Audit committee to hear a tough report on what has gone wrong with the CRM service.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

February 12th, 2020



Earlier this week we wrote about problems with the CRM Customer Relations Management (CRM) service that was reviewed by the Auditors – their report didn’t hand out many gold stars.

We weren’t able to cover everything in the 36 page report yesterday.

The report said there are a few areas where private information could be compromised because access procedures were not clear.

What becomes very clear is that there were problems with this project from the get-go. There was no effective leadership and people with the skill set and experience were not part of the team.

CRM brilliance logo

It was a project that didn’t seem to have a leader; the staff turn over made it difficult to get any momentum.

In mid-August 2019, the CRM project steering committee considered issues raised by the project manager and made the decision to pause the implementation of the CRM application for 3 months. This pause is intended to provide the opportunity to:

Define and approve long term Customer Service delivery model including staffing strategy

Expedite Business Process Management, reporting and statistical analysis to estimate departmental staffing and service impacts
Confirm the project and operational teams required for CRM and Service Burlington implementation

Plan a coordinated approach for online customer experience to rationalize the number of tools used.

The decision to ‘pause’ was made because the “current implementation point, CRM Phase 1 has not delivered the intended benefits and advanced the Service Brilliance Strategy. The technology and processes have not been embraced by all current users. The steering committee has paused the implementation to address the on-going operational model and how CRM aligns with other initiatives to achieve the Service Brilliance Strategy.”

Getting rid of the ‘Service Brilliance” name might help. For some reason Burlington bureaucrats choose names for projects that create an expectation that doesn’t get met. Grow Bold was an example.

1 CRM graphic implementation“The people side of change for the CRM implementation was not sufficiently developed to realize the benefits that this system was expected to deliver. As such, more time and resources have been, and will likely continue to be, required to re- work the solution and re-train the staff all within an environment that will be implementing more large-scale and complex changes

“CRM is a high impact project with long term impacts and benefits for the City. The Steering Committee supports a pause in the project to address lessons learned during the Phase 1 implementation in Clerks and Transportation and incorporate a broader approach, beyond software implementation, to support the Customer Service Strategy and align with corporate strategic goals. An external consultant has been engaged to address key areas of focus to strategically reposition the project for success. Findings and recommendations will be delivered at the end of January 2020. Action items arising from this audit will be addressed in a timely manner and may be influenced by the outcomes of this engagement.

“The management team recognizes that there has been significant staff turnover during the course of the project on the project team which has presented challenges in managing project risk, deliverables and timelines. The audit represents an opportunity to address gaps and reposition the project and governance structure to ensure an effective project outcome and achievement of project goals.”

That’s putting a positive spin on an awkward situation.

The concept of going the CRM route to create lines of communication between the elected, the staff and the people paying the tab has been in the works for a long time. Does it work well anywhere else? No mention of that in the Auditor’s report.

CRM graphic meetings“Since its February 2018 inception, the CRM project steering committee met 7 times in 2018 and 6 times in 2019. In these meetings, member participation was as low as 50% in 3 meetings and as high as 80% in 3 meetings.”

This is not an attendance record to brag about.

Something had to be done.

Prosci Canada is the Canadian operations of Prosci Inc., a world leader in change management best practice research and provider of change management methods, tools and certification. Prosci Canada were engaged to perform a best practice audit to assess the effectiveness of the change management practices within the CRM project.

The summary of the Prosci findings indicates that the people side of change for the CRM implementation was not sufficiently developed to realize the benefits that this system was expected to deliver. As such, more time and resources have been, and will likely continue to be, required to re-work the solution and re-train the staff all within an environment that will be implementing more large-scale and complex changes.

“The CRM project charter identifies critical success factors; specifically, “Staff buy-in achieved through a robust change management strategy resulting in system acceptance, comprehensive training and end user understanding.”

“From responses to the risk management practices survey, the most problematic area is that of People risks – resource, adaptation and change. Across the steering committee, working group and project team, the level of confidence is very low regarding how this risk is being managed.

CRM graphic 100 adoption“The people side of change for the CRM implementation was not sufficiently developed to realize the benefits that this system was expected to deliver. As such, more time and resources have been and will likely continue to be required to re-work the solution and re-train the staff all within an environment that will be implementing more large- scale and complex changes.”

“The successful outcome of the CRM implementation depends on 100% adoption, usage, and proficiency in the new system. Each of these human factors have a direct correlation to the expected benefits from this project.”

“As part of the preliminary assessment and contractual arrangements with the vendor, a third-party audit report was reviewed for security control issues that may affect the vendor’s environment. The report was not reviewed for operational issues. This review was the only review performed; a formal process to have the external third- party audit report requested and reviewed on a regular basis has not been implemented.

The high-level summary of the recommendations is for the City of Burlington to provide:

1. Active and visible executive sponsorship
2. Dedicated change management resources and funding
3. Structured change management approach
4. Employee engagement and participation
5. Frequent and open communication about the change and the need for change
6. Engagement and integration with project management
7. Engagement with and support from middle management.

Prosci research shows that when the organization understands “why we need to change”, “why the change is necessary now”, and “what the risks are if we do not change”, the impacted people are more open and willing to go through the change process.

“Sponsors did not understand their role in engaging with the organization to build awareness, supporting change management and the need to be active and visible.

“There were no resources to develop change management plans and no one to guide to a structured change management process.

“Stakeholders were not identified for the end- to-end solution.

“No real understanding of how the system would fully impact the internal and external stakeholders, therefore, the awareness building activities were not effective.

“Communication was limited to the users in Phase 1A and did not extend to the rest of the participants in a customer inquiry.

“In the end, the Phase 1A group was disappointed with the final version of the system as they did not feel that their feedback was incorporated.

“The Phase 1A negative experience has caused a shift from what would have been change cheerleaders to the voice of dissent.

“When phase 1B was asked to provide feedback to the ADKAR assessment, however, only 2 of 24 responded, which indicates a lack of desire to participate in the change.

“Training was inadequate and poorly executed.

“Initial training was by PowerPoint and difficult to absorb.

“Focus was limited to technical side of how to use system.

“The business processes were not understood and incorporated in the training.

“Middle management is the closest to where changes actually occur. Their relationships, trust, knowledge and proximity make them crucial allies.

“Managers and supervisors who become change champions and act as early adopters and vocal advocates of the change to direct reports and other impacted groups play a critical role in the adoption of the change.

“When the technical and people sides of change are integrated, projects are more successful and more likely to deliver intended results. Integration of change management and project management allows for more effective sequencing of work and enables the delivery of a “unified value proposition” for creating successful and sustained change”

Sheila Jones

Sheila Jones: Executive Director of Strategy, Risk & Accountability. The report is both transparent and wondering just where the accountability was with the CRM program.

It is a tough report. That’s what Auditors are supposed to do. The then Auditor Sheila Jones is not known for equivocating. She was recently promoted to Executive Director of Strategy, Risk & Accountability.

The news itself is not good – what is good about it is that it is now on the table and corrective action can be taken.

The Auditor can be commended for making the information public – letting people know that there are problems and then making sure that the right people are in place; that professional change management procedures are in place and that the problems will be resolved.

Hopefully staff will take part in the Audit committee meeting and be encouraged to speak up.

Sharman hand up

Will Councillor Sharman have sharp questions about this report?

Audit committee meetings are as boring as watching paint dry. Let that not be the case on Wednesday.

The two sharpest minds on this city council are Lisa Kearns, who is the Chair of the Standing Committing hearing the report and her vice chair, Paul Sharman. Let their tongues be as sharp as they have been known to be in the past.

Before Council votes to receive and file this report let there be some very clear directions and the outcomes that are required.

Related news stories.

Is it a service or a system?

Kearns expresses concern with CRM service

First look at the Auditors report

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6 comments to Audit committee to hear a tough report on what has gone wrong with the CRM service.

