The last six weeks or so have reinforced just how important it is to be on the front-line when a CRM system is rolled out. We’re in the process of going live on an initial deployment to a few hundred users spread across multiple locations, and sitting through training and go live has been particularly insightful.
There’s a lot that can and should be done to minimise the unexpected when you give live. Effective requirements definition, extensive user involvement, agile development, well written and managed user acceptance testing programmes, and well run pilot deployments, will go a long way to ensure that a design stands up in the real world. Nonetheless, no matter how thorough these activities may be, one thing you can be absolutely sure of is that users will surprise you with previously undiscovered bugs, usability problems, misunderstood processes, missing and incorrect data and various other assorted gremlins and omissions.
The interesting thing is that while users will spot a fair proportion of them (and some users have a great talent for this), quite a number were things that I spotted myself, watching people use the system as part of their day to day jobs. Had I not been there, then my best guess is that some proportion would remain undiscovered, passed over by users as just one of those irritating things that you just lived with. It’s perhaps only when you understand how something was meant to be, that flaws become apparent.
So, while it’s important to quickly act on issues when you roll out a system, it’s also critical to have the right eyes in place to spot them. Users are good source, but they shouldn’t be the only source.