What Should You Do When People Don’t Use Your “Mandatory” CRM System?


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I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with C-level executives who tell me they spend tons of money and countless hours on their CRM system only to have it sit idle. They talk about how much they have wasted on CRM.

And pretty much all of them had declared that system use would be mandatory. It wasn’t.

Leaders often say that CRM use is mandatory and employees “will have no choice”

Many leaders tell me that they don’t worry about user adoption of their CRM system. They either say that this will be mandatory because they say so or because it is embedded into key processes and so, people will have to use the system to complete the process.

Oh, those poor deluded fools.

And yet, many organizations often have extremely low levels of effective IT user adoption

The reality is that user adoption is always discretionary. Employees have tremendous degrees of freedom when it comes to it, how, what for, and when they use systems.

The spectrum of adoption goes from absolutely no adoption (not even logging in) to ineffective adoption (add incomplete, inaccurate data or adding data far too late in the process) to moderately effective adoption (some data entered well and a select number of features used) to grade-A amazing adoption (the users who are a poster child for the vendor of what the system can do).

Also, users are very creative when it comes to avoiding the system. They can simply not enter the information or they can get others to enter it for them.

I can’t tell you how many organizations I have seen where a couple of users (often administrators or downstream system users) spend hours on the phone and working via email to get the 4 or 5 pieces of information they are required to enter in the system from other employees who didn’t enter it in the system (as was mandated by above). In cases like this, the business process was completed (after all, the system was embedded in the process), yet there was no effective user adoption. In fact, a lot of time and money was wasted by the additional effort the employee spent getting required information via phone and email.

All because select employees did not adopt the mandatory system.

IT and business leaders often don’t know what to do next

The reality is user adoption is a leadership and organizational challenge, not a technical issue. Many leaders are great visionaries or subject matter experts, but lack the expertise they need to drive and sustain effective CRM user adoption.

And many times, they are not even told it is their job. They have never been told that ensuring effective user adoption is one of their new job responsibilities. And they often don’t have the tools and expertise they need to make it happen.

Training didn’t work last time…so why would it work this time?

When leaders realize they have user adoption issues, they often struggle for solutions. One of the first things they do – as a rote behavior – is to turn to training as the solution. Unfortunately, training is rarely the problem.

Training is a great tool for developing skills, but training alone is not great for changing performance and behavior. There are many other factors that affect user adoption. Rushing to implement a training program before you even identify the problems’ root-causes is a great way to waste a lot of time and money without getting the results you want.

Have a comprehensive adoption & turnaround strategy

Instead of assuming that training is the solution, begin by identifying all of the barriers and drivers affecting CRM adoption in your organization. These often include a variety of process, policy, people, communication, incentives, and support issues. Understand where you have problems and where you have strengths on which to build.

Then, put in place a strategy for turning around your CRM program and sustaining effective user adoption going forward.

And turning around a failed system is harder than getting it right the first time…

Whenever possible, it is better to avoid CRM adoption problems in the first place then try to correct them after they emerge.

If you are planning (or in the middle of deploying) a new CRM system start by developing an adoption strategy. If you are turning around a failed system, you will need to do a lot of proactive, direct employee engagement activities to help people unlearn problem behaviors and then develop new ways of working.

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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