Why bother to invest in systems?

The oft-quoted and, I believe, still relevant answer, is  to do things faster and better. Saving time, money & delivering better outcomes for all stakeholders. Can automating everyday business processes within the context of a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software product help you to do things faster & better?

Yes. But, before you automate anything in the context of CRM, think of the technology within the product.   Those bits of information (the "ones and zeros") do not have the power of rational thought. They cannot reason, or make exceptions. We humans still have a significant role to play - notably identifying the business priorities and how to measure the value you wish to return from automation.

Identifying tasks to automate

Modern CRM software products offer tools to assist in the automation of common tasks.  Some, such as workflow engines, drive users down a set path and provide them with the relevant  data. Examples that spring to mind include stepping through sales qualification (for internal validation) and required data fields (to drive "next steps" for customer service communication).

Beyond these lie a further group of tools that replace the user element of a process. Examples may include updating a field with a value based on data held elsewhere in the system. Another example, and a simple yet powerful experience tool, is the automatic sending of a thank you email following a meeting or similar.

Delving deeper into such a range of tools, it is worth taking time to consider what to automate. A pragmatic approach, prior to engaging in any vendor or product research, could be the creation of an "action &  outcome" list.  The purpose of such a list is to identify triggers for processes. You could start, for example, with a single department or one "end-to-end sale" for a product or service. Creating a list highlights the processes inside your business and, when completed, you can work through which business' processes could be made faster or better and by what amount. Based on the importance of each processes to your business plus the value you expect to return, you can work to assign priorities to the process automation. And so begins the formation of a project plan for a CRM implementation.

Reviewing the benefits of automation

Once you have set up some automated tasks within your CRM system, it is important that you regularly monitor their effectiveness. Life doesn't stand still and neither do CRM implementations.  Are these processes still a faster & better” way of doing things? And, importantly, how are they perceived by your clients?  Your once clever email to clients thanking them for a meeting may become tired or worse. So, back in "action &  outcome" list creation stage, adding a further column that sets review dates on all automated processes, helps you to check them and make sure that they are still “fit for purpose”. Viewing that through another lens, that of a project implementation, this step is often part of a "project implementation review" and is good discipline to impose for any project - technology related or otherwise.

Based on an article written by, and with thanks to, Paul Pitman, who brings 20 years of sales & marketing real world experience to the delivery of CRM solutions.