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A Business Analyst’s CRM Labrynth

C-Suite executive level information systems, report, and dashboard requirements are evolving rapidly with IoT and digitization.

I am often asked to provide business process analysis for corporate CRM solutions. Many times, these requests are to review stalled or a “problem” information system project. I provide these on a one time, annual, semi-annual or quarterly time frame.

Firstly, the review process is best performed by someone not connected to the internal team or any software or vendor of the company. It is well worth the effort and cost to bring a 3rd party consultant into facilitate the elicitations and provide any recommendations. This seems obvious, but many organizations try to save money by performing system reviews internally. Most Subject Matter Experts and team members respond very differently when chatting with supervisor’s vs an outside consultant.
I use an approach that starts with business process analysis integrated with Gemba (the actual place) mapping. Then following the actual process flows from initiation to completion. The process of observing and documenting the actual workflow is very enlightening. I will walk you through it.

You began by sitting face to face with C-suite executives to determine the basics. The basics would include their view of the background of any internal Team’s SME’s (Subject Matter Experts).

If there is an internal team supporting the system, such as an Administrator or Architect, meet with them to determine their approach to providing functionality for the users. Does the Architect primarily have a buy, or build approach? Is there an internal roadmap with documentation of any major customizations or configurations? How do they communicate with end users?

With this high-level view in hand, one would start working with each operational role in the company. I like starting with the persons or processes that answers the phone. Observe and document what happens. (I use MS Visio to provide a living document.) Take note if the CRM system does integrate with caller id to display the caller’s information or into a CRM record, if already in the database?

An inbound call is a request for personal assistance. It may be for an appointment, a complaint, a lead wanting more information etc. Follow all these requests through the organization’s processes, observing and documenting as many steps as reasonable to determine efficiency and potential areas of concern. Does the user’s primary interface, or software home screen, allow them to perform all tasks for their area of responsibility? If not, what functionality is not being provided within the system?

You may observe CRM users entering data in other, disconnected tools, such as an excel spreadsheet or cloud application. Make sure to document these occurrences. Also, document suggestions from the users, defining how a system or process, could be made more efficient, from their perspective. User feedback is critical to any improvement. The best workflows are ones that follow the “Toyota Way”. They are continuously improving and monitoring, to eliminate waste, including waiting time, over processing, motion and of, course errors or defects. The process should be easy to use, intuitive and provide guidance through help screens and notes.

After gathering information from each role in the company, 3 categories of fixes may come to light. User interface issues, missing functionality, and user training.


A work screen for a user/role should be intuitive in that the work tasks should be easily performed and guided by the system. As an example, a role that inputs a new lead should be able to process the information required in an efficient manner and if necessary, with prompts from the system. The input screen should be limited to those fields that are required to move the newly inputted lead to the next step. In most cases, the required are name, email, phone, the lead’s reason for calling code, product type, service, more info etc.

Missing internal functionality is exhibited by using external tools. This is an area for risk analysis on a number of levels. Error, data corruption, and/or duplications are possible issues that may occur as there may be limited cross checking between external tools and an internal to the CRM system, record.

User training and disconnections from the system architect(s) is one of the potential issues with remote development or configuration, the disconnect between what the architect thought was intended and what the user really needed. As an example, a user was not aware that picklist fields were available to select attributes for a new lead. The fields were not placed in a highly visible area nor were they made required fields. Consequently, the user(s) elected to place this information in a text field. This created records that are not as useable or referenceable for other roles or workflow rules. Any system error checking or field validation is lost. This exemplifies two failures, one to train, (Documentation?) the other not providing a simple, easy to use, data entry screen.

We learn a great deal from these sessions. After accumulating all the information found and documenting the current state, we document from the team, all possible improvements. With using the same tools, the potential process improvements are documented, and GAP analysis performed.

The current state model may expose some decisions that were made when other options weren’t available. Perhaps decisions were made as functionality development, vs configuring an existing tool, were done unintendedly without understanding the risks. The model may also expose poorly executed or incomplete modifications and implementations.

With the gap analysis complete, the Business Analyst can provide further clarity by evaluating potential improvements for effort vs gain to the organization. Many times, they will find that an easy, fast, configuration wins in this area. In turn, this will improve team and user’s morale. I like to prioritize those.

Present 3 possible solution and/or improvement paths for the stakeholders to debate where there isn’t a clear single path. It is critical that the stakeholders determine which path to take. Change management will be monumental without user buy in, ahead of any proposed changes. The fact that the users have been involved from the discovery process on, helps immensely.

The Independent Business Analyst must remain unattached to the decision, assuming as much of the risk or reward as possible to be exposed to the decision makers. Document the decisions and deliver the report.