The Smart Organization's Guide To Implementing Change

2005-06-03
Reprinted from Local Tech Wire

Implementing a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can easily be compared to a really scary roller coaster ride — complete with ups and downs, unexpected curves, hairpin turns, and loop-de-loops.  

It is an exhausting process, but one done with the intention of improving the customer experience while simultaneously increasing organizational efficiency and collaboration.  But once everything is in place, the one thing that the software can't do is make users use it.

It is not a secret that technology will support change, but it cannot create it.  In fact, resistance to change is by far the biggest impediment to the widespread adoption of any software.  People are simply not eager to have their comfort levels challenged.  And if technology is not used to its full potential, it can have a powerful negative impact on the cost/benefit of the software.

So how do we get users to embrace the change?  Experts say the best way to overcome user objections is to prevent them in the first place.  This can be accomplished by surveying all potential user groups and incorporating their informational, technical, and operational requirements into the software selection process.

Keep Users in Mind

After the decision to purchase the CRM has been made, it is time to focus on implementation.  This is where it becomes imperative to show the users the benefits of the new system.  This does not mean send out a corporate memo stating how great the new system will be and here's the expected launch date.  It means introducing the challenges currently being faced by the organization and its user base and presenting the software to them as a possible solution.  After allowing users to learn more about it, they should be encouraged to provide feedback.  

When a technology's benefits are clearly demonstrated to users, they are more likely to embrace the new system.  And remember — delighted users are better customers.

So how do we make sure our users are delighted?  We offer a usable, useful site where users achieve their goals and leave the site feeling good about your organization.  Basically, a satisfying user experience communicates:  "We value your attention and respect your time."  And it is in the spirit of that statement that we should implement any new technology.

User-centered design (UCD) activities should span the entire CRM effort — from the requirements and analysis phase of analyzing users and their tasks to the design and development phase where the design is iteratively refined based on user feedback to the evaluation phase of usability testing and continued refinement.  At its most basic level, superior user experiences are where common sense and design for the least common denominator of your target user group converge.  More specifically, a good user experience:

  • Anticipates needs before customers have to ask for something

  • Demonstrates ease with which customers can accurately perform useful tasks

  • Allows access to relevant information

  • Is interactive and content-rich

  • Provides a consistent look and feel that effectively communicates value propositions and differentiation

Step by Step

To accomplish this, the following UCD activities should be continuously employed — remember, a CRM is a "living" technology that will require ongoing improvement:

  • Audience Definition:  It is performed to understand specific user attributes that may need to be accommodated in the User Interface (UI) design; to determine how these attributes may differ across user roles; and to select participants for usability evaluations.

  • Task Analysis:  It is performed to understand how users will use the system to accomplish their task goals, and to determine how these tasks may differ across user roles.

  • Use Case Models:  It is performed to understand for each task the step-by-step interaction between user's intentions and system responsibilities to accomplish the task goal, and to understand the relationships among the task-specific use cases.

  • Design Specification:  It is performed to provide detailed descriptions of all aspects of the UI, from navigational behavior and screen layout, down to the level of UI object attributes.

  • Iterative Design:  It is performed to elicit user feedback based on simulated task performance using a series of prototypes, in order to optimize the usability of the UI design.

  • Usability Testing:  It is performed to determine the usability of the system, to validate against usability goals, and to set benchmarks against which to measure the usability of future releases.

  • Heuristic Review:  It is performed to determine areas of the predecessor UI needing usability improvements; to evaluate competitors' strengths and weaknesses; to establish usability goals for the future system.

At the end of the day, having more users on the new CRM makes it richer.  The key to getting them to embrace the new system and use it well is to implement a system that has been designed based on the needs and characteristics of the user audience — resulting in a usable tool — and on enabling efficient performance of their tasks — resulting in a tool that is useful as well.  

In other words, the overall design of your CRM should proceed from the outside in — from the perspective of the users and their tasks — rather than inside out — from the perspective of the code and architecture.  Because of the nature of the captured audience of the organization, the CRM does offer the opportunity of "if you build it, they will come" — but only if you first listen and respond to their needs by providing a usable, useful tool.