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Because change seems to be hard to come by; and it’s just plain hard to do. Now, I appreciate that, for most of you reading this, change is actually quaint and a tad bit on the boring side. I tend to prefer disruption. But, for a large segment of business, change is a difficult thing to envision, much less execute.

I got to thinking about this recently as I’ve been listening to several companies that are a year or so into their navigation of social CRM as a business concept/philosophy/strategy. As predicted, many of these companies started off with tactical activities and tools. And now, they are starting to think about higher level business considerations like strategy development and operational execution. The one missing theme in the discussion still is that of the organizational impact of this new business model: the people parts.

Flashing back in history a bit, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Back in the heyday of ERP, what was one of the biggest drivers of failed initiatives (besides under-scoping the complexity of the technology development)? It was the cursory consideration given to change management. Sure, we had change control to manage technical requirements modifications. But, change management always seemed to be the sacrificial lamb. The first negotiating point offered up to reduce the scope and price tag of the engagement; if it made it onto the client proposal in the first place.

History repeated itself during the height of the CRM hype cycle. Technology led these initial projects. Then we got smart and learned that business process and strategy were critical to success. But, still identification and management of all the organizational and cultural upheaval of such initiatives typically took a secondary role in the project. I remember my colleagues in the change management practice were typically paraded out prominently during the sales cycle, but then not provided their due place in the project organization or work streams. And, the work products that were typically scoped were focused more around application UI training and tactical business process change.

Culture change is too often labeled as the ‘soft’ part of the work. While in reality, organizational and cultural change is directly responsible for the long term, sustainable business improvement of these projects. And, there are proven, quantifiable methods for driving sustainable change. In my former professional life I used a simple model for change called the E-C-R Model: Expectations, Capabilities and Rewards. This model uses quantitative methods to align and measure these components of a business system to drive sustainable change.

Flash forward. To the credit of many, much thought leadership has been focused over the past ten years on customer centric business models. After the CRM technology craze leveled off, focus shifted appropriately from the company at the center of the universe to the customer as the bullseye around which each corporate function should revolve. And, we all had great pictures of what that should look like.

Now, while many organizations haven’t yet caught up to the vision of those diagrams, we’ re throwing social CRM into the equation. Now, the customer is no longer at the center of the bullseye, with the company corralling and containing her. The customer has escaped the pen and is charging off in whatever direction she dare, challenging the company to keep up.

If there is ever a time when organizations need to put change management at the heart of their business strategy, I’d argue it’s now.

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