Hurdles, Obstacles and Other Miscellany

Had a meeting with our largest CRM client yesterday, Timberline, concerning their end users' adoption and use of the system. We are two and a half months into the full production deployment of the system -- a critical time to do a major check of the deployments' success.

One of the main obstacles we have to overcome was the early decision by the client to keep all the training on the new system in-house. The thinking was that the end users would have a higher likelihood of adopting Microsoft CRM if they were trained by other people doing the same jobs as them. While this is a significant factor in getting high adoption rates, the problem was that the in-house trainers were not familiar enough with CRM and didn't command the attention (and attendance) that was needed.

So at the meeting yesterday we received a two-page list of issues that the end users are citing as why they can't use CRM to do their jobs effectively. They are all legitimate issues. Some of them can be overcome through training, some through additional custom development or third-party addons, and some are just limitations of Microsoft CRM 1.2. Among the limitations that we are hoping will be resolved in version 2 (are you listening Microsoft): duplicate-checking, too many windows popping up, searches unable to be conducted on multiple cross-referenced entities, phone number formatting, weak calendaring... Mostly items that are familiar to anyone who has visited the CRM newsgroups.

For me, as the lead on this project, the biggest challenge is not technological so much as diplomatic. The users in this company had all gotten very accustomed to ACT, which is pretty simple, if not robust. There are a lot of ways that the sales reps used ACT in their daily selling routines that are just not available in CRM, or are too complex/require too many clicks. Definitely, improvements can be made through training, but I think I am coming to see where so many CRM deployments hit rough spots when users resist change. The long and the short of it is that CRM was the best technological replacement for a creaking and slow ACT system. The company uses Small Business Server 2003, needs remote access to their SFA system, needs website integration, needs robust reporting, etc. But finding the razor's edge at which all of these technological benefits also are matched by end user benefits is proving quite tricky.

Well, I guess it wouldn't be any fun if it wasn't challenging. I'll keep you posted!


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