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Change management ensures a smooth transition to the new CRM system

Lars Bolender, Gebietsvertriebsleiter, GEDYS IntraWare
Lars Bolender, Gebietsvertriebsleiter, GEDYS IntraWare

Lars Bolender, Head of Sales & Marketing
GEDYS IntraWare GmbH

Digital transformation is inevitable for every industry. However, the introduction of new software often appears to be a hurdle, because such a project ties up budgets and resources. In addition, many employees are skeptical of the changes. Often out of fear of not being up to the new challenges or of being controlled.

For this reason, active support of the change process is important in order to pick up all those involved in the changeover to the new system, to involve them and to support them with regard to use. The sooner you explain the goal as well as tasks, measures and activities for implementation and inform about the progress, the more likely the new program will be adopted in the end. Make the workforce curious about the new software.

According to the latest Good Work Index of the German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, short DGB), employees’ concerns decrease if the company offers continuing education and training. This allows employees to better adapt to the change.

Recognize change management as an important tool

With change management, you not only ensure the necessary structure and planning when introducing a CRM system, but also a more efficient and cost-effective process.

At the same time, you promote cooperation between departments. By providing a consistent approach and creating clear lines of communication between different departments, you motivate your team and improve morale. Silos are eliminated and sharing of resources and knowledge is encouraged.

They help employees understand their roles in the transition process and readily accept assigned tasks. The feeling of belonging to the greater whole leads to more commitment and readiness, which is essential for successful change. Turn those affected into participants!

In this day and age, it is also true that change management as an integral part of your corporate culture offers you the opportunity to fundamentally better adapt to any type of change.

Develop your own change management plan

Every company is different. That’s why there is no simple template that fits all. In addition, the implementation of CRM software can take several months, depending on the scope of the program, customizations and user numbers.

Don’t just tailor your individual change process plan to the specific needs of the business and its stakeholders. Also address the specific issues and factors that may arise during the process of implementation in your operation that could negatively impact it. This enables you to develop and plan appropriate countermeasures at an early stage. In addition to employee resistance to innovations, negative factors include budget cuts, a shortage of skilled workers or a change in management.

Using a model, outline your change management plan, even if not all points in the model apply to your organization.

For example, a recognized approach to implementing change in organizations is the 8-step model of John Paul Kotter, former professor at the Harvard Business School in Cambridge (USA). Wilfried Krüger, former Professor of Organization, Entrepreneurship and Human Resources at the University of Giessen, later summarized this model in 5 phases.

Its streamlining is beneficial because focusing on preparation, knowledge, and training ensures that stakeholders are better equipped to use the system and therefore more likely to adopt it. The flexibility of the model also allows you to tailor the plan to your specific needs and requirements and adjust it in case of unforeseen changes.

The 5-phase model according to Wilfried Krüger

1. Start (initialization)
At this stage, there are only two important tasks:

  • Determine the need for change.
  • Identify and activate the key people who will carry the change (they form the CRM team).

Awareness must be created for this at the upper management level and at least one supporter must be found. We call this person a CRM sponsor.

2. Conception
In the second phase, the team and sponsor formulate and anchor a vision and CRM strategy within the company. The concept should include the following points:

  • Setting concrete goals (e.g. with the SMART formula and questions like: What should or must go differently?)
  • Development of measures to achieve goals (What are we doing to optimize processes?)
  • Selection of procedures for control (What do we use to determine that we have reached our goal?)
  • Distribution of tasks according to expertise (Who can do what best?)
  • Creation of a time schedule (By when do we want to implement what?)
  • Provision of resources (What resources do we need for this?)

You will find suitable tips and procedures in our e-book In 15 Stages to CRM.

3. Mobilization
In the third phase, the planned changes are communicated to the employees. Convince by demonstrating the benefits for the entire workforce. Counter any uncertainties with regular information and transparency on the progress of the project. Good ideas in this context are an (online) magazine or newsletter that explains what is a CRM system?
Establish recurring info events and feedback rounds during the next phases as well. This will help you determine what is going well or where there may be a need for improvement.

4. Implementation
In phase four, the measures defined at the beginning are implemented or the CRM is introduced and reviewed at the same time. What does not work is adjusted, what is missing is added, as examples: Knowledge gaps are closed and staff shortages or underestimated time periods are compensated.

5. Establishment (stabilization)
In the last phase, routines are established that help you live the new processes and consolidate them. The relapse into old ways of working should be avoided. Helpful in this phase are workshops, trainings, advanced trainings and support as well as further feedback rounds.

To enlarge, please click on the image Change Management Phases. For more on this topic, see the book “Excellence in Change: Paths to Strategic Renewal” (by Wilfred Krüger and Norbert Bach). Further literature references can be found at the end of the article.

In our CRM projects, we go a step beyond the Kruger model and bring agile principles to extensive projects and roll-outs:

  1. Development of a target image
  2. Selection of a subdivision or department of the company in which the CRM system will be implemented and tested
  3. Knowledge gain
  4. Adjustment of the procedure
  5. Selection of the next sub-area, implementation and review of the new procedure
  6. Renewed knowledge gains for the procedure in the next subarea of the company, etc.

Assemble a competent change management team

Before you start your CRM project, consider which key people in your company with appropriate expertise could become contributors to the change management or CRM team.

