HomeBlog Brace Yourself for a B2B Technology Implementation

Brace Yourself for a B2B Technology Implementation

June 29, 2011|Ona Koehler

Getting C-level buy-in and deciding which vendor to go with for your marketing and sales technology tools is only half the battle; the next steps will be crucial to the success of the technology. I am referring to the lengthy and cumbersome process we commonly refer to as “implementation.”

Getting C-level buy-in and deciding which vendor to go with for your marketing and sales technology tools is only half the battle; the next steps will be crucial to the success of the technology. I am referring to the lengthy and cumbersome process we commonly refer to as “implementation.”

Many companies report that, after starting an implementation, they find they lack the necessary human resources, budgets or skill sets to deploy or make full use of the technology. Companies often need to hire a third party and even buy additional software for the implementation. All these costs can add up quickly, and planned budgets are frequently insufficient. Buyers become frustrated and develop the perception that they were oversold in terms of simplicity, cost or time commitment.

While the vendor may be partly responsible, it is also the responsibility of all those involved in the purchasing decision to do their due diligence and get a clear idea of how complex the implementation process will be and how much time it will take. Knowing what to expect is invaluable for developing strategy, budgeting and planning considerations that will be at the core of the implementation.

Another frequently cited implementation issue is a lack of focus. To avoid this problem, the goals, objectives and phases of the implementation must be defined ahead of time, with responsibilities assigned by function. Everyone involved in the process needs to understand where direction is going to come from, which function will own execution and which functions will be using the application or affected by the change. Responsibilities can be assigned to a third party, corporate IT, marketing/sales operations staff or management. Choosing the most sensible options requires examining factors such as budgets, skill sets, bandwidth and business knowledge. It’s also important to have deliverables and timelines in place to prioritize activities, allocate resources and set expectations for each phase.

Breadth and depth of adoption also head the list of challenges reported by marketing and sales technology buyers. Adoption is closely tied to architecture, training and change management; strong adoption depends on a careful and comprehensive mapping of all marketing and sales operations. It also requires the active participation of marketing and sales management as well as users to document processes or information flows from function to function and system to system, and to define reporting requirements and decision models used by management. Because sales and marketing technology often has a major customer-related component, external factors such as market mapping (e.g. in terms of needs, behavior, influence) must be examined and built into the systems as well. This is a great opportunity to audit systems and processes and make workflow improvements that reduce inefficiencies. While internal resistance to change is likely to slow adoption, this obstacle can be minimized by education, training and a well-planned transition phase.

Another implementation struggle concerns how to demonstrate added value from new systems. While no two companies go about this the same way, the implementation process should include the deployment of operational and functional performance measures that match the goals and targets set forth in the strategy phase. For instance, it’s often unrealistic to directly tie revenue growth to systems implementation in an effort to measure return on investment. More sensible performance measures include productivity increases, job effectiveness, decisionmaking speed, improvements in data quality and accessibility, and reductions in lead acquisition costs.

An effective system makes use of the wealth of data that it can collect and store, thus supporting more informed decisionmaking. Yet, companies on average use only a small fraction of the capabilities of the systems they implement. Part of the issue is that they go about the implementation phase haphazardly, instead of having a buttoned-up implementation and execution plan. To correct this, management must take note of the complexities and resource requirements of such a large-scale undertaking, ensure active and effective leadership for the effort, and continue to drive the process to a successful, measurable conclusion.

Ona Koehler

Ona Koehler is Senior Benchmarking Manager at SiriusDecisions. She works with clients to gather and review key sales and marketing spend and performance data. Follow Ona on Twitter

@oneldaL.
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