Archives For adoption

It’s been a while, but here I am, taking my own CRM journey full circle. I wrote my first blog for SugarCRM five years ago and here I am, at it again. My perspective now is more focused, taking cues from front line experience and watching companies work to make sense of the sea change happening in the business world. As an industry, and as a discipline, we have made significant progress. We are not arguing about definitions and are much more focused as a practice (CRM practice, to be clear).

The historical perspective—the one where users of the system considered CRM only a management vehicle to watch, control, and measure their performance— is not yet eradicated. But dare I say this is no longer the majority viewpoint either. Empowering the individual user will always likely be a work in progress, but since I have hung my hat at the front door of SugarCRM, significant progress has been made.

From the individual contributor to the senior executive team, organizations have come to realize what a well-tuned CRM engine can do for their business, especially if we understand the needs of the user. Driving success is about answering the $64,000 question, “What’s in it for me?” The overall success of any CRM initiative can increase simply by answering that simple question. Know what you are asking your teams to do every hour of every day and ask how can you help them to do it better!

So…“What’s in it for me?”

The Sales Perspective: Ask a sales person what they think about CRM systems and the answer might be less than positive. But, whose issue is this, really? In the realm of carrot and stick, too much stick does not get the job done.

When we discuss the part of CRM that is used to drive sales, track leads and opportunities, as well as manage contacts, we often forget to include the discussion about helping the sales team close the deal. Many might argue that ‘closing the deal’ should be a non-event. If value to the business and the end users is clear, then signing a piece of paper is just one step in the process. Actually, by then, it should be the easy part. What we need to focus on is helping everyone to derive the value from the system that each user wants.

The Management Perspective: In answering the question “what’s in it for me?” we can’t forget management, as they too are individuals that are looking to extract personal value from a CRM initiative. The senior management team within all organizations does have the right to track progress, is that so wrong? The VP of Sales does have the right to understand how his or her sales team is using a system and how often reps connect or interact with customers or prospective customers. Finance has to plan the course of business, cash flow and production, staffing and other important business metrics. The marketing and demand teams need to know if their programs are designed correctly. In short, management is not the enemy.

The Customer Perspective: My lessons from the field during the past few years suggest that the cultural changes happening now are much more complex than the technological changes. Spend time actively listening to your customers and reward your sales teams who spend this time engaging and listening as well. Individual users of the system will very quickly see the benefits of a system that brings context to their discussions, and provides efficient means to share customer information. The conversation between the management team and sales teams should focus on the customer, not system tasks and made up numbers.

So, how can you start answering the “what’s in it for me?” question on a company-wide basis during a CRM implementation? A great start is to engage your teams and include them in the entire CRM deployment process and have a fundamental understanding of what they need. Your goal should be to align your organization around the needs of your customers. If your team, especially those on the front lines, believes you are an ally, in the trenches with them, the question “what’s in it for me?” will rarely ever need to be asked.

appsorangsThe title may be a bit confusing if you thought the words “customer” and “consumer” are the same, but I urge you to think again. There is a huge distinction in these two groups of people, especially as it applies to CRM. When we go to market as a CRM vendor, we essentially play both the “B2B” role of winning over decision-makers (“customers”), while also needing to win the war over user adoption (the true “consumers” of CRM). And oftentimes, the needs and goals of these two groups may seem different, if not diametrically opposed.

We have seen the types of issues than can befall firms that favor the “customer” over the consumer. In the smartphone world, Blackberry listened to the corporate IT “customer” while Apple favored the “consumer” and brought the iPhone to market – and we’ve seen how Apple’s fortunes have fared since 2007. Closer to home, we saw companies like Siebel Systems favor a complex, enterprise IT and CXO selling focus at the expense of the user experience. While some of the Siebel technology exists under Oracle, Siebel’s glory days are a distant memory in 2014.

At SugarCRM, we try to solve the “customer’s” issues (management-level decision makers) by meeting the “consumer’s” needs (the everyday end user) in new and innovative ways. By giving the front line, customer-facing employee tools they can actually use to do their job more effectively, a lot of benefits rise to the top. For example, with seamless and intuitive mobile tools, sales reps get a tool that gives them critical data when in front of clients. And, simple mobile tools ensure reps can add data when it is most fresh in their minds – not hours later. Therefore, data quality increases, as does revenue predictability – something management cares most about.

This is just one example of how designing for the consumer, and not simply the customer – makes sense. The symbiotic nature of “bottom’s up” design benefits everyone. When customer-facing employees actually want to use the system, management gains insight, predictability, while customer satisfaction and retention can increase (which means greater profit margins). I have seen sales teams that value the individual take this idea and run with it, to great success.

So, for those looking to begin or expand on a CRM initiative – it is important to ask yourself: Is the system I am evaluating designed for the decision-maker, or the everyday user? If it is the former, the long term benefits may not be as strong as you’d expect. But, if you choose a partner that designs with the consumer in mind, you are more than likely on the right track for higher adoption and more profound return on your CRM investment.

I was sitting in a talk today here at the PHP NE Conference, where the presenter Fabrice Bernhard was setting the story on why it’s time to migrate that decade old PHP4 app into one leveraging a modern framework like Symfony. His key focus was the “how” to do that migration from a legacy and homegrown application structure, advocating away from the traditional methodology of a side-by-side rewrite, leaning more towards the concept of “progressive migration”, where you replace individual components over time. The former approach tends to be hampered by the additional labor of maintain two systems with no easy transition from the old system to the new. But the more important thing is that progressive migration gives a better sense of progress, giving a better sense of control in the transition

Case in point, is the story of FoxMeyer Drugs’ and their failed SAP implementation from the mid 90s. It’s an interesting tale to read, and one that’s all too common; people buying into a technology direction without thinking about the pieces and processes that can make it successful. Look at the big fails along the way, which hampered their success.

