Making the leap from spreadsheets to CRM can be challenging. But, having a good organisational change management strategy can help your SMB achieve company-wide success.

An effective sales and customer management system is crucial for any small or medium business (SMB). But what does that look like in the digital age?

For 70% of businesses surveyed in Deloitte’s Small Business imperatives for the digital age report, managing relationships with customers still involves the use of basic systems such as spreadsheets, or having no system at all. Surprisingly, SMBs using these methods were most likely to report that their existing systems of managing and analysing customer interactions are good enough.

However, businesses with customer relationship management (CRM) software were found to earn 28% more revenue than businesses using paper, spreadsheets or no system.

Having a CRM system allows SMBs to engage with customers effectively and monitor interactions with them closely. With customer history, sales data, product information and analytics all in one place, SMBs can operate with greater transparency across employees and teams, allowing them to create a fast and tailored experience that will keep customers coming back. The technology also allows SMBs to find new customers and offer more value for existing customers by expanding their services.

With all these benefits, making the leap from spreadsheets to CRM sounds like a no-brainer. Nevertheless, taking on new technologies can be daunting. Here, we explore how good change management strategies can help your SMB successfully make the transition to CRM.

The ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ sides of organisational change management


Change management broadly refers to anything you do to prepare and support your organisation during a time of change. Plenty has been written about the topic of change management. Authorities on the matter agree: a systematic approach to both the organisational and human sides of change is your best bet for managing transitions without disrupting your business or making employees unhappy.

Implementing CRM is a significant change for any growing company. Managing this process well can set organisations up for bigger returns on investment in the future. After all, a modern CRM should not be just a new technology for teams to use in outdated processes; it’s a tool that changes the way people work at the individual, team and organisational levels.

Implementing a CRM platform requires managing change on both the ‘hard side’ (i.e. technology) and ‘soft side’ (i.e. people) of change management. The combination of the two is what is typically identified as organisational change management (OCM).


Great OCM generates ROI


A study from change management research firm, ProSci, cited by Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business School, showed that OCM is the path to success for managing organisation-wide projects like CRM implementation.

According to the study, the five primary success factors for any company-wide initiative all fall under OCM:

  1. Effective and strong executive sponsorship

  2. Buy-in from front-line managers and employees

  3. Exceptional teams

  4. Continuous and targeted communication

  5. Planned and organised approach

Some of these may be a lower priority to smaller businesses, but their basic tenets should be adapted - a team of 6 can have complex relationship and influence pathways just as a team of 60 can.

Putting a strong OCM plan in place before implementing a new CRM platform and workflow process directly impacts a business’s bottom line.

A McKinsey study, also cited by Graziadio, found that ROI associated with these implementations was 143% when a strong OCM program was part of the initiative, but only 35% with a poor OCM program or no program in place at all. That’s a potential difference of 78 cents for every dollar invested in your CRM implementation.

So, what makes a good OCM plan? There are three most common factors consistently found in successful change management programs:

  • Senior and middle managers, and frontline employees all being involved

  • Clear roles and responsibilities

  • Reasons for the project understood and accepted throughout the organisation

Basically, this boils down to planning, communication and buy-in. When people feel involved, understand their roles and believe in the change that’s happening, the organisation as a whole is much more likely to succeed.

Making the leap


From facilitating collaboration and information flow between marketing and sales, to uncovering new avenues for growth, adopting and implementing a CRM platform can help your small business reach new heights.

But it’s a process that involves change — from individual roles and responsibilities to the way teams work together.

Getting ahead of that change with executive sponsorship, clear communication and a well-defined vision for how the organisation will grow is a big part of preparing for a successful implementation.

Want to know more about how a CRM can help grow your business? Check out Deloitte’s Small business imperatives for the digital age report.