Increasing User Adoption


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I was recently asked what I believe drives a successful CRM implementation. Is it glitzy software? Is it solving a big problem with a lot of ROI? Is it having a project sponsor that pushes CRM down the corporation’s throat? My answer is simple, you can have the latest and greatest software with all the bells and whistles, but without incorporating the change into your users everyday lives, your CRM implementation will be a miserable failure. User Adoption is the number one key to CRM success.

If that is the case (and let’s say for the sake of argument, that I am right on this point) it stands to reason that the speed of user adoption is critical. Therefore, user adoption planning and education needs to start prior to the CRM implementation. It begins with understanding your users and defining the key factors that will encourage or hinder CRM adoption. This includes looking at your users current skill-sets, job descriptions, behaviors, and attitudes. It also includes reviewing your organizational processes (or lack of processes), communication plans, and leadership culture.

Understanding these things helps to improve adoption as you shape your CRM adoption strategy. It helps you to design the software with the user in mind, and helps you to determine just where CRM fits into your organizational processes.

Many associate training with learning, and while training is a step in the leaning process, there is much more to it. Learning may start with training and communication, but has to include a feed-back mechanism and opportunities for reflection and application. Before, during and after your CRM implementation it is key that you work with your users to understand what is working and what is lacking in the learning process. Don’t be afraid to try new things and toss out those that aren’t working.

One of the most effective ways to facilitate learning and drive CRM user adoption is to make the CRM system essential to your users. This means to give your users more out of CRM than you are expecting them to input. Things like sales by product line by account for a period of time, open orders, outstanding invoices, and industry data about an account make CRM an invaluable tool to your users. This facilitates decision making, and drives users into CRM on a regular basis.

Incorporating CRM into your processes is another way to make it essential, and ensures that your CRM implementation is in alignment with your organizational processes.

The role of software:
If you know me at all, you will have seen the chart showing that a CRM implementation is only about 10% technology ( They other 90% is process and culture. In other words, people. Keep this in mind when you are working on your CRM adoption strategy. Its not about the technology. Its about your people.

I have seen many companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on what they believed to be the best looking, glitziest CRM believing that would drive user adoption. Everyone was sorely disappointed when they realized there is no correlation between the slickness of the software and user adoption. I’m not surprised, since software is only 10% of the equation.

Adoption strategy:
Finally, write out your adoption strategy. Assign ownership of the strategy. This should be someone with the authority and required resources to initiate and maintain CRM user adoption.

Be sure to include in your strategy a list of your current user types, and what you can do to facilitate adoption prior to, during, and after your CRM implementation. Keep in mind; however, that your adoption strategy will need to change as you receive feedback from your users.

Luke Russell
Luke Russell has been CRM consultant since 1998. He has personally consulted with hundreds of organizations, and has a strong success record for CRM implementation and results. During this time, he has worked with customers to achieve such lofty goals as higher quote win ratios, larger average order size, more effective follow-up, reduced cost of administration, increased customer retention, and expanded cross-sales into existing customers; to name a few. Luke is the founder of Resolv, Inc.


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