Saturday, March 15, 2008

To all you CRM Developers out there....

I know "The CRM Dilemma" blog has a following from the Developer community. I would like to ask a favor of you. Please send a link to the page that has my basic research paper to some sales reps in your company. Here is the link:

I have gotten a lot of great feedback from the development community but I am lacking in feedback from the sales community.
Everything I have heard says that CRM sales reps don't use CRM to record their activities, any more than non-CRM sales rep do. I would very much appreciate hearing from more sales reps and sales managers. I am hoping I can rely on my readers to forward this link around. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Testing my PACT Solution

Unemployed no longer! I am in the process of joining a business consulting firm, and I am very excited about the possibilities. I received a call today from a company that is considering implementing CRM. They would like me to work with them to determine the viability of implementing a CRM solution for their company. This will be interesting for three reasons:
  • They don't yet know that I have authored "The CRM Dilemma"
  • Because I do not rely 100% of my income on CRM consulting, I can share my research with them, without concern about losing my livelihood if they choose not to implement CRM.
  • If they choose to go ahead and implement my PACT solution, it will be the perfect opportunity to test "True" user adoption when activity controls are removed from the equation.

I know that not everyone agrees with my conclusions on "The CRM Dilemma." Testing my hypothesis will give me the opportunity to build a case study on PACT versus CRM. The framework in the CRM application chosen (Assuming they go ahead) will be the same, but how the application is used will be entirely different from traditional CRM with activity controls.

Since understanding the customer is what most customers are really looking for, I have little doubt that my client will explore the opportunities in my PACT solution. As always, I will continue to honestly update this blog with my progress. If they choose to not implement CRM, or use another more "Compliant" CRM consultant, I will post that as well. I am not determined to be "Right" about "The CRM Dilemma," in fact, I wish I was wrong. But I think history has shown us that sales reps will work very hard to defeat CRM. If we can create a successful solution that will be used and accepted, simply by removing that which causes the greatest fear, why not give it a try?

If my PACT solution can provide the planning and communication tools that sales reps are looking for, not dreading, this company will have far greater quality information than can be found in most CRM applications today.

Wish me luck! Thank you for your continued interest in this blog. As always, I welcome your comments and emails.

Best Regards

Arne Huse

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.

Sorry, but your CRM implementation is DOOMED!

"It is a rare dog that will carry the stick with which it is to be beaten." - Douglas Hartle

I was offered a very lucrative position as an independent CRM Consultant. I was told that my skills in dealing with the business side of CRM, are very valuable and sought after. I would work on behalf of CRM partners and manage the CRM implementation, as I had in my last corporate position.

BUT, there was a catch to this position. If the client asked for activity controls to be a part of CRM, I would have to keep my mouth shut about "The CRM Dilemma." I could "Suggest" they may want to reconsider activity controls, but I couldn't screw up the deal by telling them "Your CRM implementation is going to fail if you go ahead with activity controls."

But this would be the truth! Unless you are in a regulated industry, (Finance, law, medicine) where licenses are taken away for not recording customer interactions, CRM will fail if sales reps aren't using it. And sales reps will not use CRM if they are required to record their activities.

Since I am unemployed, I considered taking the position and relying on my persuasive nature to convince clients not to use activity controls. But I had to turn the position down, because everyone that is implementing CRM, wants activity controls. Activity controls are a natural extension of the capabilities of CRM. Why would you not want or expect sales reps to enter their activities into CRM? Until I discovered "The CRM Dilemma," I felt exactly the same way, and I am a sales rep!

Unfortunately, "The CRM Dilemma" is very real, yet unspoken, in all CRM implementations. CRM will fail if activity controls are part of the implementation. I hate this reality. It screwed up my career after I had discovered an area that I loved and was very successful at. I single handedly convinced my previous employer to implement CRM across North America. They spent a vast sum of money, the infrastructure is in place, the pilot markets are psyched, then I went and told them it wasn't going to work. Thanks allot Arne!!

So I remain unemployed and continue to crusade to finally bring success, to what we can actually achieve, not what we want to achieve.
  • To focus sales reps on planning their activities
  • Providing sales reps with all the information they require before a sales call
  • To enable sales reps to easily communicate "High Card" activities and information, after the sales call, that is attached to the Customer Record.
  • To encourage sales reps to record customer feedback by including them in access to cumulative feedback reports.
  • To provide a "Safe" process for sales reps, so they feel free to use the tools provided, without the need to defeat CRM due to fear of activity controls