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User First The User First CRM Implementation Approach

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  1. Center of Excellence. Once users begin using the application their requests for additional configuration, customization, automation and information reporting will increase. The more users use the application the more changes they will want. And that's a good thing as it will improve software utilization and technology payback. However, most organizations don't have an unlimited CRM budget so a process is needed in order to apply limited investment to the areas that deliver the biggest business impact. A Center of Excellence can manage this process and deliver other big benefits.

    The Center of Excellence is a cross-representational team that brings collaboration, planning and discipline to the post-deployment CRM evolution. This group continually advances the CRM application in ways that increase software utilization, user adoption, the user experience and ROI.

The Center of Excellence is generally designed in a three tier hierarchy.
  • The bottom tier is a representational peer group that acts as proxy to the wider user community. They provide a channel for users to be heard and are responsible for continuous process improvement related to the CRM software. To do that, they bring forward community feedback in the forms of ideas, process improvements, software customization requests, system integration requests or additions of complimentary third party software. They apply a governance mindset to ask and understand why any request is valuable. They generally catalogue ideas and those with the highest value are submitted to the Change Control Review Board (CCRB). They may also be responsible for reviewing software upgrades and new version releases before those upgrades are released to production.
  • The CCRB evaluates requests for changes pursuant to guidelines and investment budget. This group ensures that proposed changes are vetted pursuant to a framework, are properly weighted and prioritized, support agreed upon standards and objectives, and maintain strategic alignment with the company's top (revenue and customer) priorities. Sometimes the CCRB may actually be a Project Management Office (PMO).
  • The Board provides overall governance. They ensure the governance model is working and review the performance reporting which links investments to payback. They may establish the length of terms for members in each tier in order order to rotate new members on a periodic basis. Their primary interest is generally to make sure that the CRM software and program is evolving in concert with the company’s business strategies and in a way that continuously increases the user experience, user adoption and technology payback.

Another benefit of this model is that when users are given a voice and peer representation that influences how the CRM system evolves pursuant to their needs and objectives, system ownership transfers from 'management' or 'IT' to the user community.

An interesting data point to show the upside value of the Center of Excellence is that most companies are using less than 25% of their CRM application capabilities. A Center of Excellence will result in continuously increased utilization which will increase automation, information, user adoption and the company's ROI.

The Point is This ...

Employees are not just users, they're customers, and the goal of a new CRM system isn't to give them a different place to enter the same data, but instead to engineer better user, customer and business outcomes.

CRM software is not a solution, it's a tool that can be crafted into a solution. Different craftsmen use tools differently. Skilled artisans use tools to create works of art that are appreciated by their audience and stand the test of time. Lesser skilled artisans use the same tools, but the audience is unimpressed and the results are disappointing and fleeting. Technology does not create a solution any more than paint and canvas create a Picasso. The CRM User First approach is a people-focused design method with supporting tools that create a final solution that will impress its audience and deliver an application that will be appreciated and sustainable. End

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Comments (10) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest MC Aeron
  Were looking for CRM software. We have a list of software features. I dont think we have real outcomes. Any advice?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    I generally recommend to begin with the outcomes and work backwards. Assuming you are using an agile approach (which I also recommend), an agile principle that often gets overshadowed or lost during CRM software deployments is to begin with clarity about the outcome, and let it guide every step along the journey. A closely related principal is that outcomes should focus on customers and business value. Too often, once the CRM project gets busy or timeframes get challenged, the team loses sight of the real outcomes and reverts to implementing software features. Once this occurs, it has a tendency to become perpetual. To prevent this common occurrence, ensure the definition of project success goes well beyond getting the CRM software operational, and includes SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound) objectives that benefit users and customers. Don't make the mistake of believing software features and functions are your goals; they are at best the means to the goals.

Guest Chris Nichols
  A wise consultant once told me the goal is to make the application simple and intuitive, and that can be done by focusing on prioritized user behaviors. Once we have organized what users need most in an easy to consume interface, its then important to remove menus and pages that are not relevant. Were not just building pretty things – we’re solving the 3 legged stool: Design; Utility; and UX (rewarding) outcomes. Focus on any one = fail. Focus on all 3 = compelling result, transformative UX.
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    Thanks :), and one more point, the UI is focused on the visual presentation, but the UX is much more than that. Any attempt to achieve a UX objective by dressing up the UI – without first understanding user behaviors, expectations and prioritized use cases – is probably akin to putting lipstick on the pig (the front end looks better, but its still a pig) and will probably not achieve a successful user experience.
  Guest Barry Nick
    A shortcut is to remove unnecessary features and then reorganize whats left.

Guest Jason Shavez
  how measure user adoption?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    Resistance to change will be masked by users who login to new systems and exhibit motions without results. Therefore, a best practice is to measure user adoption by measuring utilization and productivity; not just access to the software. Rather than just gauging adoption form logins or rote consumption, it is far more important to view adoption in terms of utilization, productivity, automation and outcomes. We want to know if users are using the technology as prescribed, or if they are accomplishing slated objectives in different ways, or if they are failing to accomplish the intended objectives. These types of metrics can be automated and visually displayed with custom dashboards or reports that link user roles with log files and audit trails.

Guest MC Aeron
  When is best time to do user training?
  Chuck Chuck Schaeffer
    My experience clearly reveals that user retention is the most challenging obstacle faced by users. It can therefore be advisable to schedule user training immediately before the go-live Cut-Over. It is also important that management provide the uninterrupted availability of those individuals scheduled to receive training so that training can be both efficient and productive. User training is often performed using a Train-the-Trainer program. All users who will be responsible for using the application in everyday activities are trained in the processes necessary for their routine tasks. When it comes to training, I recommend the KISS (keep it simple stupid) principal. Stay focused on the primary and core responsibilities and don't try to make your staff technology experts - it won't work. Empower your staff with the process, screens, information and knowledge to become better at their roles, not technology guru's.
  Guest Denise Johnson
    Just before UAT


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Employees are not just users, they are customers, and the goal of a new CRM system is not to give them a different place to enter the same data, but instead to engineer better user, customer and business outcomes.


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