By Jesus Hoyos
During the last 15 years, I had participated in many CRM projects in Latin America. Many of these CRM projects were deployed by Latin American and U.S. multi-nationals implementing many technologies and programs. Two typical characteristics of international CRM projects are the ability for the CRM software to have multi-language capabilities and roll-up forecasting for different countries or regions. What this means? Well, many CRM projects focus on functionality that take advantage of easy configurations such as business units, multi-region reports, multi-level security, role-based access, collaboration within opportunities and territory management, among others.
Unfortunately, many international projects do not take into consideration the other parts of CRM: people, data, metrics and local culture. I have compiled a list of areas to take into consideration when deploying an international CRM project, especially in Latin America.
20 areas to consider for your International CRM Project:
- Consider in-country and region cultural differences. Doing business in Medellin is different from Bogotá, and doing business in Perú is not the same as doing business in México. There are many business and cultural differences in Latin America. Do not make the mistake of thinking that all countries and regions in Latin America are the same.
- Address Formatting. Many CRM systems are design to only manage US and Canadian addresses. You need to consider the different address formats for each country. Look for local address validation software or services in each country. The same goes for Name (First and Last Name, Company Name) formatting for both personal and company names – your dup logic needs to take into consideration Portuguese, Spanish and English names.
- Use local Project Managers from you own company and I strongly suggest you use a Program Manager that is from Latin America. This will help you assimilate the local cultures and business practices.
- Make sure you have a realistic budget for processes, technology, training, change management and data conversion. Your budget must include travel expenses. Webex and Gotomeeting are all good, but you need to have a lot of face-to-face meetings in Latin America.
- Internal Politics. Make sure you have an excellent change management process to manage internal politics. Politics will kill your project if they are not well managed.
- Geopolitical risks. Make sure you have developed scenarios and what-if situations for all kind of economic or political situations.
- Design your CRM program and software globally but deploy it locally. Your strategy needs to be aligned with all business units. I have seen projects failed when one business unit is customer-centric and the another one is focused 100% in cutting costs.
- Make sure you have standard processes that can be adjusted to the realities of each country.
- Make sure that the functionality deployed can be changed quickly. You do not want the local business unit to wait six months for new functionality.
- Involve all type if users with conference room pilots to get their feedback and buy-in.
- Many CRM practices in U.S. are not really best practices in Latin America.Best practices some time are bad practices when deployed in many countries. Make sure you monitor all processes and functionality to make sure if they all make sense as best practices.
- Validate the differences between SaaS and OnPremise for your deployment. I have seen SaaS software to be more successful with international projects. No software, database or hardware to worry about.
- Do not push your CRM projects to the countries. HQ and the local business units need to buy-in the project and a good change management process need to be in place.
- Select 2 or 3 business units or countries to run pilots. Compare results, made adjustments, re-deploy. Have a phased approach after you get the final results of the pilots.
- Training, training, and training. Have local companies do the end-user training. Use your software vendor for the technical training.
- I think you heard this one before – “Start with the early adopters or power-users”. I will recommend the contrary, start with the employees that will give you problems with change management or adopting the CRM strategy. You need to start early with the late adopters, then bring the early adopters to close the loop with change management.
- Support. Needs to be local and in the local language. Use HQ or area regions for Level 2 or 3 support.
- Your CRM software needs to consider the different definitions for customers and segments for each country or region. But make sure you at least have a base definition for reporting purposes.
- Communicate, communicate and communicate. Employees need to know the details of the implementation and strategy. Not knowing creates dissatisfaction between business units and countries.
- Data & Information sharing is a must, especially when your customer base is the same across business units.
In summary, you must be sure you apply project management standards to manage your international project taking into account my 20 suggestions. You must also understand that international CRM projects are risky and complex, but if you keep your project simple and consider the local nuances and business practices of each country, you will at least have won part of the battle.
Many companies will try to standardize functionally and processes - this could help your project fail. Just make sure you have the basic functionality and process are covered, and then allow the business units or countries to adjust them to their local requirements.
This post was originally written for myCRMCareer.