Keys to the Adoption of a CRM Platform
Having seen hundreds of CRM implementations, the most common complaint that crops up over and over is "We invested a significant amount of energy and money, but our team (particularly sales) just isn't using the system the way we expected, and as a result we don't get much out of it".
Over some upcoming posts we'll explore all the things you do during the process of building an application to make it great, but for now, we'll take a minute and address the elephant in the CRM room. Most CRM systems fundamentally are not consistently adopted by sales and marketing organizations. Here's a list of the top 10 areas you can focus on to drive adoption regardless of whether you are starting a new implementation or struggling with adoption.
Is the application simple enough? Virtually every organization wants to provide things that are easy to use for their peers, but far too frequently the CRM tools will get cluttered with layer after layer of fields, workflows, and customizations to the point where sales and marketing users are thoroughly confused about how to do their day to day job. It simply can't be overstated that the CRM system is a tool to enhance sales and marketing's ability to get their work done, and with that in mind it must be simple for even the shortest attention span user to quickly click through the forms and record key data. We very frequently find that some of the most robust applications end up as shelf-ware while applications that were consciously designed with a minimalist structure end up heavily used, and it's this initial adoption that drives them to become a core part of the business. If there's one thing you retain from this post, it should be that if you are struggling with adoption today, the most likely thing you can do to improve the situation is to simplify the UI, remove excess fields, get rid of extraneous workflows, and pare to the core business process followed by most users.
Have I met the core needs of my users? The second biggest cause of adoption issues is that the system doesn't actually do anything important. It might be built to help sales team members prospect and track deals, but then it isn't quite finished so marketing isn't effectively generating leads inside of CRM and sales teams aren't capable of actually quoting, contracting, and submitting an order. The result is that you have something that is so narrow in scope that it's neither helping sales and marketing do its job nor is it delivering useful data to the rest of the company. The system then atrophies, and slowly but surely disappears. You might think this is a contradiction with the first item above. It is.....but one of the most important things to do when building systems is to balance contradictory demands and come up with something that is both simple and tremendously useful.
Is it important to executives that this is successful? If you've made it simple and useful, but you're still struggling, it may be that nobody cares. At least nobody with enough influence to drive action. The reality is that most people are juggling so many competing priorities that they will only really take a break from their daily routine to check out a new system if there is strong executive sponsorship. With that in mind, it's not enough to build a good system, but you must get the management team of your organization behind the tool. Toward that end, there are many possible paths, but it is always helpful to sit down one on one with the executive team, recap the investments that have occurred to date, and then ask for their commitment in getting everyone on board a common platform. That commitment might take the form of incremental resources for training and support, or just leading and participating in training and roll out activities. The exact path doesn't matter nearly as much as the fact that the commitment is real and visible.
Do people feel like their feedback is heard? It's surprising sometimes how much effort goes into an initial roll out and how little goes into responding to key issues highlighted by users. It's always extraordinarily useful to have maintained enough resources in budget to deal with adapting the system based on feedback that occurs the first 45 days after a big release. This period is valuable as a significant influencer on adoption is whether people feel like their feedback is taken seriously and responded to.
Is there an easy way to get help during the adoption period? No matter how good the application and the training plan, a percentage of your user base will just not pay much attention until they login the first time. If they have an outlet for help at that moment, they will continue to march forward. If not, back to the old way of doing things. You may be rewarding bad behavior, but when you're trying to make a change stick, it really helps to provide access to the right resources at the exact time a user really needs them. One effective solution is to make sure you have the support and technology to allow a user to contact a CRM expert and share their screen while they solve the users problem jointly in real time.
Is there public visibility into adoption? Adoption scorecards won't make up for not having delivered on the tactics above, but they are very helpful in providing public visibility into who has embraced the new system and who is lagging. If you have strong executive support, these are tremendously valuable because they provide an at a glance view that allows the executive team to engage with the right people at the right time to highlight the behaviors they expect.
Is there positive reinforcement for people using the system? Ok. It's a pretty long list and we've got to get down to rewards and punishments at some point. I don't actually believe either are the primary mechanisms for getting people on board with software, but I think both are relevant tools that you can use in conjunction with the above items. With respect to rewards, I would focus on consistency over quantity. For example, it might make sense to provide a nice dinner or tickets to a game for the rep or reps who have an accurate and complete pipeline at the weekly sales meeting (i.e. all deals entered and notes on all meetings). My personal opinion is that it's best to do this as a routine surprise (i.e. don't advertise it, but just randomly pick a couple of weeks out of the month where at the end of the meeting you reward the people whose information was up to date).
Are there consequences for not using the system? If all else fails, threaten them. It's not the most elegant solution, and it only sort of works, but if people believe there will be negative consequences from not using the system, they'll at least login and give it a try....but expect a lot of excuses.