Is Technology a Silver Bullet?

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Deficient technology has been blamed time and again that it is a main culprit for poor performance.  Many companies rush to invest in popular solutions hoping for a silver bullet to their problem.

A financial service company invested in a customer relationship management (CRM) application. Its goals included capturing all the client information in one place and providing up-to-date client information on-demand. The mix of manual and adhoc tools in place created fragmented information archived in numerous places, making it difficult to provide proactive and consistent service. The CRM application was viewed as the solution.

Two years after implementation, less than 30% of the sales team used it. Sales and Marketing continued to struggle with incomplete and scattered client information. The investment didn’t deliver the anticipated benefits.

There are 3 valuable lessons:

1.       Popularity versus usefulness

Despite the fact that CRM is well known for its capabilities to capture client profiles, manage and analyze opportunities, each company needs to explore how the tool could be deployed for optimal benefits.

For the financial service company, its intended goals seemed trivial. The IT team was instructed to implement the tool. There was little collaboration with the Sales and Marketing teams on how specifically the application would bring the most value for them. Upon implementation, the Sales team found the functionalities limiting and cumbersome resulting in sporadic use. The outcome was a repository of spotty information, rendering the tool inadequate.

2.       Implementation versus adoption

The job of implementing a new tool is not done until every user is trained and becomes comfortable in integrating it into her job. Adoption and use are the success indicators.

Many Sales team members got frustrated with the constraints manifest in the functionalities. They weren’t able to rely on the CRM to get what they needed done. Many account reps decided to abandon the CRM altogether. The low adoption rate created a productivity issue for the support staff as the CRM became an additional tool they needed to use to do their job.

3.       Excitement versus commitment

While it is exciting to invest in a promising tool, what matters is the significance of the improvement that would be effected. The magnitude of the improvement goes hand in hand with the commitment from the leaders.

Post implementation, a business analyst was sent to gather input from the Sales team when complaints started to surface. Due to resource constraints, there wasn’t a budget to do more work. Other than additional training, not much was done to improve the tool. The lack of a champion for the application led to a negative perception about the CRM. In addition, the absence of a requirement to completely switch over to the CRM sent a message that the company wasn’t sure whether the tool would be here for good.

Technology could be a silver bullet for the right problem. It would be a costly mistake to invest in a technology without a clear idea of how the technology would be used specifically to help the business. Further, there needs to be a champion to ensure that there is commitment to move forward and guidance for full adoption. Otherwise, the return on investment for the ‘silver bullet’ is minimal.

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