The Difference is Clear – the case for good systems implementation

systems implementation success

If you have been following this series of blogs then you will already know that “implementation” is a topic that is very dear to my heart.  This is not just because that’s generally how I make a living (although the Lamborghini still isn’t quite on the horizon) but also because I believe passionately that good systems implementation makes a huge difference. And by that I mean the good implementation of a system, not implementation of a good system.  In fact you could and would do better to have a good implementation of a mediocre system than a poor implementation of a good one!!!

All that’s clear as mud I know so let’s clarify!

Makes a difference to what?  To the adoption of the system, to the return on investment that you get from a system, to the bottom line, to the health and strength of the business – need I go on?

What is the point of CRM – what are the drivers which are leading you to consider such a business change?  Because it WILL change the way your business operates, and it may seem hard to start with – because no-one likes change…but babies in diapers – however, the benefits will come to outweigh the initial pain of doing things in a different way.

In previous blogs we looked at some of the reasons for adopting a CRM.  These might be to:

  • Increase sales – by managing the sales pipeline better
  • Decrease costs – by doing things in a more cost-effective manner and getting it right first time
  • Improve customer service
  • Improve marketing intelligence / get more from marketing spend

The point is, you need to decide what business reasons apply and therefore what the benefit to the business will be, and then put a figure on that.  Now you have some idea of what success will look like, and also an appreciation of the sums you are willing to invest in making it happen.

Systems implementation is a process.  It is not simply a matter of flashing your credit card and logging into your shiny new system.  It is not even, supposing you still go down this route, a question of getting your IT guy (or gal) to install software on the server.  It’s more – much more.

It’s the procedure of defining what the new business processes will be – it’s unlikely that you will stick rigidly to the way you did things before.  It’s the data analysis – what data do you already have, albeit probably in an Excel spreadsheet, and what data do you want to collect in the future?  It’s deciding who’s going to do what in the new system.  It’s customising the screens and layouts to make them user-friendly.  It’s deciding what reports and dashboards you need.  It’s linking the CRM to Outlook, or your website, or your accounting system.  It’s training all your staff.

So – not just signing into Salesforce then.

Salesforce (other CRMs are available) can cost you upwards of £100 per user per month.  That’s a lot of cash, 10 users will be costing you perhaps £12,000+ per year.  And yet, I still meet with businesses who basically just use their CRM as a glorified address book.  And they are the good ones.  Many aren’t using it at all but are still paying that amount of money per month.  Madness.

So the question for those businesses would be:

  1. Did you set out the goals clearly before you started?
  2. Did you follow a “proper” systems implementation process?

If the answer to both of those is No then you are probably wasting your money on a CRM.  However all is not lost.  It’s probably not too late to “implement” your CRM successfully – you just need to have the time (and the money if you don’t have the expertise to do it all yourself).

good process systems implementation success

Depending on the system you choose, some will have a methodology which can be followed. Many of the pricier systems cannot be implemented without involving a business partner in some way – but this should be seen as a bonus – as you will end up with a system that works, that works for your business and that everyone in the organisation is able to use.

So what are some of* the key steps for a successful implementation

  1. Requirements document – as previously described, throughout the process focus on the key requirements – don’t be sidetracked into parts of the system that you don’t need (for now). This can be defined as “scope creep” and will potentially increase implementation costs.  A good consultant will highlight if this becomes an issue – and either get you back on track, or indicate what the additional costs might be, should you insist on going forward!
  2. Data – without data there is nothing! In very very rare cases you will be starting from scratch with nothing but it is more likely that you have data already; in another CRM, in an Access database, in an Excel spreadsheet, in your accounts package.  Most, if not all, systems will allow you to export at least your base contact information to Excel/csv, and, again, most systems will permit you to upload those records to your new system.  It’s not quite as simple as that though; how clean is the data, are their fields you don’t need, are there new fields to be added – what about Duplicate Records!?
    If I had a £ for every client who says “just import everything and we will clean up later” I would have – well a lot of ££s.  They are the client, so I will advise, but if that’s what they insist on doing then the records can be imported.  But just so you know – I don’t have very many pounds for the ones who actually did clean up later!!
    You also need to think at this stage about which users will have access to the different fields, and consider picklists / drop-down lists to ensure data integrity.
  3. Design – pretty much every system has a design capability to allow you to decide what fields will appear on the screen and in what order. Take some time to think about this – this can make a huge difference to whether the users like using the system or not.  Please don’t cram as many fields as you can onto the screen – less is more.
    And a word about mandatory fields – consider carefully the use of these, users will either throw their laptops out of the window in frustration at the myriad red flashing fields on the screen, or they will put in rubbish data.  You decide what’s worse!?
  4. Training, training and more training. Yep – the more training the better, but I don’t suggest you stick everyone in the board room and get them trained on every single feature for a week.  They will hate you – and none of it will stick.  Get a training plan together that teaches people what they need to know in manageable chunks.  And preferably don’t try and lock them in that room from 9am to 5pm – again they will hate you (and me if I’m doing the training).  They have day jobs to do – post to open, calls to make, emails to answer, so allow them some time to do that too.  User training will be examined in more depth in the next blog.

training people implementation success

So there you have it – a potted guide to implementation!  When you were choosing your system you should have given some thought to this and budgeted accordingly – in terms of time, if not actual revenue.  It will make all the difference to the success of the project.

*a non-exhaustive list


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