The CRM Promise Fulfilled


07/02/2013 | Cloud and Operations 

What you’re about to hear might surprise you. You can implement a CRM system tailored to your business, rapidly and effectively, with just a small team, and at vastly reduced cost. The secret is approaching CRM strategically, from a business perspective, utilizing Cloud-based solutions and a user-centric approach.

A Little History

When the big CRM systems came on the scene in the 1990s, they came with a lot of hype and promise for a 360-degree view of the customer that would revolutionize business. The idea was to have one fully integrated system for managing customer relationships. It was a great idea in theory, but it turned out to be extremely challenging in application. The systems were very expensive and complex to deploy and very hard for enterprises to match up with their business processes.

Traditional consulting firms deployed armies of consultants for these projects, expecting clients to dedicate valuable time and significant internal resources at the expense of business priorities. When a fully customized CRM implementation was finally complete, the solutions were so complex they confused users. They also didn’t scale well and upgrades were brutal. Businesses were left bewildered and frustrated. Many of these projects were deemed a failure.

Understandably, there’s a lot of caution surrounding CRM implementations today.

The AIM Approach: Small Teams, Rapid Implementation

AIM has a deep background in CRM and we approach these systems in an entirely new way, implementing CRM solutions faster, at greatly reduced cost and with much higher customer satisfaction. Instead of dedicating large teams to build massively complex systems, we deploy small teams that focus on core business processes and getting the technology swiftly into the hands of users.

Why Does This Work?

Over the years CRM solutions have become more robust and easier to integrate with other internal systems. Early CRM systems were built to make customer information accessible to everyone in a shared database, track customer interactions, and standardize communication workflows. Today’s CRM solutions integrate with email, social media, collaboration tools, and more. They are also mobile-friendly, allowing sales people to update information about customers on the go.

In addition, CRM products now include SaaS-based options. In the past, buying a CRM system was like building a house from the ground up. You were required to purchase the software and servers and install them in your own datacenter. Today, all of that is done by the software provider, such as Microsoft or Salesforce; the “house” is already built. All you have to do is purchase logins for the system and configure it where necessary to meet your specific business needs — shifting the focus of delivery away from installation and toward enhanced business processes.

Most importantly, we build the right teams to implement the CRM. Technology by itself is not a solution. You need people who understand the CRM technology, people who understand your business, and people who can effectively train your users to ensure that the solution will be adopted by your employees. AIM provides coordinated teams and manages the implementation of CRM solutions end-to-end. By working together, we are able to avoid pitfalls, maximize benefits, and realize the promise of CRM for our customers.

A User-Centric Business Perspective

Our CRM solutions are tailored to the business with an emphasis on impactful customizations and enhanced user adoption. We analyze the business goals, familiarize ourselves with the business’s taxonomy, and streamline systems for users by making sure all fields are relevant and the information entered is both necessary and actionable.

One reason that traditional CRM projects can get so expensive is that the implementation is typically staffed with more developers than business process experts. The problem is that developers tend to customize technology to conform to users’ habits, even if it’s not the best approach in the long view.

For example, when your business receives an email from a new customer asking for support on your product, you want to make sure that email is tracked and that follow-up occurs. Users might want customized automations that assign an Outlook task to someone and then monitor for completion of the task. The key question to ask is whether your employees actually leverage Outlook tasks or whether it might be better to educate users how to accomplish the same objective through a dashboard. The key is to take your users’ work into consideration before complicated customizations are made.

The problem with customizing technology to conform to user habits is that it takes time and gets expensive. It also creates a Frankenstein system, making maintenance on the CRM a headache. AIM’s business-process approach avoids this.

Our strength as integrators is that we know as much about the client’s business processes as we do about the technology and we ask the right questions to enable us to marry them together. Although all companies need some amount of configuration and customization, we do it the smart way with our eye on the business goals and with understanding of how the CRM technology can best help users achieve those goals. To make sure our solution works, we get the technology into the hands of users quickly and then iterate based on the feedback of the people actually using the tool. Doing so shortens the delivery cycle substantially and makes the solution much more affordable to maintain going forward.

In addition, we familiarize ourselves with the client’s business taxonomy, which we consider a critical success factor. Armed with detailed information about how the business speaks to and about its customers, we are able to optimize business processes and implement the right tools to help automate and support those processes. For example, we keep forms as clean as possible. This involves a combination of removing unused fields, keeping required fields to a minimum, hiding fields or sections that are only used under certain circumstances, and generally making sure that all fields available are tied to actionable data.

We also place great emphasis on usability. We make sure user acceptance testing takes place for half to two thirds of the project so that by the time the tool goes live, users are already familiar with it and ready to roll. Launches become a non-event. To make sure users are supported, we provide process-based checklists and 1-2 page reference guides. Training takes place gradually through the use of early and ongoing hands-on exposure to the tool. We don’t see our job as done until users understand how to use the technology we deliver and are using it successfully.

Once the users are adopting the solution and generating real value from the product, we know we have met the true needs of our client. Their information is more organized, their people are more efficient, and more business opportunities are acted upon. This is why we view CRM projects as solutions, not just software, and emphasize delivery of the solution end-to-end.

Proven Results

AIM’s approach to CRM projects is unique. It is also proven. We know that it works because we have done it. In a recent CRM case study, we show how we implemented Microsoft Dynamics 5.0 (CRM Online) for one of our clients with great acceptance and immediate value to the team. And we did it in 10 weeks. We are implementing more of these solutions right now, and doing it with tremendous success.

Our approach works because we place the emphasis on business goals and processes, resulting in minimal customization of the technology and reduced cost to the client. As a result, the CRM solution we implement meets our client’s actual business needs and does so with optimal adoption by users and minimal disruption to the operations of the business.

Download this CRM strategy and implementation white paper as a pdf.