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Executive Buy-in: Some W-Systems Examples

by Bill Harrison on June 2, 2009

4 minute read

On Friday I wrote about the importance of executive involvement in a CRM deployment. Today let's look at an example of a W-Systems customer that faced executive buy-in issues and ultimately overcame them.

Several years ago W-Systems began a CRM deployment for a 150-person technology company. Our client is a sophisticated company. They completed a thorough platform selection process before ultimately selecting SugarCRM as their preferred product. W-Systems customized SugarCRM extensively for them and managed the data conversion and user training processes.

Overall, the project went very smoothly. We were invited to the company's annual sales kick-off meeting and the CEO introduced me so that everyone understood the importance of the project. So far so good.

Sales and IT executives who ultimately had responsibility for delivering the system were also motivated, intelligent, and capable. But they were also very, very busy. So when the project really heated-up and critical decisions had to be made about design trade-offs, budget priorities, and system capabilities, it was very difficult to corral the decision makers. As a result, the project was often delayed or decisions were made by subordinates to keep things moving and were later overruled by higher-ups. This increased costs and elongated schedules.

Once the system was deployed, productivity gains were immediate. The new CRM automated several critical processes for sales reps and the system was embraced quickly. But the utilization of the system as an overall productivity, forecasting, and sales management tool was lacking. Our customer was only getting a fraction of the potential value from their CRM investment. In retrospect, there were several reasons for this:

  • The executives who did such a nice job of kicking-off the project had little or no involvement in the implementation.
  • Once the system was up and running, the executives never used it. Instead, they continued to manage sales forecasts with spreadsheets because they didn't trust the data in CRM.
  • Because executives didn't understand how to use the system, they didn't reinforce system use with their employees.
  • Key executives who were involved in the implementation were unwilling to delegate decision-making to subordinates, yet were too busy or unavailable to make decisions themselves.

It took several months, but over time, through a concentrated effort of education by the IT organization and a few sales people, assisted by W-Systems, senior executives started to see the value of managing the sales force directly from CRM. Lots of little things contributed to this, but there was one big event that was the tipping point:

The CEO started using the CRM system to check the status and accuracy of sales forecasts.

As soon as he showed up at a sales meeting with reports generated out of the CRM in his hand, everyone started logging in and using the system. Sales managers started requesting the same reports and dashboards as the CEO was using so that they could see what he saw. And a policy was introduced that if a deal did not exist in CRM it did not exist.

Almost instantly the quality and timeliness of sales pipeline information in the CRM system improved -- all by the simple actions of the CEO.

In the next installment of my series on CRM user acceptance, I'll focus on system design issues and how they impact user acceptance. Until then, please write us here about your user acceptance issues or stories your organization has faced.