Case Study #2 – Of Mice and Men – A Story of CRM Torment


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This is part 2 of a 3 part series that shares real-life examples of unexpected challenges that some major corporations have experienced when implementing CRM systems.

Do you think this guy could use the CRM?

Several years ago we were working on a CRM project for a large insurance company. The client was making a major investment in an enterprise-wide CRM system in hopes of accelerating sales and streamlining operations.

This organization was in the midst of the transition from the olden days when corporate executives had administrative staff to the modern days whenever everyone was expect to type their own letters (OK, emails) and to enter their own information directly into the system.

We knew the transition was going to be tough for a lot of users. The nature of the sales process itself, and the products that needed to be configured within the system, inflicted a level of complexity that would be tough for some users to quickly grasp.

Still, with a bit of training and support, the client assumed that all the users would figure it out. Eventually.

Seriously? ‘What’s a Mouse’?

I still remember the alarm bells that went off in my head when I was sitting at a desk outside the office of newly hired executive – who was a shining example of the majority of the CRM users – and I heard him say, “What’s a mouse”?

No joke.

It would have been funny if it were not so frightening. Unbeknownst to the project team, the vast majority of the future CRM users were not IT literate. Many of them had never used a PC. Most couldn’t even type.

If the intended user group couldn’t even work a computer, how would they ever be able to fully adopt – let alone get maximum value from the CRM system?

We were in trouble.

From ignorance and apathy – to alarm – to action

I immediately went to the project manager and shared my concerns. The project manager – who was very gifted technically, but not so much on the people side, didn’t quite understand the concern. Still, he gave us some room to look into it.

We quickly assembled a small group with representatives from all of the user departments. At first they didn’t fully understand just what a big deal this really was. So, some guy doesn’t know what a mouse is. So what?

And then we asked a serious of questions. We asked about the results they wanted to achieve. We asked about how and when they would achieve them. We asked who needed to use the system to make it happen. And then I asked about what level of knowledge and ability they needed in order to be able to do so.

Slowly the ignorance and apathy turned into alarm. They started to see just how much trouble they were in. Their eyes drooped and their shoulders tightened. They realized that all of the time and effort – and money – they had spent was about to come crashing down in a blaze of career-ending failure because they had missed the critical element that users need to be able to actually adopt the system!

Jump-starting User Adoption – before go-live.

Once people could see the cliff on the horizon, they were quick to act. They immediately put together a working team to facilitate user adoption.

The team started by identifying the different user groups and what was expected from each user.

They began to identify what level of IT literacy and skills were required for each group.

Then they put in place a plan for how they would develop the required user capabilities and who would make it happen.

They took action and got into better shape.

People were now focused on the issue at hand and averted a major crisis. They put in place a working team that could deal with the current issues and respond to future emerging issues affecting users’ ability to use the system. While this was not a complete user adoption program, it was a good first step.

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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