Choosing a CRM is easier than choosing a TV…..

or maybe it should follow just the same set of thought processes. It certainly should not be overly onerous. This blog suggests why….

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I blame it on “Game Of Thrones”. If it wasn’t for the fervour created in our household by the imminent arrival of the latest instalment of the annoyingly addictive GoT, I may not have found myself in the HiFi store in the first place. I mean, we do have a “spare” TV and it’s not as if we watch a lot of TV. But she who must be obeyed (my wife, not the Mother of Dragons) insisted on us having to replace the TV in time for Jon Snows latest escapades.

So there I was in JB Hifi surrounded by wall upon wall of TV’s showing the same identical Disney movie, hearing the same soundtrack in a barrage of echoes, thinking this “should” be easy. I mean, we just need a TV. I have helped procure and, turning gamekeeper into poacher, sell complex enterprise CRM systems. These systems can cost thousands, if not millions of dollars in terms of software, services and support. It can take months to go through an evaluation and procurement exercise so surely buying a TV cannot be that hard, can it?

However, very soon I was being pummelled by an enthusiastic young “Audio Specialist” asking seemingly stupid questions such as “What do you use your TV for?”. I felt like saying “doing the washing up” but before I had chance, he bombarded me with a plethora of use cases “downloading films, watching YouTube, gaming etc”. Whilst I was scratching my head thinking, he was telling me about features such as HD, UHD, SUHD in fact any other acronym with HD would have seen me thinking he being sarcastic. There is 3D, Curved, Super size (more like a cinema screen), 4Hz and the mesmerising list goes on. The result was that I got to thinking about how people choose a CRM and that perhaps it can get over complicated in a similar way.

First and foremost, there is a budget for everything. I did not want to spend $7000 on a TV so the one that made an IMAX theatre look conservative was never going to be an option.

Secondly, there was my needs. What did I need it for? All CRM’s do the basics but the nuances come in whether you are looking for a Sales, Service or Marketing oriented system. Of course, you will need a decent set of functional and technical (non functional) requirements but to me it is pointless saying that a CRM must be able to add an email address to a Contact. That’s like asking whether a TV has an on/off button.

Then there was the “look” to consider. Believe it or not, the TV’s were not all identical! Similarly, the look and feel of a CRM must be intuitive and user friendly. This “User Experience” has become an increasingly important factor in choosing CRM software due to the lowering of training costs and the need for users to adopt the system, which is far more likely if they find it easy to use.

Once I had gone through this thought process, I had quickly narrowed down my choice to two TV’s. Now to seal the deal, I needed to differentiate based on things like Warranty, Installation and Availability. These will also come into play when selecting a CRM Implementation partner, although availability in IT terms means something different than “is it in stock”. Focus on a partner with proven expertise in the selected technology. You would not take a Mercedes to a Ford garage would you?

So when I got to thinking about it, I wondered whether sometimes people over complicate the buying process. Organisations can “try before they buy” with “Proof Of Concept” and Pilot implementations commonplace. In today’s Agile world, projects often commence on the basis that the end destination is not clearly defined, reserving the right to change direction and innovate as the project evolves.

Choosing a CRM should be pretty simple. Be clear about what your desired outcomes and user expectations are, what your budget is (don’t forget, its all about the TCO- Total Cost of Ownership) whilst considering the broader picture (refer to my previous article suggesting that the choice of CRM is not the single biggest success factor).

Although I have always been technology agnostic, I have recently become very excited by the development of Microsofts Dynamics CRM. It has evolved immeasurably over the last few years and the latest release, Dynamics365 is very good indeed. It will not be for every organisation just as my choice of a TV will not be the brand that you may have chosen. However, I do believe that Dynamics should be on most organisations shortlist not just because of the breadth of capability but simply because it just works with all of the other Microsoft software seamlessly. It is that ease of use that makes it a formidable solution and why, these days, I now work for an organisation that specialises in Dynamics365.

Why I have changed my view on CRM technology

For years, I have been preaching to anyone that will listen that the strategy must come before the software. People + Processes + Technology. I have used examples such as buying a car to explain my argument.

Most people would not go out and buy the car that looks best. They would first of all decide what they need a car for. They might then decide on a few criteria to narrow the search depending upon their own needs. safety, Speed, Economy, Luggage capacity, Auto, Price etc. Once this “strategy” had been reached, the search for a car could begin.

