A brief overview of Change Management
Whilst a new CRM project can ultimately be very beneficial to the way you manage and interact with your customers, the implementation of such a system can also be extremely disruptive to your organisation. So good project management is imperative if your business is to continue functioning right through the change process and beyond. A poorly managed change processes is the most common reason why a new CRM fails to fulfil its expectations.
It’s all about the people
As ever, when you introduce something new, it can look great in a slide show from the boardroom table but it’s the people on the shop floor that make success happen. So for any new system, but particularly one at enterprise level, this means not just having the enthusiasm of your suppliers and the project team, but also that of the people who will use the CRM day-in, day-out. Your entire staff.
When it comes to rolling-out new systems, there are three types of staff: Those who are resistant to any kind of change; those who keenly embrace anything new; and, the vast majority, the middle group, who reluctantly deal with the upheaval to their working arrangements and embrace the change once they know it’s a positive thing.
When managing change, it’s important to identify which staff fall into which category and work with them on an individual basis. So far as those resistant to change go, there may be differences in the way they express themselves, with everything between the temper-tantrum and the covert sabotage approach for you to deal with.
For those in the middle group who are more tentative in their opposition, it’s important to identify the causes of any resistance and what changes can be made to accommodate any genuine concerns, before the system is implemented.
Before you start
Before you get going, you’ll need to undertake a good bit of research to identify and address the systematic barriers to change that exist within your organisation. Look at the way work is currently done and establish how the new system will address any existing problems before you begin work.
Establish if the organisation is ready for change by setting up a project group of user-stakeholders and look closely at the problems they raise. Set out to identify risks and benefits and quantify them. It’s rare for a new system implementation to pass off without any problems and, for the most part, your staff will want to help iron those out, if only to make their own lives easier.
What’s in it for me?
One of the biggest problems that brings about staff resistance is a lack of top-down communication. Few people are willing to give themselves to major change without being able to visualise the benefits, so it’s important to link the goals of the new system into the current functioning of the organisation and help users understand the bigger picture of what you’re aiming to achieve.
One way to do this is to appoint change champions. These would be users unconnected to the project implementation but who command the respect of their teams and can communicate as equals. They will be able to offer a continuous avenue of communication between the project team and the user-stakeholders.
Once the project is in motion the change champions will also provide invaluable support to the project team and be able to provide input into designing the user-interface, a process that is vital to bringing the staff on board. If a CRM is to be a success, the staff that use it must find it attractive and intuitive whatever wonders are underpinning the boilerplate.
Then there’s the training programme and user support. Here too the change champions become your most important asset when it comes to bringing out the best in the functioning system. They’re able to explain in a friendly way and using the team’s preferred terms rather than technical jargon, how to undertake their existing duties most effectively with the new technology.
There will of course still be those who resist change and they will continue to inhibit your programme long term. They will need to be seen as being isolated and the management team should have contingency plans to deal with those who remain hostile. As the project moves forward and more staff accept the changes, the standpoints of the last group will become unsustainable.