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Denise CRM Software: Best Practices for Implementation

 

II. People and Process: CRM Best Practice Principles

Beyond user adoption, the "people" element of CRM implementation extends up and down the organizational chart. This section discusses the various roles and groups of people involved in a best-practice CRM implementation.

Executive Sponsorship Sends a Clear Message

All successful enterprise software deployments require executive sponsorship. A CRM software implementation is no exception. From the beginning and throughout the deployment, visible, vocal and frequent participation and buy-in from senior management, business, Finance and IT executives are necessary to champion the vision and importance to the company, secure the required resources and drive user adoption. This CRM Executive Task Force should meet on a periodic basis – usually monthly or biweekly – to:

  • bring clarity of vision, purpose, importance and alignment among business strategy and CRM software
  • keep engaged in the implementation process, reward successes and implement course corrections
  • approve funding, resources and change orders
  • represent the organization's agenda per the various stages of deployment, both to the project team and outward through the organization

As a subset of the CRM Executive Task Force, an overall project manager should be designated. This high-profile leader is the figurehead of the CRM project initiative for the duration, and often transcends into a Director of CRM afterward, to continue to support and measure the return on the investment over time.

Additionally, after the software implementation is complete, best practices entail assigning a business owner to an ongoing change management agent role. This individual's responsibility is to convey and communicate how each element of the implementation is achieving and benefiting the overall objectives and the company as a whole. A CRM system is an investment that must be maintained and enhanced, commensurate with the long-term benefits the organization strives to achieve.

User Involvement Facilitates Long-Term Adoption

To return to one of the central themes of best-practice CRM implementations – "CRM can only be successful if there is rapid user adoption and ongoing use". Best practices involve user communities from Sales, Customer Support and Marketing early, and throughout all stages of the implementation:

  • Solution requirements, including gathering, prioritizing and comparing requirements to CRM software systems
  • Design of screens, including both screen structure and screen to screen navigation sequences
  • User acceptance testing, meaning that the CRM software is not ready until user representatives sign off
  • Integration testing, typically validated by IT staff based on unit and regression testing
  • Preparation of training materials and training, recognizing training is not a one-time event

In addition to providing local business process input, this vocal, savvy, thought-provoking group of user representatives serves to balance management's desire to derive rich intelligence from the CRM system with it's ease of use. For example, to gain the maximum amount of information about a new business lead, management may design an input form with two dozen data fields. Faced with the daunting prospect of filling out so many fields in the lead form, users may haphazardly skip fields or revolt and not use the system at all. An ongoing dialog between user community representatives and management can help ensure that the CRM software will be designed in a way that balances needs for both data collection and efficient/effective use, thus encouraging user adoption.

The user group can be the liaison to the customer community, to incorporate the voice of the customer in the CRM implementation. This occurs mostly in the requirements definition and system design phases, to help ensure that the CRM system, as it touches customers, helps to foster their satisfaction and increased relationship with the company over time.

Lastly, post-deployment, the user group presents the means to keep in touch with the user community to announce periodic updates and evangelize new capabilities.

Ideal candidates for the user group are knowledgeable about the business, are able to apply new ideas to existing challenges, are empowered to make decisions for their constituents and have the time made available. Not surprisingly, the best user group participants are normally the staff with the least amount of available time. Without being able to spend the necessary time, the best team member is of no use to the project, since the ability to make timely and thoughtful decisions is key in maintaining a high-velocity implementation. Back-filling the normal responsibilities of user group members so they are afforded time for successful CRM implementation activities is a critical success factor.

CRM Adoption Hinges on Process Enablement

"Process" is the second tranche of the implementation triumvirate. Here, the best-practice principle is that the CRM system can be successful only if it incorporates effective business processes. In a best-practice CRM implementation, these processes must be clearly identified and defined.

Nearly every CRM software system offers comparable high-level functions such as tracking addresses, phone numbers and industry sectors. But the bulk of a CRM system's implementation, in fact, should enable and automate the company's business processes through the application. Business process automation is the single biggest contributor to increased staff productivity, decreased cycle times and doing more with less.

A properly chosen CRM application has the flexibility to adapt to business processes – not the other way around. This entails not just existing processes and their modification, but new business goals such as increased customer retention, building sales revenue, building service revenue, etc.

Workflow Tools Enable Business Process Automation

The reality is that most CRM systems can capture data – some better than others – when there is unique data to track. But true flexibility comes from architecting processes in the CRM software such that completion of one action triggers another. This is the definition of workflow, the availability of which elevates the CRM system from being a data repository to a true process enablement tool. CRM software workflow tools are the enabler to define triggering events, and instruct the system to perform subsequent activities - or advise designated resources to take next actions.

Workflow is necessary to address not just immediate needs, but more advanced requirements that will arise over time. Business process automation often delivers the single biggest payback feature when calculating CRM ROI.

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The reality is that most CRM systems can capture data, some better than others. But true flexibility comes from architecting processes in the CRM application such that completion of one action triggers another. This is the definition of workflow, the availability of which elevates the CRM software from being a data repository to a true process enablement tool. Workflow enables business process automation, the single biggest contributor to increased staff productivity, decreased cycle times and doing more with less.

 

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