Thursday, June 4, 2015

Lessons for the project sponsor

This is a true story. The company name has been changed.

CRM project

Acme Corporation, a company specializing in implementation of business applications for small businesses, decided to expand into implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.  

Acme executives decided to implement the CRM package for their own use before selling it to their clients. The implementation of CRM at Acme would be followed by the development of a marketing strategy for the CRM product.

The Acme employee setting up their new CRM system took the vendor training, then spent three days getting the system set up for Acme. The implementation included installation of the software, migration of data from the old contact management system, and four hours of training on system navigation to the first four users.

Review of the CRM system

Acme’s president engaged a marketing consultant to develop Acme’s marketing strategy for the CRM product.

The consultant began by reviewing what Acme had done on its own implementation of CRM. Her assessment was that the technical implementation of the system was very good, including software installation, database optimization and system performance. These had been achieved despite some technical difficulties with the hardware.

However, the consultant also pointed out that there had been no changes in business process to ensure the successful use of the new system. In addition, the implementation had been done with no clear understanding of the goals of the new system, the benefits that were expected or any vision of what could be achieved by implementing CRM at Acme.

Acme’s president was very interested in the consultant’s comments. He recognized immediately that she was right – Acme had not thought about what they hoped to achieve by implementing the CRM system, and had not considered business processes in their implementation.

In addition, the consultant talked to the president about his role should have been as the project sponsor, and pointed out how critical the sponsor was to the success of the project.                                                                

Implementing CRM again

Acme’s president asked the marketing consultant to re-implement the CRM product at Acme before developing the marketing strategy.

The president rolled back the CRM implementation, and Acme resumed use of the old contact management system for several more weeks. The president enlisted the support of another key executive in pushing forward with the re-implementation rather than using the system the way it had been implemented already.

The re-implementation started with a series of design workshops. The president attended every workshop, in order to highlight to Acme staff the importance of this project. By the time the fourth design workshop was over, the other staff members understood and agreed with the need for re-implementation of the CRM system.

The re-implementation took five weeks, considerably longer than the original three-day implementation. This time, the work included definition of the expected benefits of the system, as well as the new business processes needed to provide good quality data, and to ensure usage of the system to benefit Acme.

The consultant stayed an additional two weeks to complete the marketing strategy.

The sponsor’s lessons

The president of Acme, as the project sponsor, learned a number of lessons from this project. The first lesson was the importance of defining the system’s goals and benefits to the organization. Without these, the system has no purpose.

The sponsor also learned about the critical importance of business process change when implementing a system. Without processes to ensure the success of the system, it will never deliver the expected benefits. For example, in the new CRM implementation, processes were developed for gathering, validating, and using the data in the new system.

The consultant also taught the president about the very important role of the project sponsor. The sponsor’s support of the project in the organization was critical to its success. When the president attended design sessions, enlisted the support of another executive and, after go-live, used the reports produced by the system, he showed how important he believed the system was to the company. These actions carried more weight than his verbal statements to the staff.

The final lesson for the sponsor was the value of having the right person for the job. The employee hired to do the first implementation was a skilled technician, but with skills different from those required to implement this particular system at this particular company. The president recognized the importance of the marketing consultant’s ability to guide the setting of system goals and benefits and lead the development of new business processes.

Copyright 2015 Debbie Gallagher