Why CRM Must be an Ongoing Program, Not a Technology Implementation - Part 1

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Define, Build, Test, Deploy, Support….Upgrade.  Do it all again in a few years.

Historically companies have allocated time and money to a CRM effort as a “one-time, big event.” Once live, the resources and dollars allocated were reduced to the bare minimum to simply maintain and support the CRM system until the next major upgrade.

It wasn’t long ago a company implementing CRM would complete the project, go-live with CRM, and be confident it would be 2 to 3 years before they needed to plan a major upgrade or to consider how newly released features or capabilities might be useful. Today, that timespan is as little as 6-9 months.

Times have changed. The “one time” mindset for CRM investment is no longer an acceptable approach.

What challenges are driving companies towards a CRM Program strategy?

Impact of SaaS

In the past, extensive planning was required for implementations and upgrades.  It took time to purchase and prepare the physical hardware, install software for the servers, ensure backup and recovery processes were in place, and more. Now, thanks to SaaS platforms, a system can largely be turned on and off. Tasks that once took weeks or months of preparation are gone.

Now, you can visit a website and have your CRM software provisioned and available within hours, if not minutes.

Customer Expectations

There is no end in sight to the growing expectations of customers for companies to fulfill their needs and deliver great experiences. These expectations are increasingly redefined, forcing companies to continually look at customer-facing processes.

Companies can no longer dictate how and when customers communicate and must adapt on the fly.

User Empowerment and Adoption

Lack of user adoption has long plagued CRM implementations, and it doesn’t take many dissatisfied users to create a massive problem.  Users want a successful CRM. They want to use technology to increase their productivity and make their lives easier. Users, like customers, are continuing to critically challenge the status quo by finding and implement their own solutions.

Without proper direction, and without an avenue for pursuing improvement, users will find alternative processes that work best for them.

App Stores

The ubiquitous use of smartphones and app stores have changed expectations of how technology should be consumed, and how quickly. In today’s environment when someone identifies a need, their first action may be to search for an “app” to solve the problem. As little as 2 to 3 years ago that was not the case.

The expectations for how we use, consume, and purchase technology for our personal use has pushed into our everyday business expectations.

 Pace of Technology Change

Daily we see how technology continues to change and impact both our personal and professional lives. Technology is enabling us to do more things with vast amounts of data, to deliver more meaningful outcomes at a lower cost. In July, Microsoft announced its plan to provide two major CRM releases per year – April and October – offering new capabilities and functionality. The release notes associated with the October 2018 release is over 300 pages long.

To stay current, ongoing time for researching, prototyping, and planning the implementation of these new capabilities is required.

Agile Mindset

Companies are seeing the benefits of utilizing Agile methodologies. Having the flexibility to pivot, re-prioritize, and focus limited resources (time and money) on those things most important to the business is critical. Spending months in requirements and development followed by months of deployment, pushing potential return on investment to years after go-live, is just not acceptable anymore.

Stakeholders and sponsors of CRM need to be able to demonstrate its value as quickly as possible and to continually improve.

How do these challenges affect CRM strategies?

 CRM must continuously improve

We are people of experience; we need to see it, touch it, and use it to determine if we like it and if it will meet our needs.  When users see continuous improvement that makes them more effective at their job, their buy-in and contribution to new ideas will grow exponentially.

As described above, the volume and frequency of new CRM capabilities and new 3rd party apps continue to grow. More and more capabilities are being infused with Microsoft’s Cognitive Services (AI) integration which creates new ways to sell, service, and market to customers. Companies must consider how these capabilities could transform their business or they risk being left behind competitors.

The only way to capitalize on these improvements is to have an ongoing program for proactively managing change.

 How to build a successful CRM Ongoing Program, not just a technology implementation

We believe organizations need to have a different mindset and approach to their CRM investments.   In our experience, organizations implementing new cultures and ongoing continuous improvement programs vs. one-time CRM technology solutions have the highest adoption rates and are seeing the best return on their investments.

In part two of this blog series, we will take a deeper look at what characteristics, behaviors, and attributes need to exist for a company to implement and build a CRM program and not just implement a technology solution.

By Jeremy Cox, Crowe LLP, www.crowecrm.com