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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I do some of my best thinking when I’m exercising. My mind shuts off all the day-to-day life noise and drifts off into uncharted areas.
With the holiday season upon us, and the inevitable (though often short-lived) rise in people wanting to make changes in their lives (can you say “new years’ resolutions to get in shape”?) it occurred to me that there are a lot of lessons one can learn from the gym that can help us improve adoption of IT systems.
Look around the gym (it’s OK) to see how you can deliver successful IT adoption
Pretty much no matter what gym you go to, you’ll see all different kinds of people, in all different stages of fitness. There are people who are clearly new to the healthy lifestyle arena. And there are specimens that could be on the cover of a fitness magazine. The range of ages, comfort, skill, and experience of the people in the gym is quite similar to the diverse stakeholders that you must get to adopt your new technology.
Getting people to adopt regular, sustained, effective fitness into their lives requires that they change their behavior. They have to change how they conduct their daily personal life activities. This is very similar to getting people to adopt your IT systems. It’s about getting people – all sorts of diverse groups of people – to change their behavior and how they conduct their daily work life activities.
So, what can we learn?
1. Take a holistic, systemic approach
Achieving a healthy lifestyle includes many things, not just exercise. You need to look at multiple areas of your life – diet, drinking, smoking, sleeping – all affect your level of fitness. People who are truly looking to get in shape realize they need to look at ALL of the elements that affect their life, and it’s not just plugging in 30 minutes on the bike every other day. The may end up changing how they shop for groceries, where, when and what they eat, how they spend their free time, and even the people with whom they associate.
- Look beyond system functionality and business processes
- Address organizational policies
- Examine your rewards and incentives
- Consider your communication and employee engagement approaches
- Look at how you manage user performance
When people join a gym for the first time they often consult a personal trainer. The trainer helps guide you through the process of learning how to exercise and increase our comfort level using the equipment and will often offer suggestions of how to change things outside the gym in order to achieve success inside the gym. The trainer makes it easy for you to through the initial adoption of a healthy lifestyle and then assists you in keeping it going.
Similarly, consulting an expert in IT user adoption can help you drive initial use when a system is first live and then help you sustain it over the long term. Many organizations assume user adoption will just happen – or that it will be mandatory – only to find that they experience difficult, expensive, avoidable problems.
3. Have a plan
People who are serious about their fitness develop a plan (often with help of an expert). The plan is customized (such as losing 100 pounds or training for an Iron Man) based on the goals of the individual or a group.
Having a plan makes achieving your goal easy. It lets you break things into small, manageable chunks. It gives you a schedule and structure for taking action. It lets you know what you need to do from one day to the next. It lets you make the best use of your time and resources.
Many IT projects have a plan and project schedule for how they will build, test, and deploy the system. But they do not have a plan for how they will ensure it is used and delivering business value.
Before you even think about moving forward with funding an IT project, make sure you have identified all of the issues that you need to address in order to drive user adoption. And make sure you have a written plan for how you will make sure these issues are addressed, at every level of your organization.
4. Motivation is key
People find all sorts of tricks to motivate themselves at the gym. Some work with a trainer. Others have a gym buddy. Others yet take classes for that group motivation. And others do it by spending an exorbitant amount of time admiring themselves in the mirror.
The point is, knowing how to exercise and use the equipment is worthless unless people are actually inspired enough to go and do it.
The same is true with the adoption of IT systems. Develop incentive and reward systems to encourage adoption. This may include adjusting compensation plans – especially for commission-based staff. And it may involve things like helping managers to recognize and reward people who do an exceptional job incorporating the new technology into their daily work practices.
Look around the gym and you will see lots of people who have set goals and measure progress. People often print out their workouts and then mark their progress. Others carry around notebooks that they update after every set. And some go for the good old fallback position of just stepping on the scale every day.
The point is, they know the direction they want to go, they are taking steps to get there, and they are measuring results so they know if they are succeeding or if they need to make adjustments.
Do the exact same thing with your user adoption program. For example, I helped one organization set specific weekly goals for how people should use the new CRM. We specified the minimum number of records each person needed to create and update each week. We identified which modules they needed to use. And then we measured the results.
So what happened? We had very quick adoption of the system and we were able to sustain it over the long-term.
6. Make it fun
Working out doesn’t need to be a drag. People find all sorts of ways to enjoy it. They try new things. They try classes, they work out in groups, and they get dirty. The point is that doing something that is challenging and good for you doesn’t have to be hard or annoying. There are lots of ways that you can find fun in what you do.
