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Rapid Growth Syndrome February 12, 2016

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Change Management, Management, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Training.
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Who moved my Cheese

Many of us have experienced this, working for a small innovative business where the sum of all the energy is transformed into great products or exceptional services. This requires the organisation to grow, hiring even more innovative and creative people and the cycle continues.

The business is growing, and then suddenly some of the processes seem to no longer work, and one solution is to throw people and resources at it, employ a HR person to handle all the interviews, Employ project managers to manage all the projects implement a CRM system etc. and before you know it the business is transforming from the small clique of initial staff members into a company structured organisation.

Very often this is happening in an industry where there are a number of other companies in the same market all facing the same issues and all growing simultaneously, (like the dotcom boom) so why do some succeed and other fail to gain the traction needed to progress?

One has to look at how well they managed the “Rapid Growth Syndrome” and there are a number of key aspects to evaluate.

Among other things this syndrome affects People, Process and Technology.


Are the management hires suitable, qualified and flexible enough to work within a rapidly changing environment?

One needs to ask the following hard questions if you are promoting one or some of the original staff members into these newly created management positions. Are they capable to hold these positions? Will this stifle their creativity? And more importantly do they have the experience and temperament to manage staff? Sometimes the really creative people just don’t want to do those roles, however as the business is growing they are compelled to take on these responsibilities rather than have an outsider come in and suddenly become their manager.


Suddenly with a large influx of staff, some at a junior level, will come the implementation of rules, where in the early days the core group might go out for long lunches or take some time out to be very creative now this process and activity is frowned upon and sometimes actively discouraged as it is setting an incorrect precedent for new staff.

Business processes need to be put in place and followed, some of the start-up entrepreneurs that I have known over the years are dreadfully poor at paperwork and are happy to admit this openly. They cannot be seen to flaunt the new processes which are being implemented generally to streamline and keep the business efficient, so they leave and create another startup.


With growth comes the realisation that data needs to be captured, processes need to be in place to use and manage systems. Therefore there is often a requirement for some new systems, be they CRM, ERP, Manufacturing, Time Keeping or whatever. The implementation of any system needs to be well thought out (even if delivered in an agile manner) and if the new system is going to be that important, it is vital that its implementation does not impose constraints on the business.

In my solution consulting role I visit many organisations and therefore have first-hand experience of this syndrome at work. It’s a balancing act and there is no silver bullet. A deep understanding of change management is probably the most important element. Remember this is not new, this has been going on for years and there are plenty of case studies of organisations that experienced this, therefore is still amazes me to see organisations falling into these traps and making the same mistakes all over again.

See this very good article on how slack time can aid innovation https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-slack-time-so-important-innovation-phil-mckinney?trk=hp-feed-article-title-like )

But back to the central point, why do some succeed and others fail? I believe that adaptability is probably the major key along with the propensity to continually innovate, this still needs to be deeply inculcated into the culture of the business even as it grows.

In one organisation where I worked we provided all staff with a copy of the book “Who moved my cheese” by Spencer Johnson which is a really good business parable on change management and adaptability. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Moved_My_Cheese%3F we were able to see a marked improvement in the acceptance of some of the changes we were implementing as the business grew.

And to quote Haw from the book, “If you do not change, you can become extinct”.



Merging CRM Systems after Takeovers November 11, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Uncategorized.
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Over my career I have had considerable first-hand experience with Takeovers, Mergers and Acquisitions. Having been involved in the maze of confusion that is often apparent during these sometimes turbulent times has made me reflect on what I consider the three most important elements that need attention when dealing with the CRM (Customer Relationship Systems) as part of the merger process.

Often the priority for this is lower than it should be, with obviously ERP and Payroll being most important, however I would contend that if left for too long, this inaction could be seen as a risk to the business.

(1.) Pick the Best System

Just because you are the acquirer does not necessarily mean that you have the best system. Look very closely at the two systems and select the best of breed, what will give the best results and when looking at the data. Where is the better data and data structures housed? Running the two systems side by side in the short term is also possible, however this should be curtailed as soon as possible. You also need to consider existing integrations and how this will impact the process of replacing or switching off a system.

