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From NFL to NBA to SFA

Now that the Super Bowl is behind us (Virginia McCaskey please find your team a real QB) it is time to fill the pigskin void with alternative action such as bobsledding, figure skating, or even basketball. There were some interesting happenings over in the NBA that could be worth a brief conversation. I’ll give credit to Mike Hoban writing for nwi.com for making the connection between the professional hoopsters and common challenges with the sales force.
All American Ball
As you may have heard, at the beginning of the season, the NBA decided to roll out a new basketball. It was a real double dribble, with the players totally rejecting the new synthetic ball. There is much that can be questioned about this particular business fiasco, such as, what business reason made them choose to do this – did a sports manufacturer have a stake in the outcome? Another big question is why did they proceed with this significant change without getting the endorsement of the players?

This should all sound very familiar to my friends in sales operations. They have seen plenty of changes to tools of the trade rejected by the players. Pipeline report forms, expense reimbursement templates, forecasting tools, activity reporting procedures – the list of rejected tools is endless. And they were all good ideas! Certainly the chief of the island of misfit tools is Salesforce Automation. The money that has been invested and lost on this technology is staggering – even more than the combined endorsement deals for the NBA players this year.

You have seen in previous entries my observation that SFA often gets into trouble when management is the beneficiary of the tool at the expense of the sale rep. There is a delicate balance between satisfying the needs of management or the business and satisfying the needs of the folks who actually do the selling. This is a critical balance that often goes wrong and results in poor SFA adoption. This story from the NBA, however, provides an interesting example of a third factor in the need for balance, and that is Information Technology (both the business function as well as the physical technology itself).

Back in the 90’s more than one CIO chose to purchase a big CRM package because it made sense from the perspective of IT. However, the purchase and implementation was not done with the requirements of the business or the needs of the users fully in mind. As a result, big money was wasted and CRM developed a tarnished reputation. The new basketball was introduced in a very similar fashion.

Sometimes IT has to do things that cause abrasion with the business – upgrades, maintaining standards, introducing support procedures, prioritizing enhancements. These are all necessary for running the function, but they don’t always please the business. Yet, just going out and buying new software or switching to a new ball just can’t be done this way. More effort has to go into striking the balance: the balance between Management, the User and IT. This is not an easy love triangle, and it requires much involvement between the parties, but for the introduction of tools like SFA it is the only way to be successful. It will make the difference between fouling out or making a 3-point buzzer shot.

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