One of the most common questions I get is: How to we assure (or, improve) the adoption of a CRM solution in our organization?  

In the past, the clumsy user interfaces (UI) of CRM solutions have turned off users, causing them to reject the solutions offered by their IT departments. In response to these complaints, the leading CRM solution providers, such as Oracle Siebel CRM and SAP CRM, have invested heavily to improve the UIs in their most recent releases. The same is true for midmarket solutions like the Sage family of CRM products, CDC’s Pivotal, and Sugar CRM. has achieved great success with its pioneering UI that incorporates the ease-of-use characteristics of consumer-oriented solutions that employees are used to working with in their private lives. And Microsoft Dynamics CRM applies the vendor’s knowledge of the use patterns of desktop applications, and incorporates the familiar Outlook UI paradigm, with a focus on improving user productivity.

In addition to choosing a CRM solution with a modern user-friendly UI, what can you do to improve adoption? Here are eight tips that I picked up working with the CRM leader at major bank:

  1. Define your business processes before selecting technology. "One key to success was that we defined a standardized sales process before we purchased the technology to enable it. We had a team of users study our sales processes and define better ways of working for the future.”
  2. Get users to take ownership from day one. "I told everyone at the beginning of our initiative, this is not 'my system,' this is your system. Our focus goal was providing the tools to make sales and product managers more effective. We focused on user productivity and acceptance from the start.” When end users have a hand in selecting the product, they are more invested in the decision and more likely to adopt the new technology.
  3. Use prototyping to tailor the application to user needs. "Eight teleconference/Webinars were held with users from around the world to view and test application prototypes. Prototyping allowed us to get the right kind of feedback quickly. The user community could see we were designing to meet their needs."
  4. Use pilots to build support among the user community. Implementing pilot projects to work out the bugs of a new application is a common practice to make sure the new processes and technology will benefit users. Pilots at the bank helped to demonstrate the benefits of the new sales processes to a broader audience of users around the world and got the user community even more involved.
  5. Build the right infrastructure to support users. The bank found out quickly that if it did not support CRM properly, users would not receive anticipated benefits. It established an organization to operate the CRM system and enhance it. The bank also provided extensive training for users and established a help desk to assist them in becoming comfortable with the application. The bank also put in place a data quality management process to give users confidence in the information they would receive.
  6. Maintain constant dialog with users. The bank works with a group of CRM "super-users" within the business groups to get feedback about how to enhance their CRM approach. The company interviews users constantly to make sure planned enhancements are what the field personnel want.
  7. Don't allow alternate systems to proliferate."If you let people operate outside the CRM system, you're dead. The power of the new sales process is that all users work from the same customer information and have visibility into how everyone is interacting with customers. This produces sales opportunities for all. The more people who contribute information to the system, the more value there is for the entire user community.”
  8. Sustain executive management commitment. Capture both users' and management's attention and provide proof of results. At the start of the bank's CRM project, about 20% of the users wanted to join in the new CRM system right away. About 60% were somewhat skeptical and looking for proof of results before throwing in their support. Twenty percent actively fought against the new system — perhaps out of fear of the transparency of a truly global unified sales process. "Our senior leaders gave me the time and resources to do the job right. They saw value in getting users actively involved and encouraged me to take this approach. I concentrated on delivering quick wins to sustain their enthusiasm.”