I have always believed that CRM software should underpin the business strategy and facilitate providing benefits to the organisation and its clients. However, maybe I was wrong?

Technology is now at a stage where it is providing features and capabilities that can INFORM a Strategy. In other words, a business strategy could be built around a CRM tool. Having seen some of the latest tools and capabilities from the likes of Salesforce, Sugar, Oracle, Kana etc, I am increasingly convinced that for many organisations thinking about CRM, the software could give them market leading strategies and game changing capability. There are capabilities that many companies would not have thought of which might create huge value. In the past, industry processes led the design for software. Now it seems that software design is opening new doors for business processes. Just look at how Social Media has “forced” organisations to change its internal and external processes. Does your organisation have a Social Media strategy? If so, I bet it has only been developed in the last two years.

I can imagine young or smaller enterprises could benefit from this wave of new capability. App Exchanges and Open Source platforms are driving a wealth of rich, new CRM capability that is beyond the imagination of most companies.

With immature processes and potentially tight budgets, a software led strategy can help enforce new processes (that could be leading practice for that industry) and can help cement in customer centric processes.

However, I still believe that larger organisations will need to develop strategies first and then find software that can support and extend those strategies. It will be interesting to see how the SaaS model affects uniformity and adherence to standardised processes and whether we do start to see software led customer centric transformations.

I would be very keen to hear any thoughts or experiences on this topic.

The Bermuda Triangle of CRM

Many Projects and Programs disappear into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen or heard of again. By understanding the relationship between Time, Cost and Quality, you can set a course through the triangle and avoid making fatal compromises.

Are you brave enough to enter The Bermuda Triangle?

The journey towards Customer Centricity can be like a Roller Coaster ride. Sure there are ups and downs but consider the dilemma most of us go through before getting on the ride:

It is scary, I’m afraid.

Look at that queue. I just haven’t got the time to wait.

It is expensive and surely not worth it.

It is unsafe. I have heard of accidents.

However, all of the while there is this niggling urge to do it despite these concerns and fears. You just know that your esteem will rise for having overcome your fears….and excuses!

Facing up to any transformation, whether it is a Customer Experience Transformation or a change to your working life, it can be just as daunting and the same fears can rise to the surface. However, these fears are very real and to increase your chances of success, I believe it is necessary to plot a course through these concerns, which I refer to as the Bermuda Triangle, where many Projects and Programs disappear never to be seen again.

The Bermuda Triangle is located between three waypoints that each have a major bearing on any type of project. The interesting thing is that you can only be in one place at any one time and you will therefore compromise on the other two. Therefore determining which waypoint is of primary consideration on your initiative will help plot a course and set expectations appropriately.

Lets consider each in turn.

Time

You are in a hurry and need the transformation to be completed within this Financial Year. To achieve that outcome, Cost and Quality are likely to suffer. You will probably need more people in order to complete tasks earlier and to take shortcuts that probably compromise quality. Conversely, if time is in plentiful supply then you could compromise on cost (spend more) to give you high quality or compromise on quality to help lower costs and obtain quicker results.

A great example is the building of the Segrada Familia.

Clearly Cost and Quality were impacted hugely because it was determined to take as long as it takes. It is a very costly and high quality building. Hopefully your project will not take as long!

Cost

How much is your budget and are you willing to compromise either time or quality to get the outcome you are seeking within your budget? If cost is the biggest consideration, you may have to consider lower quality (ever heard the “pay peanuts, get monkeys” expression?) and/or take longer. The GFC has left us with many examples of unfinished projects that simply ran out of cash. Perhaps it is better to compromise on cost by setting an affordable budget which will deliver something, albeit at a lesser quality than one might have hoped.

Quality

If you want High Quality, it will typically come at a price (cost) and take longer (time) but as at the Segrada Familia, that may not be an issue. I am amazed at how often I have met business leaders who say Quality is THE most important aspect yet they are unprepared to find extra money or time to enable quality outcomes. By compromising on Quality, you might be able to get a quicker or less expensive outcome.

