Government CRM
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GSA

 Government CRM Software Implementation

Software implementation is more of an art than a science. In science, we can accurately measure, predict and replicate the outcomes of pre-defined actions and events. In art, we create or fashion the best representation or expression based on the diverse conditions at that time. The outcome is often uncertain for we often change courses and adapt to new ideas, new information or new human capital as we make progress.

Government CRM software selection projects must follow a strategic approach and procurement process in order to demonstrate transparency and begin a journey which leads to a successful destination. Challenges in government CRM software selection projects not incurred in the commercial sector include increased procurement oversight, more aggressive budgets, dissimilar customer types, different system requirements, diverse processes, added security conditions, support for disabled users and an all too frequently used protest process. However, while many of the needs may be different, government can benefit from the lessons learned, best practices and experiences of private industry. The software selection steps below highlight a proven approach used by the commercial sector and adapted for government.

 Phase I Planning

The planning phase should begin with the end in sight. Good project plans begin with good implementation methodologies and project planning best practices. For instance, no single task on the project plan should consume more than 20 hours or less than 4 hours. All tasks should be identified with precursors, be effort based (not time or elapsed period based), assigned to accountable resources and lead to defined milestones. With this minimum criteria, you'll be in a position to flex the plan, perform resource allocations, be alerted to capacity constraints, view work breakdown structures and monitor a very visible critical path. Microsoft Project is by far the most popular project planning tool and works fine for most implementations. If you're new to project planning, I recommend the Project Management Institute (PMI) as a source of good project plan methodology, disciplined processes and best practices.

Implementation projects normally commence with a project team kick-off meeting. If advanced preparation has been made, by the end of the meeting the implementation is defined, the activities surrounding the project plan are established, administrative procedures are implemented, project guidelines are established and project monitoring and control processes are developed. 

Key activities in this phase include the following:

  • Assemble the project team; make sure you have an empowered executive sponsor, an experienced project manager, subject matter experts (SMEs) for each line of business, broad representation from the user communities and IT (Information Technology) resources.
  • Clarify the project goals and success marks. I highly recommend discussions with executive management to be certain that project objectives are clear, measurable and relevant.
  • Solidify a detailed project scope. Loose or sloppy scopes make for sloppy projects. Also recognize that scope creep is a constant challenge in all projects. A thoughtful and detailed project scope will greatly assist the project team in maintaining focus and maximizing the opportunity for project success.
  • Review your business processes and keep an open mind to business process improvement or re-engineering. Don't repeat processes in the new system simply because that's the way you've always done it. The process of implementing a new business software system is often an ideal time to also revamp business processes for an even greater synergistic effect.
  • Confirm your business process workflows. This is a task greatly facilitated by process mapping software (visio, mindmap or powerpoint work well) or whiteboard sessions. Make sure processes are defined from end to end so that cross-departmental intersections are identified.
  • Determine business software utilization. Take those process workflow maps and align them to the CRM application software. Chances are the software will cater to most of the process maps. However, software voids are sure to be found and adjustments to the process or the software will have to be evaluated.
  • If incurring software customization, be sure to create the specification and design documents as early as possible. Software customization is an activity commonly delivered late and often requiring multiple iterations before its truly complete. Getting started early can provide some buffer so that this task doesn't end up on the critical path.
  • Like software customization, produce your system integration design documents early. Also, perform a sampling of your existing data to evaluate data cleanliness. Most organizations possess dirty data and don't know it or don't know the extent of it. Performing an early sampling will allow you to discover how dirty your data really is and accelerate the data cleansing process.

A common mistake made in the planning phase is the creation of project objectives which are not complete, clear or measurable. To remedy this issue, we suggest using SMART objectives to ensure that the software implementation's strategic objectives and functional requirements are thoroughly planned, managed and realized in production. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Bound) is an objectives-focused implementation component method which includes the specific steps to define project plan task items and initiatives in a manner that controls scope, specifies outcomes and ensures metrics are established by which the success of the task or initiative can be continually measured and managed. The SMART approach begins with business objectives and requirements that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-bound. For example, an objective to "increase customer satisfaction" would not qualify as a SMART objective; however, if our objective is to "increase customer satisfaction by the end of the month by reducing wait time by 10 percent”, that objective has now met the ‘Measurable’ and ‘Time-Bound’ criteria to become a SMART component.

A second recurring mistake which often leads to project failure is on-the-fly project management. Too many times we've witnessed so called project managers that were little more than project administrators or meeting organizers. Insist on formal project management during your implementation. Trying to succeed in an unstructured CRM implementation is a recipe for disaster. Project management methodologies ensure consistent, controlled and quality deliverables that meet or exceed expectations. Formal project management should be used to keep a real-time pulse on the project’s progress, time frame and budget, as well as mentor the team and succeed in the inevitable technology, people and change management challenges. Project management is a professional discipline, with a body of knowledge and specific skills and competencies and should act as your proactive insurance policy to ensure that the project is successful and the CRM business and ROI objectives are actually realized. 

Planning proverb: "When you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." Yogi Berra

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