Design – Develop – Embed.

2016 is going to be a year of change. For those firms who are investing in technology to help them manage clients there is a wider choice than ever. Not just in terms of the underlying CRM platforms now that Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce are competing toe to toe with InterAction, but in applications from 3rd party vendors that can complement the core CRM system. At a recent Professional Services Marketing Group in London, I presented with Gillian Sutherland of Questas Consulting and Claire Rason at Boyes Turner—where we discussed some of the emerging technologies with a group of more than 50 delegates.

It’s not just the technology that’s changing, increasingly firms are looking to use client facing technology for a wider and wider range of programmes. Firms are raising the bar so that they are no longer just looking at systems to manage events and marketing communications. CRM technology is now being deployed to manage:

  • Partner objectives and contribution
  • Key client programmes
  • Client feedback and listening programmes
  • Opportunity management and experience tracking

By focusing on those programmes which will help firms ultimately generate more business, this will put CRM technology centre stage and therefore those working in the deployment of that technology need to have a very clear plan in place to drive user adoption.

I see this as a three stage process with distinct goals and outcomes at each stage.

Stage 1 – Design

The approach that was taken when firms first implemented CRM was more technical than it was focused on the firm’s wider business objectives. Marketing and Business Development drove the implementation but the goals were more focused on efficiency gains in terms of running marketing events and communications. The global recession has definitely led to a re-focus and as a result firms are now thinking more broadly.   The design stage is critical, the point being to think about the firm’s key business goals and most importantly the processes that support these goals.   Very often, when it comes to managing clients, because firms have different systems for different purposes, there is a risk to take a “system” view of CRM and not a “process” view.   For example, how is information captured as part of the new business intake process. At present this spans both the practice management system and the client relationship management system. Taking a system view can lead to duplicates data entry, or wholescale replication of information from one system to another.

Additionally, as new business intake is not seen by many in CRM as being part of the CRM process, a fantastic information gathering process is missed. Firms see it as an administrative process, whereas the design of the CRM process MUST see the process of creating new clients as a critical part of the overall client journey.

The point of the design process is that firms need to think about the core processes that support the firm’s critical business programmes. Very often an easier way to do this is to think about the key questions you’re trying to answer. For example

“Do we have enough value in our pipeline to hit our targets?”

By identifying the specific questions you need to run your business and identifying how CRM technology can help to answer them, then you are much more likely to achieve user adoption.

Stage 2 – Develop

Very often firms who have implemented technology see the end of the design phase, when the system is deployed, as the end of their project.   The best way to think about this is actually that for your users, this is the beginning of their journey, not the end. It is essential that you continue to develop the processes and ensure that the benefit are achieved for the on-going success of the CRM system.

CRM is not like many other technology projects.   Unlike processes such as sales order processing, many firms do business development differently.   Furthermore, within a firm there will be users who do the same things differently. To that end you have to expect that your CRM programme will need to evolve and change.   Processes that you thought were undertaken in a certain way, may end up being different to what you expected. Requirements which were identified as being critical during the design phase, may not actually be as important as you thought.

You should not underestimate the amount of time that you will need to spend with your users. Experience shows that short, sharp bursts of education at their desks, is the best way to train professionals. Whilst you will have focused very much on getting data in to the system during the design phase, during the develop phase you must switch that focus to outputs. Users will expect to get user-friendly reports very quickly from the system as a reward for the effort they invested in getting data in.

Stage 3 – Embed

For a system to become part of the way you do things in your firm, arguably the embed stage is the most important.   The keys to success during this stage are real engagement with leadership so that it becomes mandated that the system is used. Whilst I am much more in favour of the carrot than the stick, it is important that the CRM is not seen as optional. Of course during the develop stage you will have achieved successes and so communication of those so that others want to participate is also key during this stage.

The most important element is that you must have created a set of very clear key performance indicators right at the outset of this journey and now during the embed stage the CRM system must be used as the means for measuring those goals. Professionals respond to competition so many are now finding that gamification of the results can be beneficial, for example publishing league tables.

Whatever it is that you are trying to achieve with your CRM system you must see the implementation of technology in this area as a long term project that must evolve and develop over time, not as a one-off project to acquire a new application. If you see it as a one-off then you become far too reliant on technical functionality and run the risk of the system being another initiative of the IT department.

If you want to learn more about Stanton Allen please visit our Contact Us page on our website, or follow us @stantonallen on twitter or follow our company on LinkedIn.