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Driving CRM Adoption Through Effective Communication

Today's blog post was written by Scott Hinton, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

CRM implementation success is directly related to the level and speed of user adoption. According to Forrester, 49% of CRM people-oriented project issues reported were due to slow user adoption. Resistance to the change initiative is a major culprit. When a CRM project is announced, it's common for impacted users to experience fear and uncertainty related to leader expectations and how work will be done.

A comprehensive communications strategy, as part of a broader managed change effort, drives CRM adoption and positively impacts behavior change, leadership alignment, change readiness, and training efforts.

Change communication best practice is to launch clear, timely, ongoing, and effective project communications from multiple senders and distributed through multiple mediums with targeted messages. Communications are needed during the full duration of the project or program starting with an official launch long before implementation and continuing through the post go-live change reinforcement phase. Let's take a look at seven ways to maximize communication effectiveness and better meet project objectives overall:

1. Assess the Organization and Build a Communication Strategy

A baseline gauge of impacted users' level of awareness and understanding, as well as the historic level of success of change project communications, provides a starting point and informs the Communication Strategy. The Communication Strategy outlines communication objectives and provides the direction for the project change vision, communication plan, messaging, change branding, and communication roles to best facilitate end user movement from initial project awareness and understanding to buy-in. 

2. Create a Change Vision

The project change vision describes the project "Why." The vision is often referred to as the "Case for Change" and outlines the project value and who it is valuable to. It provides the foundation for minimizing resistance and maximizing adoption and overall engagement. It's also a powerful tool for aligning leaders because it incorporates business goals and defines what project success looks like.

3. Develop a Message Map

Precise messaging improves communication effectiveness. The process that outlines end user change topics is called Message Mapping. The Message Map defines impacted stakeholder expectations (leaders/employees), project benefits (organization overall, impacted users, and clients), where the organization is going and how/when it will arrive at the desired future state. According to Prosci, a global leader in change management research and education, employees want to understand the project "Why" and the risk of not changing. Communicating what's in it for me (WIIFM) based on what users really care about, is often overlooked and a critical communication component. 

4. Build and Manage a Communication Plan

The Communication Plan brings it all together. A few things to remember:

  1. Communication Plans typically include the communication month, date, audience, medium, frequency, key message/s, senders, and creation owners. Ask resources (HR, Marketing, etc…) with specific company knowledge and/or communication skills to review the plan and ensure the communication plan is covered at project team meetings and Sponsor checkpoints.

  2. Leveraging multiple senders beyond the project team including the executive sponsor, sponsor, and key functional managers is encouraged. According to Prosci, "Employees prefer to hear messages about the business issues and reasons for change from the sponsor and prefer to hear about the day to day impact on their jobs from immediate supervisors." Use designated change agents to reinforce key messages. This distributes the role of change leadership throughout the organization.

  3. Utilizing a mix of communication mediums is also important including face-to-face because it's more personal and better facilitates dialogue.

  4. Repeating key messages at least five times increases the likelihood that the information is absorbed.

Scott hinton table 6

5. Know the Audience

A structured change management framework better facilitates adoption because it’s not a one-size fits all approach. Through various assessment tools, unique user requirements and perspectives are captured, and communication can help address particular needs.

6. Ensure Feedback Loops are in Place

Emphasizing listening and providing feedback loops ensures all voices are heard. This allows impacted users to be part of the change; ideas are captured and trends are identified. Feedback should also include pulse surveys to validate communication effectiveness.

7. Create a Change Initiative Brand

A change brand creates message consistency and is a powerful communication tactic for strategic change programs. Branding could include a slogan, change initiative name, and logo. It’s a great way to market the change and develop brand identity, recognition, and legitimacy.

Early communication supports greater project awareness. Thoughtful and deliberate ongoing communication builds understanding, acceptance, and ultimately buy-in. An effective communication strategy will account for and increase the degree of change readiness at the individual and organizational level and result in quicker and higher overall adoption levels and project success.

As always, please reach out should you have any questions.

Topics: CRM Best Practices