Oracle Service Cloud: November 2016 Release

It’s been a few weeks since November was released and I am finally getting a chance to sit down and reflect on the new things I have seen! It is the final release of 2016 but it is not devoid of promising new features. As with any new release that comes there is a new tutorial that goes over the release highlights; you may want to review it as I will not go over every new feature: http://docs.oracle.com/cloud/latest/servicecs_gs/servicecs_videos.htm. Lots of things are changing with service cloud even the format of the documentation and where it is stored has changed. Slowly but surely all the old rightnow.com artifacts are migrating to docs.oracle.com with the rest of the other Oracle Cloud product documents. The end of an era is coming it seems.

Dec1

Dec2

Full release readiness document: http://www.oracle.com/webfolder/technetwork/tutorials/tutorial/cloud/service/nov16-service-wn.htm

Live Chat

This is a feature that I have been hearing about for 6 months or more and it is quite fun not to mention helpful. Sneak preview allows agents to see what a customer is typing before they hit submit. It is designed to enhance agent productivity and bring value to the contact center by decreasing handle times. Allowing the agent to see what the customer is typing ahead of time gives them the opportunity to formulate an answer faster, resulting in faster responses, and faster conversations.

Agent Browser UI (BUI)

The November 2016 release is a huge release for the Agent BUI. You will still need to request it to be enabled and your Oracle account manager can assist.

What’s under the Hood?

The engine has gone through an overhaul. Significant performance enhancements have been made to support high interactivity. In order to achieve this it has gone through an architectural change which now makes it one version that is compatible with versions of Oracle Service Cloud back to May 2015.

Data! Data! Data!

No this is not a bad episode of Seinfeld. The Agent BUI now comes with a broader range of analytics bells and whistles, including rollups, slicing, formatting options, calculations, sorting, hiding and new charts.

Fashion fades, only style remains the same

The UI theme has been updated for consistency across all Oracle Cloud portfolio applications like Sales Cloud. Now you can use the BUI extension framework through the Add-in manager and do not have to host customizations any longer.

Dec3

Pass the Remote Control or change the channel

Live Chat is now a fully viable channel; contacts are automatically matched and the contact and chat workspaces are integrated.

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

This is one of the most exciting because it grows the user roles that can now start taking advantage of the Agent BUI and is that much closer to complete parity with the .Net client. Knowledge authors can now author and edit knowledge articles with a new HTML editor with HTML5 support.

Integration and IoT

Oracle Integration Cloud Service (ICS) is becoming the gold standard for integrations in and outside the Oracle Cloud. It has two new connectors between Oracle Service cloud and Oracle Marketing Cloud (Responsys & Eloqua). These pre-built and certified integrations provide a two-way synchronization that ensures data consistency. The configurable framework allows extension to other objects such as incidents. https://cloud.oracle.com/en_US/integration/features

A new Internet of Things (IoT) Accelerator which provides a bi-directional integration with Oracle IoT in now available. This Accelerator allows customers to enhance CX to interface with Internet of Things (IoT) so that events and alerts received from smart devices can be consumed and appropriate remedial action taken by agents within the Oracle Service Cloud desktop. The integration is using the ICS framework, thereby ensuring configurability, reliability and fault tolerance. Several initiatives leveraging ICS and IoT are being developed in the eVerge labs so stay tuned.

Oracle product webinars provide even more detailed information regarding this release and others. You can sign up here: http://bit.ly/OSVCexperts

SAVE THE DATE: Oracle Modern Service in Vegas!

April 25 – 27th, 2017 http://modernserviceexperience.oracle.com/

For more information on the November 2016 version including release notes, manuals, webcasts, tutorials and community posts. Please review at the official RightNow documentation overview page.

eVerge Group is an Oracle Platinum Partner with extensive experience. For more information about Oracle Service Cloud and our other business solutions, contact us through at: cx@evergegroup.com.

newheadshotAbout the author: Rhianna Albert (Just Rhianna) Director of CX Solutions @ eVerge Group has a proven track record helping business improve customer experience, subscribes to the Roadmap to Modern, is an active member of the CX and Service Community. Follow on twitter: @just_rhianna

 

 

 

CRM – The Customer Voice #2 – When Should You Listen and Respond?

faces2

In our blog CRM -The Customer Voice #1 we quoted an excellent article on why it is important to gather customer feedback, and many suggestions on how you can gather that feedback.  In this short blog we are expanding on the article to explore who should be listening and when should they take action.

