It doesn’t matter how successful you may have been in selecting the right CRM technology for your organisation and customising it to fit your specific needs, if you can’t get people to use it in a consistent and structured way, then it’s not going to generate much value.

Despite the progress that’s been made with the CRM software itself, with powerful, flexible, low-cost options available to all, user adoption has remained a challenge that defeats many implementers of CRM technology.

There are a lot of factors that impact if and when technology gets successfully adopted, but I want to highlight what I consider to be two key foundations:

Document how you want people to use the systemI’ve written about the role and importance of the usage manual in a previous post, but in essence you need to be crystal clear as to what you are looking to achieve with the system, and exactly how the system will support the business processes that will meet those objectives.

For example, let’s say you wanted to use the system to manage leads more effectively through the sales cycle, with the objective of increasing lead to sale conversion rates, then you need to define exactly what is happening in the system at each step in the process from initially logging the lead through to it being closed as won or lost. Without that clarity, you’ll quickly find each user manages the process differently, based on what feels right to them, but as a result usage is inconsistent, and the outputs and objectives won’t be achieved.

Monitor usage proactively – if we know how people are meant to be using the system, then it’s pretty straightforward to monitor if they are. Too often though support is provided only to those that request it. Unfortunately users who aren’t using the system, or are using it incorrectly, are unlikely to be asking for help. Hence the emphasis on proactive, rather than reactive.

Monitoring usage patterns is important at all times in a system’s life, but is absolutely essential in the go-live phase. No matter how good your initial training, the reality is that often only a small proportion will use it the way it was intended – initially at least.

The monitoring function needs to check for each user and each process area that the processes, as documented in the usage manual, are being followed. If they’re not, the appropriate action needs to be taken, generally in the form of additional training, help, encouragement, support, cajoling etc.

While reports and dashboards can be valuable in helping the monitoring function, having a real live human being look at the data is essential. This can be significantly demanding on resources, and,as I mentioned in my post on project phasing, should influence how the system is rolled out.

Demanding or not, it needs to happen, otherwise you will struggle to get the consistent usage patterns necessary for a successful system. Once these are established this can be scaled back, but don’t underestimate how long it can take for this to happen. Change takes time.

As I noted earlier in the post, there are lot more dimensions to user adoption than I’ve covered here, but if you can these two things right, then it becomes a much more manageable challenge.

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