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Minimise the risks of implementing a new CRM/CX system by changing how you manage change


Implementing a new system is fraught with problems. And without pro-actively managing change, a significant number of CRM/CX system projects fail. With that in mind, Graham Hill examines the principles of effective change.

25th Feb 2021
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Implementing a new CRM or other business system – even one with similar functionality to one it is replacing – is fraught with dangers. Experience suggests that without pro-actively managing change, a significant number of CRM system projects fail to deliver the expected benefits and in a significant number of cases, are abandoned within only a few months of going live.

Managing change is not the same as just implementing the new system, training staff how to use it, telling staff all about it and then expecting change to occur. That path almost invariably leads to failure. As the old change management saying goes: Old Organisation + New Technology = Expensive Old Organisation.

Effective change management is a structured process that changes how individuals staff do their work, how teams work together to do their work, how management supports the change over the longer-term and how the organisation as a whole benefits from emerging changes.

The principles of effective change

Over the years, I have identified six key principles that drive effective change:

  • What’s in it for me? The prime motivator for individuals to change is ‘what’s in it for me?’. Individual staff must benefit from the change in ways that are important to them. That may mean financial reward, but it is much more likely to mean other non-financial rewards. Just having better tools to do the job can be a surprising motivator. Effective change matches the right rewards to individual staff.
  • Involve & engage staff. People do not resist change per se, but they do resist being changed by others. If undue resistance is to be avoided staff whose work will be affected by the changes should be involved as much as possible in its redesign. And as frontline staff are usually those with the best understanding of what will work and what won’t, getting them involved improves the chances that the change programme will work too.
  • Work networks work. Individuals have to see the benefits of the change before they will accept it. But so do their work colleagues. An individual member of staff who sees the benefits of a change, surrounded by a team that doesn’t, will quickly abandon the change. In addition to individuals, an effective programme of change should address how work teams and the organisational social networks in which they operate change too.
  • Lead from the front. Change is difficult. If individuals and work teams are to turn the change into a new way of working and then into business-as-usual, they will need to practice their new knowledge and skills. As individuals start to apply what they have learned back in the workplace, they will need help from colleagues, experts and management to develop their experience with the new work. This requires permission from senior management to be less effective at the new work until they master its details. Senior management must be seen to not only talk the new way of working, but also to live it by supporting stuff during the change process too.
  • Stay the course. Many otherwise effective programmes of change fail at the last minute. The change is effectively implemented then management moves onto the next big thing. Months later, staff have reverted to the old ways of working, the new system has been abandoned and nothing of the change is left. If change is to stick, it requires long-term support by management, for anything up to 18-36 months after the change has been implemented.
  • Don’t command change, let it emerge. Although a programme of change can be planned down to the last detail, that is not how change actually happens. As the old military saying goes, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Change cannot be commanded from above. Instead, it emerges from all the interactions of individual staff, their work team colleagues, their direct managers and others. Effective managers of change are like orchestra conductors; they direct the programme of change in ways that the right changes emerge.

These principles apply to any process of change, not just to CRM systems-driven change. Making change happen and making change stick requires a structured, phased approach to change management.

The five phases of managed change

The approach to change that I have found works best is based upon five sequential phases:

  1. Phase 1: Assess change capability. This phase looks at the background to the change, assesses the ability of staff to make the required change and identifies the key people who need to become involved as change agents in driving the change. It provides a solid fact-base upon which to build all the subsequent phases.
  2. Phase 2: Prepare for change. This phase builds the foundation for the rest of the change programme. It recruits the change team and mentors from within the business and prepares them for their roles leading the change programme. It also plans and launches the first 100-day project of the programme. A longer programme might have a number of overlapping 100-day projects. By breaking longer programmes into a series of 100-day projects the programme can get started quicker, new capabilities can be built earlier and more benefits can be harvested, all of which help the case for change.
  3. Phase 3: Build momentum for change. This phase continues the work started in the Prepare for Change phase. Change is not something that is easy to plan with any security a long time in advance. The changes to be promoted during each overlapping 100-day project will be planned in detail and implemented, depending upon what has already been done previously, the actual situation and the change goals. Effective change is as much about sensing emerging opportunities to drive change and responding to them, as it is about planning change.
  4. Phase 4: Go live. This phase is very short. It celebrates the hard work done so far in successfully taking the CRM or other system live. Celebrating success is important for all those who have worked hard to make it happen. It also marks the boundary between the implementation of the system and the upheaval that causes, and the extended period of post-go live support as the new way of working is turned into daily business.
  5. Phase 5: Maintain the change. This phase is critical if the change is to become embedded as business-as-usual. It hands over responsibility for change to the change team and change agents. It also supports them as they take on responsibility for consolidating the change. The phase lasts as long as is required to embed the changes in the organisation. It may be anything from 18-36 months after the system has been implemented until the changes are truly embedded in daily business.

Managing effective change is difficult, but not as difficult as its reputation deserves. With the principles and practical phases outlines here you should look at your next big change programme in a different light.

Use the principles to look at how your manage change. And the practical phases to plan each step on the change journey. Good luck.

Customer-centric innovator Graham Hill is a parter at Optima Partners. Follow Graham on Twitter: @grahamhill

Replies (1)

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By sam007
23rd Apr 2021 07:41

Really like it.

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