Posts Tagged ‘information sharing’

What Does It Mean to ‘Collaborate’ in an Organization?

WalkWe have been having a lot of discussions recently about the definition of collaboration. For most of our clients, increasing collaboration is one of their ultimate goals. But what does it mean to increase collaboration? At first thought, it would seem obvious what it is: increasing the amount of communication exchange among team members in order to identify new opportunities to increase business. The natural next step that sprouts from this conclusion is to invest in technology solutions that allow for an exchange of information: CRM, instant messaging, collaboration sites like Sharepoint.

These tools facilitate collaboration, but they don’t in and of themselves create or inspire collaboration. Collaboration is at its core a cultural phenomenon. Collaboration springs from the development of a community that has shared interests and common goals, and clear visibility of the path to take to reach those goals.[more…] Organizations need to develop a culture where everyone buys into the idea that sharing information benefits the greater good of the firm. Leadership sets the cultural agenda, by creating principles and providing guidance on expected behaviors.

At this point in the conversation is when we start to lose our more systematic-minded peers, who object to the abstract direction of the discussion. In their view, people by nature want to collaborate but there are systemic barriers that prevent the free exchange of information. They feel that these barriers can be broken down with the use of technology. They state examples of how new media has expanded the ability to share information which, in the cases of Wikipedia and Twitter for example, are being done with little financial incentive. It’s human nature to share.[more…]

It’s important to try to balance the two dimensions; they work in tandem. You can have an organization where everyone buys into the benefits of sharing information, but without the tools that enable a free, relevant, and targeted exchange, people will easily give up. In firms with the right culture but the wrong systems, people will want to collaborate, they can’t, and they will feel guilty about it everyday. Alternately, you can have an organization that spends millions of dollars on any variety of tools to talk to each other, but no cultural transformation to buy into a broader benefit, then the investment is completely wasted. Worst of all, these are usually recurring costs.

The leadership of any organization needs to understand how interrelated these are and have a coordinated plan to address them. In the simplest terms, they represent the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of collaboration.

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Five Critical Success Factors for Managers Considering a CRM System

Implementations of CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, systems are notorious for failing to achieve their promise. If you’re considering either implementing your CRM system or upgrading your existing CRM system, here are some guidelines to follow to make sure that you have the most successful implementation.

– Front-line participation: There should be significant participation from front-line business managers from the very start of the project. The most successful CRM implementation that I’ve seen actually had full project leadership coming from front office management, with IT working as subject matter experts and project managers. This isn’t saying that IT managers wouldn’t have the right project leadership skills. CRM systems are probably some of the most idiosyncratic and nuanced technologies that require constant input from a very reluctant user base: salespeople. To get the right requirements that will ensure adoption, there has to be a perception that ownership is within the business, not in IT.[more…]

Culture of information sharing: The right culture of information sharing needs to be in place (within compliance guidelines of course). This is much easier said than done, and for many organizations not very practical. But in organizations where management realizes that bringing together disparate pieces of client information held by salespeople can reveal new opportunities, an effort to change the culture is the best strategy. I’ll detail examples of this in a future post.

Usability: “Usability” is a term used by IT professionals that is often not tangible to non-tech types. In my view, there are two aspects of usability which apply to CRM. The first is intuitiveness, which should be measured by the amount of training needed to get to full use. Less training equals more intuitiveness. The second is workflow integration, which means how well the tools can be integrated into the existing workflow of the user, e.g., adding content to a client record (meeting notes, emails, documents) by simple clicks in email. This area requires the most creativity and expertise to get right. As web and mobile applications become more sophisticated, the expectations of users also increase at a rapid pace.

Data accuracy/integrity: All data-driven systems are only as good as the data within them. CRM data can get corrupted remarkably fast because the source of its key data are from the users, not from a central source. This is a key difference versus other kinds of systems. A lot of thought, and a great deal of expertise, need to be put to bear around this question to achieve a success.

Information integration: I’ve found that CRM information, as useful as it can be to understand a client, when integrated with other systems and data produces incredible insights. Integrating, for instance stock interest information garnered by the sales team with stock and fund performance information can create an interesting product profile that can be actionable. Thinking about how you will maximize the use of your CRM information at the planning stages of implementation creates intense value down the road. Three big questions emerge that change how the system is built and used:

  1. What creative ways can we organize and analyze the data to provide new insights? Your organization probably already captures enough client information to create a competitive advantage, but is not leveraging today.
  2. What sources of information can we find that, when combined with CRM information, provide unique insights?
  3. What other information should client-facing personnel ask for from clients to match with other data sources?
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