So in this the last in the brief series of blogs about making CRM successful in professional services firms I’m going to talk about something that often is underestimated, the amount of time and effort required for communicating with your users.

Unlike other systems, CRM is not one of those that users absolutely have to use, or for which there are standardised ways of working.  For example processing invoices is fairly straightforward and is a completely linear process.  You start off with a stack of invoices in your in-tray and at the end of the process you have the same number of invoices in your out-tray.

So we need to promote CRM through encouragement and communication, we can’t force people to use it or use it in a consistent manner.  There are certainly techniques we can use, such as tying expense claims to activities, but that won’t, on it’s own, make the system a success.

All that being said, the number one reason why CRM initiatives fail within any organisation, not just professional services, is lack of explicit senior management support.

It is not enough to send out emails from the managing partner expressing commitment, it is essential for the entire board to “walk the talk” and become the most vocal advocates of CRM.   Therefore you need to raise the profile of the reports you produce to board level.

This means that your need to focus on delivering value for a programme that has already got wide acceptance at a senior level.  This is another reason why presenting CRM as the tool to support the key client programme is a good idea.

Most firms are implementing key client programmes so positioning CRM as the tool that supports that programme as opposed to being a programme in its own right it much more likely to get support from senior management.

I once believed that the most important factor to making CRM successful was the data.  I don’t believe that any more.

That’s not to say that I don’t think data is important, of course it is.

However it is sad to report that most firms massively under invest on training and communication, more so than on data.

To be fair this is partly the fault of the software vendors who, in order to make the professional services fees for implementing the system lower, sell “Train the Trainer” training instead of real training.  There is no substitute for spending 1:1 time with fee earners and their secretaries at their desks.

Whilst this might seem like a huge investment in resources, ask yourself the question, if we’re proposing to spend several hundreds of thousands of pounds on investing in CRM, then surely it’s worth spending the time telling people about it, and showing them what it can do for them.

Hopefully this short article has identified some things that you might focus on.

If you’re about to embark on a project to implement CRM for the first time, or to re-invent or re-launch your existing CRM, you might want to remember the following:

  • Get the buy in from senior management.   The Board must be totally committed.  They should be presented as the strongest users of the system in terms of sharing their contacts and creating activities.

  • Be clear about the CRM vision and make sure you communicate it (over and over again).  Selling CRM is exactly that – a sales campaign.  Think of your users as your customers and work out the specific strategy for each group.

  • Don’t think too much about the “tin”.  CRM is not about the technology.  Don’t worry too much about the kit, most systems will do most of the things you want them to do.  It’s the softer issues around culture, management, training and communication that will determine whether your CRM system is successful or not.

  • Think about the outputs.  Sell the system to stakeholders based on how it will tell them something useful and interesting that they can’t find out anywhere else.

  • Get the data right. When it comes to data less is definitely more!  If a piece of information doesn’t add any value then don’t hold it in the CRM system.

Good luck!