Five Challenges of CRM Projects

When implementing an off the shelf, CRM solution, organisations carry the mind-set of purchasing a product, much like buying a car. Whilst you are indeed purchasing a tangible product, the journey is completely different. Here are several misconceptions which disrupt the implementation of a CRM solution in an organisation.

Note: Data migration has deliberately been omitted from this list, I will explain in a later post.

Estimates are deadlines: CRM solution providers are expected to provide quick estimates, for delivery timeline, right from the start. This forces the solution providers to make assumptions around complexity, functionality and usability. To win the bid, solution providers assume the simplest solution and provide a competitive estimate. However, when implementation process starts, every aspect of software development is engaged, and detailed analysis reveal complexity that was unaccounted for in the original estimates. Nevertheless, solution providers are expected to deliver according to their estimates, treating them as deadlines.

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We know what we want: At the start of a CRM initiative, organisations build a list of requirements. These requirements or list of features highlight what is considered necessary, at that time, for a successful implementation. Some features do not necessarily aid the user journey, reduce complexity and consider the importance of the requirement in relation to the overall organisations goal. Additionally, when solution providers dive into the details of each requirement they uncover several system and project dependencies. These features often, not aligned with the overall goals of the project, pull the project towards a new direction.

 

Automation improves efficiency: Organisations want more automation at a reduce cost with an expectation to improve efficiency and output. Automation does improve efficiency where lengthy processes, cause delays, derail the flow of information and stretch the decision-making process. Automation is justified where there is a high cost of human error. However, automation for the sake of automation, makes the user journey more difficult to manage, takes control away from the end-user, and consumes a lot of development effort and time.

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Management is always right: Management compiles a feature set based on a “To Be” vision. However, daily responsibilities do not allow end users to be fully engaged in the compiling process for requirements. When these users are eventually engaged, in implementation of the “to be” vision, gaps are discovered. Additionally, lack of awareness of the “to be” goals also derails the information flow and creates additional work for the developers. In these situations, organisations tend to quickly jump to the path of least resistance, and try to build a solution which retains legacy functional behaviour and the developers are forced to build on top of existing functionality. Alternatively, the business ends up adding new high priority stories or features to the product backlog which adds to delays in releasing the software.  In the end the developers are left to blame for delays.

Users will do as told: Management is usually busy with removing conflicts to business, increasing productivity and making decisions. This leaves little time to fully appreciate the pains of customer engagement. Emphasis is placed on reporting, analytics, data capture and structure of the application. Ignoring the true driver of those elements i.e. the process associated with the capture of this information therefore, leaving user experience, customer and user journey as somewhat of an after-thought. This builds an impression amongst the users and stakeholders that, the business is leaning to accommodate the applications functionality rather than building an application with enables the business to perform better, deliver better customer service, increase productivity and reduce complexity.

Business of change: the seven pillars.

As humans we live in a constantly changing environment, be it social, economical, political or personal. We learn to react and adapt to our changing environment by creating routines, procedures or systems which help us to grow and maintain normality. Simple routines like waking up in the morning, some of us like a strong cup of coffee, some tea,  some like to have cereal first whilst others prefer to have fruit. Whilst, these and many more appear to be simplistic examples, they showcase our need for routine. We take these routines and apply innovation to enable us to improve our efficiency. Our innovative ideas drive our ability to change, and through this process we learn, react and adapt to a constantly changing environment. This process of learning and adapting to change helps us to grow as a productive functional society.

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Similarly, every day, businesses grapple with change. Every change begins with an idea to add value, increase productivity, or reduce waste.  Organisations therefore initiate several programs to address the flux in business, such as, implementation of a Customer Relationship Management system.  My aim here is not to address every aspect of change management, but, to outline, in my opinion, the mind-set required to address change and  the seven pillars that, I believe, support change.

As part of implementing a change initiative, organisation must appoint and empower a Change Leadership Team. The aim of this team should be to inform the stakeholders of the reason for change, and to convince them of the initiative which aims to promote growth of the organisation in a competitive environment.

In order to do this successfully, the change leadership team – or steering group, should appoint, a body or team, with the responsibility to communicate and engage with stakeholders. This gives a voice to people and informs the leadership team of sentiments around business issues and barriers to success. Stakeholders should feel empowered, and convinced of the underlying driver for change. If people are not engaged or are not convinced of the drivers for change, then they become anxious, frustrated and tend to stick to their existing routine.  These feelings raise barriers to adoption and also cause resistance to change.Changes Change leadership must be able to influence and encourage adoption by engaging in dialogue and establishing a learning environment for people. A key component of this is to understand the skills gaps and create programs to train people therefore avoid feelings of anxiety, alienation and dissociation. Another component is to build forums, to discuss, convince, and reassure people of their role and the importance of it for the organisation.

Another basic example: I recently bought a PlayStation. My son was not as excited at all. I loaded a game and began playing with the hand controller and started interacting with the characters on-screen, he was intrigued. Next morning, he wanted to have a go, but did not know how the hand controller interacted with the characters in the game.  I noticed he started playing with the hand controller,  moving the levers on the controller, all his energy was spent in copying my actions. When I explained how the system works, he understood the concept, and started getting to grips with the characters on screen and learned how to move around in the game. Now, he is too engaged, in-fact, I have to set a timer to control the amount of time he spends playing on the console.

Perhaps it is a simplistic example, but it does outline the seven pillars of change.

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The seven steps of implementing change are:

  1. Plan: Undertake an impact analysis to reveal skill gaps, training needs, potential technical obstacles, and scope.
  2. Train: Understand the difference between communication and engagement. Speak the same language and bridge the skill gaps.
  3. Empower: Establish champions for change and engage the CEO and senior leadership, setup visible training programs.
  4. Enact: Make the change visible, understandable and accomplishable by enacting or bringing in examples of a role model or create an environment to test and engage.
  5. Control: Understand the impact of other dependent programmes or systems and set a boundary to what you aim to accomplish, set clear and realistic goals.
  6. Reinforce: Outline the team roles structure use RACI model, and create incentives to speed adoption.
  7. Reflect: Report on the gained benefits of the change and show the progress of the project against goals or set milestones.. Keep it simple and reflect on previous mistakes.

An enterprise’s organisational structure, operating model, internal politics, policies, information governance framework, communication strategy, budget, time, engagement style, business model are all dependencies that are significant in the success or failure of a change programme, especially when there are multiple interdependent programs running at the same time.

Organisations must accurately assess the impact, dependencies, capability and availability of employees, so that, the change leadership team can implement plans to engage, train, enact and encourage the right change. It is important to outline immediate or short-term wins and explain the long-term steps needed to reach key milestones so people are convinced of why the change is necessary.

Change should not have to be forced onto people. It is important to try to nurture a culture of change, start incentive schemes which would encourage people to understand, adapt and accept change.

Latest trends in CRM

CRM  enables your company to put customers at the heart of your business. This tool is like having a Swiss army knife; it is easily adaptable to any industry and has modules to accelerate and streamline business process in Sales, Service management, Project automation, Field service, Contract management and many more. The growing thirst for information and the search for customer-centred solutions encourages the growth of CRM software. Ultimately, CRM brings organisations closer to the voice of their customers.

Outlined below are just a few emerging trends within the CRM software functionality, as it evolves further into a development platform for the Enterprise market.

<Click on the bullet points above for additional information about each topic.>

Conclusion

It is the start of a new era, a data driven intelligence era.  We are now in a world where a phone company knows more about an individuals movements and preferences than the individual themselves. We are not far from a point where technology predicts human behaviour with up to 80% accuracy. Companies have started experimenting with these new trend, and are using these as tools to build a better, more efficient and automated customer strategy.  We can see this trend across all major industry players such as Microsoft, IBM and Oracle, where Internet is the platform for hosting application, across the enterprise.

I see CRM as a major player in an organisations digital transformation strategy. It combines intelligent integration of software, business processes, analytics and infrastructure, to deliver the best value to your organisation, supporting you in measuring business outcome through innovation. A  good CRM implementation is one that is simple to use and provides access to functionality to adapt to the upcoming trends.

