Sonoma Partners Microsoft CRM and Salesforce Blog

The Core Group, CRM, and Change Management: A Recipe for Sales Success

Today’s blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

The Core Group is one of the top four national food service agencies in the United States, selling to operators including hospitals, schools, the armed services, and hotels. They employ 1,200+ people with 52 offices nationwide, and their sales reps support many of the leading Consumer Foods Brands.

The food brokerage industry has been largely consolidated in the last five years. The Core Group acquired more than 15 companies in the past two years alone. Amidst all of this consolidation, food manufacturers demand more information on how their products are sold and the value that The Core Group provides them. These demands, coupled with the organizations’ rapid growth, drove the need to standardize technology across the business. Prior to working with Sonoma Partners, The Core Group owned four different, disparate instances of CRM. Add a widespread use of spreadsheets and you can understand why they lacked visibility across sales regions.

Sonoma Partners deployed a single iteration of Salesforce across all divisions and outlined a change management and national training program. We sat down with Michael Freed, VP of Sales Technology, to discuss the project, how the training sessions are going, and what’s next for CRM and The Core Group.

What motivated you to consolidate systems and invest in a single CRM platform?

Freed: Our customers expect cohesiveness. You have to be able to work as one no matter how many offices and clients you have. We wouldn’t be able to meet these expectations if we didn’t invest in a single CRM platform.

The core groue quote blog img

Sonoma Partners built us an Envision plan (CRM Roadmap) that looked at our requirements, our use cases, and our people to design a CRM deployment strategy specific to us. Our biggest challenge from our initial planning in Philadelphia was to build a platform that would allow for 100 % adoption of the system across all Division of the company. Sonoma Partners has a great model that puts their consultants in the front seat to get better insight into how we do business here. I really believe it’s made a fundamental impact on the system’s architecture and its subsequent adoption.

Sonoma Partners also helped us operate off of a crawl, walk, run strategy. This ensured we didn’t take too much on at the start of the project, over-engineering the design and functionality at the risk of missing out on the quick wins and getting everyone up and running with the basics. This method really resonated with my team and our users, and we’re pleased with the results. I continuously tell our users that we need to get the fundamentals right. I want our employees to get used to the system, get the basic steps right, and reach out if they have questions. Once we get everyone up and running with the basic functionality, then we’ll move into more strategic efforts.

What are some of the items next on your list to tackle with Salesforce?

Freed: I’m really interested to see how Salesforce can be optimized for our more specialized use cases. For example, our K-12 team works with food distributors to sell primary schools. For this division to use Salesforce, it will probably require different dropdowns and timelines to report. I’d love to see CRM reflect these differences. As we become a more specialized organization, I look forward to adjusting CRM accordingly.

How well has the system been adopted so far?

Freed: It’s been an interesting process. There’s always a lot of trepidation about moving onto a new system. Historically, this industry has combatted a lot of bad software, and some people still have a bad taste in their mouth. Getting our leadership engaged was instrumental in driving user adoption. Sonoma Partners helped us develop messaging that illustrated how CRM was just one piece of the puzzle in making us a better organization overall. It’s not about adding process to our work; it’s about meeting new industry standards and exceeding our clients’ increased expectations.

The second thing we’ve done is create a system that we believe is better than everything else out there. We’ve added a mobile app that allows people to access the system on-the-go. They’re not working on the weekend just to log their calls, or trying to remember a page worth of notes six days later. With the mobile app, we’ve created more immediacy in our call reporting. This is essential to improving our operations moving forward and making us more proactive, instead of reactive in our work.

Lastly, we’ve adjusted our training process along the way, ensuring people walk out of our sessions with a better sense of what to do and how to do it. We have adjusted the sessions from the feedback we received in the surveys Sonoma Partners built for us. Now we can focus on teaching our employees how to integrate this new software into their daily tasks. We are nearly finished conducting training sessions around the country and we’re very happy with how things are shaping up.

