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Change Management: The Often Forgotten CRM Software
Deployment Success Factor

Why does the customer relationship management (CRM) implementation failure rate continue to be so high? Two
words - user resistance. Years of historical data clearly show that the people portion of CRM implementations
has an extraordinary impact in determining project success or failure.

Most CRM software users' fear change and a failure to proactively manage this fear can result in an uphill battle
during the CRM implementation. Below are a few common reasons why users often dislike change during
an CRM software implementation:

  • It will lessen a person's importance
  • It may displace their job
  • It will increase accountability
  • It will require new learning
  • It's unclear; fear of uncertainty
  • It may bring stress
  • It's irritating or annoying
  • Accumulated power may disappear

Many users have a primordial fear of change that is either mitigated or magnified based on the actions and communications of the project leadership. It's important to recognize that many users are not trying to be difficult, they simply have a subconscious fear of change and sending sparse, inconsistent or wrong messages to these users will accelerate their fear and user resistance.

Change management is about introducing change successfully. Too often business changes suffer from strong employee resistance, reduced productivity, dissatisfied employees and unwanted turnover. In many cases these changes produce over budget, delayed or failed projects. Change management is the application of processes, tools and techniques to minimize the resistance to change and to achieve the desired business results, on time and on budget. Any software-as-a-service (SaaS) or on-demand CRM implementation approach should consider and plan for change obstacles and incorporate a formal change management mitigation strategy.

Successful CRM implementation leaders identify and embrace those users who exhibit resistance with a change management program (CMP). Change management processes are strategies and activities that support personal and organizational transitions from the current state to the proposed state.

CRM Software Change Management Implementation Approach

From our years of experience and input from a few community members, we've identified the top 5 change management project success factors:

  1. Overwhelmingly, the greatest contributor to project success has always been effective and strong executive sponsorship. Effective sponsors:
    • Show active and visible support, both privately and professionally
    • Ensure that the change remains a priority
    • Demonstrate their commitment as a role model of change
    • Provide compelling justification for why the change is happening
    • Communicate a clear understanding of the goals and objectives of the change
    • Provide sufficient resources for the team and project to be successful
  2. Use a proven change management methodology. Change management is both an art and a science. Trying to figure it out and implement a successful change management program on the fly is a recipe for failed change management. Both the CRM software vendors and reputable consulting organizations are able to offer proven change management methodologies that can be quickly taught and easily implemented for most organizations. Below is a sample change management methodology we received from Aplicor when performing a CRM implementation for a financial services organization.
  3. Change Management Methodoloogy
  4. Get buy-in from front-line managers and employees. Many CRM participants tell us the weight and importance of supporting comments from peers and managers. Getting a broad and representative group of key users and managers involvement earlier in the project will increase the volume of support from these members.
  5. Continuous and targeted communication. Clear, frequent and progressive communication is a key factor to change management effectiveness. Targeted communications should be unambiguous, understandable, directed to specific stakeholder recipient groups and delivered through multiple channels. Planning must ensure that the right message is getting to the right recipient at the right time.
  6. Planned Obstacle Response. Inexperienced project leaders generally fail to identify the early signals of user resistance or choose to dismiss them as an human resource (HR) issue. This disregard will most likely expand the resistance to additional users and fuel the problem. Veteran project managers and experienced CRM software implementers assume every implementation engagement is going to incur some employee resistance - and there by stand ready with a specific plan and prepared systematic approach for the identification and remediation of the affected users at the earliest opportunity.

It's important to understand that for an organization to succeed at operational and organizational change, the team must share a common vision and articulate a clear destination. Successful change management turns those affected into motivated creators and effects change in the minds of the employees. It is about creating conditions for the organization and employees so that they can take responsibility for shaping their own future. The contributing factors to achieve successful change management include planning, clear and frequent communication, prepared obstacle remediation techniques, the solicitation of key users to broadcast success messages and incentives. Successful and stable anchoring of a change management process will lay the foundation for a continual transition into becoming a Learning Organization. A Learning Organization is capable of shaping itself actively through constant improvements.