Many of you may have been taught that the customer is always right and nothing we are about to say contradicts that, however,we are suggesting that, although you should always listen, sometimes when the customer provides you feedback, it is better for your organization to ignore it! What?!?  In the past, it was much more difficult and costly to gather customer feedback (customers spoke to your sales channel, called your support group, or wrote to a corporate officer (yes, using the U.S. Post Office!).  Today’s technology has significantly lowered the barrier, which has in turn lowered the value of any one bit of customer feedback.  So how do you know what is valuable and what isn’t, when to act and when to stand pat?

It starts with who actually will review and evaluate the feedback.  In the olden days it was probably the sales rep, the support rep, or the corporate officer.  In all three cases, those individuals could be counted on to act in their own self-interest (e.g. make more sales, close the support case) and move on the feedback appropriately.  Today, feedback comes to virtually everyone in your organization from Web Designer to Shipping Clerk.  That means that there could be too many people in the loop to make coherent decisions and take decisive action unless you devise a strategy to evaluate and prioritize the feedback.  Here is what we suggest.

  1. Make certain that everyone in your company has an iron-clad understanding of your corporate vision and goals, especially your product and support organizations.  This is vital in understanding and prioritizing customer feedback.
  2. Establish a central repository for customer feedback and have your support organization review all of it
  3. Establish ‘hot stove’ criteria and recommended action. That is, anytime you receive customer feedback that is preventing them from doing business with you (e.g. crashed web site, non-operating toll-free number, incorrect operating instructions) have a plan and act on it.  There is no substitute for fixing the issue and performing service recovery.
  4. Empower your well informed support team to evaluate the rest of the feedback. We believe that your focus on the customer, your clearly communicated vision and goals, and your trust in your employees will lead them to making the appropriate decision on how to respond to the feedback.  We believe that they will:
    1. Share valuable information with the appropriate internal teams (such as product development)
    2. Evaluate all feedback against your vision and goals and whether or not the feedback is
      1. From a customer that supports the vision and goals
      2. Contains information valuable to reaching those goals
    3. Keep emotions in check – remember that unless this is a hot stove issue, they are free to determine its importance and urgency and not become panicked or flustered
    4. Understand the sentiment behind the feedback and look for trends not just a quick fix
    5. Keep close to the internal teams, even when the root cause is proving difficult to identify or fix

Customer feedback, even when it is highly negative, is valuable.  However, if you attempt to categorize it and deal with each bit as though you are in a fire drill each time, it will quickly become viewed as drudgery and not as treasure.   Celebrate positive feedback, even when it is minor, and aggregate negative feedback into achievable goals.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

 

CRM Hacks – Profiles with a Purpose

CRM_hacks_graphicYou’ve developed a new product, something quite different from your standard offering.  You are convinced that your current customers are potential targets but you need some additional information to qualify the opportunity at each customer.  Many of our clients immediately turn to their installed CRM application and develop a way to capture the needed information – a customer profile.

Unfortunately, this is the way that many of the CRM applications we encounter have been made overly complicated and difficult to use.  So instead of being a productive step toward the new product launch, just the opposite effect is experienced.  The profile isn’t completed for many customers and the seeds have been planted that will eventually make the CRM application so difficult to use and upgrade that it will have to be abandoned.

Most of this heartache can be avoided with some planning and discipline.  Before you add any new section or tab to your CRM application ask yourself some very important questions.

  1. Should all customer types be profiled?
  2. What is the purpose of this field?
    1. Is that important enough to add it to my CRM application?
    2. Is it directly related to my overall goal of selling the new product?
    3. Is there a better way to achieve the purpose?
    4. Is the field required or conditionally required?
  3. What type of data will be in this field?
  4. How will the data be entered into the field?
    1. Is there an easy way to get it
  5. How will the accuracy of the data be verified?
  6. For pick lists – can the list expand or contract and how will that be controlled?
  7. For calculated fields will the results be stored? Will the calculations ever change?

Next, ask key questions about access.

  1. Who will be adding data?
  2. Who will be viewing the data?
    1. Who should NOT be able to view the data?
  3. Can anyone remove the data?
    1. Is the ability to remove the data tied to any other event – such as time
    2. What kind of reports and analytics will be needed that include the data?

Finally, ask key questions about persistence.

  1. How long will this data be valid?
    1. Will it need to be refreshed, revalidated?
    2. Who will determine the half-life of the profile if there is one?