  • Communication between the warehouse staff and executives was non-existent. The warehouse staff didn’t see how they fit into the big picture, and fought against the implementation at every turn.
  • Poor scoping on performance requirements. The system implemented was drastically slower than the previous one, and had no way to deal with growth.
  • Not having the right people in place to execute the project, including leaning on a consulting firm with little experience and high turnover
  • Big change in scope and focus of the project part way thru, which caused huge cost overruns.
  • But most of all, the blind arrogance of pushing thru an aggressive timetable without room for the setbacks and adjustments that happen along the way.

So what’s the lesson here? Here are a few things I think are important to consider in any large-scale project…

  • Every user in the proposed system is a stakeholder in the implementation. Enterprise applications traditionally have been designed with management’s needs in mind, putting the end-user’s needs after that. Efficiency with technology is gained by empower users and removing barriers, and this must be accomplished with any new system rollout.
  • Keep iterations small and deliver often. This enables the organization to realize benefits along the way, enabling you to measure results and react easily. This also enables you to pivot the project along the way to deal with business need changes.
  • Good leadership is a project’s greatest asset. I was reading an article recently around why innovation fails in organizations, and the general theme was that poor leadership and short staffing ( both in headcount and skill abilities ) causes more projects to fail than anything else.

So if you are looking to implement a new technology in you organization, whether it be CRM, ERP, or something else, remember one thing: successful implementations are a healthy combination of technology and people; without both successes are difficult to achieve.

I really like talking with CRM journalist and all around smart guy Chris Bucholtz. Whenever we have an interview – it always beings around one topic and very quickly tangents off into a great conversation about what we as an industry could be doing better (as well as some side stops discussing WWII aircraft and strategy).

I especially enjoyed Chris’ take on one of the roadblocks to CRM success – Executive Fear – that he describes in his CRM Buyer piece. These are all great ideas. The notion that too many executives are afraid to take chances is a scary, but all too often true, situation. In a shaky economy, I believe this problem gets amplified, as top-level execs are too frightened to lose positions etc. – and simply go the “safe” route.

So – in your organization are you a CRM leader, follower…or just in the way?

As Chris so eloquently notes in his article – “Best practices are made, not born.” I love this statement. The sales and marketing leaders in your organization have to know what is important (lead generation, pipeline, the bottom line etc.) but cannot be afraid to shake things up a little. Instead of “if it ain’t broke, don;t fix it” mentality, a great CRM initiative should always foster a “how can we continually make this better?” mentality.

There are very few “turnkey machines” in the business world. More often than not, we are not in an organization with the luxury of ubiquity or near total market share – what I’m saying is that we are not all Google basically.

It is not always bad to “follow the leader” in terms of taking on proven CRM best practices. Startups and entrepreneurs can learn from larger, successful organizations while finding their identity. But, once found, companies need to differentiate and create their own killer experiences for their customers, develop new ways to pull in new leads, etc.

In the past, the technology supporting a CRM initiative was expensive and time consuming to deploy, configure and change over time. So, it made sense that a conservative approach won out more often than not. However, with today’s less expensive, ultra-flexible web and cloud-based CRM tools – there is far less excuse to take the safe route.

The tools are here now to better align the imagination of sales, marketing and customer service leaders with the actual technology solutions in place to make it happen.

Editor’s Note: The Sapient Salesman began as a series of internally-focused sales coaching pieces written by SugarCRM team member Erin Fetsko. While initially focused on “selling Sugar,” Erin’s advice and wisdom have proven useful to Sugar partners, and well, anyone in the business of sales. Thus, we are happy to add her insight to the Sugar corporate blog. You can read all of Erin’s musings at The Sapient Salesman.

People say silicon valley was founded by proud members of the autism spectrum. Having spent most of my adult life navigating the minefield of idiosyncratic behavior many uber geeks lay, I’d believe it. The engineer charm makes way for exceptional development power which yields truly valuable solutions. I often joke: there’s only so much room in one mind … you can’t expect me to be clever and nice at the same time. But this got me thinking, do successful CRM adoptions fall on a spectrum as well?

Sugar’s CRM adoption curve outlines a framework to establish where a business is, and guide it as its processes mature. But how do we measure success at each step? I often boast that SugarCRM successfully uses Sugar to manage their business; I use this morsel to imply a perspicacious persona and gain the trust of prospects. But does anyone truly adopt and use a CRM system the way we advertise?

During my stint with support I worked cases. Cases that had subjects, descriptions and substantive notes. Cases that reflected time spent and actual work done. Today I also work cases. These cases, however, sport a combined subject and description that, on a good day, contain 4 words: demo | customer needs demo. Both implementations are “successful,” but one yielded a reportable, measurable way to track employee efficacy. The other only relieves me of several hours a week as I futilely map disjointed email conversations to cases with the hope my efforts reflect resource consumption.

We sell a vision like that of a modern Corona commercial: people on a beach reviewing perfect reports on their favorite flash enabled tablet PC. The epitome of hands off visibility and insight into their company’s heath. Too soon we forget about the poor schmuck who runs around the office populating the data that drives these reports. I wonder if my fellow salesmen really appreciate what it takes to successfully adopt CRM.

When Sugar is an afterthought, when users start their day in other systems, or when employees see Sugar merely as a way to “getting credit” for work done – an otherwise “adopted” system remains at risk. One day the guy holding it all together, back-filling the data for reporting purposes, will leave and the implementation will fall apart. Truly successful CRM adoption results from a more socialistic approach. Every user of the system must prepare themselves to actively participate, and it’s important to communicate the commitment necessary to have a plenary implementation with sweeping adoption.