Keys to CRM System Adoption: Executive Involvement and Commitment

In previous articles in this series we pointed out that high rates of user adoption maximize the benefit of a CRM system to every system user in an exponential way as every key process in the business; planning, marketing, selling, servicing, and analyzing, is enriched by the increased information and functionality of the CRM system. In subsequent articles we described the drivers to user adoption, and the best ways to make them part of your corporate DNA. This is the final article in this series.

An old joke:   What is it that no man wants but no man wants to lose? A bald head! It seems that we could easily paraphrase this to fit the topic. What is it that no Executive uses but no Executive wants to lose? A CRM system! It has been proven over and over in thousands of CRM implementations (in fact in just about any corporate initiative) that the number one success factor in the implementation is early commitment to the system and early adoption of the system by the Executive team. It is the #1 success factor for 2 reasons; 1.) The commitment leads to adequate funding and resources, and 2.) The adoption by the Executives drives adoption by the other employees in the company.   Unfortunately, many CRM systems deliver far less value than they should because the Executives, who committed millions of dollars to the system in hopes of a healthy improvement to the bottom line, never fully commit to or adopt the system. Ask any executive at a company with a comprehensive investment in a troubled CRM system if they want to lose the information and functionality that it provides and you will get 2 answers, both start with NO! You will either hear; “NO! We have the right system and we get some valuable information, we just need more participation.” or you will hear “NO! We are evaluating a new system that will be easier to use so that we can get more information and functionality.”

Assuming that they have addressed the other factors that drive user adoption (Pay for Play, EASE, and Coaching) it can be safe to say that if the CRM system is still suffering from user adoption issues (to mangle Shakespeare) the fault, dear executives, lies not in your users but in yourselves. This can be quickly and easily fixed, but it means that executives, who likely brought the change of a CRM system to the company, will have to move to the front and lead that change!

Another old joke to demonstrate the difference between commitment and involvement: At a bacon and egg breakfast – the pig was committed and the chicken was involved. Executives must be committed and demonstrate it by:

  1. Including the CRM system as a budget category for all business departments
  2. Creating channels for corporate change management messages about the system and ensuring that a pipeline of messages is queued up in each channel
  3. Committing to the time, money, and people needed to develop the system
  4. Committing to the time, money, and people needed to train the users
  5. Committing to the time, money, and people needed to maintain and improve the system
  6. Committing to joining and participating in industry councils
  7. Committed to the CRM System to gain a sustainable advantage in the marketplace
  8. Commit to be a key member of the executive steering committee

Executives must adopt the system and demonstrate it by:

  1. Personally using the system for forecasting, quota management, and pipeline analysis (sales). This means, no ‘one off’ out of the system spreadsheets or databases with layers of analysts between the executives and the rest of the user community
  2. Using the system for measuring performance to SLA’s, customer satisfaction, cost of service, and cross sell revenue (service)
  3. Using the system to see the ROI and effectiveness of marketing campaigns and to understand the handoff from marketing to sales and finally to service
  4. Using the system for the corporate intranet, internal communications, file transfers and storage, collaboration, and event management

Most importantly, you have to do all this with a smile on your face (and in your heart!) and you have to be the first in line to do it! Here is a quick check list of questions to ask yourself as an executive:

  1. Am I leading the change management effort for the CRM system?g. Did I organize and chair the committee? Am I involved daily in promoting the system in some way?
  2. Am I the best trained user in the company?
  3. Do I get 100% of my analyses from the CRM system for Sales, Service, and Marketing?
  4. Do I have a road map for what improvements need to be made and when to make them? Do I even have a process in place for continuous system improvement?
  5. Do my teams see me using the system proficiently?

Final old joke: Doing things the same way and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. Ask yourself, “Did I invest millions in a CRM system, expect everyone else to change, while I remained the same and still get different results?” Instead, isn’t it time to pick up the flag, face the line of retreating users, and charge right back at the competition with a renewed commitment to the system and a promise to be the first and most important adopter!

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.

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