Did you feel the training plan Sonoma Partners helped set you up for success and evolve over time?

Freed: I think the training model was built properly and in a way that when we got in front of 50 users at a live session, we can be flexible and interactive to the needs of our sales team and adjust from there. It’s not a textbook approach to training. It’s iterative and responsive to what works for our people and culture.

How do you feel your role as a sponsor has impacted the change management process?

Freed: I see myself as responsible for keeping the momentum going between all parties. To be a conduit between senior leadership, our users, and the technology platform with Sonoma Partners. If you picture a wheel with a lot of spokes, my job is to keep the wheel turning. I think it’s important to view my role in this global manner for the purpose of monitoring our overall progress.

What tough decisions have you had to make during this implementation process?

Freed: I think the toughest decisions revolved around the details that went into the initial deployment, and how much we wanted to put into the system from the beginning. CRM systems never stop evolving. I’ve talked to many people at our organization who have different ideas for how to do something, or what they want the system to be able to do.

Again, you need to be careful that you’re not trying to run before you can walk. You need a system that will last and stand the test of time, and then add layers. You don’t want to take layers away because you went too far, too fast. I think the challenge is to not react to every demand and make sure we build something that’s sustainable at first with the basic fundamentals, and then grow and strategically expand from there as we grow as a company.

What would you consider a measurement of success for the system once it’s up and running?

Freed: When it comes to training, I’ll know its successful when everyone is following the same disciplines in their reporting. In the long term – which is more exciting to me – is how we take this technology and make it a strategic instrument for ourselves and our clients so that we’re providing value every day. The true measurement of success will come when we provide better results to our clients by making more strategic calls as a result of what we’re doing in Salesforce.

Now that you can tell that story of cohesiveness, how have things changed?

Freed: It’s a door opener for us. We’ve already had conversations with several industry leading  clients based on the fact that we’ve deployed Salesforce and are making steps to bring our business units together. The next step will be integrating our systems with our clients, and we’re quickly moving in that direction.

How does CRM help you better compete?

Freed: It’s a necessity. Our competitors utilize their technology as their lead in. For the Core Group, we believe our winning edge begins with our people centric culture and sales execution. Our CRM platform is a great tool for us to facilitate our execution strategy.   If we aren’t consistent in how we’re reporting to our customers, it becomes clear that we have gaps in our cohesiveness as an organization. Now that we have that cohesion, we can compete more effectively. And now that our system is built better than anyone else’s – thanks to Sonoma – we can not only play alongside our competition; we can surpass them.

How do you see the future of CRM in your industry?

Freed: It’s essential. We’re in a data-centric world right now, and our clients are constantly seeking data insights. The Core Group is essentially a sales call factory. We sell to distributors who sell to end users – we’re not in the direct selling business.  But now the industry is shrinking the gap. We have the data to tell us how to best use our time and make the best calls possible. We’re defining new roles within our company to support this. With more prescriptive data to make more strategic sales calls, we are now providing the tools to be more effective in executing against it. That’s where the future is: how do we maximize our effort and plan our effort. The industry is evolving to make sure our work matters to us and our clients, and CRM is the platform to help us get there.

Our thanks to Michael Freed for taking the time to discuss their project with us. If you’re curious how your company could improve with a new deployment of CRM, let us know.

Topics: CRM Best Practices

The 10 Benefits of User Acceptance Testing

Today's blog post was written by Brian Kasic, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

My project team recently had an in-person User Acceptance Testing (“UAT”). 25 team members from across the country gathered in Boston for testing. The teams were hesitant to start the official user testing of a custom-built CRM application for a banking real-estate investment and tax credit process but a decision was made that the benefits outweighed the risk of “not being ready” for this week-long event to test the CRM application that has in the works for over a year. Just like any tough project, the feeling of “not being ready” can flow through one’s psyche. But project leadership was determined to make it happen. The reward at the end of this week was confidence in the work that has been done, and it made the team realize we were ready to proceed with going live with the CRM system. It also showed other intangible benefits. As a motivating factor, Starbucks coffee was offered to anyone, whenever they wanted it. “Gotta get the coffee! And keep the team testing” kept going through my head as the program manager ultimately responsible for the success or failure of this very important week. Conveniently, we had a Starbucks store at the base of our elevator in our building. We even used their mobile app to get everyone’s orders just the way they wanted them. Thank goodness for technology and mobile apps (see Attendee in AppExchange for one by Sonoma Partners!).

