Companies can spend significant time and money building a state-of-the art CRM and business intelligence platform. But there won’t be a true return on investment or an increase in productivity until senior management takes steps to actively encourage – or force – employees to use the new systems. During a panel discussion moderated June 19 by IBM and NEWS/400, senior information technology and business executives revealed a number of techniques they are using to give newly installed CRM tools a try. Mark Ferfolia, director of information technology at Cleveland-based Oglebay Norton Co., queried individual business units and sales managers on how they would like to see their data presented before embarking on a CRM initiative. And companies such as Franklin, Ill.-based Dean Foods and Brown Chemical Co. in Oakland, NJ, are appointed technology "champions" from senior management or individual departments to show reluctant workers how to use CRM tools. "You need one champion in each department who is comfortable with the system and can show the others," says Douglas Brown of Brown Chemical. Employees need time and training to migrate away from paper to eCRM-enabled applications. But some companies believe the best way to implement CRM is setting –and enforcing – deadlines. Integrated Distribution Solutions LLC in Auburn, Calif., for instance, set up a time line, conducted "fire drills" and used bench marking to get sales representatives to work on a new CRM system. "There was executive sponsorship and we were not resistant to change," says Integrated Distribution Solutions President Todd Michaud.

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