When talking with a friend who’s a life-long fitness fanatic, she told me she recently started a 10-week fitness boot camp. This is in addition to her other, ongoing, regular scheduled fitness activities. Even though she is a marathon runner and a competitive swimmer, she was raving about the boot camp.
When she was telling me all the things she loves about it, I learned that some of the tactics and principles of the fitness boot camp could easily be applied to CRM user adoption. Here’s how.
Exercise boot camps give your fitness level a quick lift and measurable results. Can you do the same for your CRM?
My friend is already in great shape, but since she started the boot camp she has seen a marked improvement in results. She said she needed to shake things up and this was a great way to get a quick lift in results.
The same thing can be done with your CRM adoption effort. (Of course, this assumes you already have an ongoing CRM adoption program. You do, don’t you?)
Sometimes a short-term effort to boost adoption can help you shake things up for your users and get them to a new level. Sure, you still need an ongoing CRM user adoption program, but the occasional, creative, unique short-term effort can help you get even more value of your CRM investment.
Challenge yourself to be better
The exercise boot camp is great for people who are already in good shape and want to get even better.
The same goal can apply to a short-term CRM adoption initiative. If you have people who are already using the system, challenge them to find new and creative ways to use even more of its functionality. Encourage them to use the system as part of their daily routine. Challenge them to become your ideal user.
Push me to achieve more
Fitness boot camps challenge people to increase both their endurance and their overall strength. Run longer. Lift more weight. Do more than you thought you could do. Get better results than you could even imagine.
The same can apply to your CRM adoption effort. Challenge users to learn new shortcuts in the system. Help them reduce the time it takes to complete transactions in the system. Help them find new ways that they can automate tasks they are currently performing manually. In short, challenge them to find how they can get more value out of using your CRM system.
Tell me what to do
My friend said what she liked about the boot camp is that it was easy. The instructors told her what to do, how fast, and how many times. She enjoyed the challenge. And the support.
I am shocked at how many CRM initiatives fail simply because people did not ask users to use the system. If you want to increase adoption, ask users for exactly what you want. Tell them how many records they need to create. Tell them when they need to start and stop. Tell them what system modules to use. Tell them on which screen they should enter the information.
Telling users exactly what you want them to do makes it easy for them to do it. They then can focus their energies on making sure they did the job right, and not waste time trying to figure out exactly what it is you want them to do.
Make me part of a team
A large benefit of the boot camp is the sense of camaraderie among the participants. People feel like part of a team. They encourage and support each other.
And there is a sense that you don’t want to let your teammates down.
Shockingly, you can do the same with your CRM adoption effort. You can develop teams and get people to work together. Help people understand that they succeed or fail together.
Let them know that there are other people counting on them.
Get them to help each other.
Make it fun
Just because something is challenging, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. The boot camp gets you smelly, dirty, and generally nasty. And people love it!
Why not make your CRM adoption program fun? How can you get people to enjoy learning the new system? What intrinsic rewards do you want people to receive from adopting the system? Challenge yourself to make people smile and laugh as they learn the system. It makes a difference.
Let it be over!
All good things must come to an end. Races have finish lines. Boot camps have that last class. People need that light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel. It both motivates and gives people a sense of accomplishment. In many cases, people quite literally “have the t-shirt” at the end of it all.
You can do the same with your CRM program. Yes, I have said many times you need an ongoing user adoption program to sustain effective use of the life of the CRM system. However, you can still include short-term, boot camp-inspired activities to boost CRM adoption. Just like with the boot camp, having defined start and end points can guide and inspire your audience.
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The start of a new IT project is fun. People are excited. Anything is possible. The sky’s the limit. People get inspired – or sometimes seduced – by the potential for how great things will be once they have the capabilities that a new system can provide.
Many IT projects look good on paper. And that is exactly where they should stay.
Unfortunately, what looks like a good idea can often be a bad reality.
