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Your Role in Driving Project Approval

Before the SFDC project even begins, you’ll be asked for money and political sponsorship. You need to directly participate in the process or else appoint a delegate with decision-making power and some budgetary authority.


Industry analysts universally agree that executive championship is a key success factor for any CRM project, even while the business case is being prepared. Of course, not all executives are equally effective in filling this role. The best formula is to have the COO/VP of sales be the champion and driver of the SFDC project. Nevertheless, if the CEO feels very strongly about SFDC, he or she can be an effective champion as well. See Chapter 6 if you want to understand more about the choice of champion.

To make an SFDC system successful across the layers of a company, every executive must take on the following personal action items:

  • When investing in CRM functionality, always give the users something that is intrinsically valuable—something that saves them time or makes them look smarter—before you ask users to put additional effort into the system. If individuals (particularly sales folks) don’t get anything directly in return, they’ll view the system as a burden and a tax—and, not surprisingly, the amount and quality of the data in the system will decline.
  • Focus on system credibility over system functionality. The fanciest features in the world won’t make any difference if they’re based on garbage data. Be ready to put some serious time and money4 into data quality, migration, and integration. It is almost impossible to spend too much on ensuring data credibility.
  • Provide more reasons for users to stay in the system and fewer reasons for them to work outside it. Make sure to identify key user groups, and keep the project team focused on tailoring the system to their needs. The goal is to make outboard spreadsheets and “insurance policy” steps disappear because they’re a waste of effort and they prevent you from really seeing what’s going on in the organization. Push for the system to embody all of the steps and data for the business processes it is supporting.
  • Plan to build the system incrementally, with features coming in phases rather than being delivered as a “Big Bang.” In the implementation project, start small with a tight team and quick wins. Grow incrementally, delivering value to the business at least every 60 days. You’ll be asking users to change some of their behaviors for handling customer interactions. Putting these changes in place will be for the better, but it will still take time. Users need time to learn and modify their behaviors if they’re going to be really effective SFDC users.
  • As an executive, you need to do five things for the SFDC team:

    • Set the business priorities.
    • Define the metrics of success.
    • Provide funding and dedicated staff.
    • Remove organizational obstacles.
    • Promote system usage and celebrate system users.
  • As an executive, you need to keep the project and your organization paying attention to the right things:

    Don’t focus on:

    Do focus on:

    Technology for its own sake

    Business process improvement

    Excessive measurement

    Change management

    Cost control

    Revenue/profit increase

The Business Case

The business case for SFDC is pretty straightforward, at least on the cost side of the equation. On the benefits side, the tricky things to quantify are opportunity costs—expenses you can avoid or lost deals you could win. The SFDC project team will need your help answering questions like these:

  • How much more revenue could you realistically get if you could close the trickiest 1% of customer deals? What about the trickiest 5%?
  • What would be the impact of shortening the sales cycle by one week? What if sales reps could do a better job of qualifying prospects? Would that mean more revenue or simply reps with more time on their hands?
  • What would it mean to the bottom line if marketing could divert 10% of its programs from people who aren’t likely to buy and instead spend that money on people who are more likely to buy?
  • What would it mean for customer support profitability if the team could handle each customer issue with one less phone call?
  • What would it mean for your bottom line if customers were 5% more satisfied with your product or service? What would it mean if you achieved a 1% better upsell rate?
  • How would it change your business if you could predict customer behavior better? How much more profitable would the company be if the sales forecast were 5% more accurate?

Of course, none of these improvements will be achieved the first day the SFDC system is running. Nevertheless, you want to think about the big picture to ensure that the team is pointed in the right direction and the business case for your CRM investment is tightly tied to solid business objectives.

Requirements and Priorities

The majority of SFDC customers make significant modifications to the off-the-shelf system before it becomes truly effective for their business. The larger your company and the more complex your products and sales cycles, the deeper the modifications need to go. SFDC makes most modifications really easy to implement and maintain, but don’t be fooled: you need to invest time and money in the implementation.

While detail-level requirements aren’t collected up front, you need to provide overall direction and priorities for the SFDC project. Which CRM problems do you need to solve? Which functional areas of the system will your team be using first? How many people will be on the system? Which other systems will need to be integrated with SFDC?

In stating requirements, do not telegraph a sky’s-the-limit perspective. Be incredibly clear about the “nice to have” features versus the real priorities for the short term. The biggest enemies of a successful CRM implementation are vague or inconsistent priorities.

During the formative stages of the project, you should identify a few archetypal users to be interviewed so that the system is designed around the needs of real people. It is imperative that the SFDC team interview people at “the bottom” of the organization. There’s no one like a few sales reps, a person from order operations, and a customer service rep to make the system requirements reflect the real priorities of the business. This means that the project must involve cross-functional operational teams and must not be another project driven by central IT.

In addition, the team should ask you to participate in some brainstorming around reports and dashboards that you personally need. At the early stages, nobody is trying to design the specifics; they’re just trying to see the big picture of what you need to drive the ship. This session—maybe 45 minutes huddled around a whiteboard—is intended to help the team understand what you manage to and what information you need to see on a daily or weekly basis.

Terminology and Semantics

As part of your company culture, you have your own terminology for customer interactions, sales management, marketing campaigns, and support programs. One of the key factors for successful SFDC usage is establishing a common vocabulary and a well-understood set of semantics for the sales process. Although the executive team shouldn’t get bogged down in any of the details, it’s amazing how much time can be wasted in a meeting when there isn’t a common understanding of the words customer and deal. So before the CRM project is even approved, it’s a best practice to get everyone on the same page on “obvious” issues like these:

  • What’s a lead, a contact, a sales cycle, and a customer?
  • When is a customer no longer a customer?
  • What’s a partner? What are your channels?
  • What are the stages of the sales cycle?
  • What are the stages of the customer support cycle?
  • What are the trigger events or conditions that move a prospect from one stage of the sales cycle to another, or a customer from one support status to another?
  • What is the difference between booked deals and recognized revenues?
  • What are the main product lines and service categories the company offers? Which services do you offer in the form of a product?

Make sure that these definitions are nailed down and agreed to by all departments early in the SFDC project.

Resource Commitments

When the management decision is made to go for SFDC, the company will be committing money to the project. Every executive who has any plans to leverage the system will need to dedicate some of his or her staff’s time throughout the life of the project to make sure that the system actually meets the organization’s needs. Great systems happen only with the participation of people who care and are empowered to make binding decisions about the following tasks:

  • Clearly spelling out the details of requirements and understanding the repercussions of decisions and tradeoffs
  • Making sure that data are properly interpreted and prepared for the new system
  • Identifying business rules and thinking through business processes to make sure they are unambiguously documented
  • Reviewing user interface screens to make sure they’re clean, clear, and usable
  • Helping design reports and dashboards that highlight the issues management really cares about
  • Participating in acceptance testing of the system while paying particular attention to the meaning and accuracy of results

Make sure the right people on your team are assigned goals and that they dedicate time—your entire organization will benefit dramatically from the right level of participation. Of course, some of your time is required as well, to handle escalated issues, budgets, and political battles.

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