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Change Management: The “Cornerstone” of a Successful CRM Launch for Construction & Real Estate

Mar 06, 2019

When it comes to customer relationships and project management, construction and real estate companies have traditionally relied on manual processes, like handwritten records, email and Excel. But as a company grows, those siloed processes are not as effective.

Perhaps your organization has tried to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) platform but abandoned it as “not the right fit” or too difficult to gain user adoption for. Or maybe you’ve heard horror stories from your peers who spent too much and got too little in return.

Today’s CRM solutions have evolved, with purpose-built tools designed just for construction and real estate. New technology makes it easier to create a solution that’s built-to-size, making CRM tools affordable for just about any organization. But even more importantly, companies are learning what it takes to make these tools successful in the real world. The key: change management.

Why CRM Implementations Fail

Disruption is hard. We all go through an emotional journey, a “change cycle,” when we’re asked to step out of a comfortable, stable environment. Everyone goes through that cycle at a different pace, but leaders — the people driving change — generally have more time to acclimatize and adjust. Change management is about helping the rest of the organization make that same emotional transition.

In the construction and real estate environment, we often find end users who really like their spreadsheets. They want to enter data themselves. They don’t want to give up that sense of control and familiarity with the information they manage.

On the surface, these users understand the value of getting information out of silos and visible across the organization. But big-picture benefits aren’t always enough to overcome individual fear and resistance. People need a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) that they can connect to.

A CRM solution will impact a large number of people in an organization. That means buy-in and user adoption are essential to project success. Without it, even the best tool can become a burden.

How Change Management Can Help

Taking time to focus on change management helps a company get the most value from a technology investment while keeping personnel engaged with the project. Here’s how we go about that in a Wipfli Connect for Contractors CRM implementation:

Resistance Management: Your first step is understanding the user groups who will be impacted by the technology. What’s their readiness for change? Have they gone through a project like this in the past? Does the organization have a good track record for technology launches, or are people feeling cynical from the last big change?

You have different user groups who will have different levels of change comfort. There’s a complex art to planning the support you’ll provide to each group, and a one-size-fits-all rollout will be too much for some and not enough for others.

Understand the lay of the land. Be aware of what resistance looks like and have a tactical plan ready to go. Figure out how you’re going to respond if a portion of the organization struggles.

Agile Design: In agile design, users are introduced to early technology iterations while the solution is still in development. It’s a core part of the way we build a Wipfli Connect for Contractors solution.

Think of it like building information modeling (BIM) or virtual reality. These tools provide immersive experiences that help customers interact with the design and get a solution that’s going to work in the real world.  Agile technology design is similar and lets people try out the solution in development. This allows us to catch errors and missed opportunities early on, when changes are easy.

But perhaps equally important, agile design is an affordable, responsive way to give people more ownership into the process. Agile development helps alleviate a lot of the fear and concern that’s otherwise present when people are thrown into a new technology system that’s already locked in.

Sponsor Roadmaps: Help leaders understand their role in driving change. Sponsor roadmaps can include everything from messaging for C-suite leaders down to active roles that mid-level managers and front-line supervisors need to play.

Plan to leverage your front-line supervisors as your ears on the ground. Check in with them, in stages, to find out where people are struggling. Think about your early adopters and peer influencers too. Identify the employees who typically respond with positive energy and invite them to play an active role in coaching their teammates.

Each Success Creates a Culture That Embraces Change

Think about a CRM launch in the context of your own work. Consider your most (and least) successful projects. Great facility launches are built on more than design and building expertise. They’re built on information sharing, transparency and dialogue, and that’s really what change management is all about.

As a leader, you want to create a culture where people embrace change, or at least accept that it’s a matter of course. Each project that goes well builds people’s resilience and optimism; each project that fails leads to greater resistance down the road.

A CRM project can be a significant investment. No matter how well-designed and necessary the new tool is, if enough people resist it, it won’t return that value. But with an effective change management strategy, your entire team will get the time and tools they need to work through that change and own it for the good of the organization.

If your organization could benefit from change management, contact us to learn more.


Jeffrey H. Wulf
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Ryan C. Rademann
Senior Manager
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Matt Gelb, VTSP, MCTS
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 Wipfli Connect for Contractors