which means all customers will be on the latest production version. This ensures customers are keeping their Dynamics 365 environments up to date which ultimately lowers Microsoft’s on-going support costs. That reduced cost on support and maintenance is instead diverted to even more spending on innovation and engineering to deliver even more features! Starting in 2018, Microsoft has committed to providing 2 major updates per year (April and October). Ultimately this will help organizations reduce their update costs which tend to happen every 3 to 4 years. It also means organizations need to include time in the planning and research for continually evaluating these new capabilities.
One large, well-known global enterprise says they measure success on how many new things they try and not how many things actually succeed. This mindset goes beyond product versions; it is about trying and evaluating new functionality to bring to the business and educating on potential improvement areas.
Certainly, the list above can seem overwhelming, especially if you have none of this in place today. Don’t let that stop you! Start somewhere.
If you don’t have executive support, find someone who believes in the value of having great customer processes and the technology to enable them. If you already have executive sponsorship but things are stagnant, identify a small team that will consistently work together to enact small but positive changes. Simply finding ways to reduce a few clicks from a user’s daily process can be all that’s needed to get momentum started.
Remember, building a CRM program is a journey for continuous improvement, not a destination.
If you are interested in discussing how your company can build a successful ongoing CRM program, contact Crowe.
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