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The CRM Reality Distortion Field

David Taber | Nov. 29, 2010
You bought one thing when you made your CRM decision. You took delivery of something different when you deployed your CRM system. There's a pattern here.

The second source of delusion is the collection of beliefs about what users (and executives) will do. In the heat of a sales cycle, there are suppositions about how often something will be needed, or how much time someone will be willing to spend on a common task. This leads to overestimating the importance of some items, and underestimating the cost of (or resistance to) some activities or processes. In some cases, change management is simply assumed away. This leads to bad politics on top of confused priorities.

There is nothing with more leverage than vetting requirements, identifying the ones that can be left until later (especially if "later" slips into "never").

The solution here is to get some reality into the picture. Have an outsider do confidential interviews of users and executives to find out where the hot buttons and booby-traps are. This is best done individually, in private (not in the group-think of focus groups), with questions designed to discover unrealistic assumptions. Here are some things to watch for:

• Will a given report or dashboard actually change a business decision?

• If the report were working but was based on three percent bad data, would it be useless? What about 8 percent bad data?

• How much of her own time would an executive be willing to spend each week to get some feature or analysis? If she's not willing to do it, who else can?

• How much housekeeping by users is really required for good system operation? Gauge the number of minutes per day that users will spend on administrivia. It better be about zero. (In one recent customer engagement, a CRM system was generating thousands of internal administrative tickets a month before the system was used by 20 percent of the employees. Yikes!)

The Large Print Giveth, and the Small Print Taketh Away
Taking my wisdom from Tom Waits: When you choose a CRM system, you don't know about all its "small print" issues. You also don't know how the users will adopt the system, or where they'll perceive value.

So it really pays to do some introspection on the "soft issues" surrounding the CRM direction, because they'll be the basis for several hard realities a year or so later.

David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book, " Secrets of Success" and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems.


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