Having asked and received the answers to these questions will ensure that the final development is a small and easy to use as possible.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Hack Your CRM – Learning to Love User Problems

CRM_hacks_graphicYou’re the Business Analyst for a large distributor and you work closely with the Vice President of Sales and her sales team.  You’ve just learned that your company is going to invest in a CRM system, in fact, the very system that you recommended and with which you are very comfortable.  Can you avoid one of the most common pitfalls that await you on this project?

A Business System Analyst (BSA) or Business Analyst (BA) is a key member of any CRM Project Team.  It is important that you don’t let your familiarity with the system that has been chosen keep you from doing what you should be doing on the project.  Rather than listing functional and non-functional requirements, what you should be doing is cataloging the business processes and goals, and then working with the system architect to determine the best way to configure the system to achieve the goal for each process.  However, when you talk to the potential users of the system, you discover what all BA’s have discovered before you.  Users have at least 2 problems when it comes to expressing their functional and non-functional requirements: 1.) The “needs” expressed are too specific or 2.)  The “needs” are too general.  For example, a user might say, “All of the required fields should be highlighted in red.”  That sure sounds like a requirement, but it is really too specific to be valuable at this point, it is really a design element.  Possibly you’ve heard a user say, “It has to be really easy to use.”  Again, that may sound like a requirement, but it is too general to be valuable at this point as well since it deals with usability and not what the system will do.

You may have also discovered that users almost always have no hesitancy at all in talking about their problems.  You should be delighted whenever you find a user who can clearly express the problem he or she is having.  Those ‘problems’ will lead you to the real ‘needs’ of the user community.  Your job is to help them see that each resolution to a problem is really an achievable goal for the project.  Users are almost always focused on their problems.   Ask yourself, why is it a problem for them?  Better yet, ask them!  For example, Joe User states, “I never know whether or not one of my sales will be accepted”  Now that certainly sounds like a problem, but why is it a problem, and what is the cause?  Your questions should clarify the issue.  “Why is that a problem for you?”   “What do you think is causing it?”  In our hypothetical case, Joe User answers both:  “I am wasting my time if the sale isn’t accepted.”   “The customer is turned down for bad credit.”  In our simple example, you as the BA can now turn this into an achievable goal.  “So, the system should have a quick way to qualify the credit of a potential customer before you take the time to create and submit an order?”    Notice, this is a question back to Joe User.  Wait for the confirmation, you don’t want to insert your assumptions and your familiarity with the system and miss the real need.  In this case, Joe User says “Yeah, if we could do that, it would be a big help!”

Don’t stop there, are there other problems you can uncover and convert to achievable goals.  In fact, you may even want to do away with the traditional listing of ‘requirements’ and replace it with system goals and the design elements to meet them.  Remember, just because you know what a system can do, don’t assume that this is what the system should do.  That is the pitfall that you must avoid on this project.  Instead, listen to the users, find their problems, and convert them to achievable goals.  Sometimes the best hack is not taking a shortcut.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist

CRM Hacks: Entering U.S. addresses into a CRM system

CRM_hacks_graphic“Hack” is one of the most over used words in the English language.  It can mean to chop, it can mean a carriage, it might mean a cough, or an untalented golfer.   More recently hack has come to mean to illegally accessing a computer system or just the opposite – provide a quick fix to a broken system.  If you are a ‘gamer’, a hack is a ‘secret’ way to do better on a game level.

So when a new show hit the airwaves on TruTV – Hack My Life – it was difficult to tell if they were going to talk about an axe murderer, a chain cougher, a poor golfer, a carriage driver, a computer hacker, or an addicted gamer.  It turns out that the show does none of these.  It instead refers to ‘hack’ as a ported version of the gamer definition to a non-gaming situation.  That is, a ‘life hack’ is a quick tip that will help you do better in certain life situations (Oven broken?  Cook that lasagna in the dishwasher!).  CRM hacks are intended to be quick ‘secret’ tips that help even casual users use CRM systems to their fullest potential.

This CRM hack reveals a couple of low cost ways to speed up the data entry of U. S. addresses and improve the data quality.   US Zip Codes in both the 5 and 9 digit configurations are very helpful if used properly.  Many CRM on premise and cloud systems can be easily configured to take the provided Zip code and fill in the City, State, County, Country, and Geo Location of an address.   This leaves the user the much reduced task of filling in only the street address.   As an added benefit, users can no longer enter an incorrect City/Zip combination or a misspelled City/ County/Country name, so your overall address data quality improves.  With a little more effort, your CRM system can be connected to a search engine map that can fill in the street address correctly based on the correct business name and zip code.     The investment in reducing keystrokes for your users (internal and external) will be rewarded many times over in more and better data.

