Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The mystery of MY "CRM Dilemma"

Brad Wilson, the General Manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, was interviewed for the CRM Buyer Magazine.

In this article, he said two very interesting things on the subject of user adoption.

"CRM went through a period where there were a lot of inflated expectations that were not met," Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, told CRM Buyer. "The biggest problem for a lot of people was that the technology wasn't well suited for the people who were using it."

"User adoption has been the biggest problem in CRM for the last 10 years," Wilson concluded.

What I find very interesting about these comments, is it seems like he is saying that technology has been responsible for poor user adoption.

Having been using CRM in various forms as a sales rep for many years, I don't think the user experience has changed that much but for a few notable exceptions:
  • CRM is generally faster in opening, navigation, and saving information
  • Better Outlook integration with CRM
  • Better field customizations

But all this needs to be kept in perspective. Back in the the early 90's, I was using Maximizer on my 486 laptop. It was slow and crashed sometimes, but it did integrate with Outlook. I think I had five custom fields at the time. But I have to say I LOVED Maximizer because it was brilliant for managing my customer contacts. This was back when it just took longer to do things with a computer. I was willing to wait and put up with crashes because it was such a great tool.

But when my boss asked me to print out my activities, I would say it took too long and the system was too slow. I continued to love and use Maximizer and he never did get thos reports.

Then I upgraded to ACT and I loved it even more because I could go mobile on my Palm Pilot with all my customer information. It was faster, crashed less often than Max, and integrated with Outlook even better.

But when my boss asked me to set it up, so my system would email my activities to him...Well, let's just say that never happened. I think I must have had good excuses and I was the top salesman. Besides, I was the only rep using such a system.

While I was a sales rep, I was also leading the Canadian implementation of MS CRM for our company. I started using MS CRM in my territory so I could demonstrate the value of using CRM to my fellow reps.

The original 1.2 version of MS CRM was a lot slower than my ACT was. Outlook Client was a nightmare to say the very least. I had Ten Digits on my Blackberry which worked well and offered real time access, so I used that quite a bit.

Remember, I was a sales rep that was leading the CRM initiative. I am seeing much of what I did back then, through the lens of "The CRM Dilemma." I found more and more that I wasn't using CRM as much as I had used ACT to manage my customers. I had created tick-boxes and drop-downs in CRM that I didn't like using as a sales rep. I told myself it was because the system was slow and not as intuitive as ACT. When I looked back at the notes and activities I recorded in CRM, I realized I had turned into a sales rep that was reluctant to use CRM. But it really was slower than the MS CRM of today and the Outlook integration really sucked as well. In hindsight, I believe I had fallen into the trap of "The CRM Dilemma." By the time we upgraded to 3.0, I was leading the North American implementation full time so I didn't get to test my theory.

In Maximizer and ACT, I used to record only what was important to me and my customers. I required no "Low Card" reporting from myself. I would never be held accountable for my entries so I had no fear of what I put into my system. As soon as someone asked me for the information, I had a list of excuses why I could not provide the information on my activities.

While the user interface has improved in most CRM applications, how "Fast and easy" does it have to be before sales reps will use it to record their activities? If my theory on "The CRM Dilemma" is wrong, sales reps will be willing to use the newer, faster, more intuitive CRM applications on the market today. I believe adoption of CRM by sales reps will continue to be dismal, unless the issue of activity controls is addressed. I have a theory that even if CRM was a "magical application" that merely required a rep to "Think" what he or she wanted to put into CRM, it still wouldn't have the adoption it deserves.


Robert Palmer said...

We are lucky that today there is a powerful crm outlook integration solution on the market provided by InvisibleCRM! They did a great job by bringing CRM functionality to Microsoft Outlook environment. It is fast and robust, works offline and automates email tracking to CRM, which saves a great deal of time for our sales team!

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Anonymous said...

I am finding that since Salesforce has found such success, all CRM vendors including Maximizer are trying to switch to a monthly/annual fee model. This is great for the vendor but not always the best pricing model for the customer.

Maximizer, for example, used to be $199 per license. If you added more users you would buy more licenses. Now they want $650 per year *plus* some mandatory annual maintenance fee for what purpose it serves I don't know.

Everyone wants to push you onto their cloud solution - so they host your customer data and if you stop paying you lose it.

I find it abhorrent that Maximizer is pushing their software as a service model so hard that they wont even allow you to add licenses to existing installations that you already have without switching to this model.

To be honest I think Maximizer is killing their own company.