Point 57 in the ’99 ways to get more out your CRM software’ was:
57. Develop a usage manual – does everyone understand how they should be using the system? Often different people will use it in different ways, and that impacts key outputs such as reports. Creating a usage manual will help define how the system is to be updated and provide the foundation for more consistent usage patterns.
This is a point that probably benefits from a bit of fleshing out.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that the way users use a system can be very inconsistent. In other words six people may be using the system to support the same process but using it six different ways.
However, if we’re to get real value out of CRM, comprehensive, consistent outputs are a must, so this can be a real problem.
Sometimes this happens because the processes weren’t well defined when the system was first implemented, but often it’s simply that over time, as people come and go and training gets forgotten, usage patterns become rather more erratic.
Which is why one of the most important pieces of documentation when implementing the CRM system is the usage manual.
The role of usage manual is to document in detail, in a single location, how an organisation’s unique processes are supported by the system. The usage manual becomes the master set of operating instructions to guide the use of the system. The usage manual is unlikely to be issued users, though training and user documentation may well be derived from it. It is there primarily as a reference point. Critically, the manual should be updated over time as processes, and the system evolve.
The creation of this sort of documentation has a number of benefits:
- It helps validate the design of the system – the mere act of writing down what’s being updated, by whom, how, and when for each process is a very effective way of checking the system is going to hold up in the real world
- It makes the generation of other key documents such as training materials, user manuals, and testing scripts considerably easier
- It becomes a key component of the change control process, helping ensure that the system is developed in a managed way
- But most importantly, it helps ensure that usage patterns remain consistent over time, helping maintain the return on investment over the life of the system, because there’s always a reference point to how things are supposed to operate
While ideally this form of documentation is best produced as part of the initial implementation process, it’s rarely too late to put it in place (hence its inclusion in the 99 ways to improve your existing system piece). And although documentation of this nature is rarely the most entertaining undertaking, and perhaps not terribly in vogue in a world of increasingly agile implementation methodologies, it can however have the very real benefit of helping you get value from your CRM system over the long term.