That is why this conundrum is the Bermuda Triangle of Projects. Without a clear understanding and agreed direction amongst Business Owners and Project Sponsors within the Cost, Time and Quality dilemma, the project will struggle from the first point at which a decision needs to be made regarding a variation of any nature.

Talk about each of these considerations and agree where your project sits within the triangle. This then determines the SCOPE of your initiative which delivers against these three considerations. Be wary of “scope creep” where additional requirements get added in to the scope. Once more, this variation will cause on impact on Time and Cost if the additional scope is agreed to, Quality if the additional scope is rejected.

This dilemma is not specific to CRM but I thought I’d share it as it is pure “common sense” and as my Dad always told me “common sense ain’t too common”. I hope this helps in some small way.

Buying a CRM system? Top 10 tips

Buying a CRM system? These tpis from an Independant CRM Specialist can give you food for thought before you start the procurement process. As a Vendor and Purchaser of CRM, Nick provides some tips based on years of experience to help mitigate risk, reduce cost and make a quality decision.

Over the years, I have been both a Vendor and Purchaser of CRM systems. I have always maintained that choosing the right CRM system is not one of the critical success factors for an Organisation wishing to gain benefits from a CRM initiative. It is , however, the subject of many long hours and a lot of the program costs.
It is also highly emotive as many stakeholders will wish to have a say and influence the eventual procurement decision.
However, a lot of time and money can be saved by establishing some ground rules and a strategy up front. Without wishing to patronise Procurement Specialists, I argue that by considering a few simple tips, a decision can be reached more quickly, cost effectively and lead to better outcomes.
Therefore, this blog highlights a few suggestions aimed at helping Organisations wishing to buy or upgrade their existing systems. These tips are based on experience, not theory and is certainly not an exhaustive list. Neither is the list in any particular order of priority!

Tip #1. Do not buy “generic” requirements

Many Organisations put together a RFP (Request For Proposal) by compiling or acquiring an exhaustive list of generic features or functionality and then score vendor responses against “weighted” values such as Highly Desirable, Desirable and Very Highly Desirable, even Mandatory. The challenge of this approach is that business users are often lulled into stating system attributes or features that may bear little or no difference to their future “To Be” process. It becomes more of a “wish list”, rather like a child compiling a list for Santa having visited the Toy Shop. A better approach is to take the requirements to a higher level and then determine which group of functions is likely to be important for the future. Lists of generic “functionality” or requirements can be bought on the Internet. These lists are very thorough and detailed, often drilling down to a level where the relevance of each function may not be understood. Keep it simple and just use the groupings or categories to give vendors a good idea of what you are looking for. Another reason for doing this is to be fair to the vendors who could have overly high opportunity costs to fully respond to 2648 questions (as I saw recently) where the RFP had gone to 15 vendors. In that example, I decided that the effort to respond was not worth the small chance and we chose not to respond. The sad thing is that we might have had the best solution.

Tip #2. Apply weightings carefully
Getting the weightings right to score the responses and presentations is critical.
Start at the highest level: What weightings should be applied to different aspects of the Procurement? Price, Functional Fit, Non Functional Requirements etc? Often the Business users will wish for a higher percentage on Functionality, I.T will push for Non Functional with Finance and Procurement keen on Price or Value For Money. I cannot say how you should do it but I will stress that the overall weightings will greatly affect the decision you eventually reach. The weightings are then cascaded down through to the requirements and open questions. My suggestion is to keep in mind that what the system does is not the main success factor. Compromises may have to be made in order to get, for example, broader integration versus deeper functionality. The irony is that the impact of the weighting decisions (often made before issuing the RFP) is not really understood until you start the short listing process. That is the time when earlier weighting decisions may be regretted. Spend a little longer to get this right and the quality of the final decision may be much better.

Tip #3. It’s not the software, it’s the process
We have all heard of examples where the “software was poor” yet subsequently changed (at great expense) for something just as bad. The irony is that the same “poor”software is being used elsewhere and delivering value. Every software vendor has customer reference sites and customer horror stories. The difference is therefore not the software. It is the people and the processes. I cannot stress enough but to become truly customer centric, you must regard CRM as a transformational journey and ensure that people are willing and able to change to adapt to the new world enabled by the software change. Similarly, the software must enable great processes that deliver internal and external benefits. We have all experienced ringing a Call Centre to be routed around the organisation before finally reaching the right person. It may be great technology employed but you cannot hide a bad process. Implementing cRM with poor processes is like putting lipstick on a pig.

