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I have put this in SE-PM as in my eyes, it affects Project Managers the most.

I have just landed a role as a product engineer for a software product in a mid-sized company (around 100 staff across about 6 offices).

After nosing about with the marketing, sales, support, licensing department, developers, implementation teams, I am shocked out how disconnected the whole company is, not only by team, but also by regional office.

For example - I asked for a list of all the people that have our product and no-one could give an accurate answer. To me, that's ridiculous.

Our Sales team will go and sell the product to clients. There will be an invoicing system somewhere, but even their prospective customers do not appear to be centralised.

The implementation team will install the product and store docco (not consistently) on office servers showing the architecture of the install and other key info.

Support team use one system, but never catalog what version of software they have or details about their environment each client has, so have to keep asking the same Qs each time they raise a call.

The license team also gets license requests for the product and these also come into a separate system. Evaluation licenses are also recorded here, but no follow up for Sales to chase them after.

I could go on.
When I ask each of the departments about the need for a centralised document mgmt system they all agree, but of course its someone elses job to implement.

I know our IT team is also messing about with SharePoint and I know we have some client information in SAP as well.

I want to know:

What course of action would you recommend I take to get upper mgmt to see how things could be improved and that this will result in happier clients and a ROI?

Does anyone have any good evidence or backup (perhaps workflow diagrams, or case studies with software like SharePoint) to help strengthen my case?

Please let me know via the comments if you need more info, or if the Q needs re-phrasing.


Edit: Not sure if it's deemed ok to edit my Q so long after asking it. But based on your advice and some further research I have put together a document, highlighting some struggles I have had with gathering key client info, and made some recommendations on how to proceed (meeting with some key people to share notes, internal survey, bring in an expert, etc).

I was wondering if this email sounded ok, aimed at some upper mgmt:

Dear All.

Its early days in my new role as Product Specialist. I have spent much of the first week talking to the different departments and trying to find out some more information about our clients.

In all honesty - it has been quite hard to gather up some key client information - not because of people - but because of how we record information about our clients, and how our systems are setup to pull that information out again. Just as an example, no-one can give me an accurate answer to 'Who are our clients?' - This is critical information that should be easy to retrieve and 100% accurate.

I imagine a lot of time has gone into the design of the current systems, and they seem to work fine otherwise we would not be where we are now. I fear that I may be seen as being too critical too soon - so please bear in mind that I am new to the role, and it might just be that I need to familiarize myself more with these systems.

With that said, I would like you to take a read of the attached document which documents my struggles with answering some basic questions about our clients. - Although I am looking for answers to these Qs, the main point of the document is to provoke some discussion if we should perhaps be looking at improving how we store information about our clients. (i.e. A Customer Relationship Management system).

My main intention here is to make internal workflows more efficient, better internal sharing of information, and as a result of these = happier clients.

I hope I have not overstepped my mark putting this report together – very happy to discuss on the phone.

  • 1
    I think your edit hints at a different question such as "how to communicate effectively with upper management about ideas for projects?". To address quickly your point - I think an unsolicited email is unlikely to get you anywhere (especially since you're asking senior people to give you time to read your document): I would strongly suggest you try to initiate a discussion (even an informal one, ideally face-to-face) with someone who has decision-making/influencing power (through your manager for example) and build on your communications from there. – Angeline Aug 17 '11 at 13:30
  • point taken. Thanks Angeline. You have been really helpful. – Simon Aug 17 '11 at 13:46
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Before you go up to management to propose a DMS system, I think you need to understand the problems, and priorities, better. You have already identified lots of disconnects and areas for improvements, and assessed the organization needs a DMS. Actually one of the key issues you mention is the lack of client (prospective and actual) knowledge and information, and that points a lot more to the need for a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. A DMS is not going to help you evaluate sales opportunities, track orders, measure customer profitability or run digital marketing campaigns, all of which being examples of CRM processes that can bring huge business benefits when improved. So it's important you don't pick the solution before you have nailed down the problems.

In terms of going forward, I would advise the following:

  • Take your pick: your chances to implement a centralised system (or more likely, several) that gathers all information for everyone are pretty low because the change involved would be massive (and costly). So it's important to identify a specific problem that you believe can be fairly easily solved. Try to pick a high-value, low-effort initiative that will be quick and easy(ish) to implement. This will help securing an early success and pave the way for further improvements and initiatives.

  • Identify change agents: when you pick a specific initiative, take into account your likelihood of succeeding with the people affected and the support you will need. You have talked to a lot of people, so try to identify who has the best means (willingness, interest, influence, skills, budget, etc.) to drive change forward (e.g. the Support Team Manager) and get them involved early on.

  • Show value of change: you have already the right idea for this since you talk about happier clients, ROI and so on. Demonstrating a business case is vital when trying to secure support from others, particularly management (especially if you're asking for money). Once you have picked the specific problem you want to address, then look for existing business cases to support this particular project (you are asking for this here but I think you need to narrow down the problems first).

  • Communicate early and clearly about your intentions: talk to your manager and secure support around you in going forward with ideas for improvements. Find out who the decision-makers are and try to establish an informal rapport with them early on.

Note: you may also want to review the following question and answers which does address some of your queries regarding the ways to take up ideas for improvements and change with a manager: Driving process change within a company that only has recently viewed its software as a competitive advantage

  • Nice summary.... – David Espina Aug 15 '11 at 11:18
  • Doing research around CRMs now - gold! – Simon Aug 15 '11 at 12:23
  • You need to be just as careful looking into CRM tools. Many (many, many, many....) CRM implementations fail because people assume a system will solve what is ultimately a process and people problem. Understand the problem, try and fix it without a fancy new tool, bring in a tool to make process more effective only after you have proved the process works. – Ben Aug 16 '11 at 12:36

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