(Editor’s note: here’s the next chapter in our ongoing project to identify ways CRM users boost the ROI of their CRM investments by making greater and better use of features that often are ignored. This will manifest itself it a white paper, wrapped in a bit some insight, on how to avoid letting these features slip by in the first place.)
Workflow seems like an obvious tool for any CRM buyer – and, in fact it’s on the checklist during a lot of buying decision processes. But few users really take advantage of workflow to build best practices into their CRM strategies, says Sam Biardo, CEO of Technology Advisors in Des Plaines, Illinois, which specializes in SugarCRM deployments.
Workflow involves the standardization of processes; it’s first a visual way to understand how activities – both from the business and from the customer – move through selling, service or marketing activities. Secondly, workflow allows you to establish this movement as a prompted part of the way a business works. For example, in an insurance company the workflow might be constructed so that an inside salesperson would be required to look at a prospect’s social profile and build suggested quotes before picking up the phone and talking to the customer. In essence, workflow enforces the use of technology tools – and helps derive the maximum return on investment from them.
“Most workflow is done in two parts,” says Biardo. “The initial implementation rarely includes workflow, but in the future releases, workflow gets created in drips and drabs to improve efficiencies.”
“Drips and drabs” are not the optimal way to capitalize on workflows, unfortunately. Because CRM functions frequently cross departmental boundaries, a complete and standardized way of maneuvering through processes is a big efficiency booster. But most businesses don’t really understand how their internal processes actually work.
“The issue is process standards and process documentation,” says Biardo. “I find most small companies do not have these and it make developing workflow painful if you have to develop these.”
Why have these processes not been documented? Well, because if the business is functioning, there’s little need to sit down and document them. It’s kind of a catch 22.
“To 75 percent of the people, workflow is a foreign concept beyond macros,” says Biardo. Without an awareness of workflow, there’s no great motivation to do the work of process documentation; without process documentation, implementing workflow seems like a bit of tough sledding.
The good news is, with the right partner, putting workflow to work can be fairly easy, evolutionary and painless. Biardo’s seen numerous customers “progress from activity management to simple workflow (macros) to mash-up workflow (across entities).”
“CRM users have to adopt first, then enhance,” Biardo says. The great thing about workflow is that – if users are aware of it and are willing to do a bit of thinking about their business, it’s an enhancement that’s waiting to be made. “We see users ‘grow into’ the use of workflows all the time,” Biardo says.