CRM companies are like any other company. Every few years, it’s time to update your CRM system to match today’s needs. Last week marked the go-live of SugarCRM’s fourth major overhaul of our own internal Sugar implementation called Sugar Internal.
I had the privilege to be the executive sponsor of this latest milestone in SugarCRM history. Our own co-founder, Clint Oram, first implemented Sugar Internal back in mid 2004 on the 2.0 version of Sugar. Since then, there have been several different owners of the system…from tech stack to business processes, many hands have worked on Sugar Internal over the years.
As you have probably seen in your own company, when you’re preparing for the next phase of company growth, you have to make sure your CRM is tightly aligned with your current people, processes and technology. That’s what we set out to do when we launched Project Spring.
I think I’m probably more fortunate than Clint was 17 years ago in that I had a whole team of people working on this project. And not just any team of CRM specialists. These were the SugarCRM experts. Every one of them a “black belt” in their role in the project. I have to tell you, my 25 years of software experience has all been around implementing front office and back office software. This was the best team I’ve worked with…and I’m super proud of what we delivered to our colleagues here at Sugar.
And let me reinforce the point, there is no more special fun than taking a new CRM system live for a company full of SugarCRM experts. Everybody wants to give you advice and help every step of the way. Every. Body. All of them.
In this project, we had a few key takeaways that I thought would be worth sharing with you:
- Communication is priority number one.
We set about a multi-pronged communication plan. It starts with the CEO and we made sure that everyone knew the importance of Project Spring. But an opening speech is not enough. We used newsletters, emails, town hall meetings, user councils and more. But my favorite was SpringTV. In the weeks leading up to the Go Live, our fearless change agent – Jana Ferguson – would record 3-5min video clips that ‘spoke’ to the change we were rolling out. The videos are so useful, because they can be watched when it’s convenient for the audience and replayed for emphasis. You don’t need to be a TikTok expert – but simply turn on the camera and interview your colleagues; it goes a long way.
- Measure twice, cut once.
It’s a cliché but a good one. There is so much value in planning and checking, the time spent in design is well worth the effort when you reach the finish line. What I love about our recent deployment of SugarCRM internally is the fact you can tell someone has stepped back and really thought about how to let the platform do the work. When see a process work elegantly, you know someone has really taken the time to think it through.
- Give yourself some breathing room – and plan for the unexpected.
Pride comes before a fall. So often I’m on the other side of the fence when I hear customers force a project to hit a go-live date even if they are not ready, typically because they are too embarrassed to do otherwise. Don’t get me wrong – you should maintain maximum pressure on the team to hit the agreed deadlines. However, it’s also important to take account of events going on around you. In our case we had to divert key people from the project to work on a critical customer problem. It was deflating to tell the business that we were going to pause our go-live by several weeks. However, once we regrouped, set a new plan and delivered on the revised date – the original delay was quickly forgotten. I have no doubt we did the right thing. The alternative would have been a compromised go live that would have plagued us for months. My advice – be bold and pragmatic, leave your ego at the door.
- Host frequent office hours after go-live.
The party does not stop at the point of go live. For the week that followed the initial go live, we held numerous ‘office hours’ or ‘working sessions’ that allowed team members to ask questions and raise concerns. We had plenty of enthusiastic feedback – and it gave everyone the opportunity to tell us what they liked, what they want more of and what they didn’t like. Naturally, we’d missed some things in our UAT (User Acceptance Testing) and it gave the team an opportunity to point out what needed to be fixed. In the coming weeks, we will continue to reinforce training and awareness – it’s not possible in one big-bang moment to retrain a whole workforce on new processes and methods, it requires reinforcement and repetition.
Overall, it was an amazing project – the adrenalin was high and fun was had by all. It was certainly a great achievement by a fantastic team!