My last post, CRM for Asset Management, proved to be very popular as was CRM for Investment Banking, so I will continue to add to the series with the my next instalment likely to be CRM for Retail Banking. This time hower I am going to talk about User Adption

In my view CRM User adoption is the key to all CRM projects. Unfortunately, project success is to often measured by budget and delivery time-scales when really the true value is user adoption and return on investment of tangible business benefits. Put simply, I would rather have a CRM project delivered four months late and over budget but that delivered a 243% return on investment than a project that was called a “success” because the project team delivered on time but that the users didn’t use. Business users will always remember a project that failed to deliver to their needs but will likely never remember the fact that a project was a few months late but did exactly what they need.

A project should only been seen as a success if it meets the objectives of the business and the needs of the users.

CRM user adoption starts at the outset of all projects. In fact this consideration should start well before the project team start delivering any work. The users should be involved at product selection and then continually throughout the implementation. Staying close to the business is the most important aspect of a project. A CRM project is not about technology it is about people and it is about the ability for the business to deliver value to their customers. It is not something that can be measured on a Gantt chart.

When assembling your CRM team make sure that you have representatives from users from all the various parts of the business. This is a continuous process, don’t stop involving the business at the first deliverable, keep them involved and accountable throughout the life-cycle. How long is the life-cycle? Forever, the amount of work and involvement may fluctuate but a CRM strategy does not have a start and an end date, it is a living being and you need to keep nurturing it. It doesn’t need to be costly but it does need due care and attention. After all, your business changes, your people change, your industry changes and so do your customers. Your CRM strategy and system(s) need to reflect (and in some cases drive) this change.

What follows in not an extensive article on CRM adoption nor is it a guaranteed recipe for success, but it does include some key learnings from the many projects I have been involved in. I’ll be honest and admin that although I have had many project success (defined not by delivery time-scale but my business ROI) I too have had my fair share of failure!

Start with small but broad functionality

If possible adopt an agile approach, not just in name but in culture, invest in a team that has agile delivery experience and ensure that your management understand what this means. Failure for the stakeholders to understand and support an agile project is likely to end in failure. Better to revert to a waterfall approach if the stakeholders are not fully signed up to the agile approach. I’ll write a future article on how to adopt Agile in the enterprise, this is beyond the scope of this article.

I’ve tried to illustrate below the concept of start small and broad. Typically projects are the blue lines where you start with Department one, complete all required functionality and then move onto Department two. Rather, focus on the absolute must have of each department (orange bar) and deliver for each department as soon as possible (ideally concurrently). Focus on functions that will deliver cross departmental benefits (single customer view for example) and you likely to not only get higher user adoption across the organisation but a greater ROI.


As described earlier, the value of a CRM project is broad user adoption across the organisation where information and data is being shared. Implementing CRM from a department to department perspective does little to consider the customer journey. For example think about a customer ringing up a bank for a mortgage,  if only the call centre had your customer details what would your experience be when you are passed to the mortgage advisor team and you had to repeat all your details again. Worse still, would you still be on the phone if you had to repeat it all again?

Iterate with continuous improvements.

Minimal Viable Product (MVP)

Understand Minimal Viable Product and how to structure your project to deliver this. Focus on features and benefits  that deliver complete elements of value:  focus on features that are easily perceived as useful and benefits that are highly visible. You can read more about this on my article on CRM Initiation documents. Address the most challenging aspects of the project first, prioritise features and items that are architecturally significant as well as those that meet business objectives. Put another way, keep your CRM simple and make it easy to use.

The carrot and the stick

It never just one or the other, but both. Be sure to include in compensation, pay and benefits into the contract of employment. This is by far the most effective way of getting users to use the system. Monitor User adoption throughput and encourage usage, don’t publicly punish people for not using CRM, focus instead on positive reinforcement techniques not negative. Correlate and show a link between positive individual performance results and CRM usage. Ensure you have executive sponsorship at the highest level and that the business objectives and rewards and clearly communicated.

Tell users why you are doing it and keep them involved

You’ve got great people working for you but do they really understand why a new CRM system is being put in place? Do they appreciate the business objectives. You may of spent a great deal of time and expense in the hiring process but how much time has been devoted to explain the underlying business conditions and what your CRM strategy is and how the business will use the system(s) to achieve this. Create a customised user guide and make sure that this includes more than just how to use the system.

Measure User Adoption

Measure user adoption throughout so that you can keep on top how people are using the system. There is not just one technique, activity and records creation is common but there are many more. Look onto Gamiifcation as a way of measuring user adoption and remember that this is also a continuous process that should be reported on a regular basis in a careful, positive and constructive way.

Identify champions

Every single one of my successful projects have had easy to identify champions, These people are bright, motived, extremely positive, understand the business and create an infectious environment that just makes CRM projects so much easier! They often come from unlikely sources so keep an eye out they are worth their weight in gold. More often than not these people are not senior but have been in the business for some time and are hungry for change and a CRM project is just the opportunity they have been waiting for to empower them to create this change. It my secret weapon!

Avoid seeds of discontent immediately

To do this you need to listen, you need a project structure and culture than listens to the users. Champions are great help in this regard. Stop discontent in its tracks, waiting until an issue becomes shared amongst a larger group will just be more difficult and costly to resolve later. Most of the time these issues are small niggly things that can be fixed easily but was a project team we often dismiss them because they are small, be careful and evaluate your issues with care.


Train in small focused groups and do continuous training. Don’t overwhelm your users right at the start with three hour training sessions, keep them short but regular. Make sure you have open Q&A forums. Recognise that this is a continuous process, you will need to train and the re train.


As with the carrot and the stick described above correlate and show a link between positive individual performance and CRM usage. Use gamiication techniques to make this interesting. Look for ways to use positive reinforcement and reward good usage using individual performance statistics as a positive metric (e.g. sales stats, or cases closed). Perhaps consider rewards for exceptional results.

Data Quality

I have tried to avoid anything related to features or functionality but Data quality is so important I have to mention it. I have talked before about data migration and quality techniques. you can reach more here. I won’t repeat the details of the article here but make sure you have someone who is accountable for data quality and as described avoid the seeds of discontent because if the people do not trust the data or don’t know how to use the system you are in trouble.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Lastly but by no means least is communication. Communicate early and often. Communication means not just talking or telling people what is happening  but listening. If the users feel that are being listened too then you’ve be amazed at how much they will work with you rather than against you. Proof is in the pudding so demonstrate continually that you are listening and coordinate at all levels of users: from senior management, super users and standard users. Make sure you have effective ways of capturing feedback. You could start with Yammer.

This post was originally published on This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

Next time on Mark Margolis’s Blog: TBD