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CRM Tech Views from the Trenches blog has moved!

Thanks for your support and interest.  I just moved my blog over the weekend to in order to have greater site control.  Check it out and let me know what you think!


“Hi-yo, Silver, away!”

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It’s that time of year when adults find an excuse to play dress up, and a Halloween party this past weekend brought me inspiration for today’s blog post. The Lone Ranger and his trusty sidekick “Silver” made a great team, but one without the other was not much of a force to be reckoned with.  I see  similarities of this when thinking of CRM deployments and mobility! 

Ok so a bit of a stretch but I do believe the mobility topic ends up as a nice to have versus a must have feature in the CRM solution selection process.  We expect so much out of our field sellers, but invest little time on device platform selection and guaranteed connectivity to our CRM solutions.  Just think if you go the extra effort to understand a day in the life of your field sellers and mobile requirements how much more productivity you might gain from them?

*Gartner says mobility will be a trillion-dollar business by 2014!  Reference that report and consider the below checklist when addressing the CRM mobility topic:

  • Device support is a must since the growing trend is to let the mobile workforce chose the platform they would like to leverage.  With this flexibility come the need to have CRM compatibility with BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, iPhone and Android operating systems.  I would add two additional midsize mobile devices that are gaining IT support and customer demand which are iPad and HP Slate 500
  • The CRM system selected must be browser independent now that Internet Explorer makes up just fewer than 60% of the market opening up 40% of the market running on Safari, Chrome and a slew of other browser substitutes.  This topic also ties back to preloaded browsers that come on devices such as the iPad.
  • Online and offline support will be driven by field seller location and connectivity provided by the selected mobile phone carriers.  I find that having both options will be needed to insure there are no productivity setbacks as your sellers move between meetings.
  • Top interactions offered to the mobile CRM user should be easy contact lookup, phone call placement, access to schedule, ability to schedule and complete activities, view & interaction with opportunities and viewing of some historical data elements.  More specialized mobile workforces will require task specific interaction so this topic and requirements will be defined on a company by company basis.

Resources – TenDigits, CWR Mobility & CRM Mobile Plus are just a few third-party CRM mobility add-on solutions to consider. 

Make mobility a priority at every turn in your CRM deployment and your organization will generate strong user adoption within your mobile workforce. 

– Tracy

* Gartner reference is pulled from “Analysts Explore the Changing Face of Mobility at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, October 17-21, in Orlando”  STAMFORD, Conn., October 21, 2010

Is CRM training really that important?

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Well I guess not if your goals are as big as “tiny” feature in this week’s blog post.  I have spent most of my life staying active by incorporating weight training and conditioning to stay in shape.  As part of this process I have learned that the results received directly correlate to goals set and ongoing investments put into my conditioning and nutrition plans. Maybe there are some similarities between trying to achieve a healthy lifestyle and delivering successful CRM deployments.

As we examine further, the #1 issue I continue to see surface in failed CRM deployments is the lack of investments and thought put into system training.  I believe a strong training plan is the secret sauce to insure any CRM system meets user adoption expectations and drive true return on investment.   

Suggested best practices that need to be incorporated in a training plan:

  • User return.  Users should know what they will be getting in return for the use of the CRM system which ties back to last week’s blog CRM system end-user givebacks?  
  • Hands-on training.  Provide hands-on training with real-life scenarios and data relevant to your users. 
  • Job aids.  Training should include a cheat sheets with CRM system terminology and step-by-step summaries of the required processes.
  • Mandatory system use.  System use must be mandatory for not only the users but all executives.  I find that companies that tie compensation to the CRM system tend to get the greatest user adoption.
  • Measurement & output.  Clear metrics & dates should be established that define what data elements must be entered, when users must have all data updated and when reports will be pulled.
  • Ongoing investments.  Training should be ongoing not just a one-time thing.  I suggest referring to a write-up by CSO Insights on “3 steps to improved Retention/Results. “Perfect practice makes perfect: receiving feedback/coaching on a consistent basis and continuously improving is how things get perfected.”  Barry Trailer, CSO Insights.
  • Training champions.  Electing departmental training champions can also be good resources for the user community.  This will provide a feedback loop for CRM system process and use case improvement.
  • System usage.  Most CRM systems or integrators of those systems provide a system wide audit by user so that you can understand how frequently users are in the systems.  One good example of this is Control Tower for CRM User Adoption  provided by Sonoma Partners.
  • Knowledge management.  Most CRM systems support KB articles and key topic search.  Incorporate your training materials within the CRM will further exploit the power of the system and provide one location of all best practice sharing.
  • Executive sponsorship.  Executive level support and the importance of everyone using the CRM system must be communicated.

Make training a priority at every turn in your CR M deployment and your organization will generate strong user adoption.  Watch for my next blog on the CRM mobility dilemma.

– Tracy

CRM system end-user givebacks?

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Don’t assume that a trip to the barber shop will produce a predictable outcome!  The end result for the individual can actually create more work like the need to apply hair gels, mousse & hair spray with no givebacks for the effort.  I survived this experience but can tell you I received nothing for my investment outside of a great conversation piece many years later.