But the main point of this blog is to emphasize the value of User Acceptance Testing and to encourage you to go for it!

Many benefits came out of the testing even though two weeks prior we had many team members saying that they weren’t ready.

Here is a list of the ultimate benefits:

UAT_testing_B.Kasic_blogOpportunity to Collaborate

The team from all over the country was able to ask questions about the project, in person with each other. Being a remotely located team this was valuable face-to-face time with each other.

Focus and Prioritize

We have had a long project and sometimes the little fixes get in the way of what is really most important. For us, we need a minimal viable product for the business team to operate on day 1.

Show the Vision

There is going to be support for our product, post go live, so the small nice to have updates will not be left behind once the project is complete. We will fix any defects right away but understand that most users are primarily engaged once they have to use a new system for their day to day activities. After go live, our team will continue to support the product with the most valuable feedback we receive from our business team.

Check the Data

Data is key and it has to be reliable. Even if the system is not perfect on day 1, we have to be able to trust our data. The legacy system will be “read only” and we will be able to compare and contrast historical reporting. This will be a great way to check that the data in the new system is complete and accurate.

Test Access

I’ve seen too many system go lives where security roles, profiles and access was not what was expected. The key here is to make the access plan transparent to the stakeholders and engage them in testing various profiles, groups and scenarios. Be prepared to have a role that can get anyone through a process on day 1. You don’t want to stop business operations because of an access mistake. Then make the necessary adjustments while always being cautious of granting too much access to sensitive information.

Teach and Train

For many testers, this is a great opportunity to teach them new areas and train them on the overall system. User testing should not be mistaken with training but it is the first step in making sure that the users of the system can assist their peers when questions arise.

Prepare for Go-Live

We talked about our plan at go live and the overall support model. How many team members would need to be “on call”. The process for users to get support. A hotline to ask questions. We discussed team schedules and availability. All important details to plan well in advance of the final weeks of the project. Doing this planning early allows the team to focus on the top priorities and not the logistics during a critical time in the project.

Motivate the Team that the Finish Line is Near

Projects can wear people out, so motivation is important to keep the team going. We continue to ask, “what is in this project for the company and for us as individuals?” We held a team dinner to make sure everyone is feeling appreciated for the efforts and hard work they have given.

Fix the Issues

With all the other benefits of user testing, the main one it to fix issues. At the end of each day the team would hold an hour issue triage call where we could highlight all the issues identified during the day’s testing. During this meeting, we determine who would be on point to fix the issue. Sometimes these were know issues and other times they were newly identified defects that needed immediate attention before continuing testing. Quick turnaround time and visibility to the issues is critical to staying efficient in UAT.

Drink the Coffee

Taking breaks to walk and talk helps lighten the load in a full week of conference room testing. Grabbing coffee shows the team you care and keeps the caffeine level up to keep going. These types of testing weeks can be intense so taking a break and motivating everyone with good treats sure helped!

So when your team is not feeling ready to user test, consider the positives and benefits. After the fact you will be glad that you made it happen. For more guidance on user testing of CRM application, please contact Sonoma Partners.

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Are you ready for change?

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

When thinking about the Change Management required to successfully implement a CRM application, the first thing that you need to understand is whether or not your user community is even ready for the change. Most likely, they’re not. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t move forward with your CRM initiative! You just need to figure out how much time and effort will be required and the best approach for managing the change which can be done with a readiness assessment.

What is a Readiness Assessment?

