Change Management: Building Knowledge and Skills for Your CRM Implementation

Your Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) implementation project requires many levels of change. Successful change management must go beyond how-to training on the new CRM product. Users and stakeholders should know how to adapt to the new processes, along with actively using the new language and terminology to operate in the “new world” effectively.


One component of your change management program you should consider is integrating a process toward building stakeholder knowledge and skills. This empowers users and stakeholders to build the essential knowledge and skills to make an effective transition and work their way toward mastery of your CRM.


Helping users and stakeholders with the building knowledge and skills part of the change management process can be broken into five steps. This five-step process is a continuum, and steps shouldn’t be skipped. Additionally, it is essential to integrate this process early on. It is not something you should wait until the end of your project to implement—it should also be adapted in parallel to your implementation plan.


Here are five steps to consider as you work to help users and stakeholders build their knowledge and skills during the CRM change management process.


Step one: Exposure

The first step to building skills and knowledge during the change management process should be exposure. The exposure state is a period to inform and educate users of the pending changes. This is a way of socializing users with the new system. Exposure can include talking about the new CRM and introducing users to the new features and design.


Exposing users and stakeholders acts as an introduction and helps prepare them for the level of change that is about to occur.


Step two: Experience

The next step includes allowing users to gain experience within the new CRM system. This step is a hands-on introduction to your CRM. Do this by creating structured scenarios or simulations to let users feel or experience the change, allowing them to test out your new CRM processes and procedures. As you conduct experimental usage, be sure it is within a controlled environment without consequences or deadlines.


Step three: Engagement

After the controlled environment experience, users move to the engagement phase. The engagement phase includes targeted activities to reinforce new behaviors, increase knowledge, and build skills required for the CRM change.


It is crucial not to jump to the engagement phase without first exposing users and offering experience. The most common mistake organizations make is starting in the engagement phase. But this creates a missed opportunity to give users the benefit of exposure and experiencing the CRM.


It is also important to note that when the exposure and experience steps are skipped, users tend to go into shock—making it more challenging to transition to ownership and become champions of the CRM. Using the “shock treatment” increases resistance of the change even after it occurs.


Step four: Ownership

The ownership phase is when users are proficient in the skills required to transition to the organization’s future state. Reinforce proficiency by reiterating engagement and allowing users to experiment with the aspects of your CRM. Users can only move toward ownership after successfully being exposed, experiencing the CRM system, and eengaging with your CRM system.


Step five: Mastery

Not everyone transitions to the mastery phase. But if you don’t allow users to go through every aspect of the change management process, you won’t be able to find those that can rise to the level of mastery. The mastery level is when subject matter experts have developed advanced skills that support the organization’s future state and are able to help others do the same.


As you continue to plan for change management of your new CRM, it is essential to remember that building knowledge and skills is only one aspect to consider. Building users’ knowledge and skills for your CRM implementation requires a five-step process that first exposes them to the change and helps them move toward mastery through the change management process.