Case Study #1 – The Elusive CRM Culture


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This is part 1 of a 3-part series that shares real-life examples of unexpected challenges experienced by some major corporations when implementing CRM systems.

On the right path – Culture as a core component

While working with a global, Fortune 500 company I was extremely surprised – and impressed – to see that they recognized the importance of people, culture and behavior to the success of their CRM program. The organization was engaged in a multi-year CRM rollout that would introduce a new CRM system across their European offices and also consolidate their call center operations from 50+ offices to one new central service center that would be built from the ground up.

The client was taking a very thorough, logical, well-thought-out approach. They brought in top thought leaders, specialized consultants, and experienced staff. They engaged the business units and mapped out requirements. They developed a core operating model – and right there as one the pillars (along with people, process, and technology) was – you guessed it – culture!

Wait! You have how many culture deliverables?

This core operating model was the foundation for all subsequent program activities. All of the work streams, activities, events, communications and deliverables mapped back to it. And believe me, there were lots of deliverables. In fact, even after working on many large CRM projects over the years, I had never seen so many deliverables. And given this was a multi-year rollout, there were literally hundreds of them (planned or completed).

So, imagine my shock when I noticed a huge red flag. There was not one single deliverable relating to culture.




How could an organization that identified culture as one of the four core components of their operations not have a single deliverable, event or activity related to this allegedly key element of their CRM success?

It occurred to me that either culture was not really core to their success, or more likely, the people on the project didn’t really understand culture or know what to do to influence it. As I talked with people on the projects, I landed firmly on the latter.

Culture derailed. #CRMfail

Fast forward a couple years and the CRM system had been rolled out to several countries (more planned) and the new call center is up and running.

And they are having culture problems.

People are not doing their jobs as designed. The system is underused. There are cultural tensions between the new employees in the call center and the existing employees in the countries they support. Oh, and their business case is breaking down because expected costs savings are evaporating due to turnover, inefficiencies, and additional staff required to fill in the gaps.

Don’t leave culture to chance

Perhaps the biggest lesson here is that even the best planning does not alleviate you of the need to proactively and continually address culture and user adoption after the system goes live.

Also, organizations making major IT investments need to realize that the knowledge, skills, and methodologies used to prepare for a system rollout are not the same as the ones you need to manage, respond and adapt to user needs after the system is live.

There is a growing awareness – spurred on by the rise of cloud computing and a growing intolerance for failed IT systems – that traditional approaches to change management are not effective. New methods that address the long-term, sustained user adoption are required.

The good news is that these are starting to emerge.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jason Whitehead
Jason Whitehead is CEO of Tri Tuns, LLC, an organizational effectiveness consultancy specializing in driving and sustaining effective user adoption of IT systems. He works at the intersection of technology, process, culture and people to help clients actually achieved measurable business benefits from their technology investments.


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