If you need help avoiding this or any other pitfall in your CRM project, contact eVerge Group.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

From Suspect to Customer, the Pipeline Funnel Explained

Suspects

purchase funnel

Whether vertical, horizontal, or some other fanciful design, everyone who works in or manages a sales and marketing organization recognizes the above images of the Pipeline Funnel.  The funnel graph is clearly intended to indicate that some effort is taking place to move people and businesses that don’t currently purchase goods and services into customers that do.  Many people see these graphs and misinterpret the funnel shape.  This is because the typical physical funnel that many are familiar with is a delivery mechanism in which every particle or droplet that enters into the top of the funnel, comes out of the bottom into the receiving container.  Often, as in the above examples, the funnel graph is shown in a 3D rendering.  Therefore, the casual observer is led to believe that the sales and marketing effort will convert all who enter the funnel into customers.

The reality of the ‘funnel’ chart is actually just the opposite!  It is intended to indicate that only a small fraction of the people and businesses that enter into the process eventually become customers.   Implied in the funnel graph is the idea that there are mechanisms in place to not only get people into the funnel, but also to get them out!  It is vital to your organization to recognize that getting people and businesses out of the pipeline efficiently, at the lowest cost possible, is just as vital to the success of your business as getting people and businesses into the funnel in the first place.

“Marketing” is getting people into the funnel from the entire universe.  Many times these entrants are called Suspects.  This blog doesn’t deal with getting businesses and people into the funnel, but deals instead with getting them through it.  Here is a set of ‘agreements’  that can be incorporated into your sales methodologies that quickly determine if a person or business should continue on in the selling process.

Agreement One:  The Suspect agrees to enter into some form of discussion with you.  This is often called interest.  Examples of this:

  • They take a phone call
  • They agree to an appointment
  • They click on an offer in an email or on your website
  • The respond to SEO or SEM
  • They meet with a sales representative on a cold call

This is the first agreement that you should strive to achieve – the sales process doesn’t continue with those Suspects who don’t reach this agreement with you, they drop out of the ‘funnel’ and it narrows to Prospects.

Agreement Two:  You and the Prospect mutually agree that you can help solve a problem or take advantage of an opportunity the prospect is facing.  You have gathered information from the initial discussion, usually centered on BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs and Situation, Timing).  You have established guidelines for BANT assessments to indicate quickly whether or not you are interested in continuing with the selling process.  Your Prospects have their own criteria which you have researched in general and understood.  If you can’t reach mutual agreement here, the Prospect drops out of the ‘funnel’ and only Leads remain.

Agreement Three:  The Lead agrees that by taking your proposed action, his or her problem will be solved or s/he will be able to take advantage of a new opportunity.  This is the very subtle agreement that many methodologies miss.  The Lead isn’t agreeing to take the action (e.g. Buy the service at the quoted price) only agreeing that the correct proposal has been made.  If you can’t reach this agreement, the Lead falls out of the ‘funnel’ and only Hot Leads remain.

Agreement Four:  The Hot Lead agrees to take your proposed action (i.e. commit resources to acquire a product or service).  This is, of course, where most of the focus falls in the ‘funnel’ because it is the commitment of that one-time Suspect’s resources that makes the process appear to be successful.  If you have obtained all of the other agreements in the correct order, agreement four should be much simpler to obtain.  All of the Hot Leads that reach this agreement with you become Customers (of course, you have to do the appropriate customer service follow-up to keep them, but that’s the subject of another blog!).

So I advocate for 2D or 3D ‘pipes’ that are horizontal (or even slightly uphill, indicating real effort), that clearly show the agreements that must be reached as the best graphic for that purpose…

Pipelines

Let us know if this is successful for you, or if you have some additional refinements that you believe to be even more effective.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Project Killers: The Resourceful PM (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)

projectManger_lorax

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the building, where the CIO goes

And the air smells of ozone when the AC vent blows

And no music is playing, except the Black Crows

Is the cube of the gifted PM.

 

And way down the hallway, some people say

If you look far and hard you can still see today

Where the PM once stood, just as long as he could

Before somebody carried the PM away

 

Who was the PM, and what did he do?

And why was he carried to some place so new?

Far from the building and the projects long ago

The old BA still lives here.  Ask him.  He’ll know!

 

You won’t see the BA, don’t darken his hall

He stares at his laptop and waits for the call

He lurks in his cubicle, cool, calm and aloof

Where he makes up reports out of miff-muffered moof

And on special release days in April he peeks

Out past the window blinds and sometimes he speaks

And tells how the PM was carried away

He’ll tell you, perhaps…if you’re willing to pay.