In addition to the sales and commercial management, executives from IT, marketing and service as well as employees from the management level are usually suitable. The team prepares the CRM selection and the purchase of the CRM software. It summarizes the requirements of the departments involved in a CRM requirements overview (the so-called specifications).

In our experience, the buyer team members also take on the active roles in change management and ensure that the seamless transition to the new software system is successful.

Tasks of the change management team

  1. The Buyer Team also takes the leadership role in the change process and sets the tone and direction of the process.
  2. At the beginning of the digitization project, it ensures the creation of a roadmap that meets the company’s organizational requirements and goals.
  3. It ensures that all stakeholders are involved in the process and that everyone is aware of their role and responsibilities.
  4. All team members communicate openly and clearly with all employees throughout the process. They are also available to answer questions and provide assistance as needed.
  5. The team is tasked with proactively identifying potential risks associated with the change process, developing strategies to mitigate them, and ensuring that necessary adjustments are made. Regularly assessing progress and taking corrective action as needed is part of the process.

Avoid these mistakes in your change management process

Example 1: Stakeholders are not included

If regular meetings with stakeholders do not take place throughout the implementation process, your change management team will not receive feedback and you will identify any problems too late. If you do not regulate communication within the company, the transparency that is crucial for motivation and a positive attitude towards the new CRM software is missing.

So be sure to create a clear communication plan that outlines goals, expectations and timelines. To reduce uncertainty on the employee side, make a statement on these points at the start of the project, but also convey that you will address concerns of your colleagues.

Anchor the vision with guiding principles that you post on posters throughout the company. Following the opening, ensure that all employees are regularly informed of all steps. For example, via regular newsletters.

For regular interaction, create an environment where your employees feel comfortable asking questions or providing feedback.

Example 2: Announced changes are not adhered to

Without support and resources from your organization’s leadership, employees lack confidence in the planned changes. If leaders do not stand behind your change mission and do not deliver on announcements, change management becomes untrustworthy and undermines the motivation of contributors. Change needs a credible sponsor!

Therefore, as a change management leader, you should step forward and encourage operational staff to be open to change. Their energetic commitment helps to ensure that everyone remains motivated during the process and identifies with, accepts and also uses the new system.

Example 3: Training for the new system is saved

Do without Briefing into the new CRM system (for example, for cost reasons), employees find themselves in the software not get along. No matter how intuitive the program may be. This leads not only to cumbersome searches and long processing times, but also to Frustration and Reluctance. Due to ignorance, data is processed incorrectly, not retrieved, supposedly deleted, cannot be evaluated correctly or shared with colleagues. Workarounds are invented and make the usage ineffective.

Training on the new software throughout the implementation process and regularly thereafter ensures understanding, acceptance and efficiency. The training should be tailored to the roles and responsibilities of the individual employees in the company as well as their technical knowledge.

With change management to the new CRM system 3
With change management to the new CRM system 5

“Without change management, you cant introduce CRM successfully, even in medium-sized companies. I have experienced this time and again in 25 years of CRM practice. The lack of transparency and knowledge almost always leads to a newly acquired system being virtually unused.”

Lars Bolender, CRM and Change Management Strategist at GEDYS IntraWare GmbH

Example 4: No measurable goals that are regularly reviewed

Without formulating goals in the form of measurable numbers, on topics such as filing emails, creating visit reports, or creating quotes on sales opportunities, you cannot review the use of the CRM system. It is possible that the motivation of the employees decreases because no routine has been established.

During the first three months, periodically review the use of the system against previously established goals. Motivate your employees to persevere and keep going by announcing goals that have been reached to keep discipline high. Also publish smaller milestones such as, “80% of emails are already documented in CRM!” or, “A visit report has been created for every appointment since CRM implementation!”

Evaluate the effectiveness of your change management after implementation

Evaluating change management during and at the end of the implementation process ensures that you improve the processes for further changes in the company. You will recognize mistakes once made, which you will avoid in the future and thus reach the goal more quickly. The evaluation can be done through anonymous surveys or through interviews and feedback rounds. It is also important to determine employee satisfaction with the new CRM system, as this will further encourage the use of the software: the quicker you sort out problems and dissatisfactions, the greater the effectiveness and enjoyment of the work.

CONCLUSION: Use the change management benefits for your CRM implementation

  1. Successful change management makes it easier for your company to introduce new technologies without disrupting daily operations. The new CRM system leads to higher productivity and efficiency once employees get used to it.
  2. Setting goals is essential to measure successes and milestones during CRM implementation and allows you to identify potential problems before they become issues.
  3. An effective communication plan ensures that stakeholders have access to the right information at the right time. It should be recognized by all that their input into the project is strongly encouraged.
  4. Regular feedback sessions allow progress to be assessed and feedback provided to the leadership team to keep them on track for a successful CRM implementation.
  5. Training for new systems helps ensure that all employees know how to use the system properly. As a result, new processes are adopted more quickly after implementation.
  6. Success checks by means of evaluations, surveys or interviews as a CRM efficiency check enable an assessment of whether the CRM system is achieving the intended goals. At the same time, you determine whether any improvements need to be made.
  7. In regular jours fixes, you discuss the current status of the project and necessary optimizations with your CRM partner. You use the insights gained to digitize further processes – towards xRM.