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Christian Elgaard of Implement Consulting on SAP CRM Sales implementations

by Kenneth Murphy

May 30, 2013

In this interview, Elgaard discusses some of the topics covered in his session at SAPinsider CRM 2013 in Amsterdam. For details, see

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Good afternoon everyone, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I’m pleased to be joined by Christian Elgaard of Implement Consulting Group, who will be presenting at SAPinsider’s CRM2013 Amsterdam event beginning June 11. Good afternoon, Christian, and welcome to the podcast.

Christian Elgaard, Implement Consulting Group:  Hi, good afternoon Ken – and thank you for inviting me for this session. I’m glad to have this opportunity and I am looking very much forward to the conference in Amsterdam.

Ken: Great. Christian, your session’s going to cover how to turn a skeptical sales user into a CRM sales ambassador. Before we hear a little more about that, can you give us a brief introduction to Implement Consulting Group and your role with the company?

Christian:  Sure. Implement Consulting Group is a Scandinavian based management consulting firm and we have approximately 300 consultants in Scandinavia.  Our ambition is really to be the absolute best at supporting organizations in succeeding with strategic changes. And that means to realize the solutions that we develop in cooperation with our customers – and we are following them all the way through.

We’ve chosen this focus due to the fact that studies have shown that two-thirds of all strategic changes do not create the intended results. They simply fail somewhere down the line.

And what we’ve experienced is that our customers have an increasing need for being capable of changing faster and more frequently. And at the same time, the changes become still more complex. This is not a coincidental development. As a matter of fact, we believe that the single most important future success parameter is to be “agile,” meaning being constantly ready to change whenever the need occurs.

And we can do that, because at Implement Consulting group we have this very wide range of experts within a lot of different areas. Our consultants are characterized by extensive experience , and our competence platform covers the entire value chain from Strategy & Growth, Leadership, IT & Infrastructure, Strategic Innovation & Execution; we’ve got Operational Excellence people, Sales Excellence people, Market Excellence people, and we’ve also got SAP Excellence people. And we all work together toward that goal we have.

I belong to the SAP Excellence practice, and I have been with Implement Consulting Group since 2011 as a management consultant and SAP Expert with special focus on the sales & after sales service area – and I guess that CRM is probably my No. 1 passion, and that’s the whole reason why I’m giving these presentations at the SAPinsider conferences and have done it for a few years now.

Ken:  So, let’s look at CRM Sales. Why then are sales teams skeptical? Is it something about sales teams and their perceptions of a new rollout that creates skepticism on their part, or is it more a reaction to SAP CRM specifically?

Christian: I think the implementation of SAP CRM or any other CRM system is really a transformation; it’s a change. And whenever change is announced people tend to be skeptical. That’s a general thing. Sales reps are typically among the most skeptical.  Why is that? Well, I think using a CRM system means a lot of procedures and administrative work; you need to register a lot of stuff. And that is not what a sales rep likes doing.

A lot of studies have shown that: Salespeople want to be out there selling, following their intuition, doing whatever is required to get the job done and leave all the boring office work to someone else.

And obviously this is a challenge for a CRM implementation.

That is not what they will tell you if you ask them. And that isn’t so strange because their resistance it is more or less subconscious; they’re not really aware of it. If you ask them about it, they’ll probably give you a long list of reasons to be skeptical, and very often you will find that usability will end up at the top of the list. Unfortunately, SAP CRM isn’t perceived as user friendly. There’s a long legacy. SAP is carrying around a very bad reputation for poor usability.  

So although a lot of positive things have happened over the past few years, and this SAP CRM UI has gone through a lot of changes, the users haven’t really noticed that.

So SAP CRM does have a harder time than other CRM solutions, but usability shouldn’t have so much focus in the first place. The main reason for the usability focus is that the project has been managed as an IT project and not a business project, and when you manage it as an IT project all the focus will be on the software and its look and feel and capabilities.

Managing it as a business project will lead to a strong focus on what the business wants to achieve instead.  So, once we agree on the goal and keep our focus on getting there, the color of the car bringing us to the destination really doesn’t matter that much.

This resistance? It’s really, if you want to boil it down to one root cause, it’s really the purpose – the purpose that isn’t clear to them. If they haven’t understood and, just as important, accepted why they should implement and use a CRM system, why it’s important, it’s really hard to succeed.

Ken: The word “ambassador” implies that they  – the sales users – are more than begrudgingly following along. So if you’re going to manage this implementation as a business process as you said, what then are one or two of the most important ways that a company that is implementing SAP CRM Sales to bring their sales teams willingly on board?