 

He leans back in his chair, his shoulders a-hunch

And taps on his watch and says it’s time for lunch.

You have to be clever and take up the clue

And invite the BA to come dine with you.

 

As you settle to eat, he looks anxiously ‘bout,

and begs you be certain that you never shout.

He orders the priciest dish he can find,

and follows that up with a bottle of wine.

 

Then he grunts, “I’ll call you tonight, I’ll use secure phone,

For the secrets I’ll tell you are for your ears alone.”

BUZZ!

He’s good as his word; you move the phone to your ear

And the old BA’s words come through, though not very clear

Since he’s speaking to you through a cloth by choice

In the hopes that it will somehow help disguise his voice

“Now I’ll tell you,” he says, with his teeth sounding gray,

“How the PM came to be carried away…

 

Way back in the days when the science was new

And the people were eager, but knew not what to do

And the business thought all projects were as easy as pie

I was hired by this place to give it a try.

Then I first saw the list, the Requirements List!

The long standing reckoning of what had been missed

Sorted ‘what would be nice’ and ‘what would be bliss’

 

And promoting the list were requestors galore

Dancing and happy to see what was in store

Certain their system would soon do much more

 

But that list! That list! That Requirements List!

All of my life I’d been searching for a project like this.

A litany of needs more urgent than eating

And requestors with funding all plaintively bleating

I felt a great leaping of joy in my heart

And set up my laptop galumphing to start

 

In no time at all, I had devised a new plan

To knock off each listing as fast as I can

So with great skillful skill and with great speedy speed

I took the first entry.  And I sized up the need.

 

The instant I’d finished, I heard a ga-Roar!

I looked.  I turned to see something framed in the door

of the office.  My eyes said it was sort of a man.

Describe him?…That’s hard.  I don’t know if I can.

 

He was tallish, and youngish, but sharp dressed and preppy

And he spoke with a voice that was controlled but peppy.

“Mister!” he said in a sibilant hiss

“I am the PM.  I speak for the list.

I speak for the list, to give the words meaning

And I don’t like the way that this project is leaning”

He was upset now; I could see his hands tremble

“Isn’t the right starting your team to assemble?”

 

“Look PM,” I said.  “There’s no cause for alarm.

I took the first entry.  I am doing no harm.

In fact it’s quite useful to jump in the lead

And convert the entry to a Fine-Something-That-All-People-Need.

 

The PM said, “Sir! Your actions are hasteful.

If no one can work with you, you’ll find they are wasteful!”

But the very next minute I proved he was wrong,

For just at that minute a user came along

And she thought that the entry on line one of the list

Was understood well, I had gotten the gist.

 

I laughed at the PM, “You poor stupid man!

You have to get to it as fast as you can!

“I repeat,” cried the PM, “I speak for the list!”

“I’m busy,” I told him.  I showed him my fist.

 

Then I looked back at the screen and in no time at all

Had blown the doc up to hang on the wall

And I reached out to requestors with meetings galore

And promised them results betterer than before

 

Soon I found I was working full tilt.  I was sizing up needs.

IT and the business were as busy as bees

tackling list entries and gathering more.

Soon the requirements list rolled clear to the floor.

Then…  Oh! Baby! Oh! How that requirements list continued to grow.

Now taking one entry at a time, or even tackling two

I found that the task was more than I could do.

 

So I quickly invented a new requirements tracker,

which allowed me to whack out four lines with one whacker.

I was writing down needs four times as fast as before!

And that PM? … He didn’t show up any more.

But the next week he again darkened the door.

 

He stated, “I’m the PM who speaks for the list and the listers

It seems you’ve forgotten those missuses and misters

They’ve asked me to speak in hopes that you’d heed.

You don’t have a plan to solve the first need

And my poor users are all feeling fright-full

that you will not produce something delightful.

They loved making the list.  But they didn’t realize

that with everyone asking it would grow so in size.

So they’ve taken a vote and they found with dismay

that they don’t have a need worth the price they must pay.”

 

I, the BA, felt sad as I deleted their asks.

BUT… business is business!  There were still lots of tasks.

And the project continued despite their sad masks.

 

I meant no harm, I most truly did not.

But I had to get going, so going I got

I biggered my tracker, I biggered the poster,

I biggered a chart to resemble a coaster

with buckets of needs that I got from the list

and circulated to all so that no one was missed.

I went right on working, finding more needs

And I biggered my bonus, which everyone needs!

 

Then the PM came back, I was just starting to type

when that old-nuisance PM came back with a gripe.

