In our podcast today, Robert and I get into governance. No, we’re not talking politics (that’s off-limits). This is CRM On Demand governance and it’s something every customer needs to ensure long-term success.

Governance of your CRM system entails maintaining the application, dealing with changes, monitoring performance, and of course managing user adoption as well. So this is really the whole gamut of things that companies are doing to make sure the system is running well.

Truth is, governance can mean different things to different companies and can even change depending on what’s going on at the time. For example, you will need a different approach to governance during the initial deployment than you will during your normal “maintenance”. And again, when major business changes occur, another approach will be required.

But what we want to talk about today are some key components of governance that every CRM On Demand customer should have in place.

The Right People to Govern

We advise establishing a standing CRM Steering Committee. The membership may change over time, of course – but the roles should be fairly constant.

I’d say the most important thing here is that this group understands their charter. That is to provide oversight for the CRM program and be the ultimate decision-making body for any major changes or initiatives. And usually this is the place where business and IT get together and hash things out. So as far as who is on the committee, what we recommend is:

  • Executive sponsor: The overall program sponsor for the CRM initiative – may come from business or IT
  • Business lead: A senior level manager who represents the needs of the business.
  • Technical Lead: A senior level manager who represents the IT organization

Depending on the implementation, there may be several individuals in each role – representing different line of business or regions, for example.

What do they do?

So  we’ve got the WHO, now let’s talk more about WHAT. What does this Steering Committee do? Well, obviously – they govern!

The role of the Steering Committee is oversight. This isn’t the group that’s going to be in the system making configuration changes. But they have a few key functions both during an implementation and after.

Up front, its this group that should be setting or approving Business Objectives and Success Metrics. What are we trying to achieve and how will it be measured?

An important function of the SC is to approve standards which will apply to the system as a whole – basically guidelines that the ground-level folks can refer to. We’ll talk specifics in a bit.

During the implementation:

This group should be reviewing progress weekly. The project team should be reporting to them on status against milestones, budget and any technical issues that arise. A big part of that is escalation management. During any deployment you’re likely to run into issues that require someone to make a decision – especially those issues that involve the project budget or schedule.

That’s where the steering committee earns its keep. So the folks on the steering committee must be in a position to really understand the CRM project goals and represent the big picture from a company standpoint – again, referring back to the objectives and success metrics set earlier.

Beyond the implementation

So what happens when the deployment is complete? CRM is up and running, everyone is happy (they always are) – can we give these guys a break?

NO! We still need governance, but certainly the timing and expectations change.

Regular reviews – monthly or quarterly – are conducted to assess the progress of the CRM program. This should be viewed as an opportunity to do some adoption measurement, service request reviews, survey the user population, and do some performance assessment.

Another key item to include is an update on changes to the product. The steering committee should be very involved in planning for new CRM On Demand releases – both testing before the release goes live as well as planning for how to leverage new features.

In addition to specific metrics, we like to see the IT and business leads share their feedback on the progress of the CRM program – good and bad. And again, this is where the SC makes decisions about key changes or updates to the program.

It sounds like this Steering Committee is really going to do all of our Governance, then?

They will be central, but there are other things that need to be done day to day as well.

Unified technical oversight

I had a recent experience with a very large customer that had, after a couple of years, ended up with a tangled web of … well, web services. Multiple partners in different regions had worked on the system to build different interfaces. When problems started to crop up, no one knew what they had or who owned it.

That sounds pretty extreme, but if your CRM system includes interfaces, you need to track what’s being built, by whom, centralize your code repository – and I’d add that a consistent approach is a good idea as well. I mean standardizing on language, platform, etc.

So this is the day to day job of our Technical Lead. She needs to make sure that anything connecting to the system meets the standards set by the steering committee.

Ensure adherence to best practices

It’s unrealistic to have every single change in the application go through the steering committee for approval. But good governance means that standards apply uniformly to ALL changes.

Let’s talk about some examples here. One that comes to mind is Roles. You might need to establish some new Roles over time, and often the difference is only very minor. But every new Role should conform to a standard set for the business in terms of privileges, visibility, object access, and so on. A deviation from these standards would be something the SC would take up.

The system administrator needs to have these guidelines up front. So when a manager comes to her and says “hey, my team needs a new set of page layouts and a bunch of public lists”, she can refer to the guidelines to determine how best to meet the need. In a way that doesn’t make the system harder to manage or for other people to use!

We should point out that besides being just a good idea to keep things under control, adhering to best practices and standards can also ensure that performance doesn’t crater. We had a recent experience where a new group was added to a very large system and they had totally different visibility requirements. Adding a team-based organization on top of a Books based created a lot of confusion and, due to large data sets and large teams, really brought down performance for everyone.

Business intelligence

By which, I mean reporting. One of the most powerful functions CRM On Demand provides is its amazingly flexible BI tools.

But with great power comes great responsibility! And good governance means ensuring that folks building reports are trained to do it well. They should take courses, read Mike Lairson’s books (check out our Reading Room!), and generally be qualified to do the job.

Companies may decide to let a lot of people build reports or limit it to just a few – I’m partial to the later, but at the end of the day what matters is that there is a standard policy in place to govern the reporting process. And by process I mean the function of gathering the requirements to the building and releasing of the reports and dashboards.

I know we’ve both worked with customers who have opened the gates wide and ended up with WAY too many reports in an unorganized jumble. Then folks start to complain about performance and usability and it slides off a cliff…

In a large, complex installation you need to really know what you’re doing to achieve the best performance in reports – something we’ve talked about before. That’s why it is far better to assign the report-writing job to a few trained individuals who can look after their group or region or whatever.

That approach also encourages consolidating what might have been a dozen reports into one well-constructed Dashboard.

Working with Oracle

One area we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the podcast is dealing with Oracle – we’ve talked about it in other podcasts, but good governance needs to include monitoring the maintenance windows, upgrades and refresh schedules published to all customers.

We’ve had too many experiences where a lot of work done in Staging suddenly disappeared after a refresh! This brings up a whole other topic we’ll cover in a later podcast – best practices for development and testing environments.

Wrap-Up

So how do we wrap this one up? Governance – good or bad?

Definitely good – we’re all for it! Any CRM implementation, large or small, needs governance. It may not need to be as formalized as some of what we’ve talked about, but you have to have these controls in place or – as we’ve seen – the value and effectiveness of your system will start to drop.

Right, this doesn’t have to be elaborate and let’s face it, we’ve all got day jobs. I think it does boil down to some basic controls – setting up processes and standards that ensure the system meets the needs of the many, not just the few.

Ah yes, Star Trek 2 – the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  Tear-jerker, that one.

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