In the classic Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins, the children agonize over cleaning their pig sty of a nursery. They dread reassembling spilled puzzle pieces and piling dolls and jack-in-the-boxes back in the toy bin—that is, until their clever nanny comes along and show them that by making the job a game, a former chore can seem downright pleasant. When companies decide to implement new technology—either enterprise wide or in a single department—it’s often viewed with a bit of apprehension. Implementation projects require extra support, synergy across departments, and additional time to adjust. Even small-scale projects require some form of change management. Although rolling out a new software solution requires more than a spoonful of sugar and a snap of Mary Poppins’ fingers, there are ways to make the process less painful—and to make sure the implementation will deliver value.
The average CRM project for a large business takes 14 months; according to industry research giant Gartner. Managers responsible for CRM business applications spend the majority of that time selecting, implementing, and upgrading the technology itself, including integration with or replacement of legacy applications. But no matter what technology you select, and no matter how intensely you strategize roadblocks are all too common on the implementation superhighway. Since those roadblocks often come down to human factors, I’ve collected 10 of the most common and the most costly .
1. Do Your Homework
They say that there’s no better way to get attention than to use the word “free.” If that’s so, then why don’t more organizations take advantage of free software trials? “You should really try before you buy,” Amazingly, a lot of companies don’t do that or competitive face-offs. Often the anticipation of rolling out a new solution leads decision-makers to begin implementing before they have extensively evaluated the product. To test the effectiveness of a proposed software initiative, some vendor takes each client through what the firm calls a “working model”—essentially a small-scale version of the actual software. From testing the products, management can get a better gauge of likely adoption and see what might need to be altered before the go-live date. The initial planning before an implementation is crucial. On a typical CRM consulting engagement, the front end is about 30 to 45 days of fully understanding what the business needs are, what the strategy is, and what you want CRM to supplement. The technology piece is relatively simple from that point.
2. People Who Need People
Time to put that conference room to use. Before even thinking about solutions, organizations must get down to basics, involve key stakeholders, and discuss pain points and objectives. Although management and chief information officers are often the ones finalizing decisions, they should involve their business counterparts—the people who will actually be using the software—from the start. Neglecting user needs will only lead to difficulties as the solution is rolled out.
Historically, there’s been an age-old rift between business staffers and the technology department. The business side complains that the tech staff isn’t speaking its language, whereas technology workers feel as though business users neglect necessary processes and are lax in following procedures. Management may long for, say, a reporting tool for visibility‚ but front-line sales and marketing workers are the ones who will have to feed into it. Without their input, management can’t know which capabilities fit the business processes. This common chasm costs a lot—in expenditures and in missed opportunities. But the chasm itself isn’t the problem. Great [technology] people enable the business solutions. CIOs are focused on technology strategy; business users are the ones who know what works in their day-to-day routines. Buy-in from both is the foundation of a successful initiative.
3. Let it Trickle
When you design the scope of a CRM implementation, you want to do as little as possible “That’s countercultural for consultants.” Throwing too many functions at a business user, he says, could lead to failure. Instead, implementation teams should develop a strategy to phase in features and functionality. Most of the clients whom I interacted initially wanted several functions implemented at once—sales, campaigns, and financial systems. However, suggested rolling out one at a time, giving users time to adopt each and to prepare for the next wave. Change management is always, always, always understated. While it’s imperative that solutions and implementations deliver results in a very timely manner, a step-by-step implementation approach is prudent. Organizations underestimate the scale and scope of the change required in implementing. One recommendation? Factor in time for contingencies. By starting small, but thinking big, users will have time to become comfortable with a solution. And if something doesn’t work, there’s wiggle room to fix it.
4. Think Outside the Box—Just Not Too Far Outside
Its complex sales force automation (SFA) solution required proposal generation for each sale—an appropriate workflow for some of the high-end sales that often reached thousands of dollars, but a hassle when salespeople also had to waste time drafting full proposals on lower-end deals involving products worth only a few hundred dollars. The spectrum of sales simply didn’t meet the solution. It’s like trying to fit an oversized couch into a tiny apartment: No matter how many times you move the couch around, it’s still just too big for the room. You could try sawing off an arm—or, in the case of software, customizing some code—but remember that the more you customize, the more you risk creating unforeseen issues. So make sure that any customization is done within your organization’s known limits. In order to leverage CRM, it’s really critical to set up systems as close to the by-design way the CRM company wanted you to do it. “The more you stray, the harder and more expensive it becomes.”
5. Don’t Be Seduced by Technology
Stay away from shiny things. In other words, cutting-edge technology with the newest bells and whistles may seem appealing at first glance. And it might be tempting to jump on the buzzword bandwagon, but businesses must consider their needs before falling prey to fancy software and services. Regardless of how new, hip, or innovative a technology may be, employees must be comfortable with it. If staff do not understand, enjoy, or find benefit in a new technology implementation, they likely will not use it effectively and there will be no measurable [return on investment].If a solution doesn’t deliver ROI, no matter how spiffy the new technology might sound, you should probably hold off.
6. Find Sponsors That Stick
We talk about encouraging customers to become evangelists for your company, but before there’s even a chance for that to occur, employees have to be evangelists first. In terms of an implementation your evangelists had better include a project sponsor—or a team of them. “It’s about having someone who can articulate the essence of what [the project is] trying to accomplish and who has the authority to make sure it’s implemented. The sponsor doesn’t have to be the CEO, just someone who’s passionate about the undertaking. Sponsorship often starts out with good intentions but all too often [they’re] lost in the process.”
7. Plan for Product Enrichment
Recognize that CRM really becomes nothing more than a Reception couch if you don’t put the add-ons to the product. If there’s even a chance your organization might grow unsatisfied with its plain-vanilla CRM solution, the implementation period is the time to start thinking about potential future additions.
8. Audit, Audit, Audit
You’ll never know how far you’ve gone if you failed to record your starting place. “You have to inspect what you expect; good CRM gives you many of the metrics to measure your progress. Agreeing on metrics and milestones before the go-live date, of course, will make auditing easier. Although it’s hard to get a great idea of the health of a solution right away, you can still monitor user logins and other basic adoption statistics.
By paying close attention from the start, it will be possible to tweak the solution as any problems arise. Users, for example, may be approaching the tool differently than intended. Best to learn these issues at the start. If you aren’t looking at how people use the system, you’ll have data-quality issues like they’re going out of style.
9. Pull the Plug When You Have To
It’s going to hurt a little—in some instances, maybe a lot—but if enough time has gone by and a solution has not worked, it might be time to call it quits. Hopefully, organizations will have laid enough groundwork to avoid this fate, but never say never. “Most projects don’t die because of starvation,” “They die because of indigestion.”If you shut a solution down that you’ve taken through an implementation process, you probably shouldn’t have made it into prime time. The more-realistic scenario we see being effective is that you roll out a process or functionality that doesn’t completely hit the mark.When efforts you expected to contribute to the overall success of an initiative begin to gum up the works there’s no harm in taking down those little sub processes and discontinuing them.
10. Mind the Generation Gap
“You’ve got to work the way they work,” “they” means both customers and employees.“Even if you’re delivering value to [an older] generation, you have to help them get over the stigma and the doubt,” For some companies, he says, it’s important to deploy change management techniques and ease fears of the scary new technology by reframing the project as mere business transformation. One social networking company didn’t need change management or traditional handholding. Its tech-savvy constituents didn’t want training manuals—they wanted to jump in and take a shot on their own.