Therefore when buying CRM software, make sure the business representatives are change agents who are not bound by what they have always done. Similarly, stretch the vendors by testing their industry understanding to propose new processes and practices, rather than just reimplement what you do today.

Tip #4. The Integrator and the Integration
So you are buying new software. Who will implement it?

The Vendor? A Systems Integrator? A Shared Service provider? Maybe your own I.T department?

The answer to this question should drive part of the assessment. What skills are required to administer the system? How will Knowledge Transfer be managed and assured? What training is available, where and how often? Again, there is not a prescribed answer to this but the overall strategy is hugely influenced by the direction your Organisation chooses to take. The implementation is (in my opinion) more important than the software being deployed. Make sure the implementation is considered aspart of the decision with at least the same importance as the choice of software.

Tip #5. The role of I.T and alignment to architectural direction
Your IT department should be the facilitators to the process by providing an Organisational strategy and Architectural direction to which the solution should comply and conform. Decisions such as Cloud, Integration, Database and other Enterprise considerations should be informed by I.T and help the procurement. This direction should be reflected in both the weightings and evaluation team composition. However, be wary of the situation where IT chooses a solution on behalf of business users. In CRM, the importance of adoption and acceptance by the end users is probably more acute than in many other types of software selection. The trade off between IT and the Business is often as necessary as it is emotive but without trade off, time and costs escalate and the “losing party” often starts to undermine the chances of future success.

Tip#6. Composition of Evaluation team
The size of the Evaluation team will vary by Organisation but I tend to find that the larger the Organisation, the more likely it is to have an unnecessarily large evaluation team. It goes without saying that the larger the team, the higher the cost and the slower the process. Does it lead to better decision making? I don’t think so because the internal politics are then brought into the Evaluation team. Surely it is more important to create a lean and empowered team who can represent the interests of multiple departments without feeling the need to follow a particular political directive? This may sound like a Utopian state but it should be the objective of the overall Owner to create the optimal team to represent the best interests of the Organisation (not department). One other consideration is to empower a panel representative of differing levels of seniority. It is often a mistake for Managers to buy a system for their staff to use and vice versa. Ensure staff from the most junior to the most senior are represented on the assessment panel and decision making.

Tip#7. The value of the business scenario
If you want to really test (and differentiate) your shortlisted vendors, develop some typical business scenario’s that require a product demonstration requiring flexibility and creativity. Do not ask for what you do today. Imagine a future state and a desirable outcome. For example, imagine you are a traditional retailer. Create a scenario asking the vendor to demonstrate how their solution could utilize new channels and media to identify and acquire new customers whilst measuring the impact and effectiveness of each channel? That scenario is not prescriptive or specific. It allows the vendor to demonstrate potential value of their solution whilst offering you a glimpse into their understanding of your business and industry. A good vendor will have researched your needs, your weaknesses and gained a good idea into the potential opportunities their software might provide you. Give them a scenario whereby this can be demonstrated. In saying that the scenarios should not be too prescriptive, it must obviously cover your requirements as highlighted by the categories described in Tip#1.

Tip#8. Mandatory or not
If you make a requirement “Mandatory”, it has the potential to eliminate solutions that may have been a strong fit otherwise. Therefore think very carefully about what should be mandatory and use it as an initial screening process. For example, imagine you are an international business and believe that your solution must be multilingual. If you make “Multilingual” a  Mandatory requirement, you will eliminate a large number of solutions that may currently only have one or two languages. Is that requirement truly a “Showstopper” or is it just simply very highly desirable? By making it a “Very Highly Desirable” requirement, you can assess these solutions without them being rejected as non compliant. Usually, the first pass of assessments eliminates vendors who are non compliant. Therefore only make requirements that you simply cannot operate without the only ones that are mandatory. This tip may not sit well with many but, in my experience, it is easier to seek compromises than it is to live with the implications of the wrong choice.

Tip#9. The after sale strategy
One of the often hidden and unforeseen aspects of procurement surrounds the strategy once the solution has been deployed.