“I am the PM,” he paused for effect,

“and I speak for the list which now is a wreck.”

“BA!” he cried with a cruffulous croak.

“BA! You’re making this project a joke!

“My poor IT team, how they all like to wail

they can’t seem to make out the head or the tail.

“And so,” said the PM, while pushing a sigh

“They’re all lining up and saying goodbye.

“What’s more,” snapped the PM his patience had failed

“Let me say a few words about your E-mail!

“You churn out new memos day and night without stop

Most filled with Glupp and Schloppity-Schlopp

“And who reads the letters that they get from you?

“I’ve asked everybody and I’ve found that it’s few!

 

And then I got mad, I turned terribly blue!

I yelled at the PM, “Now listen here, you!

All you do is yap-yap and say what you would do.

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to go on doing just what I do.

And for your information, I’m just about through!

 

And at that very moment, out in the hall

We heard the soft rustle as the poster did fall

on the floor ‘neath the feet of the oncoming CIO

accompanied by shouts that the project must go.

He held out his arm and opened his fist

He flatly demanded, “Hand me the list.”

 

No more list.  No more needs.  No more work to be done.

All my hopes had been smashed and dashed, every one.

Now all that was left to be seen with my eye

Was a big empty office, the PM, and I

The PM said nothing just gave me a look

When the walls of my cubicle suddenly shook

with the pounding of feet from the people outside.

They picked up the PM.  They gave him a ride.

And I’ll never forget the look on his face

As they carried him off to a much better place

That was long, long ago

But each day since that day

I’ve sat here and relived what the PM had to say

Get the resources first, get the team to assemble.

He’d told me that with his hands all a-tremble.

Once the resources are certain I have now realized

Lists are much more easily prioritized.

And the users and listers, once they know the cost,

can easily understand the gain and the loss.

Once the plan is created, and each knows his task

Reading an e-mail about the project is the least we can ask

 

Each project has potential just like some seeds

Give them clean water, clean air, and meet all their needs

And each of them will become a healthy plant.

But if you rush them or starve them you’ll find that they can’t.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist.

 

Project Killers: Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh my!

OZYou’ve just discovered yourself surrounded by Witches and Munchkins in Munchkin land and you desperately want to get back to Kansas.  You’ve heard that the Wizard of Oz in Emerald City can help you get back, but how do you find the Wizard?  Just follow the Yellow Brick Road!

Do you see the similarities to your CRM project?   In Munchkin land Dorothy had a clear goal, return to Kansas with the help of the Wizard of Oz.  Your CRM project has a clear goal; help grow your profits by delighting your customers.  The path from Munchkin land to the Wizard is the Yellow Brick Road.  Your path to delighting your customers is your project statement of work.  Just as Dorothy gathered helpers on her journey to Oz, you will assemble a project team to assist you in getting to Deployment.   Finally, just like Dorothy you start off confidently down the road.

If you have watched the 1939 classic movie the Wizard of Oz, you should remember that the Yellow Brick Road was a path filled with risks to the journey – or as the Strawman and Tin Woodman stated – Lions, and Tigers and Bears.  There were also belligerent fruit trees, wicked witches, and deadly poppies along the way.  Dorothy hadn’t planned for any of these risks and would have been stopped ‘dead’ in her tracks if not for the help of her companions and finally the intervention of Glinda the good witch.

Your project path is a lot like the Yellow Brick Road.  yellow brick roadWhat are the lions, and tigers, and bears you will face?  Where are the belligerent fruit trees and deadly poppies?  Who are the ‘bad witches’ and what risks do they introduce?  Every project faces at least one risk to successful completion.  Most of the time, there are myriad risks to successful completion.  If these risks are not identified and/or not mitigated, they become impacts.  Impacts cost the project time, money, and scope.  In the most severe form, they kill the project before any benefit can be realized!

Dorothy ran head long into her risks and impacts, and unless you have a ‘Glinda’ protecting you, we don’t recommend that approach.  Instead create a detailed project plan using a tool such as MS Project that can point out some of the most common risks faced by a CRM project.  Here are the top 10 risks as identified by online-crm.com:

  1. Invalid project assumptions (different expectations among stakeholders)
  2. Project planning omissions. Significant delays incurred not because project planning tasks were underestimated but because project tasks were completely omitted (forgotten)
  3. Data conversion delay. Unanticipated data scrubbing due to poor data quality
  4. Lack of continuity or consistency of business processes among multiple locations (as well as the introduction of sub-optimization by some locations)
  5. Failure to proactively anticipate and mitigate user adoption challenges – fear of change, sub-optimization and/or sacred cows. Closely aligned with failure to recognize the change in cultural due to a CRM implementation
  6. Missing or infrequent active and visible executive sponsorship
  7. Project is perceived by users as optional; CRM software failure is an option
  8. Failure to backfill project team schedules/workloads
  9. Failure to recognize weak (basic PC operation) user skills assessment prior to training
  10. Failure of Risk Management and proactive risk mitigation

Interesting to note that one of the top 10 risks to any CRM project is the lack of proactive risk mitigation!  Your job as a project manager is to identify these above risks (and all others) well in advance of running into them, determine the potential each has for becoming an ‘impact’ to the project, determine whether or not to accept or mitigate the risk, and establish a risk mitigation plan for each risk that you have identified should be mitigated.  Those mitigation plans should have tasks, resources, and due dates that are tracked on your project plan with strict adherence.  Each risk that is not mitigated becomes an ‘impact’, you will have to deal with impacts to the project, but by the time you are dealing with them the project has been delayed, made more costly, reduced in scope, or all 3.  If you don’t have more time or don’t have more money, and Glinda doesn’t come to your rescue, your project has just come to the end of the Yellow Brick Road with the gleaming Emerald City far in the distance.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Project Killers: An Ode to Death by Documentation

project_killers

The story below illustrates one of the most common project killers – documentation for the sake of documenting, performed at the expense of making true progress towards project completion.

This is the story of one Guru Kumar, a brightly shining Acme PMO star.

Guru was an expert on SDLC, RTM, UML, and Rational Technology

Microsoft Office, and Visio, and Plan, were as familiar to Guru as his right hand

So as soon as the project began, everyone knew Guru would be the ‘man’

First he redid the requirements list, just in case an item was missed

He re-estimated the tasks with pep, to ensure the Plan would have each step

To prevent any false move, every document would be doubly approved

And Guru proved that he could wait, even when the approvers missed the approval date

Days turned to weeks with no code begun, but the documents piled up one by one

Requirements Traceability in 2 different views, Gap Analysis for every screen to be used

Scenarios, Use Cases, Success Metrics and more, each crafted with greater care than the one before

Next came the RAID, test cases, and executive summaries too, each with redundancy about what the project would do

The project team once eager to get started, became very quickly broken hearted

The project with such potential for return, was just about certain to crash and burn

Some dared to ask wouldn’t it be smarter, to start instead with a Project Charter?

That document defines the scope and rules, defines what will be done and what will be the tools

And surely, wasn’t enough about the project known, that the first seeds of a Project Plan could have been sown?

That the other docs would be needed there was no doubt, but would it have been possible to spread them out?

At last Guru felt that the documents were created, but to his dismay found that the team hadn’t waited

New priorities in the Acme business had been found, and some from the team were no longer around

The budget for the project was almost all spent, the investigation begun into where the money went

Guru Kumar found to his dismay that Project Killers are always eager to hold sway

Guru learned that no matter how hard he was working, Death by Documentation is always lurking

He found that the method that works the best, the method that has been tried and passed the test

Is to keep in mind that the project objective is best achieved when you are selective

About the documents you think you need, and discard the rest like a noxious weed

Only create them when needed and ensure that they are living as long as the project endures

Cry not for Guru, his bridge wasn’t burned; Acme realized the lessons he had learned

The Acme PMO once again has a brightest star, the much wiser, and less busy, Guru Kumar.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.

Illustration created and provided by Jonathan Pike, eVerge Group IT Specialist.

 

 

Project Killers: The Path to On Time, On Budget and In Scope

project_killersA new IT project has been initiated. The CRM system is going to be upgraded and integrated. Visions of new capabilities and increased profits fill the waking hours of the CEO and the VP of Sales. By day the CIO appears to share in that dream, but while everyone else sleeps, the CIO is visited by the nightmares of projects from the past where deadlines were missed, cost overruns were the norm, and a severe reduction in project scope was inevitable. Sometimes, when the nightmares are the scariest, the CIO even allows his psyche to relive the horrors of several projects that were complete failures. Meanwhile the IT Project Management Office, the Business Analysts, the System Architects, and the Developers stare in disbelief at the list of approved requirements and the approved budget and timeline for the project and sadly shake their heads. “Do they even have a window in that ivory tower?” they mutter. To all but the most uninitiated, the project is dead on arrival. How did this happen, how can it be prevented in the future?

