How Change Really Happens in a CRM Software Implementation


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Change is a process not an event. That’s why change management plans must adapt and be tailored to each stage in the project life cycle. Enterprise software deployment phases vary by implementation methodology, but for purposes of illustrating change impact during a CRM software implementation I’ve taken a lowest common denominator approach of using the most typical deployment phases of Design, Development, Deployment and Operate. The below change evolution diagram is simple and immensely powerful in forecasting resistance to change and planning your change program.

Change Management Lifecycle

At project kick-off, employee emotions span from trepidation to excitement. Expectations are normally moderate, but elevate during the Design phase (i.e. when hearing the project vision, learning the project objectives, attending the workshops and receiving updates pursuant to the communications plan).

During the development phase, staff expectations begin a downward trajectory. The project challenges are realized. Project need is questioned. Project success is uncertain. Scapegoats are planned. Some users and even project team members may begin to distance themselves from the project. This is a critical time for the Organizational Change Management (OCM) team to gather feedback, understand the link between project plan deviations and staff associated with those deviations, increase active communication with line of business managers, power users and change management champions, and deliver key messaging as prescribed in the Communications Plan.

The transition from the development phase to the deployment phase is a pivotal point in determining the change impact to the project timeframe, budget and risk. Expectations and emotions will have plummeted at this point. Staff are impressionable. Some will be looking for executive sponsorship and management leadership while others will be considering fight or flight. The change management leaders must step up to reaffirm the project vision, provide perspective and forecast the journey ahead. Management must paint reality but give hope. The effectiveness of these efforts will have a material impact on both the project progress as well as the realization of business objectives.

The deployment phase will begin a gradual upward trend. Training will increase user confidence and reveal new capabilities. If the go-live event is well planned it will incur some stress, and likely some bumps in the road but no significant setbacks. Some users will sit the sidelines waiting for others to form opinions while others will resist the change. User resistance will not be blatantly displayed but instead masked as red herrings. Application monitoring and utilization measurement are critical at this stage. User adoption dashboards are essential tools. A user adoption best practice is to measure completion of end to end business process cycles as opposed to just rote logins. Quickly identifying users that are failing to adopt the necessary change and providing them additional education, training or motivation will accelerate the continued upward trajectory and the realization of planned business benefits.

The Operate phase is a journey of continuous improvement. Most of the process and technology benefits designed during the deployment will be realized in about the first six months. However, it is critical to remember that CRM is a journey and not a destination. Even after realizing the benefits targeted during the implementation, most businesses are using less than one-third of the CRM software potential. This is the time to activate a user committee or community made up of cross departmental managers and users to focus on continuous process improvement and getting more payback from the CRM investment.

The Differences Between Managed and Unmanaged Change

The most visible difference between managed and unmanaged change is the pace in which resistance to change obstacles are resolved. As illustrated in the below diagram, proactively managing resistance to change will raise the productivity slope trajectory and accelerate both time to value and payback.

Change Management Value

Other differences between managed and unmanaged change include the following:

  1. Impact to culture. Unmanaged change promotes self-preservation, company politics, departmental sub-optimization, turf battles, decline in moral and a drop in trust by staff. In most cases it results in a decline of employee satisfaction and in some situations it results in employees leaving the organization.

  2. Project budget variations. Unmanaged resistance to change and failure to adopt needed change will most certainly result in project timeframe and budget overruns.

  3. Project success or failure. Resistance to change can derail any CRM software deployment. More often than not, project teams don’t recognize the negative impact to the project until late in the process, and generally after it’s too late.

  4. Achievement of business outcomes. Even if the project reaches a go-live event, unmanaged change will degrade the objectives of change. When staff raise red herrings, apply the absolute minimum effort, develop work-arounds or simply go through the motions without embracing the purpose and intent of the proposed changes, the organizational results are forever diminished.

The Only Constant is Change

For most organizations, successful change management is a prerequisite to successful CRM software adoption and business transformation. More importantly, as markets converge, new competitors emerge and industry disruption increases the pace and magnitude of change for all businesses, change management becomes a core competency for corporate viability.

New technology, changes to culture, more empowered customers, evolving workforce demographics and more social ways of doing business continue to evolve rapidly and increase the pace and impact of change. Organizational change management provides the strategy and execution to respond to the natural resistance to change, mitigate productivity loss during the transition, minimize disruption to the business during the project, ensure the desired change objectives are realized, create an environment for sustained change and demonstrate a real commitment to the organization’s most valued asset – it’s people.

In the notorious words of Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” End


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chuck Schaeffer
Chuck is the North America Go-to-Market Leader for IBM's CRM and ERP consulting practice. He is also enjoys contributing to his blog at


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