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KPIs for successful CRM software adoption not so simple

An executive sponsor is great, but when it comes to ensuring CRM adoption, some well-thought-out KPIs can make all the difference.

SAN FRANCISCO -- When it comes to best practices for ensuring adoption of a new CRM system, or of almost any application, one piece of advice has remained constant -- find an executive sponsor. That may not necessarily be good advice.

At a session at Oracle OpenWorld being held here this week, David Ewing, of the San Francisco Consulting Group, offered a slightly different take. If you want to make sure your CRM system is adopted, target the middle manager.

"Usually, your senior VPs and CEOs make sure everyone has the tools in place to do things correctly, not that they use these tools," Ewing said.

Beware of focusing just on the end sales representatives as well; focusing on them can lead to thousands of requirements that cannot all be accomplished.

"It’s the people accountable to small teams and divisions that are going to drive their people to use it," Ewing said. "If you drive people to use these tools, then you've got a high-performing organization. The midlevel manager is your customer."

Indeed, treating the end user of enterprise applications as "customers" that you must "sell" the software to has long been a method of helping to ensure CRM adoption and, ultimately, success. But there are others as well, and customers at Oracle OpenWorld shared a few of them.

Design a better dashboard

Nigel Hodges, head of global CRM strategy and programmes at Experian, the U.K.-based information and marketing services company, needed to get some swift adoption for Oracle CRM on Demand when the company acquired roughly 100 smaller legal entities around the world. One tip Hodges suggested is taking care with dashboard design.

"First of all, we need to make sure we design dashboards and reports based on desired business insight," he said. "One of the challenges is finding out what is the desired business insight. The second thing is it is important to have clear line of sight from the CIO’s dashboard to the sales dashboard."

The same goes for report designs.

"What are the questions management wants to answer?" Hodges asked. "Sometimes, it's not as obvious as it might seem. Think about what's relevant to your industry sector. Be real careful about what are the priority items of data. Clearly, it's not much use to talk to senior leadership about 200 KPIs. We tried to keep it to 10."

Reports should also be standardized across the company as much as possible so they can be compared on a like-to-like basis. For example, when Experian underwent restructuring in its U.K. and Ireland group, it was able to compare metrics side-by-side to determine which salespeople to keep and which to let go.

Keep your KPIs hygienic

Experian has a term called hygienic KPIs. Performance measures how the business is doing; hygienic KPIs measure how good the business is at using the application.

Hodges also advised being wary of measuring salespeople purely for compliance. For example, tracking how often they log into an application only encourages them to log on, not necessarily to use it.

Try other metrics, like "expected to close date." Experian looks at how far past the close date opportunities are but also considers the size of the opportunity.

"If you've got an opportunity that you know you'll never close business in 30 days but it has large value and you can present that with graphics, you can have discussions," he said.

Or the last time an opportunity was updated.

"We had a large number of opportunities that hadn't been updated in 60 days," Hodges said. "The reality is some of those opportunities may be dead, but the sales guy can't bring himself to admit that to himself or the organization."

Beware the face-to-face meeting

San Francisco Consulting's Ewing also warns of the sales manager who prefers the face-to-face meeting. They go into the CRM system and see that not all the data is complete, so they go directly to the sales rep for a meeting.

"They keep doing that and the sales team gets an attitude that they don't look at [the CRM system] anyway," Ewing said. "Then usage is haphazard or reps use it only for their own benefit."

That ultimately leads to a vicious cycle of the manager trusting the system less and the reps being less likely to enter data.

Organizations should be asking different questions of their reps if they want them to truly take advantage of CRM. When asked what are the top opportunities they are working on, most reps can rattle that off the top of their head, Ewing said.

"Imagine asking, ‘Who are the customers you are not calling? What opportunities don't have a next step recorded?’" he said. "‘Which of our targeted companies don't have enough of our marketing touches?’"

Oracle's CRM on Demand can spot these things with a function called "negative cross object reporting."

"Besides having individual KPIs by team, we talk about what the norm is and how to get to that norm," Hodges said. "There are three Cs to get to -- complete, current and correct data. If we can get the sales community to help us do that, that's great."

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