Getting Managers to “Live in the System”

by Bill Harrison on November 12, 2009

Here at W-Systems we use the phrase "living in system" when describing a customer whose employees rely on their CRM system daily for their critical work activities. This is the ultimate measure of system success -- that the system is well designed, functional, and fully accepted by users. When the customer is "living in the system" CRM becomes the "go to" tool for every user when they arrive at work in the morning. But we have found that it is often managers that get in the way of system success by refusing to live in the system themselves. Here are some reasons why:

  • Managers, like other users, are uncomfortable with change, even if they supported and promoted the deployment of a CRM system in the first place.
  • Managers don't get involved in system design and deployment to make sure their needs are being met.
  • Managers often do not attend training and do not spend adequate time learning how to use the system. This makes them uncomfortable when answering questions from employees.
  • Managers don't trust the quality of the information they are getting from the CRM system.
  • Managers don't know how to interpret the information they are getting from the system.

In the years we have spent deploying CRM systems for all sizes and types of companies, getting managers to use the system has been one of the hardest yet most important parts of system success. It is a simple truth that if the boss uses the system the troops will use the system. As a manager, here is what you need to do to ensure system success.

How to be a Successful Manager

  1. Stay involved in system design and deployment. Although you will need the help of others, don't completely delegate the CRM project to someone on your staff. Attend the critical design meetings, especially early in the process, to make sure your needs are being met. Listen carefully to the suggestions of your vendor and your staff, but question features you don't understand or don't think will be valuable.
  2. Attend training, even if you are too busy. Attending training is critical to helping you understand how to use the system. But more importantly, your attendance in training telegraph's is important to your employees, significantly improving the odds that they will attend and pay attention.
  3. Assign homework. As soon as you feel your employees have a handle on how to use the system, give them specific tasks to complete, such as entering their existing pipeline of opportunities or scheduling their outstanding tasks and activities.
  4. Managing from the system. This is probably the most important point in the list so we'll discuss it in a bit more detail.

Managing From the System

"If you can measure it, you can manage it" is a popular adage and it is especially true in sales and customer service management. And since one of the major reasons for deploying a CRM system is to make sales and support activities measurable, you are defeating the purpose and value of the system if you don't use and rely on the numbers it provides. Here's what you should do.

  1. Run your meetings using data from the CRM. Keep the system open on your computer during your team meetings and use the data in the system as the basis for discussions of productivity and goal attainment. Even if the data in the system is inaccurate in the first couple of meetings, it will quickly become accurate if employees see that the boss is watching it closely and sharing it with others on the team.
  2. Track critical productivity metrics, like sales quota attainment or customer satisfaction measures, in the CRM. Publicize this information and make it available to everyone.
  3. Don't discuss sales deals or support requests that are not in the system. If it's not in the system, it does not exist. Make the employee go back and get everything up to date before you work on the deal or support issue.

Using this method you will improve system use and ultimately the value of the information you get from the system. When managers rely on the information in a CRM system as the “gold standard” for decision making in the organization, end-users will take the system seriously. By conducting the daily operations of the organization through the CRM system, user acceptance is reinforced, data quality improves, and decision making becomes more efficient and accurate.

We call that “living in the system.”

And isn't this the reason the investment in CRM was made in the first place?

This post is the fourth in my series about CRM user acceptance. The first post in this series outlined six reasons why companies still struggle with CRM user acceptance. Each subsequent post has focused on a detailed look at each acceptance issue.

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PRODUCT: SugarCRM

AUDIENCES: Administrators End Users

Bill Harrison
VP of Products and Technology at W-Systems
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