That brings me to this week’s blog topic of “What do users get in exchange for buying into a CRM platform?”  My 26+ years’ experience working directly with customers has generated a common theme.  That theme or promises is that the users will see productivity gains and process improvement, but the facts point to a high percentage of post implementation let downs. 

The root cause behind most of the lets downs starts with the selection and implementation committee.  This team is driving the CRM platform decision and many times  is out of touch with the day-to-day needs of the user community they are trying to service.  Yes the committee usually does departmental use case interviews which produce a standard collection of requirements.  Then comes the challenge of balancing what the users need out of a CRM system vs. what senior leadership wants to justify system costs.  Below are my thoughts on this topic.

Kinsey’s stab at defining what user’s really need out of CRM  –

  1. Should be able to access the CRM systems through companies existing message and calendaring standard to remove additional authentication or log in time.
  2. Must eliminate need for user driven reporting – my favorite!
  3. Goals & performance should be surfaced at the user level through dashboards.
  4. CRM system interfaces should have some level of personalization.
  5. Entry of data has to be simple and fast.
  6. Each way to access CRM should demonstrate some level of consistency (fat, thin & mobile client)
  7. Performance must be well-tested.
  8. Data should be filtered so I am only working with “my” relevant information and not sifting through yours!
  9. Duplication of data should be addressed prior to system go live…I do not have time to figure out which T, Tom, Timmy and or Timothy is the right record to record my activities against.
  10. Should not be asking users for their list of prospects or important customers that should be added to the holiday card mailing list.  Marketing lists should be dynamic and maintain by the systems.
  11. Sales stage and or probability of a deal pursuit should not require an update by me.  If a sales process has been implemented the CRM system should update automatically when I complete required steps.
  12. Every department that interacts with the customer in any way should be using same CRM platform.
  13. Modification of data fields and forms should be easy to do at the administration level or forget it.
  14. Users had better be able to go offline because we all know that on any given day the janitor just might kicked the plug out of the wall and your internet connection will go down.

I believe that if your organization keeps the mentality of user experience and productivity as a priority you will generate strong user adoption and the gains promised which in turn will drive ultimate return on your investment.

Watch for my next blog on “CRM system training” – why do companies always get low user adoption?

– Tracy

How important is the next new feature in a CRM system?

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Some would say to be the best at playing the air guitar you need a tennis racket, a pick and some great 80’s rock ‘n’ roll.  I would argue the extras are just nice to have “features” not requirements and your focus should be on the user experience.  Universally we all enjoy playing the air guitar and I would guess if we keep from adding too many features to the process all of us could be rock stars!

This is how I feel about Customer Relationship Management “CRM” systems in general.  Just too many cool features with little value add to the intended audience or user experience.  Today buyers are inundated with flashy features that come with little definition such as social marketing, sales methodologies, business planning & lifetime value monitoring just to name a few.

I do believe there is a place for a set of must have CRM system features.  I am also a strong proponent of CRM systems providing both integrations and insight into the social boom.  With this in mind let me take a stab at Kinsey’s core which I believe will set your organization up for greater user adoption, ability to measure results, improved productivity and calculate true return on your investment.

Kinsey’s top 10 must have CRM system features in no particular order –

  1. Simplified UI that keeps the user in a familiar environment – Microsoft Dynamic CRM’s user interface is a natural extension of Microsoft Outlook.
  2. Strong integration to productivity tools for message management, activity management & quote generation – Microsoft Dynamics CRM surfaced through Outlook allows users to manage customer e-mail, appointments, tasks, and contacts from a single business application.
  3. Dynamic reporting – Microsoft Dynamics CRM ha built-in integration to Microsoft Excel which provides users the ability to export static and or dynamic reports.
  4. Automated processes to support the sales, marketing and service processes – Windows Workflow Foundation is an out of the box set of functionality allowing users to automate defined business process.
  5. Ease of configuration to support system change – Microsoft Dynamics CRM administration allows database field creation, forms editing and ability to create new custom entities.
  6. Mobility support – Mobile Express for Microsoft Dynamics CRM enables access to Microsoft Dynamics CRM data in a web browser on a mobile device.
  7. Deployment flexibility – Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides choice and flexibility in how you implement and customize your CRM application so you can achieve the best fit for your business by providing On Premise, SAAS or partner hosted deployment options.
  8. Open architecture to support legacy system integrations – The Microsoft Dynamics CRM Software Development Kit (SDK) contains information for developers writing server-side code, custom business logic, integration modules, workflow assemblies, and plug-ins.
  9. Collaboration – Microsoft Dynamic CRM supports iframe integration to Microsoft SharePoint to store content supporting team collaboration.
  10. Data integrity tools – Microsoft Dynamics CRM provides the option to create duplicate detection rules to maintain data integrity.
  11. Ok I am going with a bonus feature “Social Interaction Tracking.”  The reason I list this as a bonus must have feature is that the social space is still being defined, not all of your customers have embraced it and the application of ‘social CRM” is still being defined – The Social Networking Accelerator for Microsoft Dynamics CRM can help you build and maintain social information systematically and efficiently.  With integrations to LinkedIn and Twitter, you can automatically track the activities of your contacts directly through Microsoft Dynamics CRM. 

Watch for my next blog on “CRM system give backs” – what do users get in exchange for buying into a CRM paltform deployment?

– Tracy