Planning for CRM User Adoption

Planning for Dynamics 365 User Adoption

The concept of planning for CRM user adoption means that everything you do with your Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation is done through the lens of user adoption.  This prevents you from getting overly focused on the technology and maintains the focus on how CRM will support the users and meet the overall company goals.  Click here to see how PowerObjects’ certified change management practitioners can help navigate the people side of technology changes.

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Connect with other companies who are planning their Dynamics 365 user adoption.  View PowerObjects events page, and register for an upcoming end-user training to explore all that Dynamics 365 has to offer.

There are 10 major ingredients to a successful Dynamics 365 user adoption:

  1. Scope and Vision
  2. Executive Leadership
  3. Ownership and Support
  4. Communication
  5. Accessibility
  6. System Function
  7. Data Quality
  8. Process Alignment
  9. End-User Motivation
  10. Training and Reinforcement

Missing a single ingredient may not mean failure, but missing several ingredients or applying insufficient ingredients may lead to failed user adoption — a costly mistake, to say the least.  Perfection is not attainable in any organization, so always strive for excellence and improvement in each of these areas.

Scope and Vision

When planning your CRM user adoption, strive to keep the initial phase as simple as possible.  Taking on too much is a key point of failure.  Many organizations change quickly; so if you design a system and are still building it a year later, you are now working on an outdated design.


That is why it is key to use a phased approach.  Take on what must be accomplished now, and plan later phases for enhancements that layer in additional value.  Not only will you get the first phase done more quickly, but what you learn in the process of phase 1 will save you time and money in the later phases. As the business changes, you can make small adjustments to the application to keep it up-to-date with processes.

Executive Leadership

Many times CRM is seen as a top-down system that management is pushing onto the users. And while it is key to get end-user buy-in, it is also important to understand that top-down strategy involves more than just management—it needs leadership.

In the implementation of CRM, communication from leadership is needed to help employees understand where CRM fits into the company strategy and direction. Are you a customer-focused organization? Is CRM helping you create “raving fans” of your customers who are addicted to your products and services?

Since leaders help give meaning to employee contributions, they are a key part of the process. Plan to have leaders communicate the CRM strategy at the beginning of the CRM planning phase, during rollout, and during company-wide events and communications. Involve leaders in recognizing individuals and celebrating CRM success.

Ownership and Support

There are two major aspects to ownership and support: business ownership and technical ownership.  Business owners own the business process and the alignment of CRM to the business process. Technology owners support the infrastructure and ensure issues are resolved quickly.

  • Outsourced IT. Unless you have a “jack of all trades” CRM champion who can support the business process and the technology, you may have to form a strong partner relationship with an implementer like PowerObjects to whom you can outsource CRM support.
  • Small Internal IT. Often a champion from the business will own the business process and questions.  If there are multiple teams, the champions from each team may form a committee that owns the business process and the solution. IT may support the users and workstations for technical issues.
  • Large Internal IT. In organizational cultures where IT sees its role as “serving” the business, an IT business analyst may be assigned to the business to manage the users’ business processes and interface with IT to get technical work completed.

Deciding who is responsible for both of these roles within your organization is critical to the successful deployment and ongoing support of the users.  In all cases, escalating difficult business and technical questions to your Microsoft Partner will likely be necessary.

Tip! For more information, read our blog on Who Owns CRM?


You may need a communication plan for updating executive leadership on the status of the CRM implementation, as well as the ongoing success of CRM user adoption.  You will also want a communication plan to end-users during the implementation and as enhancements are rolled out.

Communication should include:

  • Timeline. Include risks to the timeline.
  • Roles and responsibilities. What is expected of them and when?
  • Deliverables. What can they expect to see? Cast a vision.

It is also critical that this is a two-way communication and that the initiating of the implementation involves engaging end-users and leadership around what they hope to get from the system.


Make a plan for how users will access the system and ensure that all roadblocks have been removed to make it quick and easy to access. You do not want to give users any reason to NOT use CRM because it is difficult to access or takes multiple steps.

  • Use of Outlook. Being able to use Microsoft Dynamics 365 right with Outlook is a key success factor for many organizations because it puts CRM in close proximity to the user.
  • Internet Facing Deployment. If you are using Microsoft Dynamics 365 Online, you already have an internet facing deployment (IFD).  But for those who are running CRM on your internal networks, the IFD authentication model allows users to access CRM while out of the office without having to log into the network (such as with VPN or CItirix).  This makes it easier for users to access CRM from anywhere and on any device.  Work with your IT department to determine if IFD is an option and possibility for your users.
  • Mobile Access. Especially if you have users who are on the road visiting customers, you should plan for mobile access to CRM.  There are many mobile options for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. If users must wait until they are back in the office or online to use CRM, this means CRM will be less useful to them, and less data will get entered into CRM.  Mobile access will help promote the dependency on the use of CRM for daily work.

Some organizations have heavy restrictions on IFD and mobile access due to their industry such as those in financial services or healthcare.  It’s important to let users know these options have been restricted due to security.

System Function

Whether starting an implementation or working on user adoption, system function is a critical piece. If users are getting errors while they access CRM or experiencing poor performance, they are less likely to use the system. Poor system function will be an excuse for not using the system—especially for those whose time (and knowledge) is most valuable to the company. Take care of these few areas:

  • Updated Hardware. For those who are using CRM on-premise, work with your IT department on investing in updated hardware. Some organizations will choose to use existing hardware and plan to move CRM to newer hardware in the future. However, you only get one chance to make a first impression on users. If performance is slow, Microsoft Dynamics 365 will develop a bad reputation with users that has nothing to do with the solution. The infrastructure must be in place to support high performance.
  • Testing. Three aspects of testing will ensure errors do not get rolled out to the users. First, always test. Develop a testing cycle for your initial rollout and enhancements.  Second, always test in a production-like environment. Even slight differences can cause errors to go unnoticed until they are deployed in production.  Last, always test with the end-users security roles. A common mistake is testing as the system administrator and end-users do not have access to the feature or get errors.

Data Quality

Creating and maintaining data quality is one of the most difficult aspects of maintaining a CRM database. That is why it is critical for organizations to plan how they will handle data.  Training around reporting and business analytics come in here, but following these tips will also help ensure data quality.

Start with Clean Data

Rather than bringing in problems from existing data sources, start with a clean dataset. Remove out-of-date activities, as well as organizations and contacts that haven’t been touched recently. Depending on your business, the cutoff may between 1 to 3 years. If users are concerned with losing old data, you can always create a repository where old data can be accessed, if needed.

Use Duplicate Detection

Microsoft Dynamics 365’s built-in duplicate detection services allow you to create rules that check for duplicates on the creation of a record. You can also run duplicate detection jobs to find duplicates in the database.  Once found, it is easy to merge duplicates.  Consider assigning regular duplicate checking to someone on the team. Read more about duplicate detection in the data management chapter.

Manage Your Contact Lifecycle

Most organizations have a plan for how contact data will get into CRM, but few make a plan for how data will get out!  Make a plan that addresses these questions:

  • What happens when an individual leaves an organization?
  • What if an organization goes out of business?
  • What happens when a contact dies?
  • What if a contact becomes unresponsive or hostile?
  • What if a lead is not qualified or ready to purchase right now?
  • What if a prospect drops out of the sales process?

All these questions should lead to ways of marking, deactivating or deleting records to keep the data clean.

Consider Data Validation

Data validation is the process of determining whether data is in the proper format, and without it, your data could become unusable. This could be as simple as formatting a phone number with the proper digits so that it can be used on auto-dialers. It may also mean using a service to verify addresses meet postal standards. This is critical if you plan to mail (or bill) contacts in your database. Take a look at each field on your CRM record to determine:

  1. Can a user misuse this field?
  2. What are the consequences of doing so?
  3. Can this be prevented using data validation or forcing a selection, such as with a pick list or lookup?
  4. What are the checks to fix improper data entered?

It is good to periodically check how users are using data and revisit these questions.

Consider Data Verification

Data verification involves ensuring that data is accurate—meaning this email address really belongs to Sally Jones or ABC Company is still at this address. This may be as simple as having the organizations or individuals update their data periodically through a survey. However, lists of prospects and suspects who are not in contact with your organization get outdated very quickly. For organizations investing money in the use of CRM data (whether mailings, emails, or telemarketing), sending data to a data cleansing service may be necessary.

