How can we effect change management in a non-profit utility company with diverse business units? Do you have a source for guidelines that we might apply to our organization?
CRM

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is often a large disruptive cultural change for two reasons:

- It involves a shift in focus from internal products to external customer requirements.
- It is happening at the same time as seismic changes in the markets are moving power from corporations to consumers.

That is a lot of change to accept, let alone understand. Enterprises need to put resources and budget into helping staff understand and contribute to a new, more profitable way of working. It takes at least two years for new behavior to replace an old way of working. During this period, the benefits of change are delayed. Measures to monitor the pace of change must be set up to minimize this delay.

CRM change management is not user training at the end of a technology implementation or a change office putting out communications messages on implementation progress. Change management needs to start when the idea of CRM is first raised with the board and key influencers. A phased plan moves the enterprise from a customer-aware but fragmented culture to a more team-orientated and customer-intimate culture, and finally to a customer collaborative culture.

Many enterprises that have changed behavior used a carrot-and-stick approach. While the "stick" is necessary as a fallback position, recent successful CRM change management programs favor a greater emphasis on positive reinforcement of desired behaviors. Greater use of the "carrot" is driven by the benefit of avoiding a return to old behavior patterns but also avoids the problem of employees feeling that what they have done in the past was wrong. When discouraging the wrong behavior, the best methods are often informal and indirect.

Change management is an important part of a CRM program. Enterprises need to decide on the amount of change required to their current culture at the outset of the initiative and take action according to a phased plan. The plan should have appropriate budgets and aim to include and train everyone in the enterprise, so that eventually employees collaborate with customers. Existing change theory should be appreciated and used. However, all enterprises are different and new techniques to facilitate change should be developed from the variety of disciplines where communication and influence are key skills.


This was first published in May 2003

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