The Key to Success

“Our CRM strategy isn’t working because…” is how many CIOs surveyed start to sum up after failed CRM projects. According to the 2003 Forrester Report, over 50 percent of all CRM projects initiated worldwide since 2001 failed. 20 percent of these were terminated prematurely. One reason for the negative outcome is a lack of acceptance of new CRM solutions among employees. After all, the deployment of a CRM solution has a considerable impact on the organization, processes, and technologies in a company, and the company’s focus shifts from being performance-oriented to being customer-centered. People react differently to change depending on their position and level of responsibility and their physical and psychological circumstances, and will in many cases be opposed to it. Change management helps to prevent or eliminate resistance. It should begin during the project initialization stage and accompany the CRM deployment until several months after the solution’s live start. This process is overseen by a change manager who is located in the broader project management team or, better still, in the steering team, as this will safeguard his or her freedom of action.
Change management covers all company systems affected by the change, that is, the organization, the processes and the technologies. When introducing CRM, change management enables concrete measures – such as devising demand-driven communication and mobilization – to be derived from the causes and effects of the change.

Analyzing causes

The analysis of the causes leading to change forms the basis of a change management initiative. This is usually triggered by a state of affairs that is no longer practicable, not economical, or unsatisfactory. In the economic context it should be remembered that employees have often contributed to this state of affairs, or they have at least become accustomed to it. For instance, a member of the marketing department who has been outsourcing campaigns for years may have difficulty adapting to new circumstances in which campaigns are to be conducted without external support. The employee needs to understand the causes in order to support the change. A variety of parameters, such as the efficiency, running time, and frequency of processes, need to be collected for a cause analysis.
CRM deployments usually give rise to changes in processes, responsibilities, reporting structures, and working methods, and employees need to be prepared for these. Similarly, system administrators have as much to learn about new applications as do end users. CRM deployments mainly affect the marketing, sales, and service sectors. It especially affects employees in these sectors who see their daily work and personal freedom restricted by the introduction of highly integrated CRM systems and may try to resist the changes.
One goal of change management is to identify disapproving employees and to actively involve those who feel negatively affected by the changes. Any resistance to change is turned into willingness to change and ultimately into acceptance. This is achieved by means of various communication and mobilizing measures that should form an integral part of the project management and should be taken into account in the project planning. These measures include regular meetings, status reports to the departments involved, fairs, project newsletters, internal notices, workshops, and training sessions.

Critically examine project phases

Change management and project procedure model
Change management and project procedure model

The acceptance of a CRM project, and ultimately its success, depend on the change management measures implemented and the procedure model used for the deployment. A suitable model includes the following phases: development of a CRM vision and strategy, process analysis, conception and prototyping, implementation, roll-out, go-live, and post-go-live. A critical examination of the procedure in the individual phases is decisive for the success of a CRM project. For instance, it is not possible to identify all the foreseeable problems and implement corresponding measures before it is clear whether a CRM strategy can be realized or whether employees find their bearings in the CRM system. Further, this procedure creates the basis of risk management, which should also be a component of the project management. With specific relevance to the introduction of mySAP Customer Relationship Management (mySAP CRM), the Mieschke Hofmann und Partner business consultancy team has identified five instruments that create acceptance and are thus crucial factors in a successful CRM project:

  • Commitment of top management to the project
  • Management and mobilization of the staff affected by the change and those involved in the change process (stakeholders)
  • Strong involvement of the departments
  • Integration of the SAP account manager
  • Sensitive management of expectations

Backing by top management

Readiness to accept change can be best achieved if top management is solidly behind the project from the word go right through to the post-go-live phase and preaches the need for change within the company.
The solidarity of those responsible for the project costs in each department (project sponsors) with the project management ensures that the introduction of CRM delivers the highest possible degree of commitment and positive internal marketing. A highly motivated and skilled project manager who knows his or her people, and works closely with the departments involved, recognizes emerging problems and can implement countermeasures at an early stage. The project manager can only play a model role within the project and towards the departments if he or she enjoys the sponsors’ support.

Who is supporting the change and who is obstructing it?

Stakeholder analysis
Stakeholder analysis

In order to implement acceptance-building measures, the project managers must be aware of both the employees’ willingness to change and their resistance to it. To this end, all stakeholders – starting with the employees, departmental managers and management and extending through the software providers and business consultants to the customers and suppliers – should be integrated into the project as early and as long term as possible. Nothing is more counterproductive than “departmental czars” who use their position to try to prevent change. A stakeholder analysis determines the willingness of everyone involved to accept change. Further, the positioning of the stakeholders in a matrix shows who is to support the change and to what extent (change leaders). This is accompanied by a corresponding communication and mobilization concept. The stakeholder analysis thus provides the following information about the stakeholders:

  • Current position and influence on the project
  • Future position in the live CRM operation
  • Measures required to achieve the target position
  • Measurement variables for identifying any points of friction, such as the number of meetings not attended or the number of vetoes that are causing project delays.

A common problem with system deployments is the lack of understanding and acceptance by those departments who do not see an application until the testing and training phases. This can be avoided if the key people are integrated into the change process as early as possible. After all, their daily work means they are best placed to be able to identify company-specific potential and challenges. Further, they are the ones who will work with the solution in the future and thus contribute to the success of the investment.

Target-oriented communication

Integrating the relevant SAP account manager at an early stage and on an ongoing basis supports the project management and integration partners in identifying problem areas quickly and introducing countermeasures. This further helps secure escalation routes and mechanisms for critical project situations. In addition to this, the SAP account manager functions as an interface to the internal SAP departments and thus provides important and relevant information, such as approaches to solutions and trends concerning the corresponding SAP applications.

Checklist for a successful CRM project
Checklist for a successful CRM project

Many CRM deployments fail because their benefits and disadvantages are not expressed clearly enough. A lack of communication can cause departments’ expectations of the performance and make-up of the CRM solution to remain unfulfilled. Using a CRM application in customer-oriented departments, such as sales, can prove to be a particular source of debate, as initially it is often merely seen to be extra work. It is therefore crucial that the cost/benefit relationship is made clear to everyone involved.

Ibrahim Bani
Ibrahim Bani