Successful IT projects can no longer be optional or left to chance. Due to the inseparable integration of IT and the rest of the business, the success of IT at any business is the success of the business. We are taking a fun and somewhat irreverent look during the next few postings at the Project Killers in our midst and how the white knights in business and IT can vanquish them in as part of a successful project.   These Project Killers are usually easy and inexpensive to avoid, yet most of us have fallen victim to one or more of them:

  1. Dead on Arrival (a.k.a. DOA) – A project without the proper estimations for time and resources somehow is initiated
  2. Death by Documentation (a.k.a. strangled in red tape) – A great deal of time and effort goes into plans, requirement documents, and design documents with no real benefit to the project
  3. Death by Indecision (a.k.a. analysis paralysis in its milder forms) – Key project decisions are delayed or avoided altogether
  4. Death in Unchartered Lands (a.k.a. scope creep) – The participants, stakeholders, scope, and methods, are never agreed to formally when the project starts. If you don’t know where you’re going, most any road will take you there – but it may take a lot longer and cost a lot more!
  5. Sudden Unplanned Death (a.k.a. running into a dead end) – risks are not properly identified and mitigated
  6. Death by Starvation (a.k.a. bottlenecks) – resources are not properly identified and allocated

Many projects are Dead On Arrival – DOA.   Often this happens because the actual amount that would have to be invested to achieve the expected results is significant enough to reduce the return on investment to a level that is no longer acceptable. So instead of a fair estimate for a reasonable gain in productivity/reduction in cost, companies and their suppliers “tweak” the estimates to be more favorable – the delivered system is estimated to bring more benefit, the investment in licensing and maintenance costs is underestimated, the resources required – both internal and external to the company – are estimated at reduced levels, and all of that will happen during an accelerated time line! Perhaps this has happened to you once or twice?   Perhaps you have even had the project approved based on those over and under estimations to find that you can’t even get the project successfully started – in other words, the project is DOA.

If your corporate culture is geared to delivering a number of DOA projects, you can break the cycle and get back to successful IT projects that deliver fully on their promised benefits, on time, and within budget. Here are the simple and inexpensive steps to avoid a DOA project.

Good, Fast, Cheap – Pick any 2: This is a great way to prevent DOA projects. First, define ‘Good’ – what is the real problem that you are trying to solve – increased productivity, cost avoidance, customer satisfaction, employee morale, competitive advantage, new legislation, etc.? How much is solving that problem worth to your company – try hard to put it into dollars and cents! Next, define ‘Fast’ – is there an event on the horizon that dictates the release date? You should consider product releases, fiscal years, acquisitions, competitive activity, corporate recognition programs and national meetings, and meeting legal requirements among other time related drivers. Finally, define ‘Cheap’ – based on preliminary estimates what is the maximum amount of money you are willing and able to invest in the system? When putting together the project, simply remember that you will always be able to have only 2 out of Good, Fast, and Cheap. If you want a complete, high quality solution (Good) and you need it quickly (Fast) it will NOT be inexpensive (Cheap). If you want a high quality solution (Good) and you want it to be inexpensive (Cheap) it will NOT be Fast! Finally, if you want it Fast and Cheap, it will NOT be Good!

In today’s IT environment where the pace of innovation is constantly accelerating, few if any businesses can afford to choose Good and Cheap at the expense of Fast – the project delivery will be so far in the future that the envisioned benefit may not be realized (and we have seen this happen!). So that leaves just 2 choices – Good and Fast; and Cheap and Fast. That is why it is so important to carefully define ‘Good’ and ‘Cheap’ initially. If your definition of Cheap is significantly fewer dollars than Good (project has a high ROI) then pick Good and Fast and recognize that your investment may be higher than estimated. If your definition of Good and Cheap are closer together, consider breaking the project into smaller, quicker wins and choose Cheap and Fast to keep to budget with a partial solution. Finally, if your definition of Good is less than your definition of Cheap realize that the ROI for the project will most likely be break even or negative and only proceed where required by legal or business conditions and choose Good and Fast since it is likely that you are proceeding only in the cases where you need a quality, complete solution in a hurry. In this scenario, expect to invest more than you initially thought you would.

Remember “Good, Fast, Cheap pick any 2” and your projects will be vital and alive at inception. Avoiding the other Project Killers can be just as easy. We will discuss the process over the next few postings to this blog.

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

Jim Lindenfeld, Principal Consultant

This blog was written by Jim Lindenfeld, who has been actively involved in customer relationship management during his entire professional career.  He is a certified sales and sales management trainer.  He has been involved in the implementation of CRM systems since 1987 and is currently a principal consultant in our CRM practice.