Is user adoption the greatest challenge in CRM?

CRM can make your business work smarter. As part of our campaign on Smarter CRM, our Sage SalesLogix team have taken over our Sage Blog for one week. Sage SalesLogix is CRM without compromise. Supporting the way you do business providing you with a complete view of all your prospect and customer interactions across marketing, sales, customer service and support.

User adoption is often described as the greatest challenge in CRM. But should we accept this comment at face value? Or are there other challenges to successful CRM? User Adoption in CRM

Who said what?

Probably the earliest reference to the challenges of building user adoption came in a Gartner report released at the end of the 1990s. It stated that 85% of CRM systems failed to deliver their anticipated benefits. Gartner suggested that the primary reason for these failures was poor user adoption.

Call me cynical, but Gartner makes a significant part of its profits from relationships with software developers. Is there a chance that it has an incentive to find reasons other than the software?

An interesting counterpoint was delivered in Paul Greenberg’s book “CRM at the speed of light”. The first edition reviewed the then current state of the CRM software marketplace, and suggested that some of the software vendors might not be blameless after all…

Greenberg’s focus was on product functionality; what makes a software package successful and what makes the users  diligently update the system with useful customer and prospect data *.

These days it is clear that many of the current participants in the CRM software marketplace learnt the lessons of the past. Their software is designed to deliver product functions and features that users want and need. Whilst software is still bought by an organisation’s management and directors, its functionality is increasingly decided by the users.

Is user adoption an issue?

If what we deliver to the user is; “fit for purpose”, works the way they do, is available from anywhere on any device – is there any reason for not using it?

It’s a valid question but it misses an important point.

Which of the system features can your users live without? If their list of requirements can be met elsewhere, what does the CRM system deliver in terms of value to them?  A more constructive approach is to learn from the tools they actually choose to use.

Outlook CRM screenshot

Outlook integration

Recent implementations we have completed for clients have leveraged features found in the tools that users chose. From the simplicity of grids which rely on the user touching areas of  a touchscreen to interact with their data, to the development of Outlook toolbars that seamlessly deliver CRM data to the user. What these and other developments have in common is a pragmatic approach to meeting the users’ needs. Rather than force the user to embrace a single user interface – they interact with their data through their interface of choice.

The Company Worth Grid – a Collier Pickard application for SalesLogix

Developments like this are rarely provided by software vendors. Most often they are the added value provided by business partners and implementation partners. They are often unique to a client or even a group of users. Where software vendors can help is providing a stable open platform with plenty of development tools. CRM worth grid

If the functionality of applications has historically determined the success of CRM software and user adoption, then the future is about the richness of the development environment. CRM theory talks about “mass personalisation” and “markets of 1”. Future CRM vendors must support small fast developments for individual users.

The challenge is to make these developments available at a price  that encourages such customisation. Furthermore, it needs to extend beyond existing configuration tools to allow for developments outside of the core application. (If you are not sure what this means in practice, have a look at the Sage Sdata web site).

With the right platform and the right tools, user adoption should not be an issue. Unless, of course, your data is so bad that no one trusts it… but that is a whole new topic.

* By the way – the software package Greenberg name checked was ACT! He believed that by copying its user interface the team at SalesLogix had the potential to unseat the then market leader Siebel.

Our guest blogger is CRM expert, Paul Pitman, a Solutions Architect at independent CRM consultancy firm Collier Pickard.