Christian: Being an ambassador is all about communicating and living the project vision and purpose in such a way that others will follow. We all know the importance of recommendations from people we trust and admire. We’re motivated to follow these people, their recommendations, and to copy their behavior. And the development of ambassadors could very well start by involving a few employees who are highly esteemed by colleagues and let them communicate their support to the vision and purpose.

That has proven to have a positive impact on the overall perception of the project among the employees and grow more ambassadors organically. I mean, we need these people to make the message appealing to the rest of the organization, and once you have a crowd of believers the rest will follow.

But another important and powerful way of growing these ambassadors is really to create successes. Showing you can do this – that you can succeed – and that there are actually benefits there, then that will also make people follow.

So I guess those are a few tips on how you can succeed with creating these ambassadors.

Ken:  So, now that you have these ambassadors in place, the next question is how does a company keep them there? What are some of the avoidable mistakes that you’ve seen that would derail an otherwise successful implementation?

Christian: I think the most common mistake we see is that companies are moving on to other projects once the CRM system goes live. What we see is that they have spent the full budget and with a lot of other tasks to deal with in the organization, I mean all the attention is no longer on the newly implemented CRM system and  people tend to return to more familiar ways of working without anyone really noticing or caring about it.

As I have said before, it’s really important to understand that the implementation of a CRM system is a significant transformation. It’s really not a question of knowing which fields to enter data into and which buttons to press in which sequence – it is a whole new way of working – and not just with the system. I can’t emphasize this enough; it simply isn’t going to happen overnight. It takes a long time to go through that transformation. You really need to set some goals related to the use of the system and making periodic assessments. That will be one way to monitor how the transformation is progressing and react in case issues arise, or the company’s moving in the wrong direction. 

Another thing involvement from management, you need this authentic involvement from the management. It’s very critical. I mean without it you will never succeed. And it isn’t enough that you just ask these guys to send a few mails around and give a speech every now and then telling everybody how important it is. It really has to play an active role and show the way for the rest of the people.

Ken: Okay. So you’re talking a lot about change. How about as that relates to a release strategy? On the one hand, it seems like phased releases of functionality would motivate a sales team who want results; but on the other it seems like this approach might make them feel that there’s maybe too much change to process all at once, and too much to learn. How do you bridge that gap?

Christian: Yeah, I get your point, and I do know for a fact that a lot of people still believe it would be better to do it all at once rather than chopping it up into smaller pieces.

I am sorry to disappoint you guys, but the big change philosophy doesn’t work anymore. Now, in a busy working environment there’s simply a limit to how much change can be consumed.

As I’ve said before, it isn’t over when we just switch on SAP at go-Live. Now, a big bang SAP CRM  implementation, or any other  large scale IT implementation, may take years to go-Live , just the process you go through prior to go-live. And then you will have everything that you asked for and needed … years ago.

So not only will it be outdated because the world around is changing constantly and more frequently than ever before ; the organization has also changed focus and other initiatives are getting all the attention. And on top of this a big bang is also way too big a mouthful for most organizations because the entire business has to change with the system – all at the same time.

And that is where the real implementation typically starts, after the go-live. And that’s where it typically fails too. And this really calls for a different strategy; a strategy that creates a series of successes rather than a big bang change. Because what is motivating people? Successes. We’re all motivated by success, rarely by change itself.

The fact is that one success starts a self-perpetuating mechanism that increases the motivation for more successes, which again increases the odds for success with the next initiative because everybody is motivated

Said in another way, you know, to keep your guests  around the dining table change should be served in small tasty bites that you’re confident will please your guests, and with enough time in between the servings  for them to digest , enjoy, and get hungry for more. It’s pretty basic.

Ken:  It all sounds like it will be a very interesting session. Is there anything that we haven’t touched upon that you think attendees will pick up from your session?

Christian: Yes, there is. Besides getting insight into some more of the common mistakes made in SAP, or in CRM system implementations project in general, the audience will learn about the characteristics of successful transformations, and receive specific advice on how to drive adoption.

 I will also be presenting a holistic and business oriented CRM implementation methodology – one that is quite different from what most IT professionals have experienced.  so I really hope to see a lot of people in the audience in Amsterdam.

Ken: We’ve been speaking with Christian Elgaard of Implement Consulting Group, and Christian thank you again for joining us today and we look forward to your presentation at the SAPinsider CRM2013 event in Amsterdam.

Christian: My pleasure, and see you in Amsterdam.

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