(2.) Migrate all the relevant data – quickly

Takeovers are often synergistic and both systems will more than likely have details relating to the same customers, which is probably the reason you purchased or took over the business in the first place. There may be a considerable amount of contact and activity data that can be very valuable when amalgamated. Data migrations are often “hard” however this is one that should be undertaken. Take the pain and then interrogate this data. You will also find a level of duplication that is often not easy to discern, where company names are spelt differently in the two systems. BNZ in one system and Bank of New Zealand in another. It is important to get this cleaned up as soon as practical.

(3.) Consider the risk of data walking away

There are often personnel casualties with mergers and takeovers, sometimes rightsizing is undertaken and sometimes people just leave of their own accord. If these are client facing people, and if they have access to the CRM system, suitable strategies need to be enacted to ensure that the data integrity is not breached and that existing customers and prospects within these systems are contacted and appraised of the situation.

Remember this data is one of the assets that you would have paid for as part of the deal.


Planning for this should be high on your agenda during the planning phase of the acquisition, and I would also suggest that even if there is a CRM system in place that has fallen into disuse and is not being used effectively, that consideration is made to evaluate this system, as the static data may well be useful.

Training Distractions May 25, 2015

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in CRM, Microsoft CRM, Microsoft CRM 2015, Training.
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In the last few weeks I have attended a training course and have also run a few small training courses. I am continually amazed by the capability of people to disengage and just start looking at their mobiles when someone is speaking, and for both the course I undertook and the courses I have given, individuals were also looking at personal items on their PC’s as well as business e-mails instead of listening to the lecturer and following the on screen activities.

I always ask participants to “please switch off your phones” however I am not in a position to order them to do so. The canny user switches it to vibrate, and then once they have received a message, tweet or other communication will surreptitiously have a look when they think I am not watching. There are some trainees that are worse than others and I just wonder how much they are actually comprehending from the training session. There are other offenders who just blatantly look at the device with no pretence about what they are doing.

Once they have read the e-mail, text message or social media posting, they cannot cognitively “Unsee” or “Unread” what they have read, and often the focus is gone. You can see it the eyes, they have disengaged.

We live in a world where people expect answers to e-mails and other messaging almost immediately, however that is what Out of Office was designed for, you can send a message stating that you are not available, if even for 3 or 4 hours. The same applies to the phone, it is very easy to change the voice mail, make it relevant for the day and inform the caller that you are not available.

As far as reading and monitoring social media pages. I can’t make any sensible suggestion other than to urge them to desist.

Some of the system training courses that I deliver involve the use of complex and sophisticated software and it is in the interest of the participant to try and understand as much as possible in the often abbreviated time that I am given to impart this knowledge due to budget constraints.

Many folk look at software in the same way that they look at Excel and Word, reasoning to themselves “This should be easy” and therefore are absorbing the very minimum of what they need to know in order to get by. But here is the gotcha; You don’t know what you don’t know, and if you don’t listen on the course or read the manual or view the online training material you may not be fully conversant with the functionality that you really need to understand.

The downside of all of this is sometimes the person who has been trained actually feels short-changed when after the allotted time they do not actually have the full understanding that they thought that they would. Sometimes the trainer gets it wrong the course is at fault, however the participants really have to ask themselves the question “Did I give a full 100% effort and understanding to this training course?”

Can you actually call on all your customers? October 30, 2014

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM 2013, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Sales Management.
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Recently a customer of mine mentioned that with the roll out of CRM they were getting lots of data from the sales team to be imported to the new system. These are contacts and customers. The issue was that in some cases there were more than 500 names in the lists provided and the thinking was that they will never realistically call on all of these customers.

This got me thinking, I then created a small Excel model into which I categorised customers based on how often they need to be called on by percentage. Therefore 5% of the customers need to be called on twice a month etc. These numbers are sensible for organisations that continually get repeat business from their customers. This also takes into account the traditional 80:20 rule.

Twice a Month 5%

Once a month   15%

Once every 2 months    20%

Once every 3 months    25%

Once every 6 months    35%

If you apply this across a customer base the following is quite interesting:

To call on 100 customers using this model you will need to make 12 calls per week. 200 customers would be 25 calls a week and 500 would be 61 calls a week.

This does not take into consideration annual leave, illness, public holidays and other time away from front line selling and or prospecting for new business which ultimately bloats this number.

So therefore I wonder, how many of your customers are getting neglected because the sales team physically cannot get around to the them all?

My recommendation, do the numbers, count number of customers by owner in the CRM system and see if it is realistically possible that all the customers can get called on based on your own specific metrics, if not maybe some alternative strategies of telesales and nurture marketing could supplement the real time calls that are required.