Sonoma Partners methodology for managing the people side of change is called our primary focus during the Discover phase. Readiness assessments can take many forms but we typically use 3 tools:

Change Risk Assessment Survey

Start with a Risk Assessment Survey which is usually sent to the key members of your project team covering topics around your organization (leadership, history of change, and expected resistance) and the specific project (size of impact, type of impact, resources and training needs). From this survey, you can identify change barriers and create a plan to overcome those barriers.

Change 1

User Survey

Next, survey the users who will be impacted by the CRM initiative. Some example questions that you will want to understand include:

  • I believe that CRM will benefit our company.
  • There is sufficient executive level support for the CRM implementation.
  • I know where to find information about our CRM implementation.

From this survey, you can better understand how to address project communication, training, and sponsorship needs. A similar survey should be distributed before and after launch as well to ensure that users are onboard with the change and that your company is adapting appropriately to the feedback received.

Stakeholder Impact Assessment

Interview your key stakeholders including the leaders who are (or should be) driving your CRM initiative and map their degree of influence, engagement and change impact. Next, develop tactics to keep them engaged throughout the life of your CRM program.

Change 2

Why Assess Change Readiness

There are many benefits to assessing and managing readiness as users move from current to future state from a system, process, and people perspective.

  1. Drive user adoption through informed data driven decisions.
  2. Gain unique stakeholder and stakeholder group perspectives, needs, and priorities.
  3. Establish a baseline measurement for readiness. Future data can be measured, evaluated, and communicated against this baseline to understand sponsorship, communications, and training effectiveness.
  4. Provide a feedback loop and opportunity for users to participate in the change and voice their opinion which increases buy-in.
  5. Identify change risk and scope the change management effort.
  6. Align leaders around your findings.
  7. Demonstrate leadership commitment.

A change strategy that includes a readiness assessment increases user adoption through targeted change management tactics versus a one-size fits all approach. Unsure how to get started assessing readiness of your organization for your CRM program or unsure what to do with what you find? Give us a call, we’re happy to help!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Pulling the Right Levers

Today's blog post was writen by Kristie Reid, VP of Consulting at Sonoma Partners.

Forget the carrot and the stick. Start thinking of how to increase user adoption in your CRM system a different way.

Start thinking of what levers you can pull to ensure a successful CRM implementation!

lev·er /ˈlevər,ˈlēvər/
noun: “a means of exerting pressure on someone to act in a particular way”

Change management is critical to all projects that want to create a change in an organization. But with CRM, it takes so much more to change behavior.

So what levers can be pulled to change that behavior?

Here are some examples of some amazing levers that we have seen clients use.

Financial levers

- Example: No commissions will be paid until the data is in CRM.

- Pros: You will get data in the system! 

- Cons: Will you get the data you want or will everyone use a just-in-time approach to shove the data in to get paid?

- Even Better: Make sure that dashboards around how the user is doing towards their goal is also in CRM. I bet they will check that regularly!

Integration levers

- Example: A new account doesn’t get created in the billing system until it is entered in CRM.  Kried 2

- Pros: You have data in the system and you reduce double entry which is a definite killer for the success of any CRM system.

- Cons: How many of those accounts are entered by an admin but no action is being taken on them until billing is needed?

- Even Better: What if you can’t expense lunch with a prospect until a record with a prospect and an activity is in the CRM system?

Simplicity levers

- Example: Tracking a meeting that I have in CRM is so tedious. However, I have this cool application that allows me to quickly add a meeting and dictate my notes on my way out of the building (no one needs to know that data goes into CRM!)

- Pros: No more going back to the hotel at night and recording what you did that day.

- Cons: Voice to text is still buggy but at least you’re capturing the data!

- Even Better: Make sure the application has the data needed before the meeting!

Accountability levers

- Example: My manager runs the report that we discuss on our weekly 1:1 report from CRM. If it isn’t in there, it doesn’t exist.Kried 3

- Pros: Reduces the amount of scrambling to put data together for meetings and ensures the data is updated, at least on a weekly basis.