Many IT projects – especially enterprise implementations such as ERP, CRM or collaboration tools – go off the rails at some point. Typically, it is not the technology that is the problem, but rather with getting the organization to accept, and actually use, the system.
When I ask clients how they will know when their project is in trouble, they often get very quiet and look at me like I am a total buzz-kill. Why would I even ask such a thing? The project is on-schedule and on-budget. What could possibly go wrong?
One challenge is understanding when projects fail and how to recognize when you’re heading in that direction.
In the simplest terms, IT systems fail when the system is not used and it is not delivering meaningful, measurable business value.
Here are five signs that even if your system is delivered on-time and on-budget that it will – ultimately -- be deemed a failure.
1. Your business case assumes 100% user adoption
Do you currently have 100% effective use of your existing systems? No? What level do you have? How do you know? Why will this change just because you change systems?
If you only get 50% effective adoption, does your business case still make sense? What about 25%? 75%? Try weighting your business case / ROI forecast against different levels of adoption and see if the numbers still make sense.
2. You have not assigned formal accountability for achieving ROI goals
As I’m sure you do too, I read all the time about the important role that leadership plays in IT projects. Many times the discussion is centered on how having leadership commitment as critical to success. But I don’t often read about exactly what this looks like or how to know if you really have it.
If you want to maximize user adoption and IT success, you need to assign formal authority and accountability for ensuring user adoption at the most senior executive levels. This has to be measured and sustained over the life of the system, and the executive needs to have meaningful incentives for hitting user adoption and IT ROI targets.
3. You don’t know when or how you will measure success
I asked one senior executive who was overseeing a major organizational transformation program at what point do they go back and measure their actual results against those forecasted in the business case. He replied, “Well, we don’t do that. We're not really good at it.”
Many organizations only look at the business case for funding approval, but they never go back to see if they accomplished their goals. If you want to make sure you are achieving IT success, you need to define in advance how, when and who will measure actual results.
If you don’t have this in your plan, you are heading for trouble.
4. Your critical path stops at go-live
Many IT project plans talk about the critical path to go-live. This is great from a system delivery perspective, but awful from a value creation perspective.
System go-live, the period at which you have completed the vast majority of the IT project, is also the point where you have realized the majority of your costs, yet not realized any value from your investment. If this is where you have stopped your critical path, all you have done is mapped out the critical path to maximizing your sunk costs.
Map your critical path out way past go-live until you have achieved your ROI / business value goals as stated in the business case. This may be several years into the future. Ask yourself: what activities do you need to do to drive and sustain effective, value-creating user adoption? How will you monitor your results to see if you are on track? Who will do this? What actions will you take if actual results fall short of expectations?
If you don’t have this defined, your good idea is quickly turning bad.
5. You haven’t enabled user success
Many organizations assume that if they provide system training and have a help desk that users can, and will, adopt the system. In reality, there are often many barriers that prevent users from using the system (even if they want to).
Also, many training efforts are focused on helping existing users learn the new system, but do little to help new users quickly get up to speed on business systems and processes. Users are often left to fend for themselves or seek help from their coworkers, who often do not have the latest and most accurate information. This is a recipe for disaster – especially if your organization is simultaneously adding lots of new employees (turnover or rapid growth).
If you have not assessed all of your user needs (beyond training and technical support) and provided all of the tools and resources they need to be able to use the system, then you have not enabled user success.
(Hint: it is AFTER go-live)
A friend of mine was telling me about an upcoming event that is focused on discussing failed organizational initiatives as way to learn and improve going forward.
This got me thinking, “At what point are IT projects considered failures?”
Is it when the system doesn’t work? Is it when the system is delivered late? Do projects fail before go-live or after? Or, is it when the system meets all functional requirements, but sits idle and unused?
IT projects fail when they don’t deliver business value
Sure, you could make a lot of great arguments about the system failing due to technical reasons, and you wouldn’t be wrong, but for me, the answer is more complicated than that.