  • Howard

    From reading the sequential CRM articles it is evident that the senior leadership team and the then city manager James Ridge were not invested in the process from day one. FTE were never fully deployed from the respective departments from what is sounds like. Like any large scale enterprise change, if there is resistance at the top there is inevitably failure. I am sure the project team had a good rollout strategy that did not include the mayor and council being on the forefront of the bleeding edge of a pilot. That blame will need to sit on the lap of the politicians. They should have been late adopters after process gaps were identified and corrected. But here we are getting Lisa Kearns to tell us all that the staff didn’t get it right. It is a corporate system built for staff to handle the operations of the city through a public lens. There is certainly lots of bashing going around. In a nutshell, overworked staff, a pathetic budget, a non-strategic senior leadership team and a champion now retired and writing books.

  • Helen Donohoe

    In the case of CRM, it is the gatekeepers – they who receive/open/read the e-mails – who are also tasked at this point with being the decision-makers, as to how to prioritize/direct all the mail. The latter, prioritizing, is an executive-level job requiring a high level of experience, knowledge and skill.

  • Tom Muir

    From my experience, and what I see and hear, this CRM is never going to work – the story above, as a key summary point, says it will take 100% delivery on pretty much everything to be successful.

    When did 100% of anything all the time ever work?

    Just reading the story meets a whole description that is sometimes impenetrable, largely because there are too many parts, they mesh in complexity, and there is way too much information. Who sold this to the City? Better yet, who bought it?

    I can’t speak informatively for any Ward but my own, but my Councilor and Assistant said they are swamped by the multiple modes of social media including what’s over and above regular email – reported are 200 to 300 emails per week.

    Then there are phone calls and who knows what else that needs sorting out and resolution. And I would believe that these numbers are only going up.

    Overall, I think the workload, whether you like the results or style or not, is daunting.

    I don’t think the City bureaucracy can make this work according to the design, function, and success criteria as stated.

    It needs a reboot and rethink.

  • anne and dave m

    Neither did the Audit Committee listen to audits that showed all was not right in the operations of the city. Review the webcast of the Dec 2016 Audit Committee and Council delegations we made and the lack of attention paid to working outside of the Municipal Elections Act and the T/R of the Audit Committee and Municipal Act.. All will be covered in our upcoming audit report “In Gould’s Riding” for the attention of our Prime Minister who took back from Min Gould responsibility for “Democratic Institutions’ and the protection of all of our elections from internal and external interference.

  • Penny Hersh

    I forgot to include the fact that “Burlington is the best City to live in”

  • Penny Hersh

    City Staff just don’t listen when residents try to explain why things just don’t work for them. When the CRM Service was introduced I sent an email indicating that as a resident I did not want my communication with my councillor going through a customer service representative who then decided who should handle the issue. At the time I indicated that I felt it was an invasion of my privacy, and how would I know if my ward councillor would even know of my request.

    I also received an email from the city with a file number and a request for information that I did not send. I eventually received a response indicating that this was sent in error. Why would I trust a system that was dependant on a customer service representative to decide who should deal with my request, or if it ever went anywhere.

    I remember when staff was redoing the city website. Members of the Board of Management at the Burlington Seniors Centre were asked for input. We made several suggestions to make things more user friendly for seniors. None were adopted. The one thing that was indicated over and over was to make it easy for the public to use. WELL – try finding something on the City’s website. It is a nightmare. You can spend hours and still not find what you are looking for, but you will get information dated back to 2014.

    It seems that every time staff introduce something new it is a failure. Ask the seniors about the new registration system for programs that took place 2 years ago? it was a mess, with seniors being kicked out of the program and by the time they got back in there was no availability. There are still issues when registering for programs. TTR numbers incorrect. I could go on and on.

    Now Live & Play is going to be available in digital form only. What about residents who have no computers – yes there are still some who don’t. This is evident when many residents show up for registration for programs rather than doing this online.

    Could it be that the staff are too young to realize that many residents, some new to the country may not have access or knowledge on how to use the system?

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