Most CRM failures are not due to the system, but because of poor user adoption. CRM systems sit idle. Data is entered late (if at all) and is riddled with mistakes. In short, the system is not used or not delivering value.
CRM systems are some of the hardest to get people to use
For a variety of reasons, CRM systems are some of the hardest technologies to get people to use. The target users – especially sales and marketing professionals – are used to having great autonomy to do their jobs.
And if they are winning deals, hitting their numbers and bringing in money, management is often unwilling to push them to make best use of the system.
Implementing CRM systems changes more than just processes – it changes jobs
The reality is, implementing a CRM system – or most any system, doesn’t just change internal processes. It actually changes the expectations for how people will perform their jobs.
Enterprise CRM systems are in many ways collaboration tools. Multiple users, from multiple departments all need to access the same system and data to perform multiple different business functions. If one user (or department) has not entered the required information (correctly or at all) then another user cannot do their job.
The interdependent nature of people’s jobs means that each user now needs to not just be outstanding at achieving their end goals; they must also do it in a way that enables others to complete their assigned tasks.
Yet, HR is rarely involved in introducing and formalizing the job changes
In effect, implementing a CRM has now made effective collaboration an integral part of each person’s job. You have changed expectations for what it means to successfully perform their job, meaning their job has changed.
And whenever there are changes to job descriptions, responsibilities, skills, and performance criteria, you need to include HR in the process. HR can help you explain new performance expectations to users. They can also include it in future hiring and on-boarding processes, which may help you sustain effective CRM adoption over time.
Oh, and if you are in a highly regulated industry, have union issues, or have other regional or legal considerations, HR can help you navigate any potential hurdles that you might not know you need to jump.
Whenever I speak to a new client, at some point the conversation drifts around to what they should do if/when/now that their employees are not using their CRM system.
Some of them wonder aloud if they should include firing as an option, but if they don’t bring it up I will ask them what they are prepared to do if employees don’t use their system.
Rarely the answer is, “Yes, I would fire them.” Sadly, this is exactly what the answer should be. But probably not for the reasons you think.
Deploying a CRM system changes people's jobs, it doesn’t just make their jobs betterMany people make the false assumption that implementing a new CRM system will make their employees' current jobs easier. In reality, it fundamentally changes their jobs. And some people will not like their new jobs.
Changing CRM systems alters the processes people need to follow. It also changes the social contract within an organization for how and when information is shared, who should be able to see the information, and who should be able to act on it. And it changes the rules for how much control and autonomy sales professionals have in how they do their job.
For example, sales reps often tell me that they (not their employer) “own the relationship” with contacts. They may complain about the time and hassle of entering the information in the system, but more often than not, the issue is they don’t want to share the information with others.
Assuming you have defined appropriate system use policies, implementing a new CRM system changes the rules about how, when, and with what degree of control people do their jobs. Effectively, this changes their job descriptions and, therefore, the jobs themselves.
User adoption is a performance management issue, not a communication issue
Many people make the mistake of assuming all they need to do is to “tell” people how the system will make their lives easier and “sell” them on the benefits. This approach doesn’t work.
Telling and selling people on the benefits of a CRM system is like trying to feng shui the deck of the Titanic
Instead, a better approach is to let people clearly and specifically that their jobs have changed. They need to understand that how they did their jobs yesterday (often, quite successfully) is no longer OK and it will not make them successful today.
If people are not using the new CRM system in a timely, effective manner, they are not doing their jobs. I suggest handling it like you would any other performance-related problem, using your organization’s management guidelines and processes for resolving sustained performance problems. These often include things such as putting employees on a 90-day performance improvement plan or other tools, which may include dismissal. I think you see where I am going here.
Set clear and measurable goals for CRM use
One of the things that is key to managing employee performance – including driving adoption of your CRM system – is to set clear and measurable goals for how and when people should use the system. Without these, your employees have a very legitimate case that they were never told exactly what performance standards they need to meet.
For example, very few CRM projects set weekly system-use goals. Simple things like asking employees to enter 5 accounts each week, to add 10 activities, and to update 5 activities by noon on Friday helps both management and employees understand what is needed. And often times, once an employee is in the system they will do more than just the bare minimum.
Enable effective user adoption
One important thing to remember that many times there are barriers – legitimate issues that fall outside the employees’ control – that prevent them from using the system. This can include such things as inappropriate system access rights, information not being entered by other employees, or no time due to competing organizational priorities.
Before you can hold people accountable for not using your CRM system, make sure that you have identified and removed all barriers to adoption, AND make sure that you have provided all of the tools, support, information, and guidance that people need to use the systems.