For example, the overall purpose of any software is for it to be used in a way that adds value to the organization. Even if a system doesn’t meet all functional specs, but is still used and delivers some business value, then it is still a win.
IT success or failure happens after users get the system
Arguably, IT projects don’t fail before go-live. Systems are tested before they are deployed. (At least, they should be.) And, if they don’t work, they don’t get deployed. But even if a system is deployed – what kind of business value does it generate if it just sits there and costs you money?
The reality is that IT systems only deliver business value when they are being used…which can only happen after go-live. (See where I’m heading here?) A system that meets all functional specifications but is ignored by end-users does nothing to create value.
The challenge then is how do you make sure your system is actually used and – therefore – creating value?
User adoption is on the critical path to IT success
Generally, the problem with most IT project plans is that they only cover the time up until the initial system deployment, ending at go-live. However, as we’ve already established, success is not achieved simply because you go live. The hard part is that after go-live – in the years the system is used -- is the period of time when the project will be deemed a success or…a failure.
So, like anything else in life, if you want something to happen, you have to be pro-active and make it happen. Include user adoption on the critical path to success. It is not something that just happens at the conclusion of a successful IT project – it’s planned, managed and made to happen.
Include user adoption activities in your project plan
If you set the endpoint of your IT project beyond go-live and to the date by which you expect to achieve your ROI goals – that is when you have created business value – how would this change your critical path? What activities would you include on your critical path from the point of go-live forward? Do you have milestones for measuring user adoption? Do you have the resources you need? Do you even know what resources you need?
Recognizing that you need to drive IT user adoption in order to achieve IT success is a really the first step. Next, develop a comprehensive user adoption strategy, determine the appropriate user adoption methodology, and ensure you have the right resources to make it happen.
Without this, your IT project will not be a success.
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Many CIOs are well-versed (or becoming well-versed) in the technical and price components of cloud systems. One area where they are still evolving their thinking is on the business and organizational implications of the cloud.
Here are 5 things CIOs need to think about regarding the rise of cloud computing.
Cloud systems shift the definition of success for IT
With lower costs, faster deployments, and less customization, cloud computing is moving the perception of success away from functionality and technical aspects of the system and refocusing it on the level of adoption and business value that the system creates for the organization. Quite simply, success is now determined by the degree to which the system is delivering measurable business value to the organization.
Systems succeed or fail after go-live
On-time and on-budget delivery of system is no longer enough. Rather, success is determined by the way in which the system is embraced by the user community in the months and years after it is deployed.
Also, with subscription-based software, organizations now re-examine the value of the system every time they need to make a renewal decision. That means that every year or two (depending on your contract) you will need to look back and see if you have gotten your money’s worth from the use of the system. Memories are short and people will quickly forget what it took to get it live. Instead, they will focus on what has happened since it has been in use.
User adoption is key to success
The key to success of cloud systems is determined by the manner and degree in which systems are adopted by users. If users are consistently and effectively using the system, the system will be viewed as a success. If the system is rejected by users and sits idle, you fail.
You need more than just change management
Conventional wisdom dictates that you need change management to get user adoption.
Conventional wisdom is right. And it is wrong.
Change management, which typically includes go-live focused training and communications, fails solidly under the banner of “necessary, but not sufficient” category. Change management alone does very little to sustain user adoption over the life of the system. Instead, you need to a comprehensive user adoption program to build and carry through full and effective system use over the life of your technology.
You need to guide the business in driving – and sustaining – user adoption
Sustained, effective system use is the key to cloud success and requires a new focus on long-term adoption. This requires that leaders from the business units take action to ensure their employees adopt the system. For many business leaders this is something they have never been asked to do before. They need your help.
The role of the CIO and IT is evolving from predominantly being responsible for providing technical expertise to being a catalyst for helping organizations navigate change, and embrace systems and achieve organizational – and financial – success. . This means CIOs and IT departments will need to increase their ability to go beyond system delivery and maintenance and facilitate change, dealing with the organizational and people challenges of embracing IT systems.