The same is true when it comes to embracing technology. There are all sorts of ways to engage your user base to help them find the fun in learning a new system. You can run contests. You can make it a team effort. You can give prizes. You can change the physical environment to make the learning experience enjoyable.
Challenge yourself to find new ways of learning new systems and behaviors. If you embrace your creativity, you will be surprised what you can achieve. Oh, and you can even make the fabled ‘user resistance’ a thing of the past.
7. Keep going
OK, this one is a no-brainer. Fitness is not a one-and-done adventure. You need to incorporate it into your life and keep it going throughout your life.
The same is true with user adoption. Getting initial adoption of your system at the time of go-live is of no real value if a year or two later people are not using the system. To get full value from your IT investment you need to sustain effective user adoption over the life of the system.
Cows and computers? Really? It's not as udderly ridiculous as it sounds.
Back in the mid ‘90s, I undertook a research project as part of my Master’s in Information Systems. I decided to look at the impact of introducing IT to dairy farm operations. Some very interesting things emerged from my research, insights that can help today’s leaders take action to deliver more successful IT implementations in their organizations.
Introducing IT into dairy farms changed how people perceived work
Dairy farms are not renowned for cutting edge work practices. Despite advances in automation, farm work still involves a great deal of unskilled, manual labor. And many farm workers judge the contribution of their fellow employees based on how much physical work they have done in a given day. If you aren’t lifting, shoveling, carrying, or working directly with a cow, you are not working.
IT changed how people spent their time …and everyone noticed
When technology was first introduced to many dairy farms, the managers (often the owners) spent less time doing physical labor and more time at the computer. By necessity, the shift of how they spent their time corresponded with a shift away from physical labor toward more analytical and data entry tasks. Their absences from the barns and fields was noticed – and commented upon by the other workers. They were perceived as going soft and getting lazy.
The lesson here is that even in a modern office environment, implementing a new system and process will shift how people spend their time.
People may spend less time in meetings or focused on tasks they worked before. This will change how others perceive if their coworkers are working hard or if they are working at all.
Technology changed what it meant to be good at your job. And not just for users
Historically, dairy farmers had a great deal of tacit knowledge that was passed down through the generations and gained over years of working hands-on with the herd. For example, one farmer I know (a bit of a cow whisperer) could look at a cow and tell if it had a twisted stomach and he would wake up from a sound sleep if he heard a cow moo in a way that indicated she was in distress.
Before computers, one was considered good at your job if you could understand animal behavior and take appropriate action.
Once the IT systems were live, there were new information sources. Cow-specific data could be generated to indicate if an individual animal’s production was off, possibly indicating illness. Reports could be generated about animals that should be ready for breeding, allowing the farmer to move from passively observing signs that an animal was in heat to proactively examining individual animals.
The increased access to data means that in addition to knowing their animals well modern dairy farmers now need to be gifted at analyzing reports and using that information to take action. It also means that they have increased information relating to feed costs, animal production, and employee production. It has dramatically altered the decision-making process and put increased emphasis on financial decision-making and management of operations.
Implementing and IT system changed the farmers' jobs - and what it took to be good at their jobs.
What will changing systems mean in your organization? What new skills are needed for your people to be successful? Do your current staff members have these skills? If not, what will you do about it?
People look for new signs of success
Another interesting thing happened on the farms: all employees – not just system users – looked at system-generated reports to help monitor progress. Reports would be posted in the barns that would show things like daily milk production, number of sick animals, and the time it took complete various tasks.
Quite simply, everyone was curious about how the organization was performing and they liked the feedback that the reports provided.
When I work with clients today we often spend time looking at what reports are required and with whom they should be shared. There are often a lot of cultural and political questions that come up in this area. Keep in mind that people do want insight and feedback about their individual performance as well as information on how their group and the organization as a whole performed.
Change continued as the new (and unexpected) ways of working emerged
Farmers that had being using IT for a while shared how the longer they have the systems the more new, creative, and unexpected uses they have had for the data.
For example, one advanced farmer had a lot of data regarding specific areas in which fertilizer had been spread on his fields. While originally intended to help him maximize crop yields while minimizing costs, he later found that this same information helped him avoid a legal entanglement because he could prove that the source of pollution in a nearby lake did not come from his fields.
When implementing new systems, spend time looking at what’s working and what new creative uses of the technology or data emerge over time. Find a way to encapsulate best practices into normal work procedures, while simultaneously ensuring they are effectively shared across your organization.
Organizations are still trying to figure out how they can get the most value from their IT investments. What’s needed is a pro-active evolution of both how they introduce technology, and how they manage it over the long-term. And surprisingly enough, yes, there are some great lessons they can learn from a cow!
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.