CRM – Yesterday’s Hero?

CRM – Fashion Fad or Game Changer?

By Paul Field – CEO @ Improved Apps

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We can track the passage of the years by the fashions that are being worn. In my case that starts in the swinging ‘60s with mini’s (not the car) and bell-bottoms, through midis into maxis (still not the car) and hot pants of the early ‘70s, through platforms, 2-tone, tank-tops and Laura Ashley into the punk styles of the late ‘70s. Remember the power-dressing, Levi 501s and big-hair of the ‘80s, giving way to the puffer jackets, designer trainers and baggy trousers of the ‘90s? The noughties and ‘10s have delivered their own waves of new (and re-worked styles) and we will no doubt continue to follow style after style in the future. Change is a constant so perhaps the more interesting question is ‘why do fashions change?’.

 

There a number of key drivers that mean fashions continue to change:

  • Distraction: we humans get bored easily – today’s “new thing” quickly becomes old and we want something new to divert us.

  • Technical: developments in materials and techniques make it possible to do something that couldn’t be done before.

  • Innovation: People want to look better or different from their neighbour.

  • Commercial: If fashions did not change we would only buy new clothes when the old ones wore out….retailers want to make sure that doesn’t happen!

 

The IT industry has a surprising amount in common with the rag trade industry. The pace of change over the last 60 years has been dramatic and is still accelerating. I am sure we all like to think that whatever we do is going to make a big difference, and that we always have sound business reasons for whatever we do, but it is clear:

  • Software is amazingly ‘faddy’, as are the latest business hot topics that applications tend to follow. Today’s Artificial Intelligence is tomorrow’s reverse auctions application…

  • Technical: the power of computers, the ways in which systems can be deployed and the way software looks and operates constantly change as users become more demanding and there’s an ability to do more.

  • Innovation: It’s all about competitive advantage – standing out from your peers puts you ahead of them – if you can be faster, slicker, smarter, better looking than the opposition you will stay ahead of the game.

  • Commercial: Even if the above were not true, the industry would invent something that would induce businesses to buy something again in a different form.

 

Some business analysts are asking “what happened to CRM”? – “why didn’t it deliver”? and consigning it to the dump that already contains BPO, TQM, SRM, MBO and a host of other TLA (three letter acronym) business initiatives. Some of these have most definitely gone out of style, some failed to deliver. The lack of delivery has not necessarily been representative of a flaw in the ideas however. One fad is replaced by another as executives move from one hot topic to another, styles and circumstances change and it is much more exciting to talk about new ideas than to actually deliver on them. Most software works and, more or less, does what it says on the tin. It is no coincidence that companies that fail to implement one piece of software, fail just as spectacularly with its replacement. Implementations that don’t deliver, owe more to the ways in which they have been implemented than the software itself. Thankfully, disasters are actually quite rare: What is much more common is a sense of disappointment that the promises just didn’t materialise…the software basically functions but hasn’t brought the expected leap in benefits.

The most common reasons for this lack of achievement are:

  • All of the low-hanging fruit was plucked: A few quick wins are a great start but there must be more than that to create success.

  • Something else more interesting came along: The next ‘shiny thing’ grabbed attention – exec focus moved on and everybody relaxed….

  • None of the measures that supported the business case were ever followed up: You cannot improve what you don’t measure!

  • User adoption rates were poor due to a lack of training or insufficient on-going support – this is the biggest problem for projects – what is the point of buying a Rolls-Royce if you can’t drive?

  • It is very easy to buy a notebook but much harder to fill it with everything you know: An application that does not contain the know-how and knowledge of the enterprise and make it available to users is just an empty shell or a rusty tool.

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Just talking about CRM without even implementing seemed to have a positive placebo effect in the early days. That was because businesses were thinking about and therefore focussed on – their customers. However, once you get past the point of discussion and even initial implementation, it is down to hard work and diligence from then on. A bad workman blames his tools so poor implementations must be the fault of the software?

Software is just a tool – it needs to be used properly and maintained well. In order for any tool to be used properly then:

  • Everybody who uses that tool MUST be proficient in its use.

  • When changes are made to the tool everybody needs to be informed and educated.

  • If the environment in which the tool is used changes – educate and inform the users.

  • Show users how the tool can improve their work (luddites still exist).

  • Explain the benefits to the business of everyone working as intended with the tool and the consequences of misuse.

  • Don’t expect operators to remember everything – make it simple for them to get to the relevant information for specific situations.

  • Find out what users need to know to do their jobs better and act on it!

  • Look out for ways of working that are successful and those that aren’t – make sure the successful behaviours are copied and the unsuccessful avoided.

 

Thanks to Health and Safety initiatives, we would not let a worker loose on a fork-lift truck without extensive and regularly refreshed training and continual monitoring and testing, so why on earth would we not apply equal care and attention to users of our enterprise applications?

It is so blindingly obvious that it’s important to know about your customers and prospects; that it is vital to look after them and to be in control of your sales cycles, that it almost isn’t worth mentioning! Those who say that CRM is dead would seem to be arguing the opposite?

Improved Apps have solutions that ensure that you get the most out of your business tools and their users. Success with CRM is not magical; continued training and maintenance is required to ensure success and to truly see the benefits that CRM originally promised and can still deliver today. The question “is CRM yesterday’s hero?” has it all wrong: Software is rarely hero or villain but the people who implement it can be either! Work with Improved Apps and we can all be heroes.

 

Paul Field – CEO @ Improved Apps