- Cons: Relies on each specific manager to enforce this behavior.

- Even Better: Reinforce this behavior all the way to the top – all company meetings should be run from CRM data.

Do you have any levers that you’ve pulled to make your CRM Program more successful? We would love to hear them!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Lights, Camera, Action: Sonoma Partners CRM Training Videos

Today's blog post and video content were created by Kristian Altuve, Business Analyst at Sonoma Partners.

Learning is not an easy process, and we all absorb and retain information in different ways. Some of us like to figure things out on our own through trial and error while others like to watch someone do it first, then practice after.

In my experience as a trainer of end users on new CRM systems, I’ve learned a variety of teaching methods.

Onsite training is always helpful to gauge audience reactions and tailor the session to meet all learning styles. I demonstrate how to efficiently navigate the system and coach users through hands-on practice. Webinars are also a popular channel for training. But learning doesn't stop there. After initial training, users may rely on their peers or software documentation to get up-to-speed. This is also why training documentation is an important deliverable when training end users.

Kristian Altuve, Business Analyst at Sonoma Partners

But let's take a look at a real scenario from a few months ago. My project manager and I were planning a training approach for a client rolling out a new CRM system to hundreds of users. How can we best support the business and the learning needs of their users? How about a video? With some spare time, I created a general video, "Getting Started with CRM," and presented it to our client. Their reaction was so enthusiastic that we completed an entire library of training videos for the various tasks users will perform in their day-to-day business. The final delivery for the training portion of this engagement was a series of webinars supplemented by quick start guides and training videos.

A few benefits of custom training videos for your end users:

  • Improves knowledge retention and information recall.
  • Accommodates different learning styles
  • Access On-demand, bite-sized learning, when your users need it.

You can check out our promotional video on custom training below: 

If you'd like to learn more about Sonoma Partners or CRM training, contact us.

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Cover the Bases of a Successful CRM Deployment

Today’s blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

We’ve seen customer relationship management (CRM) help organizations improve sales teams’ productivity, increase revenue, and optimize their business processes. Are you looking to invest in a tool that can transform your sales organization?

Here are a few tips to help you cover the bases of a successful CRM deployment.

Hit 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and make the dash to home to get a better sense of what you should be considering when investing in a new – or updating an existing – CRM system.

1. The Platform

Are you interested in a platform that can benefit all areas of your business? We suggest turning to the key market leaders, Microsoft and Salesforce. As you evaluate platforms don’t get distracted by impressive lists of feature/functions. At the end of the day, Microsoft and Salesforce are powerful tools that can be customized to meet your organization’s unique needs. Instead of conducting the evaluation based on features, spend your time looking at the systems your organization already uses. What integrations do you need to connect different aspects of your business? Which platform is best positioned to make these integrations as seamless as possible?


Pro-tip: We highly discourage you from building your own platform, a.k.a. a Homegrown CRM system. Microsoft and Salesforce are market-leaders for a reason. They come with next-level enhancements, support blogs, customer forums, frequent updates, and so much more. Save yourself the headache of having to make adjustments and conduct maintenance all by your lonesome. Rely on your teammates at Microsoft or Salesforce instead.

2. Executive Buy-In

 The success of your CRM lies in the hands of your leadership. Getting executive buy-in at the beginning of your CRM journey is crucial to garnering meaningful end user adoption. The leaders at your organization need to actively use CRM and support change management and user adoption programs in order to make a serious and lasting impact on your users.

3. Scalability

Customer relationship management is not just a deployment, or a project. It’s a never-ending, ongoing program, and your system needs to grow as you do. As you optimize your business processes, your solution needs to adjust and evolve. It’s critical to view the initial deployment as just one piece of the bigger picture you need to get the 360-degree view of your clients that you want.

4. The Partner

Slide into home with an implementation partner that can help you achieve your CRM goals. When selecting an implementation partner, it’s important to make sure they understand your business. Which industries do they specialize in? Do you resonate with their case studies? If you’re interesting in getting a general feel for the organization, try to attend an in-person event or demo.

Different partners have different methods for implementation. What model does this particular organization follow? Do they have a strategy for change management and user adoption? Set yourself up for success by doing your research prior to investing in a partner who can truly make – or break – your implementation.

A poorly implemented system can go stale quickly when users are not committed, or motivated, to logging information within the system. With a failed partnership, you’ll find yourself entering the selection process all over again, and no reason to “fly the W” just yet.

Are you interested in getting started on a homerun of a deployment? We’d love to help! Fill out this brief form to contact us.

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Leading CRM for Leader Dogs

Today's blog post was written by Kayla Silverstein, Marketing Specialist at Sonoma Partners.

Bogged down by an inflexible custom CRM solution (Quilogy), Leader Dogs for the Blind wanted a more efficient way to track operations and client records in Microsoft Dynamics CRM (now Dynamics 365).

Who is Leader Dogs for the Blind?

Leader Dogs for the Blind is a nonprofit organization based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Founded in 1939, they provide guide dogs to the blind and visually impaired. Through their programs, Leader Dogs helps clients find and work with guide dogs for greater mobility, independence, and quality of life.

Leader Dogs Project Fast Facts:

  • Industry: Nonprofit
  • Workload type: Customer Service
  • # of employees: 65
  • # of users in deployment: 65
  • Platform: Dynamics 365
  • Fun fact: Leader Dogs operates as the only facility in the Western Hemisphere to teach deaf-blind students how to work with a guide dog.


The Challenge:

  • Previously, Leader Dogs used a customer solution called Quilogy to manage operations, client services, puppy breeding, and training. While functional, Quilogy was an old system with limitations in both capability and scalability. For example, the outdated solution was not built to track puppy production schedules or many of the other unique operational components Leader Dogs required.
  • An outside consulting firm developed Leader Dogs’ custom solution several years ago and their relationship with the firm had since dissolved, making any opportunity to further customize or update the system impossible.

The Solution:

  • Replace Quilogy with Dynamics 365 to maintain all department records within the organization.

The Result:

  • Automation in CRM manages daily tasks with the dogs (such as flea checks, baths, etc.). Based on different triggers in the system, CRM creates Task records and assigns them automatically. When dogs are handed off between different teams, Leader Dogs can see which Tasks have and haven’t been completed.
  • The Breeding department uses CRM to trace dogs and their performance over their lifetime. A lot of analysis and science goes into picking the right dogs to breed for key traits that are essential parts of a strong guide dog. With CRM, they’re able to see how the dogs perform both in training and on the job, creating a strong feedback loop.
  • Their portal now meets accessibility standards for use by the visually-impaired.
Topics: CRM Best Practices Microsoft Dynamics 365

The Evolving Expectation on Customer Experience

Today's blog post was written by Adam Barr, Principal Consultant at Sonoma Partners.

What if I told you your ability to differentiate yourself from the competition will be dictated more by your Customer Service team than any Product Development or Innovation Office? Many organizations, several of them in your industry, have already experienced the impact of delivering a superior (or inferior) customer experience.

Various market studies forecast the increasing role of the customer experience in influencing buying behaviors and customer loyalty.

Gartner research predicts by the end of 2017, nearly 90% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator. Aberdeen Group studies show companies that provide a consistent service quality across multiple channels retain 89% of their customers, whereas companies that do not provide a consistent quality are only able to retain 33%. Complicating matters, Google research highlights that 98% of Americans switch between devices every day.

What do all these statistics mean to you?

This means your customers have a voice; they want it to be heard; and they want it on a channel conveniently available to them. Customers realize the amplification of their voice in the social marketplace and now have a higher expectation to influence the terms of their engagement with your organization. Companies in turn have made greater investments in providing superior a customer experience.

