CRM and the CEO: Treating CRM as a Top-Down Cultural Mandate

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How important is it for small business CEOs to lead the CRM charge into cloud computing? Here are three initiatives to help CEOs make use of the power of the cloud.

The "cloud computing" model, shifting IT capability from fixed assets to flexible services, is enabling new levels of agility and collaboration in every industry. Not only the manner of performing IT function, but the entire process of engaging and interacting with customers and business processes, are being revolutionized at a pace far more rapid than the three-year or even 10-year cycles of past IT improvements. Small businesses are positioned to gain significantly from the benefits and values that cloud computing technology has to offer.

Benefits for a small business include: access to cost effective, reliable, and scalable infrastructure resources like computing storage and applications; and access to development platforms and tools that would have normally been out of reach to many small businesses. Cloud computing is democratizing information technology services to small businesses, which allows them to accelerate growth and creates a competitive landscape for all businesses, which might have been available to only the largest organizations.

But how important is it for small business CEOs to lead the CRM charge into cloud computing? Andrew McAfee, research scientist and author from MIT in a recent Harvard Business Review[1] article, said: "Delegating the move to the cloud to traditional IT people is like putting the crew running the boiler and steam turbine in charge of electrifying a factory." Every CEO needs to take a leadership role in one or more of these three initiatives for moving their organization to a next-generation CRM capability that makes full use of the power of the cloud.

Initiative #1 - CEOs lead the technology debate

CEOs can start by raising the cloud conversation above the level of IT efficiencies, and lead a technology debate that's centered on business opportunity and necessity with a focus on superior returns on investment, rather than mere cost reduction. The CEOs behind the technology charge are getting better company innovation, faster adoption of new technologies, and greater overall CRM adoption.[2]

In a recent study conducted with small business owners found those CEOs, who were managing the sales performance of their businesses using reports and dashboards by integrating their sales processes using CRM, reported having the best CRM adoption and higher productivity rates among employees.[3]

In late 2011, McKinsey[4] published a study and found that "CEOs who aren't continually asking themselves and their organizations how they can harness trends such as these to change the game are likely to get blindsided." CEOs can provoke the discussion by asking the question, "How can the competition use this technology to gain market share?"

Initiative #2 - CEOs define new measures of business value

Especially in the small business, Cloud adoption must not become a Trojan Horse for even the slightest increase in IT complexity. This is why many vendors' so-called 'private cloud' offerings should be viewed with great scepticism, with the CEO perhaps needing to rein in the enthusiasms of technology professionals by insisting that any non-value-adding complexity be eschewed.

The CEO should forcefully focus the conversation on three measures of new business value:

First, embrace and use social CRM to better service and interact with your customers. Social CRM helps a business better extend and expand its reach into your customer base.

Second, run your business in real time using cloud computing CRM. Gone are the days of having employees prepare spreadsheets of sales performance data. Furthermore, busy CEOs can now use mobile functionality provided by cloud computing CRM by receiving live updates on key sales and business metrics anytime, anywhere.

Third, use CRM to transform the business by either adding new services or developing them. CEOs who understand how CRM will either help solve a business problem or fit with the overall strategy of the organization have greater adoption of the CRM system. [5]

Initiative #3 - CEOs become Net Promoters of CRM

Many companies recognize the importance of using a Net Promoter Score as a measure of success and value by having their customers actively promoting the use of their products and services.[6]

But how many CEOs have considered the importance of becoming a Net Promoter in their own organization by creating a cultural mandate for employees to use a CRM system? CEOs that enthusiastically promote and evangelize the use of the CRM system within their organizations have higher levels of CRM adoption and better employee satisfaction. [7]

Successful CEOs are acting as Net Promoters of CRM within their organizations, which can be accomplished in several easy steps. Start by accepting and using data within the CRM system. Only conduct meetings and business discussions using data from reports or dashboards created within the CRM system. Finally, enforce accountability with employees by articulating the benefits of using a CRM system will ensure buy-in and drive CRM adoption.


[1] McAfee, A. 2011, "What Every CEO Needs to Know About The Cloud", Harvard business review, vol. 89, no. 11, pp. 124-132.

[2] These results have been validated through independent research part of an in-depth business case study, see: How does the CEO affect CRM adoption for small businesses using cloud computing? (Bosch 2012)

[3] How does the CEO affect CRM adoption for small businesses using cloud computing? (Bosch 2012)

[4] Brown, B., Sikes, J. 2011, "How strategic is our technology agenda?", McKinsey Quarterly, Oct 2011

[5] How does the CEO affect CRM adoption for small businesses using cloud computing? (Bosch 2012)

[6] Reichheld, F. 2003, "The One Number You Need to Grow, :Harvard Business Review; Dec2003, Vol. 81 Issue 12, p46-54,

[7] How does the CEO affect CRM adoption for small businesses using cloud computing? (Bosch 2012)

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