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Your Role in the Adoption Cycle

The historical success rates for CRM systems have been quite low: most industry analyst surveys show that less than 50% of CRM projects are deemed a success by management. A core reason for this low percentage is that any CRM product—even if perfectly implemented—is only a tool with little intrinsic value. Without users and accurate data, the CRM will remain just an empty shell.

The single most important thing for you to do is to stimulate adoption and usage of SFDC, getting people on the bandwagon so that the system becomes a valuable data asset.

Your personal behavior over the entire deployment sequence really counts. Everyone must get the unambiguous message that SFDC is important to you and the way you want to do business. Your team knows you and can read your nonverbal messages about what you really think. A few words carelessly thrown around when you’re stressed out can set SFDC adoption back by months.

In addition to your consistent personal support, there must be a proactive “good news” campaign touting the SFDC system almost from day one. Post something relevant on chatter every day. Move the “Monday Sales Update” email to a chatter post so everyone gets the message. If you don’t have time for that, have your admin do it for you.

Executive Mandates

As delivery of SFDC features begins, put some mandates in place so that your organization gets the right big-picture orientation about the system:

  • The SFDC system is what executives will use as their only source for information about customer relationships. If other systems contain customer data (such as warranty registration), they’ll need to be integrated with SFDC over time so that the company achieves a 360-degree view of the customer.
  • SFDC is not to be used as a spying machine or micromanagement tool. You will not listen to people who try to use it that way or who are trying to game the system for personal or political gain.
  • The SFDC system is to be used as the command center or virtual war room for winning accounts and keeping customers happy. The data entered into the system need to be good enough to drive real decisions and allocate resources at every level of the organization.
  • SFDC is supposed to eliminate excessive emails, data reentry, and forgotten action items. Show users that requests made via email are given lower priority than requests made through the SFDC system.
  • Paper reports and spreadsheets generated outside of SFDC will not be acceptable for use in management meetings. It’s acceptable to “pretty up” the format of SFDC data, but it is not okay to prepare external spreadsheets independently of the official, system-of-record data.
  • The organization will move toward an MBE policy, which means routine decisions should be handled “in process.” People should be able to handle more than 90% of the work without invoking manual workarounds or unusual decisions. SFDC’s alerts, thresholds, workflows, and reports should be used to handle normal situations and to automatically flag or escalate the unusual cases.
  • The company is to be a learning organization, and you expect things to improve incrementally and consistently. SFDC follows that philosophy by delivering changes in increments and adapting to feedback along the way. If problems occur, you expect feedback to be delivered candidly to the SFDC team so that they can adjust and do better. Sniping does no good for anyone.

Adoption Metrics

The executive team should set up adoption metrics early on in the project so that the organization can know how well the system is being accepted. Make sure that the metrics you establish are meaningful to the business rather than being trivial data points (e.g., the number of people who logged in to the SFDC system last week).

Here are examples of meaningful adoption metrics that should be used to judge SFDC acceptance and success:

  • Number of times the average person logged in during the week
  • Percentage of deals that have any meaningful data attached to them
  • Percentage of deals that have complete data attached to them
  • Average length of time since deals had an update to the data
  • Percentage of error-free records
  • Percentage of fields that are erroneous
  • Percentage of users who are “totally into the system,” “average users,” and “Luddites” (resistors)
  • Percentage of executives who trust the data in the system versus those who distrust the data or think the data are meaningless or misleading

The Politics of System Adoption

Unfortunately, some people will inevitably look for any excuse not to use the SFDC system. They will jump at the chance to criticize it and will point to others’ criticism as the basis for not bothering to log in. Your support is a key success factor in overcoming resistance.

Use both carrots and sticks to motivate the users. If you are an SFDC executive champion, clearly articulate why the system is important to the way you do business.


The champions of the system are the single most important force in driving SFDC usage, because it is their will and budget that make the system happen in the first place. It is also their organizational clout and enthusiasm that drive fast adoption.

Champions must act consistently about SFDC, and their behavior should demonstrate that they will be depending on the system for their success. They need to say how often they’ll rely on its data and reports to run management meetings. They need to have a dashboard named after them and have that dashboard appear on the home screen of their organization. See Chapters 9 through 13 for more best practices in this area.

Each champion should create a sequence of milestones for meetings that will depend on SFDC data and reports. For example, if the system will initially go live in January, the sales champion should ask that all lead reports used by executive staff be based on the system by March, that all opportunity lists be driven off the system by April, and that all forecasting and pipeline reports be based only on SFDC data by May. As the year unfolds, the sales champion should issue an email stipulating that no deal will be discussed at any level of management review unless it is in the SFDC system first. Later, an email from this executive should clarify the requirement that deals won’t be reviewed unless their SFDC data have been updated within the last 2 weeks. By incrementally and repeatedly emphasizing the importance of the system to every level of the management chain, the champion cements the right kind of thinking and behavior about SFDC.

It’s incredibly important to maintain the illusion of the inevitability of system usage. It takes only a few negative or ambivalent words from the champion to halt SFDC’s positive momentum. When misinformation shows up in a report or dashboard, the champion must have the discipline to say, “This information is no good. I rely on my team to keep the data in SFDC accurate and timely, and I don’t want to see this happen again.” If in a moment of frustration the champion says something like, “This system is no damn good—I can’t use this garbage,” the champion will be setting back SFDC adoption by months. Rumors fly fast.


Upper management always has the power to issue mandates. Of course, if you issue overly grandiose management commands or use sticks too early, the risk is that workers will dismiss them as “another thing those executives will forget about next month.” Obviously, this you need to avoid.

Because the SFDC system will be delivered incrementally, “sticks”—commands and requirements—should also be doled out gradually. In the very early days of the SFDC project, the system will not be functionally complete and—worse—it won’t contain much interesting data. The trick is to get users on the system doing something that will add to the system data asset as a natural part of their jobs. The user representatives on the implementation team will find a part of the business process to serve as the beachhead for SFDC users. Once this step in the business process is identified, management should mandate that the users change to the new behavior on a specific date. After a few weeks, more user steps should be added to the mandatory SFDC activity.

Only after SFDC has the required functionality, data volume, and data quality to be a reliable asset should the big sticks come out. Any penalties (such as “No commission on deals will be paid unless . . .”) should not be even hinted at for the first 6 months of system usage.


“Carrots” are positive incentives for people to use the SFDC system. Carrots are typically more powerful and reliable than many of the sticks described in the preceding section.

The first carrots come from organizational incentives: procedures or activities that are more easily performed by using the system than by not using it. For example, if your sales team needs loaner equipment or travel authorization, make it easier to get these resources approved through the system than by using the old way. Management should make it clear that action items presented to them as SFDC tasks will be handled sooner and more predictably than requests presented by email or voicemail. Not surprisingly, users will rapidly acquire new habits when they realize you stick to your guns.

The next carrots come from rewards. After the first few weeks, you can start contests with rewards and recognition for the users with the best data, the most frequent logins, and the most complete customer records. Make these contests and incentives as relevant to your business objectives as possible—awards for meaningless system metrics are about as lame as the ones for “tidiest office cubicle” or “most recycled coffee cups.”

The last bunch of carrots comprises the benefits that are intrinsic to SFDC system usage: the users discover that doing things through the system saves time and streamlines onerous tasks. These carrots become more important as the system becomes more functionally complete and has workflows, integrations, and data that make it the optimal way to carry out a task. When you discover some good news in this area, make sure to send out emails touting these highly leveraged behaviors so that people can see the effects on their personal productivity. If your field sales and support people don’t already have iPads or Android tablets, these devices are nice rewards and really can make a difference in the customer’s perception of your service.

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