Change Management

By Heather Baldwin

There’s no question that implementing a new CRM solution in your company will bring about change, but many leaders have no idea just how much change is required. These days, you practically need to become an expert in change management to successfully navigate the demands of creating a truly customer-centric environment, says Paul Greenberg, author of CRM at the Speed of Light (McGraw-Hill, 2002). After all, he says, CRM isn’t just about changing technologies, it’s about changing an entire company.

Greenberg points out that organizations implementing a CRM strategy will be impacted not just by the implementation and execution of that strategy but by the prep work as well. “It calls such fundamental questions into play as: How do we make our customers happy? How do we change our business model? With rare exception,” he says, “the changes that are acceptable alter the competitive landscape vividly. Acknowledging and planning for this and the organizational effect is the single most complex part of creating a corporate CRM strategy.”

Think about it: everything your company does and the way its employees think is likely embedded in the past. Take your customer response philosophy, for instance. Perhaps your organization’s idea of good customer service historically has been to take care of complaints within 72 hours. If you change that goal to make it a 24-hour response time, you’ll dramatically change the corporate culture. That one change, for instance, will either require that current employees work longer hours; that you hire new people to handle the more rapid turnaround; or that that you employ technology to help your current employees handle the change, which in turn will require training. And that’s just one example. Every aspect of your business will likely undergo some type of change with similar questions about how to best handle that change. It’s not something most executives think about when they decide it’s time to implement a CRM strategy, but it’s a vital piece of that strategy.

So how do you go about managing the change? Greenberg says companies usually follow one of two paths. Many opt for traditional organizational change techniques, which are often individually focused. That means change is a matter of taking smaller groups (maybe 10 to 50 people) and working with them individually over several weeks, then polling them for feedback. Greenberg, however, favors a methodology called O2, or Opportunity Optimization, which is designed to accelerate the process – it is designed for completion in about eight business days – and is more dynamic. “Stakeholders involve a much wider group (maybe 50, maybe 150) and they meet all at once,” he explains. “The change readiness survey is already validated and there are immediate results from the meeting.” There also are defined metrics and targeted action plans based on the needs identified by the change consultants for the particular company. Still, whichever route you take, Greenberg says hiring professional change management assistance is essential.

“To get the new CRM system up and running will change the old corporate culture and assign it to where the Roman Empire sits today – the dustbin of history,” says Greenberg. “These changes, both positive and negative, have to be planned for. Managing the change as it occurs is of the essence.”