There are thousands of decisions during your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation. These decisions usually involve a myriad of people. Along with managing the project, you’re challenged with trying to balance stakeholder engagement. You want to get buy-in—encouraging the stakeholders to have “skin in the game” and actively participate in the CRM implementation process.
But the downside is that as you bring in different individuals with varied experiences, this can create a challenge in making decisions. This becomes particularly difficult if you attempt to make decisions as a committee or consensus.
Trying to increase stakeholder engagement is a plus from a change management perspective, but it can complicate the project from a project management perspective. The goal is to continue with adequate progress, but the most significant impact on your success is stalling the project schedule because you can’t move through the decision-making process.
Don’t dismiss your stakeholders and not have them involved. It is essential to prepare and be ready for this kind of decision-making process, considering people at different vantage points.
We’ve developed a methodology to help you ease through the decision-making process during a CRM implementation project. Here are four areas to consider as you work through your CRM decisions.
Phase one: Investigation
The investigation phase of your CRM decision-making process is where you’ll consider all the information available to make the decision, as well as the information that supports the input. Prepare correct information and develop an understanding of where things might get stuck. Determine if education might be valuable to support better informed decisions.
There are three distinct steps of the investigation phase you should consider.
- Determine what is known and what is unknown.
- Understand the barriers that have prevented progress.
- Evaluate if participants are ready to move forward or additional information needs to be gathered within a defined timeframe.
It is important to complete all three steps in the investigation stage. If you don’t, you risk getting stuck in the level of complexity of information.
Phase two: Alignment
The alignment phase is where you’ll take a more critical analysis of the decisions to be made—specifically identifying the desired outcome and what factors need to be present to support the result.
You’ve developed sufficient information in the investigation phase to market the decision. As you begin to take a more critical look, ask yourself: Are we all clear on the decision we’re trying to make? Pay close attention to not only assessing the decision, but also its options. If you can clearly state a decision but cannot clearly state the options, this can become a problem because both pieces are required.
Clearly articulating each option identifies what the decision gives you. There is always a goal or desired outcome—that’s the only reason you’re making a decision—of something you want to change.
During the alignment phase, consider your CRM decisions and options with these three steps.
- Clarify the actual decision to be made.
- Identify all available options.
- Determine the optimal decision-making model: consensus, consultative, autocratic.
Remember to clearly state where you are, where you want to go, and the decisions you need to make to get there. Then, identify the options of how to get there, and the different pathways to achieve your desired outcome.
Phase three: Synthesis
You’ve taken the time to investigate your decisions and critically analyze your options—identifying their importance. The synthesis phase is an evaluation of each option as compared to the desired outcome. This is where you will decide how your options affect your decisions. When synthesizing your CRM options, consider:
- Can you appropriately evaluate each option?
- How close does that get you to the desired outcome?
As you continue to analyze your options, remember you wouldn’t be struggling over a decision if there is a clear front-runner. It’s essential to complete the synthesis phase, so you understand and differentiate your options—hopefully eliminating less-favorable ones.
Phase four: Conclusion
You’ve made your way to your CRM project decision-making conclusion phase. It might feel like you’ve completed all the tasks at hand, but not so fast. The conclusion phase is vital to solidifying your decisions and should not be skipped. This phase is where you will communicate your decision—whether one or many—to your team and help them understand not only the “what” but the “why.”
If this step doesn’t happen, you will find yourself in the same decision-making cycle on repeat. The conclusion phase requires you to make a final decision, review, and confirm all participants understand it in its entirety.
This methodology can apply to multiple areas of your CRM implementation project. For example, you can use this to decide how an application looks and feels—that’s a design decision. You can also apply this same process to a data conversion decision where you are deciding if you should bring information over from your legacy system to your new system. Finally, it is applicable to change management when assessing whether to change processes and procedures.
Regardless of the reason, you can apply this framework to the many situations you will come up against during your CRM project. Decision-making during your CRM implementation will feel less overwhelming when you are prepared for each stage of the decision-making process.