Who will provide Support? Is it required 24/7? What is the Upgrade strategy and frequency? What is the future product roadmap and vision?
Often Evaluation Teams can be caught up in what the solution can do today rather than thinking about the future state. One can never predict the future but mitigation should be considered for different scenarios and be managed within the procurement process. As a former General Manager responsible for the CRM Product of a Software vendor, I was often asked to make commitments to future development but was rarely asked to commit to this new functionality contractually. Why not? I would have been happy to had I been asked but without the contractual need, the client has no assurance of that future capability which increases their future risk and exposure. Even if software companies cannot commit to future development, this could be used as a bargaining chip in negotiating price. There is a big difference between intention and committment, especially to Software providers!

Tip#10. Benefit realisation
How will you measure whether you made the right choice? It will be whether your business case was justified. Therefore a win/win scenario whereby your vendor helps develop and is incentivized to help you realise genuine benefits (and thereby justify your business case) is compelling. These benefits must be quantifiable and the inter dependencies (people, process etc) understood and managed. However, wouldn’t it be nice to select a vendor that is motivated to help you realise benefits rather than simply deploying software for a set price?

This may again sound utopian but it is the way things are moving in our customer centric universe and is worthy of consideration.

 

Of course, these tips are only suggestions and you may get great outcomes even if you ignore them. However, I do believe that these can only add value to you and hope that they do help in some small way. Good luck!

Single View versus the 360′ view

This is a short post as I’m often asked what the difference is between the two views.
A single view is about an aggregation of data designed to ensure that many internal systems are kept in alignment. The benefit to the customer being that they only need maintain their customer details with the organization once. Years ago, I had arranged to visit a CRM vendor to discuss CRM partnerships. I rang the Alliance Manager and made an appointment with her. The day before the meeting, I thought I should research their offering so I went onto their website. I had to register for an online demo. About 5 minutes into the demo, my phone rang.

” Hello, it’s Jason here from XYZ software Inc (for those about to Google this company, that is a made up name!)…I notice you have just logged on to our demo. Do you have any questions?”

I was not that impressed. I mean, it was just a Telesales guy trying to sell to me wasn’t it? He had my details from the registration form. I told him that I was just researching their latest release.

“Oh, I guess that’s in preparation for your meeting with Sandra tomorrow?”

I was blown away. That was my first experience of a Single View and it had me at Single.
A 360 degree view is an aggregation of data to provide an all round view of that customers interactions and transactions with your organization. It is supported by a Single View but the difference is that it enables great potential for upwelling, cross selling and providing superior customer service. A good example is that of a citizen contacting their local council. They may wish to check up on their rates bill, report a pothole and see what has happened to their planning application. This information may reside in three different systems but the citizen doesn’t care. He sees it as “dealing with my Council” and expects the answer to his enquiries at your fingertips. Technically, there are several ways to achieve this view but there must be an identifier common to all systems to ensure that the information being accessed really does relate to that particular citizen.
There is no doubt that both of these concepts are closely related and are not always easy to achieve. Poor data quality has scuppered many well intended attempts to create these views. Nevertheless, the value can be enormous and well worth doing properly.

The DNA of a CRM system

In thinking about a generic CRM technology product, I was recently asked what the common components are. Having recently been involved in a high profile government RFP and Vendor Evaluation, I have come up with the following list of common components. I believe these components represent the DNA of a CRM Technology solution.

In thinking about a generic CRM technology product, I was recently asked what the common components are. Having recently been involved in a high profile government RFP and Vendor Evaluation, I have come up with the following list of common components. I believe these components represent the DNA of a CRM Technology solution.

Continue reading “The DNA of a CRM system”

Single View Of The Customer. Holy Grail or Holy Hell?

At my current client, I dared to introduce the dreaded “Single View Of The Customer” concept and promptly got shot down in flames. Two years later and we are about to start implementing it. Why did my client change its mind and will it be worth it? This blog shares some insights into these dilemmas.

I started my current assignment over 2 years ago.

I was brought into my clients Enterprise Architecture team to specialise in CRM (as a Strategist and Architect) and ensure that a new CRM project was being developed correctly and in line with corporate, rather than divisional needs.

