CRM: Selecting and Implementing a New System

December 15, 2007

The long-term vision for Reed Smith’s CRM system is to create a single repository of client information. Rich relationship intelligence, data from other internal systems (for example financial and matter information) and external news feeds together with the provision of a single, central database for contact data (names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers etc) will provide us with an all-round view of a client, their business and the firm’s relationship with them. From my experience working within other law firms this is not a million miles away from the long-term vision those firms also had when implementing their CRM system, so why is it that for many firms this vision is never realised? I believe the answers to that question can be found by looking at how a CRM system is first implemented. Typical implementations, which have historically been led by IT departments, focus on technology instead of users and processes, and adopt ‘big bang’ roll-outs.
A CRM system should not be viewed as a ‘one size fits all system’ as users have differing needs depending mainly upon their role. A ‘big-bang’ implementation approach typically delivers the same functionality, processes and training to everyone with a focus on getting the system rolled out to as many users as possible in as short a space of time as possible. In reality this means that you may have successfully deployed a large number of user licences but will probably only have a small percentage of actual users.
We determined that in order to combat the problems that can be encountered by big bang implementations we would adopt an implementation plan which would focus on rolling out to small numbers of users in incremental phases. To stay true to our belief that it is not a ‘one size fits all system’ we will be rolling out to client teams so that their use of the system is tailored to what they need for that specific client. It also ensures that the focus is on actual client relationship information ahead of the vast array of other functions a CRM system can perform. A CRM System has the potential to do so much that it can easily become an unwieldy beast. It is easy for those managing the system to get carried away with the technical capabilities and forget about those using the system – simply expecting them to use all the functionality given to them because it is, in the eyes of the project manager, brilliant. But users (and in particular, lawyers) don’t always feel this way about technology, viewing it as yet one more laborious task which takes them away from fee earning work. By starting our rollout small and controlled (whilst keeping sight of the potential and the bigger picture) we can ensure user adoption and, most importantly, user retention. Once we have people using it, we can then build out the functionality into other areas such as marketing mailing management, event management or e-marketing.
User adoption and retention is the key to a CRM system success, if people are not using the CRM system, the information within it is not being kept up to date. As soon as your system is at that stage it begins the steady decline towards obsolescence – once on that route it is very difficult to claw your way back.

Knowing this, we determined that the two critical success criteria for the selection of Reed Smith’s new CRM system were:
• the functionality of the system;
• the level of vendor support for ensuring a successful implementation.
For these reasons we were not simply seeking a vendor whose work finished when the software was plugged in and switched on but one which demonstrated a collaborative approach to partnering with Reed Smith on this long-term project.
We approached the selection process the same way an organisation would select their legal services provider. We researched all the CRM systems in the market and selected those most suitable for Reed Smith’s global requirements. Those selected suppliers received a Request for Proposal (RFP) document. The RFP responses were reviewed in detail and two vendors were short-listed and invited to present to a Reed Smith panel including representatives from the IT and marketing departments. The vendors were given a maximum of two hours for their presentation which had to include their critical path to implementation, the challenges Reed Smith could expect to face and their suggestions for working with us to overcome them, how they would add value for Reed Smith and how they differentiated themselves from their competitors. Each vendor was given a maximum of 20 minutes to demonstrate their software which had to be specifically based on a ‘day in the life of a lawyer’. The main reason for ensuring the presentations were not primarily focused on the software was that, from our experience, software demonstrations show ‘perfect world’ scenarios which are difficult, if not impossible, to replicate in the real world and we did not want the focus for the Reed Smith panel to be on the ‘out of the box’ software as we plan to customise it to the firm’s needs.
Reed Smith selected Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM and CRM4Legal by Client Profiles Inc. The key aspects to that choice were:
• Their ability to work in a consultative and collaborative manner. From the beginning of the selection process we felt that Microsoft and Client Profiles communicated with us as if we were already part of a single team.
• The flexibility of the software. Their system is highly customisable and should allow us to tailor the system around the way we already work, rather than requiring us to change business processes simply to fit in with the software. This is vital for user adoption and allows us to concentrate change management aspects more efficiently.
• The future potential development of the software.  Microsoft is investing heavily in their CRM. As the first major law firm to select Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM and CRM4Legal Reed Smith are well placed to advise on development initiatives to suit the legal industry which again ties back to working in a collaborative manner.
Reed Smith is in an advantageous position with regards to the forthcoming CRM system implementation as we have been able to identify the common pitfalls in the road to success and tailor our implementation plan to combat them. However this does not mean that an existing CRM system which is not succeeding cannot be turned around. In order to do this you need to identify where the pain points are and address them individually. For example, if the problem is low usage, look at the reasons for that, isolate each problem and address them. Low usage can simply be a result of users failing to see the benefits of the system, so sell the benefits to them by addressing their question of ‘what’s in it for me?’. Start by selecting one or two processes, which will be of most benefit to them and retrain your users on how to do them. Training should be no more than 30 minutes in total and should focus on the reasons why they should be doing this and the benefits to them, the firm and in turn their clients, rather than on the technical aspects of which link to select or which key to press. I find that scenario based training is the most productive, which is tailored to the users depending on which practice group they work in or which clients they do work for. Addressing problems individually and systematically will achieve successes in small stages that prevent the project becoming daunting and unmanageable and the overall result is the refreshment of your system.
As mentioned previously, user adoption and retention is the key to a CRM system success, focus on your users and what they need to perform their roles better and you are onto a winning formula for your CRM system.

Victoria Gregory is Client Relationships Manager at Reed Smith Richards Butler: