Practice Management Systems (PMS) – think how much investment goes into them. The various stake holders that choose them – IT, business development, operations, fee earners and, particularly, finance – all spend a considerable amount of time architecting, using, promoting, analysing and training people on them. And rightly so - without an effective PMS every firm would suffer.
But the same cannot always be said for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Given their potential to drive business growth they deserve as much attention and investment as a PMS. Yet all too often they are un-owned and/or abandoned - particularly, most astonishingly, by the business development team.
It’s true. In my experience the very department that stands to gain the most from CRM is the least likely to adopt and develop new technologies that can help them monitor relationship intelligence, track pipeline and manage practice, industry and firm wide business development programmes, choosing instead to stick with their spreadsheets, static business plans and information trapped in their minds.
And this sad situation is mostly the result of legacy practices and/or a lack of understanding of how a CRM system can support and underpin business development processes and strategies.
So how can you overcome this inertia?
The first step is to encourage business development executives to think outside the box. Give them the opportunity to think about how the system works, the insights that it can deliver, why it is an important tool and, most importantly, how it can make them more effective while making their life easier.
Once business development executives are convinced of the benefits let them own it and convince their CRM managers to align the system with your firm’s business and client development strategies, including key client programmes, practice and industry sector business planning and client prospecting.
At the same time it’s imperative to make your CRM system the only version of the truth for client engagement and relationship tracking and show everyone in the organisation how useful it can be, for example by delivering useful and timely reports to fee earners.
Finally put as much effort and resource into your CRM system as you do your PMS system. It’s just as important to the success of the firm, so why would you want to under-resource it?
Next time we’ll look at the key facilities in a CRM system that will convince even the most sceptical business development executive that they need to use it.