Consider Data Augmentation

Data augmentation services aggregate public information and present it to users in the context of CRM. For example, while looking at a lead or account, I might want to view related press releases, articles, and social media feeds about this organization without having to search for it. Most data augmentation services allow users to download information into CRM, reducing data entry of basic information such as addresses and phone numbers. Often the contact lists provided by data augmentation services are out-of-date, but they may provide some value.

There are two overall themes regarding data quality. First, make a plan. Without a plan for how you will keep data clean, you surely won’t! But also, assign someone responsible for handling data quality.  Unless someone owns this and is accountable for it, it’s just a nice idea!

Process Alignment

One the primary reasons for choosing Microsoft Dynamics CRM is because of its configurable and flexible architecture. CRM provides a tool set to customize screens and processes—not only for your initial implementation but also so you can adjust it over time.  It’s important not to have an implementation mindset where Microsoft Dynamics CRM is designed, rolled out, and done! Rather, organizations should put in place a system for reviewing processes, identifying changes that need to be made, and rolling out enhancements.

Below represents a typical implementation process which has a singular focus: initial deployment.


After deployment, organizations should transition to a cyclical process of evaluating needs and enhancing CRM shown below. For large organizations, this might be a 6 week or quarterly process. For small organizations, this might be an annual evaluation. If you have someone on the team able to make changes quickly, this may also be done very frequently for a more agile approach.


Without this periodic process analysis, CRM will not grow with your organization. After years, you will find users have abandoned functions of CRM that no longer apply to their job roles and processes. Inevitably, users will complain the system is outdated and request a different technology. But process alignment is not a technology problem; it’s an organizational problem.

End-User Motivation

Everyone knows that “If you build it, they will come” is not a good user adoption strategy. Of course, you have to answer the WIIFM (What’s in it for me) for users, detailing the benefits and the wins they will get from using the CRM system. This is a good thing to know BEFORE your start designing your CRM system, but it’s never too late to list and communicate the benefits to users.

Interesting though, there is a misconception that explaining the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 to the end-users will motivate them to use it. This is simply not true, and that is why it is important to explore other motivations users may have. Those might include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Competition
  • Accountability
  • Appreciation from leadership
  • Public Recognition before peers
  • Rewards

In addition to explaining the benefits and wins to users, pick at least 3 of the above motivations, and make a plan for how you can incorporate them into your user adoption strategy.

Training and Reinforcement

When most people think of successful user adoption, they think of training—effective training. And that is a big part of user adoption. Here are some principles you will want to think about and follow as you create and plan for successful training.

  • Provide Role-Based Training. While it’s okay to combine groups of users for training on basic navigation of Dynamics 365, it’s important to split users into separate training for their job role. This ensures the training is process-focused, NOT technology focused.   Understanding how processes will change is more than 50% of the learning during training, and providing process-based training will significantly increase retention.

Tip! Have a business-focused person provide the training — NOT a technical focused person.

  • Train with Real Data. You may already know how the brain works—new information attaches to existing knowledge in the brain.  New information becomes arbitrary if there is no existing knowledge to which the new information can attach.  That is why retention increases significantly when users can learn on a system with data they recognize.  Not only do they understand concepts more quickly, but they also remember them!
  • Reinforce with Tangible Tools. Provide users with additional information they can take with them after they complete training—whether it is a cheat sheet, a list of resources and upcoming training, or a location of a learning repository.  Users need to know they have something to fall back on should they forget some of what is learned.  Also, provide users a list of who they should contact with different types of questions or issues.
  • Provide Ongoing Learning. Your training plan should include more than just the initial training.  Include follow-up reinforcements where the initial training content is repeated in an overview fashion.  Provide one-on-one sessions for users who may need extra help.  Hold Q&A sessions and mini-trainings on advanced topics.  Make a plan to provide ongoing learning on a regular basis.

PowerObjects Can Help with Change Management and User Adoption

Whether deploying Microsoft Dynamics 365 for the first time or rolling out an upgrade, PowerObjects can help you make the best training plan appropriate for your organization.  Check out our change management services, as well as our training offerings.