Why CRM is an enterprise trend?

As our communication channels and platforms evolve, companies aim to bridge the gap between markets, plants, departments, and countries. Each country, with its individual identity and cultural characteristics, drives the need for technology to solve everyday problems in different ways.

Over time, organisations end up with many applications, some bespoke and some “off the shelf”, each containing different categories of customer data. These applications become central to business as usual (BAU). Moreover, with business logic embedded deep within these fragmented systems, organisations become chained to them. Walking away becomes difficult, particularly when there is little documentation of how these applications function. Consequently, enterprises finance the skills required to maintain and initiate different programmes to get a single view of their customer’s interactions This can give rise to a Master Data Management (MDM) nightmare, service bus integration, micro-services, complex data warehouses, and expensive service/support contracts to maintain functionality.

When working across fragmented systems, searching for details of the latest customer interaction (including the last transaction, payment status, and service history) become time-consuming and impacts the quality of service and productivity.

To get to that “single view of the customer”, change programmes are initiated in an organisation with these issues. However, as part of this change, the impact does not entirely become clear until you begin to scratch through the logic embedded in each application. Traceability and dependency become barriers to change. Project estimates become invalid and the program suffers from severe delays and receives negative publicity, leaving the team deflated, exhausted, and resistant to change.

CRM is emerging as a single development platform which bridges the gap between different stacks of applications and aims to provide that “single view of the customer truths”. CRM is, therefore, at the heart of new business.

A view of customers truths brings an organisation closer to the overall voice of the customer, this enables an organisation to sell better, serve better, and to maintain strong customer relationships. Some industries which have benefited from CRM solutions include:

  • Hospitality
  • Insurance
  • Housing
  • Manufacturing and distribution
  • Investment
  • Media
  • Legal
  • Claim management
  • Security
  • Charities
  • Recruitment
  • Universities
  • Colleges
  • The Ministry of Defence

Each industry has its unique definition of “customer” and “business process lifecycles”, either B2C or B2B. CRM has become a developmental platform which can be moulded to fit any business.  Hence, a “single view of the customer truth” drives information to the right individual to make decisions faster.  However, companies must take one step back and ask: what does this slogan mean? Why is it important for your organisation to achieve a that single view, what value does it achieve and for whom?

Knowing your customer and providing the highest level of quality and service remain to be the goals of the most successful enterprise level organisations in this information rich, customer centric and increasingly competitive market.

The evolution of CRM to XRM

CRM started its journey early in the late 1950s as a simple Rolodex perched on the desk of most offices. Believe it or not, this device still exists in offices today.

Inspired by the advent of Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMSs), developers started creating applications such as booking management systems, inventories, and product management. These systems eventually gave rise to salesforce management systems. Siebel was perhaps the most popular provider of salesforce management systems. During the late 1990s, the concept of CRM was developed. However, following several failed projects and negative publicity, CRM software became known as a glorified address book with a database. Due to the negative publicity and the advent of more sophisticated Enterprise Resource Planning ERP systems, demand for CRM decreased.

The increasing rate of growth in business, and popularity of internet, spawned a new market for web based Content Management Systems (CMS). CMS capitalised on the concept of customisation and configuration of a database through the application front end – via an admin user. Additionally, being web based meant that there was nothing to install on client machines. Web based applications were easy to manage and control centrally through the use of meta-data. This was a much-welcomed trend in comparison to managing fat clients scattered across the organisation. This reduced total cost of ownership, provided a flexible platform which could be moulded and shaped by the general user without the need for a developer.

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The then basic CRM concept (limited to salesforce automation and service management) transformed into the evolved concept of XRM (“X” refers to any business process).  Today CRM is one of the cornerstones of the business. It provides a customer-centric way to operate which is at the centre of everything and with social capabilities of CRM, companies are becoming more collaborative with their customer. In conclusion, CRM has evolved, and it now holds a well-deserved place in an enterprise solution continuum.