Adoption is Everything: 5 Ways to Reach Your Goals

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Steps to adoption photo courtesy of freeimages.com.
Steps to adoption photo courtesy of freeimages.com.
Adoption is the “Achilles Heel” of CRM Projects and a key reason why implementations sometimes fail to deliver on expectations. There are a myriad of reasons why CRM adoption will not live up to its potential. Viable solutions are often challenging to pinpoint but they are available if you stick to a few fundamental principles of CRM adoption. The following five recommendations are based on conversations with CRM project leaders across the world:

1. Deliver Real Value to the End Users
A CRM implementation is a business project, not a technology project. It should have clearly articulated business-related success criteria. Many of those criteria focus on desired management outcomes, such as “pipeline visibility,” “salesperson performance management,” etc. In order to drive adoption, there must be a set of critical success factors for the users from the outset. How will CRM make their life easier? A key goal of CRM implementation must be to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the individual users through delivery of the right information on the right device when and where they need it. For example, can the CRM solution pull ERP data through in real time putting useful information in the users’ hands and minimizing their need to call “Head Office” to find out if items are in stock or the status of a critical customer order.

2. Don’t downplay the importance of Comprehensive Training
Keeping with the user theme, many large implementations of both ERP and CRM begin poorly because users are not sufficiently trained. In the case of CRM it is very difficult to recover from a poor start. Additionally, the system reputation may be irreparably damaged. Great implementations appoint key User Champions (Super Users) across the organization, conduct mandatory system training for all levels of the organization and provide on-demand refresh courses around key processes. Super Users must be respected staff members and, ideally, informal leaders. Their ability to support the rollout embedded within a team will be critical to driving adoption.

3. Keep it Simple out of the Gate
Momentum in all things in life is critical and a strong start for a CRM system will build confidence and drive adoption. Once it’s in use and delivering real value to both the business and users it will be possible to layer on incremental improvement in a well-controlled and logical manner. I have seen customers integrate 800 new fields for core CRM entities in the hope that they will capture every aspect of their business, but this just serves to kill user morale (who wants or needs 800 fields to fill-in?) and hence, adoption. Manage expectations of both users and project sponsors, deliver a subset of the vision exceptionally well and build on the wins.

4. Ensure Executive Sponsorship
The importance of Executive Sponsorship cannot be overstated. Ideally, this should come from the office of the CEO. The sponsorship must be visible and present from project initiation though go-live and beyond; this will set the agenda for the organization. It must never be perceived that CRM use is optional or that the organization will waiver from its commitment—adoption will fail without the undivided support of the organization. Executive Sponsorship will ensure CRM adoption becomes institutionalized within the business.

5. Use the System
It seems obvious, but by overtly using the CRM system to control the business, adoption will grow. Too often you see sales and support staff begin to diligently use CRM only to see that management still runs the business from manual Excel spreadsheets, leading them to ask, “What’s the point?” Examples of how to embed a CRM system in the business include:

i) The CEO, CMO, VP Sales and VP Customer Service driving their management meetings and making decisions using the CRM system.
ii) Awarding commissions solely for deals that have strictly followed the CRM workflow.
iii) Assigning leads and tickets within the system.
iv) Kill the Excel sheet and use CRM at all levels of the organization. If it is clear that business decisions are being made based on data in the system, adoption will become a non-issue.

Every organization, customer, leadership team and CRM system implementation is unique, but if you keep these five keys to adoption in mind, you will have a solid foundation from which to guide your company to a successful CRM platform integration.

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