The best way to do this is to make sure you have a comprehensive user adoption strategy and ongoing user adoption program. That way the organization, managers and downstream employees are all using the same roadmap to take the company in the same (profitable) direction.
And then, hold people accountable
If you have done all of this and your people are still not using your CRM system, you need to ask yourself if they are really the right person for the new job role. Employees who are not using the system cost you a lot of time, effort, and money.
And the way you deal with an employee who does not use the system sends a clear message to all other employees as to whether or not they will be held accountable for performing their jobs. Be careful here.
So, should you fire an employee who does not use your system? You bet you should!
10 Simple Steps: How One Fortune 100 Company Rapidly Increased CRM User Adoption
CRM ebook: a resource for your success
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.
CFOs love cloud systems. They offer lower upfront costs, faster deployments, and the ability to directly expense costs without messing around with ugly depreciation schedules -- it’s all quite appealing.
And that is nothing compared to the potential upside that cloud system can deliver. Reduced costs, increased revenues, elevated time savings, improved quality, increased customer satisfaction, or whatever your ROI measures, cloud technology promises to improve your organization.
Sound too good to be true? It is. Kinda.
What CFOs need to recognize is that cloud technology introduces new risks and often times additional expense, erasing all potential ROI.
Cloud systems are easier to deploy, but harder to adopt
From the point of view of technical and infrastructure expenses, cloud systems are easier to deploy. Less time is needed acquiring servers, building out data centers, purchasing ancillary software, and hiring staff to support the system. Oh, and they can go live faster too – cutting implementation times from months and years to just days or weeks.
The challenge is, the technology can often go live faster than the people and organization can adapt. Traditional change management programs take time and focus on preparing people for the change. There simply isn’t time for this with cloud systems. With cloud technology, the systems can change faster than people. What happens is that your new, fast, affordable cloud system sits unused.
Weight your business case to reflect effective user adoption
Most every business case I have ever seen assumes 100% user adoption. It’s not explicitly laid out as such, rather it’s an implied assumption. The expectation is that everyone will use the system. And they will do so starting from the first day the system is live. After all, a system that isn’t used does not deliver any value, killing your ROI.
In reality, I have never seen an organization that has 100% effective, consistent system use. Often times it is closer to 25% - 45% effective use. Occasionally more, if they’ve done it right.
Oh, and effective user adoption doesn’t start on day one. Rather, people are normally slow to include the system into their daily work routines. Each day that people delay adopting your system costs you money. And this, as you know, hurts your ROI.
At Tri Tuns, we recommend that CFOs adjust the business case / ROI projections to reflect different user adoption scenarios. Does your business case stand up if you only get 40% adoption? 50%? 75%? What is the impact if there is a 6 -12 month delay before your people use the system? (BTW, research has shown that without direct intervention it typically takes 24-36 months for people to use systems as part of their daily working practices).
Every dollar spent on training is wasted…unless people use the system
This one is a no-brainer. Every dollar that you spend training users on systems that sit idle is a waste of your time and money. It costs you money to develop and deliver the training. It costs you money to pay your people to be in a training class. And there’s the opportunity cost associated with the time people are in training and not doing their jobs.
How does your business case hold up if people never apply what they learn in training?
This is too costly a risk for anyone not to plan for.
Your cloud vendor now shares your risk
The good news is that with cloud systems, a portion of this user adoption risk is transferred to the cloud vendor. Why? Because you will not renew subscriptions for systems that are not delivering value to your organization.
Increasingly cloud vendors are providing tools and services to help clients drive and sustain effective user adoption.
The bad news, most of them are very bad at it. User adoption is a people and an organizational issue, not a technical issue – and software vendors are tech experts, not people experts. So, while your cloud vendor may share your user adoption risk, they often lack the capacity to solve this problem on their own.
Tell your vendor your renewal criteria right up front!
Cloud vendors rely on renewals and long-term customer relationships in order to profit. If you want to see a vendor go into panic mode, let them know that you will not renew your software subscription. They will try all sorts of things – like give you free services or training – to retain your business.
One way to get your cloud vendor to help you attain your needed ROI through user adoption is to tell them exactly what business outcome you need to see in order to renew their software. And let them know when you will be making your renewal decision.
By letting your vendor know how and when you will determine if the money you spend on their software is worth it, they are in a position to help make sure that you achieve your measurable business result. And if you get the value you expect from the system, renew fast and without wasting any time looking at alternatives or engaging in painful negotiations.