Barr 1_cropped

In a 2017 Global Contact Center study, Deloitte identified that Customer Experience (88%, up from 71% in 2015) and Service Improvement (73%, up from 57% in 2015) are clear priorities for growth in the contact centers. More than 80% of organizations reported that customer feedback is “core to their DNA” or “a core input to business decision,” nearly doubling from 45% in 2013.

Omni-Channel vs. Multi-Channel

There is a distinct difference between multi-channel and omni-channel.  Multi-channel refers to organizations leveraging more than one channel (i.e. phone, web, email) to engage with customers, but it does not necessarily mean the experience is consistent or well-transitioned from channel to channel.  Multi-channel has become the table stakes for many customer support operations. Omni-channel also consists of organizations leveraging two or more channels to engage with their customers, however, with an omni-channel strategy, there is significant focus paid towards delivering a seamless and consistent experience regardless of channel or device.

Barr 2_cropped
The complexity of the interaction will still dictate the initial channel with which the customer engages your organization. Remember, from the customer perspective, the channel must be fluid and dynamic while still maintaining a consistent experience. Across the 450 global leaders surveyed in Deloitte’s Global Contact Center Survey, many indicate their organization invests less in voice solutions while focusing more effort in providing a variety of options. Voice is expected to remain the most prominent channel, but is predicted to fall from 64% of total interactions today to 47% in 2019. Web chat is expected to grow from 6% to 16%. SMS, video, and social are all expecting to double, although remaining under 10%.The channel preferences for customers are not only evolving; they are dynamic. An effective omni-channel solution needs to account for the fact that Customer A may phone you in the morning, follow up with a chat conversation, review an article attempting to resolve their issue, then email a support agent to close the day. All interactions must be captured in a centralized, logical, insightful fashion to appropriately meet the customers’ expectation for service. 89% of customer’s express frustration having to repeat their issue to multiple representatives. At its core, an omni-channel strategy is one in which all independent channels work cohesively as one unit to provide a superior customer experience.

Barr 3_cropped

Click on the image to expand.

Consumer interactions will only continue to increase in volume, due to additional channel access, and complexity, with the ever-increasing expectation of superior customer experience. These trends are not exactly new. Numerous market research firms have been forecasting the need for organizations to adopt a more customer-centric model for years. However, what has changed in the marketplace is the availability of tools for organizations to truly enable an omni-channel experience while minimizing internal business disruption.

In my next post, I will detail the technologies leaders are embracing to appropriately compete in a consumer-centric marketplace and explain how you can setup an omni-channel solution with CRM.  For more information on how we can help you build further upon – or develop a new – omni-channel solution, contact us!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Can Users Really Change?

Today's blog post was written by Kristie Reid, VP of Consulting at Sonoma Partners.

How hard is it really to change the minds of who you hope will embrace your CRM system? Unfortunately, it depends on the user. You can implement the best CRM system in the world but without user adoption, the program will be considered a failure. And without a plan of attack for that user adoption, your chances of success are slim. In fact, studies show that slow user adoption is the biggest threat to CRM projects.

So…get a plan of attack! Unlike the technical solution of implementing a new CRM system, gaining consensus of users must take on a more individualized approach. Let’s consider the following three stakeholders in our “fictional” CRM implementation (even though these people are made up, I’m sure you will recognize them):

Kristie1b_750 white background

In our Change Management Methodology, we focus on 5 main areas to address individual plans for change:

  • Readiness
  • Strategy
  • Sponsorship
  • Communication
  • Learning

When thinking about a plan of attack for each individual personality that will need managed throughout a CRM program, we address these five key areas.

Let’s go back to our team and see how we can address these areas with those individuals:

Kristie2b_750 white background

Need help coming up with your plan of attack? Contact us!

