Demystifying CRM Adoption Rates

I recently spoke at a global sales summit in Verona,
which gave me a unique opportunity to interact with sales executives
from all corners of the world. I heard their perspectives on sales
effectiveness challenges, sales process, and channel management, among
other topics.

During my keynote I shared the results of CSO
Insights’ 2006 Sales Performance Optimization study as they pertained
to leveraging CRM to improve sales effectiveness. The chart at right
turned out to be the subject of lots of discussion. It illustrates the
breakdown of the CRM system end-user adoption rates reported by the
1,275 companies taking part in this year’s study.

CRM is regularly presented by solution providers
as mission critical applications that all front-office workers must
embrace to achieve their optimal performance. Yet we see that less than
40 percent of the firms implementing these systems have end-user
adoption rates above 90 percent. The two key issues the CSOs attending
the summit wanted insights into were why is there such a wide range of
adoption of CRM systems, and what can a company do to increase the
usage of the systems it have invested in?


There are four factors
to be aware of that influence how many users ultimately embrace these
applications and make them a normal part of their daily workflow.

  • The
    System You Select In breaking down the study data by system installed,
    and focusing on the greater than 90 percent adoption rates, we found
    that ratings for individual vendors ranged from a low of 24 percent to
    a high of 51 percent. So, if you’re looking to implement CRM for the
    first time or replace an existing system, do not assume that all
    solutions are created equal. Some vendors clearly offer more
    user-friendly applications than others.
  • The Functionality
    You Turn On We often talk about CRM as if it were one thing, when in
    reality it is the combination of hundreds of different features. If
    your adoption rates are low, reassess the choices you made regarding
    what functionality you are making available. Do the tools you provide
    really make your people more efficient or effective? If users do not
    see a personal payback for the time they have to invest learning and
    putting data into CRM systems, they will find other ways to do their
  • The Training You Conduct A third factor often
    missing from many CRM projects with low adoption rates is adequate
    training on how to integrate these applications into a user’s daily
    work flow. When you implement CRM you are asking users to change how
    they do their jobs. Vendors continue to make these applications more
    usable, but hands-on training is still needed for many users to help
    them make the transition to new ways of working.
  • The
    Support You Provide You picked the right tool, turned on features that
    users value, got everyone trained–are you done yet? Unfortunately, no.
    If users are going to feel confident with CRM systems at all times,
    they need the right level of hotline support. This can require
    providing 24/7 technical support.

  • In the long run, sales, marketing,
    and support teams will have to consistently leverage technology if they
    are going to achieve the performance levels necessary to do their jobs.
    Ensuring that you cover all four of these factors will take you a long
    way toward realizing the full promise that CRM holds for these users.

    Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes
    in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives.