When Investing in an Enterprise CRM, Your 'Initial Launch Plan' is as Critical as Your Selection


After overseeing a series of successful Talent CRM Strategy engagements, I have observed consistent trends in the process of implementing my unique "Futurecasting" methodology.  The case studies I've compiled in my deliverables at Informatica, Walmart eCommerce, Blizzard, and spearheading the pilot launch at Cisco are worth delving into to discover frequently made mistakes, tackling tough questions and sharing wins based on hard-won experience.  

Here’s what can and will result in an effective and productive talent CRM platform.

You have to invest in the tools. Period. A CRM platform, as a 'single truth' of lead source, is a fantastic investment. That said, ultimately your professional reputation and future talent technology investments are on the line.  It's a timely discussion worth having with talent acquisition leaders and their organizations alike. Carl Kutsmode recently made the case for providing sourcers with the appropriate tools in ERE:

“Don’t expect your sourcers to make Dom Perignon champagne on a beer budget! Amazingly, companies will invest in hiring a sourcing team but then won’t invest in arming them with the most basic sourcing tools — like a professional member license to LinkedIn! If you are going to invest in sourcing, plan to review the latest sourcing tools in the market each year and ask sourcers for their “wish list” to make them more efficient in name generation, reverse contact lookup or social candidate engagement. Tools such as Avature CRM, Linkedin Recruiter, Broadlook Diver and Capture, Sendible, and QueSocial are examples of some of the investments in core sourcing tools we believe should be made to ensure efficiency and optimum productivity in sourcers’ work.”

But before you get the budget, you have to set the stage. The consequences of a well-considered or poorly construed effort affect your organizational culture, your continued access to 'the next shiny thing' and, quite frankly, your career overall. Here are some questions to ask your team, yourself and your executive stakeholders:

  • What challenges have you considered and, more importantly, have you prepared adequately by devising a talent pipeline strategy that reflects your aspirations and investment?
  • What SLAs are you prepared to enforce to ensure recruiters, sourcers and your leadership are held accountable to data governance standards, quality in volume leads, and, above all, tracking engagement?
  • If your recruiters and sourcers fail to adopt, are your talent managers accountable for their below par metrics?
  • What rewards have you conceived to incentivize the mission orientation of your CRM investment? It can’t be simply, "who entered the most leads into a system”

CTT: There are quotas to be sure, and rewards are step one in clean data evangelism, but quality and defining it are values above all.

  • What will you invest to reward power users and reform the weakest denominators in your organization? If you answered, "it depends," that’s a good start...the answer follows the criteria by which you will assess your KPI’s and determine by what measure you assess accountability in terms of success and failure within your talent enterprise thereafter. Likewise, measurements may not be equal. You may need to consider various outputs to measure that adjust for the level of engagement versus identification aspects inherent in the daily work processes of recruiters, sourcers, and to what degree your team managers are held accountable in terms of applying change management directives.
  • Are you benchmarking internal metrics with vendor product clients? If yes, are you contributing as often as you inquire? Pay it forward 10x - knowledge gathering is your best defense to avoiding caveats. Identify the worst case scenarios and address all the various ways to both adopt and overcome in order to avoid costly factors (i.e., duplication, failure to record and replicate the activity of star performers, marketing and evangelizing platform wins, etc.).

Carefully select a subject matter expert that is, or has the experience of, a talent practitioner. Experience favors expertise with familiarity with corporate talent functions and deliverables as the ideal manner for devising a best in class platform that is customized and not simply, 'out of the box.' Too often the ridiculed end results share one common attribute - it was developed by an engineer or program manager that “assumes” the user output requirements and experience. As a result, they fail to address the real-world scope of daily work processes that require seamless accommodation to the practitioner's vantage point. In selecting a subject matter expert with practitioner experience, talent leaders can address, with sincerity, that they are taking their talent organization (i.e. their user base) into consideration, sincerely answering the all assuming question, "What's in it for them as well as the organization?"

Too often dollars follow marquee consulting firms, rather than identifying the hybrid of required and advantageous skill sets represented in practitioners who have sourced and recruited at best in class standards.

Ask this: How recently did your SME have hands-on experience identifying relevant pipelines and validating search results with client teams?

A "pre-configuration" cut and paste is NOT an implementation. The strategy and tactics that follow overall and, ideally, the wherewithal to institute an adoption plan is what ensures success.

First and foremost, there are key strategic variables to consider if the primary, initial goal is to launch a platform that will inspire activity in the form of daily transactions of both lead generation development and engagement outreach. It must first and above all succeed in displaying immediate relevance to not simply the stakeholders but the audience of users who will leverage its capabilities. The talent strategy an organization pursues depends on large part to the commitment to a data governance model. The model in turn is a distinct methodology that will impact daily work processes. Be mindful that the types of data, as it reflects key talent pipelines, must not only be relevant but reliably correct and up to date. How often and how effectively the talent data is leveraged, in my experience, is best resolved when the teams at play have access to a platform that combines the efficiencies of an effective talent mapping and business intelligence model that is aligned to both product lines and skill sets. A platform that applies this type of model as its core denominator is two-thirds of the winning equation to any successful deployment and adoption case study as it relates to talent CRM implementations.

The turn-key model is truly realized when your CRM platform has data with digestible knowledge at the point of launch. In the movie Field of Dreams, the memorable line, "build it and they will come," takes center stage in a CRM launch, not in empty fields, but, ideally, in the effort to have a data migration strategy in advance and at play prior to launch.

The process of ensuring excellence in the identification, validation and replication of search results is often divorced between the deliverables to follow and the implementation of a CRM launch. If you find a match of talented individuals with hybrid skills uniquely suited to the platform and the sourcing function, consider these: either have the most elaborate 'debriefing' in employment industry history of that valued expertise, or follow the easier path of seducing them to stay and see the process through standing by the original vision the stakeholders shared. It's a worthy investment to retain the  builder of the data engine, is it not? That said, the industry has no shortage of experienced thought leaders in the art of sourcing for talent. Adeptness in integrating systems and sourcing talent are not necessarily natural dual capabilities, but if it does indeed exist and those leaders just so happen to be "gurus,” you've reached a zone of credibility that your user base will genuinely appreciate.

Essentially, too often, leadership; in the realm of sourcing, is not viewed as a seamless and integral component to a successful talent pipeline strategy. Management skills or tech savviness, alone, are both wholly insufficient as standalone qualifications to lead a CRM implementation. I would contend, rather, that it's an “all of the above” hybrid of skills acquired as a practitioner that offer the best return on investment. For this very reason,  the manner in which leadership organizations are structured can often act as an obstacle to CRM deployment given the disconnect between the intuitiveness offered by a ‘guru’ and the consultants or in-house resources overseeing the CRM deployment from configuration to launch stage. I’ve observed common sense and specifications are rarely combined and likewise divorced from a strategy that binds the solution downstream, end to end. A practitioner with real world, hands on exposure to transactions between sourcing syntax development, lead identification and pass-off to engagement and conversion to a candidate stage is instrumental.  The out-of-a-well, newly constructed sourcing organization, I would argue, depends on this critical attribute of the well-defined capabilities inherent in a sourcing leader and, furthermore, to their influence in the CRM talent strategy and deployment to that end.

The secret ingredient I would convey after several case studies to draw from is simple. On day one of launch date, determine the answer to this question: “What are you offering recruiters and sourcers as an immediate value proposition to address their talent shortage dilemma?” Is a single field row of a talent record as deficient as one hundred rows?  I would argue naturally, yes, if you offer your talent enterprise users nothing more than samples of what “can be” possible within the system. What “can be” offered is sufficiently addressed within a workplace memo email detailing the mission objectives of your CRM deployment and its launch date. It’s a rudimentary call for action based on theory.  

Ultimately, success depends on a strategy outcome of attaining "critical mass.” In other words, advancing the seamless integration of sourcing strategy and output of quality, validating leads that drive the volume of data that will welcome your recruiters and sourcers on day ONE of login. The big day requires evidence of a "big data play" where the team has a sincere expectation that mission orientation of the launch is reflected in the available pipelines that are built for plug and play. An empty database with a laundry list of leadership directives is a losing proposition in case study after case study. Deliver an empty vessel and enthusiasm will wane promptly. Based on personal observation of launches gone bad, this cannot be emphasized enough.

Ask yourself yet another key question: What lead data, once confirmed out-of-date and incomplete, are out of sync with your standards for this CRM deployment?

Truth be told, in my earnest opinion, devising the data strategy should begin in Week 1 of any CRM engagement with an SME. Data strategy requires a thorough audit of your passive talent inventory.

The volume and varied quality of your passive talent leads are too often spread disparately between several platforms (on desktops, dropbox or other cloud storage venues and the almighty 1990's glory of MS Excel spreadsheets) and, remind yourself that they all need to be accounted for, updated, and absorbed into a common import template format. It’s a fait accompli that (1) volume/prioritization of (2) quantity of leads, their job function relevance by channel, and degree by which these records meet your future, (3) standard of completion are the three critical pillars of how you proceed in the phase we know as ‘data migration.’

The audit and inventory compilation efforts should be a key deliverable at the onset and they must be initiated simultaneously, not consecutively, with the pre-configuration checklist itinerary talent that organizations most often preoccupy themselves with. Once the realization sets in that this key deliverable has been ignored, the window of opportunity between sandbox and development will proceed without lead data to validate and test prior to launch. Caveat Emptor my friends if you proceed without this pearl of anecdotal hindsight.

As each aspect of the talent strategy proceeds in building momentum within the CRM framework, the key question and the accountability measures to address it await. "How do we define a record/profile?" In my opinion, the secret to success upon launch of a desired best in class talent CRM is how your organization defines and reinforces accountability measures that ensure a "record" has a strict standard and that the protocols are clarified in your communication plan.  Upon defining "complete record standard, ”emphasize and display samplings of what a "bad record entry" looks like and how it will ultimately adversely affect the platform as a whole downstream.

Time and again it is how talent leadership defines and upholds standards that determine the success of any implementation, above all, in the instance of adopting an organization to a CRM investment.  This statement reinforces my prior caveat that emphasizes the essential requirement that a sourcing organization must anticipate and build lead time into an expected migration of talent lead data. The format structure of your leads, whether they are entered manually or at import stage, needs to account for seamless integration with the volume of critical, forecasted job functions prepared at 'complete standard' for import. When is this done? Again, it should be a mantra to reconcile your passive talent data months prior to a CRM launch and training program.

It's all about the show and tell. The talent lead data proposition is, likewise, a denominator to the larger, more ambitious aspects to CRM functionality. Talent mapping, sourcing syntax libraries, business intelligence, and intricately woven pipelines and people lists are best prepared in advance, not following a launch. I have seen too many adoption failures follow launch failures to take heed of my mantra in this respect. Recruiters and sourcers are impatient creatures by nature. The least desirable launch is one which requires the user audience to login and create user accounts with a blind view of the 'theoretical' behind the empty space of the fields spread throughout their screen. Team curiosity and enthusiasm is best provoked when action items that leverage CRM functions are observable with plenty of records to sample and benchmark against. With observation as the key emphasis, it would be integral to a customized implementation to have an in-house CRM training deck that reflects your brand and re-emphasizes the mission orientation of your talent data strategy, as opposed to the usually below par vendor training presentation that is one-size-fits all. Remember, just because features exist does not mean they need to be utilized when other key functions are better suited to your data governance plan. In accordance with that mindset, you may likewise leverage certain vendor platform functions in ways not initially intended - and that is surely a reflection of being entrepreneurial and innovative. Trust me, it's been done before and successfully at that - fear not.

If you haven't done a whiteboard from end to end months prior to CRM launch with your SME, it’s not just a simple disregard for the valuable wisdom of a practitioner, it's ultimately a disrespect to the investment of the organization. Downstream starts at the inception of any major technology platform investment - and your stakeholders in the investment, who lead their respective teams, need to be able to speak eloquently of the overall ambition of the CRM framework and the foreseeable outputs prior to launch date. Otherwise, the free for all changing course, based on an audience of armchair warriors in the afterthought, will only ensure, not just simple adoption failure, but failure to access to the next best thing for your talent enterprise. As we all know asking for new toys as you grow older assumes the payer will evaluate the payee’s last hurrah with the organization’s budget. How you approach a CRM investment will ultimately impact the next desired solution investment.

Communicate, invest, and be accountable. Build it for plug and play before you lift the curtains on show day folks. Above all, challenge conventional thinking - never view a CRM implementation as one additional hinge, but of the central hub of developing a strategy that aligns to the mantra of capturing source of lead and unity to foster more effective, more intuitive lead generation and engagement practices. The CRM is many things, but rarely mentioned is the seduction of its ability to teach a talent organization where trending patterns of talent are actually originating from. If you implement a CRM well, you may accidentally learn something that enhances the number of relevant leads to interview success and reduces time to fill!

Want to know more? Feel free to contact me directly to schedule a chat on how to devise a best-in-class CRM Sourcing Strategy framework.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ldavemendoza

Twitter: [@davemendoza] https://twitter.com/davemendoza

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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