Look Before You Leap

Here’s a novel idea. CRM is not about technology—it’s about solving business problems and taking advantage of untapped business opportunities. The first step in developing a CRM system for your organization is to identify what you want or need to address and set success criteria.

Let’s dig in a little further and put a statement out there that may seem out of place in something called “The CRM Book”. No one needs a CRM system. How many times have you heard a business owner or leader say their CRM system is terrible? At PowerObjects, we hear something along the lines of of “We use XYZ CRM and we hate it” quite often with new customers.

Statements like these can be the result of many different issues. New customers often tell us that their CRM systems aren’t useful for any or all of the following reasons:

  • Data stored in CRM is inaccurate and out of date
  • The system is hard to use
  • Different people need different things out of CRM, yet it’s set up exactly the same for everyone
  • Nobody gets the value of it, so user adoption is low

This is just a small sample of common issues people have with CRM generally.

Luckily, much of the time, the system isn’t to blame—CRM is taking the heat for a failure that is not system related. The failure was in the planning stages. Remember, no one needs a CRM system. The failure was predicted before a specific package was ever selected, and it is all too common. For a CRM initiative to be successful, we must define what success looks like for that specific business. In order to do so, the desired outcomes must be mapped out, mutually agreed upon and made the focal point of the initiative.

Let’s do a quick exercise. Does the following scenario sound familiar?

Executive: We are not getting the information we need to make decisions in a timely manner. Why can’t we get it?

IT: Well, we have 27 systems that we need to pull information from to create the reports that you are looking for. We started a BI project to consolidate the data to create easier access, but the data is not consistent and we can’t normalize it appropriately. So we manually have to create the information you need on a routine basis.

Executive: What if we consolidated these systems down to three or four—would that solve the problem?

IT: It would, but we don’t have the budget. A system like that requires both time and money.

Executive: If you can consolidate it down so we can get better information, we’ll find the money. How much will it cost?

IT: We’ll have to write an RFP to get bids to figure that out.

Executive: Excellent. Let’s move right away. I need this yesterday. It will be huge for the business to have more integrated systems, better reporting and a modern toolset. This is going to be great! Just make sure it is delivered on time and on budget!

Sound familiar? It does to us! Everyone wants integration, better reporting (dashboards, BI, charts), and modern tools that are as flexible as the demands of the business require. If companies can just have that, all of their problems will go away. Right?

This scenario, albeit oversimplified, plays out every day in businesses of all sizes. While on the surface it seems to make sense with better reporting, more integrated, flexible architecture, and better access to information, it is in actuality riddled with problems. The companies are left with very different perspectives about what is going to happen once a CRM is implemented—one from a business perspective and the other from an IT perspective. Now engage another group to run an RFP process and a third set of perspectives has been introduced. Finally, a winning bid must be selected from a vendor and there is our fourth perspective being introduced.

At this point, we have four perspectives all looking to solve a vague problem. Knowing this, is it any surprise the type of search results you get when you search ‘failed CRM implementation’?

What if the conversation went like this:

Executive: We are not getting the information we need to make decisions in a timely manner. Why can’t we get it?

Business Partner: What decisions are you trying to make? If you had that information, what would the impact to the business be? What is the impact of not having that information? Why have you not addressed this issue in the past?

And what if the conversation ended with something like this:

Our sales team is at 97% of goal consistently. Our close ratio is 34% when we get in- person meetings. But 20% of scheduled meetings are canceled taking up valuable time in our sales reps’ day. When a meeting cancels, our reps scramble to fill the time or don’t bother because it is too tough to figure out how to do so. If we could make it easier for reps to backfill 25% of the canceled meetings, we could close enough deals to push us to consistent overachievement of quota. That would amount to $12M to our top line.

All of sudden, we have a crystal clear goal. It has shifted from improving reporting, integration, and access to information to increasing rep meetings per day by ‘X’ and in doing so boosting attainment to 100%+ and flow $12M to the bottom line annually. Wow. Now we have a goal and the expected outcome is clear to all parties involved. Do you think your chances for a successful project just went up? What is more important now? On time and on budget or increasing meetings per day?

Now let’s tie this back to our thesis: No one needs a CRM system. Rather, a business needs to increase rep meetings per day. How do we achieve that? Maybe a CRM system can support this? The CRM system becomes a means to an end, not the end itself.

As you read this book, think not about the “cool stuff” you could do with the tremendous platform that Microsoft puts forth. Instead, think how these tools implemented appropriately can make transformative change in your organization.

Typically, these changes come in the form of increased revenue, decreased cost, and reduced risk or compliance. If your project charter does not include a tie back to one of these areas, you owe yourself the time to critically analyze why the budget available is best utilized on a CRM initiative.

Notice none of the areas mentioned above are system related—they are driven by the business. Granted, it may seem obvious but many times the obvious answer gets overlooked.

So where do you start?

Likely you already intuitively know. You sense that a CRM system can give more people the tools and information that they need to impact the business. While this is a good start, it is just that—a start. The next step is to ‘peel the onion’ back to the root causes of issues or opportunities and create the business case for your project.

Doing so will accomplish several things. First, it will create that beacon for the project that will serve as the arbitrator for any and all issues that come over the project (for example, if we add this to the scope, how will it impact our business goal?). That beacon can then serve as a catalyst for alignmentarguably the second most important component of a project. This alignment serves both the business (executive, management, field, IT) and any partners engaged to support the initiative. When people are aligned around a specific goal (vs. a generic one – more integration, better reporting), meaningful outcomes become substantially more likely and project risk goes down substantially.

So as you learn about Microsoft Dynamics 365 as part of this book, be sure to enjoy the “wow,” “cool,” and “wouldn’t that be great” moments you will undoubtedly experience. But then ask yourself: how will that drive a meaningful and specific outcome in my business?

Remember, CRM not for its own sake, but for yours.