My first question was: “What is the strategy driving the project?” There wasn’t one. “OK”, I said “Then what are they trying to achieve?”. The response I got is typical of many projects: The Division wants a CRM tool. Many months later and we had started to define and refine an overarching strategy, vision and objectives. These led to benefits to which we could link requirements. One of those benefits was to be better able to serve customers by providing pertinent, accurate up to date information ased upon all of their interactions with the organisations. I dared to introduce the dreaded “Single View Of The Customer” concept and promptly got shot down in flames.

Apparently, other consultancies had previously advised them against this approach as they cited numerous examples of failed implementations, huge overruns and massive spends. I would have been more popular had I suggested starting a Data Cleansing project!!!

Several months later, as we finally begin the implementation, a Single View Of The Customer is now accepted as a “must-have” and essential to help the organisation achieve several of its goals and realise benefits, not just for the organisation but for the customer (yes- a CRM Program that is actually delivering benefits to the customer too- hurray!!!).

It has gone from being the Holy Hell to the Holy Grail. I intend to unravel the reasons for this and what we are hoping to achieve. A seperate blog will look at some of the implementation considerations facing clients about to embark on the journey to a Single View Of The Customer.

My client has lots of customers. They also have lots of different sources of customer data. Each source has many duplicate entries and inaccurate information. The data is not shared between different divisions and there is a prevailing culture of departmental over protectiveness of their own “customer database”. Does this sound familiar? I have come across this on so many programs that I will be surprised when I discover an organisation with a single customer database of clean and high quality data!

As always, it was necessary to take a customer perspective to start the client understanding why change was needed. In most meetings I attend, I ask people to imagine a cardboard cutout sat in one of the chairs. Her name is Cathy. She represents a Customer. Whenever we get to a point where I feel we are becoming inward looking, I say “Let’s ask Cathy”. When we discussed improving the customer experience, I explained that Cathy is frustrated because she interacts with different parts of the organisation at different times but keeps having to repeat who she is and why she is calling, which surprises her as she thought these divisions were all part of the same organisation. In other words, her expectations are not being met leading to a poor customer experience.

I am not advocating that every organisation should develop a Single View of the Customer. Traditionally, the Financial Services industry has led in such initiatives, as the cross and up selling opportunities from this internal sharing of client data was perceived to be of high value. The reality in creating such a view proved harder than most thought. This is often due to poor data stewardship and data management processes. The projects often blow out in terms of time and cost. Quality suffers when organisations either cut corners (to save time or money) or have poor processes. Survivors from these initiatives told horror stories that gave the impression that achieving the Single View of a Customer is some form of Holy Hell. There is no doubt that if these obstacles can be overcome, there are benefits to both the customer (better customer service) and provider (increased retention and customer spend).

My client is not going to develop a full “enterprise” Single View of Customer. It is going to develop the “Contact Centre” view of customer. This is an integrated view based upon the records stored in legacy systems most frequently accessed in responding to customer enquiries. As these systems represent those most accessed on behalf of customers, it was agreed to limit the scope to this. It involves four “legacy” business systems and will utilise Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to create a single view.

This “view” will be visible within the new CRM software accessed by the Contact Centre. Rules determining Push/Pull, Read/Write and Deduplication are yet to be established but the Data Analysts are currently finalising a Customer Data Model which will use Master Data Management concepts.

One of the key benefits will be what is termed the 360 degree view. This is the ability to view information relating to the customer from a single screen. For example, one might be able to see the Interaction History, Order History, Service Request History and Campaign Responses. This enables our Contact Centre agents to become the one stop shop for all customer enquiries. This would not be possible at present because we have no single view (multiple systems, duplicate records) and therefore cannot be sure that Customer X in the Order Management system is Customer X in the Service system. Enquiry time should be reduced and accuracy increased. These benefits formed part f our business case and the non tangible benefits (such as Improved Customer Perception and Image) only serve to strengthen the rationale. However, had we attempted to attempt the whole single view, the incremental benefit would be small whilst the incremental development large. It was therefore difficult to justify. Time will tell whether this decision will prove to be the right one.

In conclusion, the Single View is not easy but it will generate benefits for many organisations, especially those looking to support a single entry customer interface, upsell, cross sell or provide a strong customer self service capability. The expression “Knowledge is Power” is true but knowledge can only come from wisdom based on accurate information. A Single View Of Customer enables an organisation to have accurate customer information, if implemented correctly. Implementation Considerations will be the topic of the next blog.