Change Management is the process of facilitating the acceptance of changes stemming from the implementation of a new project so as to minimize resistance and barriers to change. It is sometimes perceived as something scary, because change itself is fraught with negative connotations.
However, Change Management is a critical component of innovation in business. So, what strategies can ensure the optimal deployment of a CRM project?
Before talking about Change Management per se, what exactly do we mean when we talk about change? This could be incorporating new technologies into the workplace (CRM software, for example), adapting to new legal regulations which change the way you work (hello, GDPR!), or even a merger between two entities (we’ve tried it, we are better together), etc. No matter how big or small a company is, regardless of the sector in which it operates, these types of changes are part and parcel of the life of a company. One thing is certain: change shifts the paradigm. Whether talking about movement, change or evolution, all these words convey one, common, idea: to survive, succeed and thrive, businesses must constantly adapt.
Motion is the key, in business and in life in general. Staying put is the best way to get bogged down and lose your competitive edge. However, change can also be daunting, because you know what you’re leaving behind, but don’t know what’s ahead of you. As Seneca said: “it is not fear itself that which scares us, but the idea we have of it.”
Remember the first time you rode a bike, went skating or skiing … At first, it’s difficult: the more scared you are, the slower you go, and the slower you go, the more likely you are to lose balance, and fall. The more you fall, the more scared you are. To break this vicious circle, you have to overcome your fear, fight your instincts and go faster, and, bit by bit, gain confidence … Rely on those training wheels! Then, once you have hit your stride, take the next step.
The “why”: in a context of change and inherent pressure, it is essential to support your workforce. Your Change Management strategy should be defined from the outset, and should involve all key stakeholders as early as possible. This will enable you to identify potential barriers early on, and estimate the workload and the resources needed to manage the project.
The “how”: map out all the stakeholders of the project, so as to identify the different types of players, how they relate to one another and to the project, and how they work.
The “why”: for a smooth transition, it is important that your workforce has a clear understanding of how this change will bring added value to them. You have to convey to them that implementing a CRM system is not the end in and of itself, but rather a means to help them gain in productivity, efficiency and to enhance collaboration. By explaining how the change is going to benefit them, you will reassure them and they will rally behind the project.
The “how”: design a structured communication plan which provides key information for each milestone of the project, throughout its entire lifecycle. Schedule training sessions to make sure your users can acquire the technical and operational skills they need to hit the ground running when the time comes.
The “why”: it’s time for the “go-live”, but this does not mean your Change Management efforts end here. Continue to involve users by collecting their feedback, their improvement recommendations, etc. Measuring results will give you the insight you need to make the right decisions and ensure the sustainability of the project.
The “how”: collect Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track good and bad practices, and to highlight and value areas of success. It is important that you do not forget to acknowledge your staff’s efforts and adaptability – who doesn’t need an ego boost every now and again?
Change Management, then, lies in the ability to involve your workforce in a global approach, which, in the long run, will benefit them. Change Management is a global and gradual undertaking, and is an integral part of any new project. Therefore, it must be taken into consideration from the outset of your project. It is vital that managers lead by example and do what they are asking their teams to do. So, goodbye for once and for all to your spreadsheets when the CRM centralizes all your customer data.
Finally, Change Management is something which must be done from within. Remember, however, you can always request external help for your project (which in the case of a CRM project can be your software publisher or provider).