Craig Buck discusses why the CRM wheel has turned; all singing and dancing CRM solutions invariably fail to pay the piper
CRM has been through many phases in its lifecycle over the past decade. From its predominantly sales focussed origins where it became a tool for managing pipeline and customer interactions, through to its all-encompassing XRM hub status more recently, CRM projects have typically been fraught with pitfalls and barriers that result in a failure to deliver productivity improvements to a sceptical workforce.
The simple answer is yes, in the right circumstances CRM can be an amazing asset to any business. And if implemented properly, can provide a substantial ROI by reducing the amount of effort required to complete mundane activities through a variety of automation processes. The secret to a successful implementation is that CRM must make workers’ jobs simple, efficient and the ultimate end-user experience must improve their working conditions. If we ask our staff to make use of a CRM tool, then they have to perceive and EXPERIENCE a benefit.
In the past, CRM implementations were designed by consultants in conjunction with the management team of the business. They were large implementations that completely met all of the requirements of data capture for the management of the organisation. Unfortunately, very rarely were the ultimate end users even consulted, meaning that little or no thought was given to the effect on their working day. Management would then scratch their heads and bemoan a poor CRM tool a year later when it was not being utilised to its intended purpose and the reports coming out of the system were useless. Furthermore, significant development of the CRM system does lead to challenging upgrades that can often cost as much as the original implementation and issues with support due to over complicating the base product. By adding in complexity, what often results is just a costly mess.
Modern CRM solutions now come with more features as standard than ever before. In addition, the advent of codeless customisations mean that administrators of systems can now maintain and configure these solutions themselves without having to pay for costly consultation or development fees. The secret to this is to understand what the system is capable of, and to keep the expectations of the system within these boundaries. Don’t change the system to match your existing processes, make your processes more streamlined so that they can be managed by the system. Involve your ultimate users in the design of the system so that staff support can be assured.
Keep the screens clean – CRM solutions that appear cluttered with data that is meaningless to users are also at peril of being ignored. CRM solutions today in the main allow for role-based configuration. It is vital that we ensure that users only view data that they need to see to do their jobs. Remove the distractions.
CRM implementations work when they are simple and match the needs of the business. In addition, they need to have the flexibility to move as the requirements of the business change. It staggers me when I see CRM implementations that have not changed in five years. No business should remain the way it was five years ago. A business that is agile and can change to meet the challenges of the future will be more successful, and systems must be able to mirror this agility.
The lesson is a simple one. A CRM solution at the end of the day is just a database. It is a collection of fields of data that when collated and presented in an ordered fashion can provide management with meaningful information. At the same time, it can provide the workforce with a structured workflow that makes the processes required to do their jobs easier and more intuitive. It is a vehicle to allow the staff to have the information required to do their jobs in an easy to access and well-presented manner. By using connection tools like web services, it is even possible now to use CRM as a medium where data from disparate systems can be viewed in one central location without the requirement for costly integration solutions. CRM today is even closer to realising its potential to be the glue that holds an organisation together as a true collaboration tool.
Having worked with CPiO for a number of years I felt confident that our Sage ERP 1000 upgrade would be a well-managed project. All members of the CPIO team were, as ever, extremely professional and helpful during the upgrade and I always felt fully supported.