On CRM user adoption
I was asked to help a software company brainstorm how they could get more value from their system. They had clearly spent a lot of money on it. They had a full time administrator, the software ran on a bank of perfectly maintained servers, and they were a prominent reference site for the vendor whose software they used. After a few minutes looking at their system it was apparent they had a problem though. No one was actually using it. To be precise out of a sales force of 120 only 7 staff members had even accessed the system in the previous month.
In reality user adoption is not that complex an issue to address, but like many aspects of the CRM world it’s considered to be a technical issue. So as each new CRM software product is released, the vendor, correctly identifying user adoption as a key point of failure, announces another breakthrough in ease of use capabilities that will supposedly banish this ill forever.
Putting aside my belief that actually there has been very little change in the usability of CRM software in the last 10 years, ease of use is only one piece in the user adoption puzzle, and it doesn’t matter how easy to use you make software, it doesn’t mean it will be used. The following are the bits that I believe make up the bigger picture:
What’s in it for me – while it’s important that the CRM system will create benefits for the overall organisation, it’s critical that it also provides benefits to the individual users in terms of making their lives easier, or helping them work more effectively.
Don’t compromise on ease of use – sometimes when you are developing a system there’s a decision point between spending a bit more to make things more ergonomic or intuitive for the user, these investments generally pay big dividends in improving uptake and usage.
Resource up – user adoption activities, as perhaps is becoming clear, can be time consuming. Make sure you have the people in place, whether they are internal or external, to ensure that you can get through this phase of the project.
Middle management is key – in many cases the senior executive team will buy into a CRM project, but this buy-in doesn’t extend to the middle management tier. Nothing will kill the system off quicker than a user’s manager intimating that use of the CRM system is optional. Effort should be focused on ensuring that all levels of the management team are driving the use of the system.
Monitor – there should be someone whose role it is to carefully monitor usage. If users are not following the agreed processes then that needs to be logged and addressed. This is a key function, so make sure the chosen staff, are capable, motivated, and have the time available to do the job properly.
Accept it takes time – user adoption won’t happen overnight, it will take months, maybe years. Get it right and it will be worth it, but accept this is a long term activity.
Burn the boats – when the Spanish Conquistador Cortez landed in
Reports – are a key way for users to determine if processes are being followed. If they’re not, then you will quickly know it because there won’t get any usable management information. Strangely though reports are often a belated afterthought encouraged by vendors who
point to the standard reports that ship with the software or wizzy report generators. In reality, since reports need to track your individual business processes, they often require fair amount of customisation and development, so make sure that this is factored into to your development schedule so they are ready to support the user adoption process.