Like a child, a growing company goes through predictable stages, from a desk crammed into a corner of the garage to a small, lean business, to a more complex enterprise level, on up to global conglomerate. And just like a child, some growing pains are inevitable, particularly when it comes to evolving technology platforms and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. While it’s a critical part of any business, it can wreak havoc with timelines and deadlines, if you are small to mid-size business with limited internal IT support.
So what’s an organization to do? Stick firmly to existing technology? Nice thought, but as George Bernard Shaw said ‘Progress is impossible without change’. As we’re wrapping up the first stage of our transition to a new CRM solution, I have a clear picture of what went well (and what didn’t), with learning for the future that’s important to note. If you’re planning a tech transition any time soon, we hope the following guidelines help you navigate the waters more easily:
1: Educate yourself
The landscape is changing daily and it’s important to stay current with the best solutions to allow your company to scale effectively and provide the tools for your teams to work more efficiently. Should it be on premise or in the Cloud? Single solution with a suite of options or a bundle of ‘best in class’ solutions? It’s important to do the homework and weigh the pros and cons before deciding.
2: Tap the experts
As you’ll be working intently and over a considerable length of time building and transitioning a new system, it’s vital to find the right partner, who truly understands your business needs and with whom you feel a solid rapport.
Discuss the breadth and depth of their experience; how many implementations and in what ways have they helped provide solutions for similar companies.
What’s their process and methodology to help create the right project plan?
3: Create a detailed Project Plan
This vital step forces a focus on company priorities and how to stream out actions on business impact as well as current and future needs.
- Is the solution scalable for growth?
- Is it mobile friendly? Can your team access the solution anytime, any place?
- Does it have social media integration and marketing tools?
- How well does it analyze information to support customer needs?
4: Include your team in the development process
Keep the end-user in mind at all times as user adoption can make or break your investment. Create an internal advisory board of individuals who will be using the new software to insure all needs are considered. Be sure users are aware and understand both the short and long terms goals of the project so that they can best support goals like enhanced customer interactions, quicker turnaround and more efficient operations.
5: However long you think this will take – Double (or Triple) It
Seriously – did you ever hear of a technology project completed on deadline? It’s not that the teams are lazy or disorganized, rather that nuances and adaptations appear as you get underway, making course corrections inevitable. Decide what priorities make the most impact and plan for budget and timing accordingly, and phase certain elements within the solution over a period of time.
6: Alert clients about the upcoming transition
Give your clients a heads up about the investments your company is making to support their needs so any lags or bumps in deadlines will be better understood.
Keeping communication lines open during this period will ease your users’ transition to the new system and your customers will appreciate staying informed.
7: Train. Train. & Re-train
Finally, it’s essential to provide training resources and tutorials to facilitate familiarity and adaptation to the new system with easy to digest information and helpful tools.
As an example, in the several weeks leading up to roll-out, we provided a weekly newsletter with links to resources that users could review to help them with the implementation and roll-out.
Let your users know there will be training before, during and after the new systems go live.
Set up a User Group to help catch any remaining requirements not already addressed and to support user training needs both pre-roll-out and after. Your User Group can help at every level with user adoption.
Finally – ask and listen. Make sure users needs are being heard and addressed. Communicate openly and often so that users know what will be happening and what’s been done.
The time and effort to select and implement a new system properly is challenging for any company, but with proper planning, consistent communication and comprehensive training, your company will emerge stronger and better equipped for a successful future.