Topics: CRM Best Practices

Driving Project Value Through Change Management and Project Management Integration

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

I have had the opportunity to work as a Project Manager and with Project Managers throughout my career, and I've have experienced the value of change management and project management function integration directly. Although the Project Manager's primarily focus is the "Technical" aspects of a project and the Change Lead primarily focuses on the "People" side of change, the roles are complementary and share objectives. According to Prosci, "Project management and change management both aim to increase the likelihood that projects or initiatives deliver the intended results and outcomes. The most effective approach is to integrate change management and project management to create a unified approach to implementing change on both fronts." 

When I look back at my most successful projects as a Change Lead, the commonality is a good working relationship with the Project Manager. We worked in lock step and had each other's back on these projects. These Project Managers were advocates and understood the value and general tactics of change management and consistently allocated time in project team meetings for change management updates. This article highlights benefits and tips for integrating project management and change management functions and roles with system changes.

Integration Benefits

Increased project synergy
Change management and project management integration and alignment creates greater synergy between the people, process and system project components. Project benefits can be realized when the disciplines function independently, but integrating change management and project management creates a unified front to designing, developing, implementing and reinforcing the change which significantly increases the speed and degree of change and overall project success. "The efforts of both can be focused toward a singular objective—improving the performance of the organization by successfully implementing a change that delivers the intended results and outcomes," according to Prosci.

Greater project information sharingManagement_3-01
Integration helps uncover potential blind spots and facilitates a more holistic and faster response to schedule, scope, resource and budget changes. This also includes project risks and issues. The people oriented issues and risks should be assigned to the change Lead. I use the Project Manager as a sounding board and provide another vantage point on technical project aspects in my Change Lead role.

A unified approach also eases effective communication of milestones like project kickoffs and go-lives and fosters collaboration on crafting timely messages that translate into What's in it for me (WIIFM) for users. In one example, the Project Manager looked at upcoming communication topics and asked me to share a recently added feature with users because it was a hot topic during requirement gathering sessions. User felt the project had a pulse on what was on their mind.

The flow of information is generally improved with integration. On the front end, an integrated approach ensures that impacted employees are receiving the appropriate messages about what's coming, when and why. On the back end, it helps ensure that the project team receives effective feedback on adoption, user reaction to the change and success with the system.

Project Credibility
Project success is highly dependent on leadership engagement. When leaders have a better understanding, they view the project as more credible and will set a better tone and example for impacted users. On several projects, I conducted joint presentations with the Project Manager periodically to the executive committee. Based on sponsor feedback, attendees came away with greater clarity and assurance. The added level of confidence allows the sponsor to focus on being active and visible with the peace of mind that the project is being managed holistically.

Integration Tips to Drive Project Value

  1. Integrate the change plan into the overall project plan. This creates greater accountability, structure and better visibility of change milestones and deliverables and allows the project team and sponsor to clearly see what's coming and when.

  2. Incorporate change management updates into project meetings including governance committee meetings. This provides another way for key stakeholders to contribute directly to the change. I typically invite the Project Manager to change management touch points with the sponsor. This supports alignment and provides a unified voice.

  3. Educate the Project Manager on change management fundamentals. This creates a powerful and effective advocate. Gaining change management knowledge is an opportunity for project managers to revisit and shift their project management reference points. "Through change management, they modify their vision of project management: they learn a new or another way to think and to manage projects. Lehmann, V. (2014). The collaboration value is deepened when the Change Lead understands and appreciates Project Management fundamentals in turn.

  4. Share change readiness data with the Project Manager. Understanding readiness results intimately allows the Project Manager to proactively address potential adoption challenges based on system technical readiness. 

The value of integration is research based. In Prosci’s Best Practices in Change Management-2016 Edition,"58% of the participants who integrated change management and project management in their project met or exceeded their project objectives versus 42% without." Awareness and understanding of the respective functions allows the Project Manager and Change Lead to grasp project from broader perspective and perform their primary role better.

My project management background has served me well in Change Lead roles and I have observed higher performance in the Project Managers that get the people side of change. Integrating Project Management and Change Management will give your project the an added edge in realizing project benefits and overall success.

Topics: CRM Best Practices