Asking Difficult Questions June 10, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management, Training.
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The Board Report (Asking those difficult questions).

Some years ago I was involved in a CRM project for a Financial Institution, where the Microsoft CRM system we were implementing was to replace an existing legacy system. One of the primary requirements of the new system was that the reporting should replace the manual reporting that was currently in place for the monthly board report.

What they were doing at the time was taking information fom the existing system, supplementing this with data from some other places and eventually charts and tables were created in Excel all of which were incorporated into a weighty tome, beautifully printed and bound and then delivered to the executives on a monthly basis. I was told that the new auto generated Board Report should look identical to the manually created one.

As we needed to create these charts with SQL Server Reporting Services, I was very surprised to find that a number of the charts were identical, in one version the X Axis and Y Axis would represent the data, and then in another chart the axis’s were switched around but it was exactly the same chart with the same data. This was repeated with the tables.

When I queried this I was told, that this is the way it has always been done (See my blog… http://wp.me/s1kkKG-129) and that the executives on the board would not take kindly to having the monthly board report changed. I was told “They won’t like it if you change it”. Not being one to shirk away from asking difficult questions, I made an appointment to speak with one of the recipients of the report, who quite cheerfully told me that this 50 page report that was supplied had very little information of real importance with the exception of the financial summaries on the final two pages, which was the main metric for the management of the business.

What is important here is a valuable lesson in business analysis. Sometimes junior staff will not question things when they involve very senior management and the assumption that you need not question the executives as part of the project is bit of a misnomer. Always ask the questions. In this case the information supplied in the board report was vital for management in terms of decision making, but only a little bit of information.

This is blog number 11 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

What would the impact be? February 22, 2013

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Management, Microsoft CRM, Sales Management.
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What would the impact be?

Imagine the situation if you can, overnight all the Excel Worksheets in your organisation have become infected with a virus and are not accessible or recoverable. I would hazard a bet that this would be more than a calamity for many businesses. Important information is regularly stored on singular Worksheets on local machines never getting backed up.

When we implement CRM systems, it is often quite interesting to see that 90% of the information for the new system will be coming from Excel, and I have seen Customer, Product, Pricing, Order and Invoice information all stored here, often with no discernable backup or risk mitigation strategy in place.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Excel, I think it is a magnificent product, of which I am a power user and have been for many years, what I am highlighting is that very often core information which really ought to reside in an ERP, an HR system, a CRM system or a Production Management system is found in localised Excel Worksheets, and there is not a “single point of truth” for this information.

Another consideration is that staff may take these Excel Worksheets offline on a data stick or by e-mail so that they can work on them at home, and potentially sensitive company information is residing on personal computers, and maybe without the protection of corporate anti-virus and spyware software.   

This phenomenon is not new, in the early 90’s in the heady days of Lotus Corporation the same situation was in place with good old Lotus 123,

My challenge to all of you is simple; pretend for a moment that all of your Worksheets are gone. Now ask yourself the obvious question. “Am I vulnerable in any way?”

This is blog number 5 in the series “The more things change the more they stay the same”.

The Fog of War and Agile System Development April 29, 2012

Posted by Ivor's Window to the IT and CRM World in Microsoft CRM.
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The Fog of War (As seen from an Agile Project Development Perspective)

Prussian military theorist Carl von Klausewitz (1780 -1831) hypothesized thus about the Fog of War in terms of data:

The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently — like the effect of a fog or moonlight — gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance.)

A very interesting statement considering that it was written around 200 years ago, and the basic tenet of his writings on this subject is that commanders needed to be able to assimilate a large amount of data about fast moving and volatile situations and then often make rapid and important life or death decisions.

Agile project methodology in delivery of IT systems puts managers and other professionals in the same boat, as sometimes decisions need to be made quickly and also in volatile rapidly moving situations. I think however that today we have so much information at out fingertips that it gets even more difficult to view situations as the “exaggerated dimensions” can be right out of the park, and we can’t see the wood for the trees.

I have worked on many projects over the last 25 years and have seen some really bad decisions made in the heat of the moment, with the delivery of a system being managed as if it was a life and death situation, and the bad decisions coming back to haunt project managers and the development teams. Agile implies rapidity and flexibility, however time for considered thought should always be factored into the equation.

So therefore if confronted with a Fog of War situation: Stop, Think, Act (in that order, even if it is for just a few moments).


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