Strategies for CRM Success

Digital adoption solutions help CRM managers and partners that are already working hard work smarter. Drive value and growth without increasing team size.

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The quick overview

Driving value and  growth without increasing team size is what digital adoption solutions are all about.

In this episode Dan Madden, CRM Director at Ascensus, shares his experience with how digital adoption tools have been his key to positively supporting business growth.

You’ll learn about the role digital adoption plays in CRM including:

  1. What to do if you don’t have adequate front end learning and development resources.

  2. How to embrace the barrier of training & automation to successfully drive online initiatives. Hint: Dan suggests starting off small and thinking big!

  3. How fully embracing training, remotely embedded within technology, allows for exponential growth of the user base.

  4. What CRM managers and partners can do to better support digital adoption in their projects.

Most importantly, you’ll find out and how digital adoption solutions help CRM managers and partners who are already working hard work even smarter. 

Catch the podcast on YouTube

Read the transcript here

Podcast episode 11 Dan Madden: Strategies for CRM Success


Rick McCutcheon: Hello everybody. My name’s Rick McCutcheon. I’m a Dynamics 365 MVP and I’m here today on Digital Adoption Talks and we’re gonna be talking about strategies for CRM success. Today there are over 300,000 business professionals with ‘digital adoption’ in their title on LinkedIn. So on this show, along with my co-host Joachim Schiermacher, the CEO of ClickLearn, we talked to some of the leading digital adoption experts in the Microsoft ecosystem.

This week we are thrilled to be talking to CRM Program Director and Dynamics 365 Community leader Dan Madden. Welcome Dan.

Dan Madden: Thank you for having me. Appreciate it.

Rick McCutcheon: Dan, tell us about your D365 journey, your history, and what are you doing now? And then let’s talk a little bit about, you know, the work you’ve done over the years with the Dynamics community.


Dan Madden: Yeah, certainly. So it’s, it’s been an incredible ride to say the least. I pretty much started with CRM technologies right outside of college at a financial services firm, and I really started as a CRM administrator, so I got to learn the, you know, the backend of CRM and really supported our very small Microsoft Dynamics user base.

Fast forward many years you know, ultimately shifted to another financial services firm. And right now, you know, we’re supporting over 3,500 users across the US leveraging Microsoft Dynamics 365. So it’s been an incredible journey. What I would say for everyone out there is, you know, you could always stretch yourself, right?

Knowledge is greater in numbers, so leverage the community. And to Rick’s point about, you know, kind of what I’ve done within the community is I’m a big fan of networking, right? That’s why I know these fine gentlemen on the call today. But also sharing. You know, I am on the client side, so I do not work for a partner or an ISV so it’s very hard for me to have my own website or my own blog.


But I do participate actively in a lot of conferences. Probably done over a [00:02:00] hundred speaking roles in my 17 plus years within CRM. And I think that’s a, a huge part of community in general, right? Because we can all learn from each other and I think that’s what the Microsoft Dynamics community specifically does very well, right?

It’s a, it’s a very large community, but ultimately it’s very small. Once you get to know the right people and your network quickly grows.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay. Joachim, would you like to add anything? 

Joachim Schiermacher: No, I think I would just like to say it’s a pleasure to have you, Dan on Digital Adoption Talks. I’m very impressed with what you’ve done, not only with my product, but across the board with the digital adoption inside Ascensus.

So I’m really looking forward to this talk today.


Rick McCutcheon: And Dan, you don’t know this, but I point at you all the time when I’m talking to people because they ask me. You know, what do we do to be successful at CRM? And I say, well, you either find yourself a Dan Madden or you grow yourself a Dan Madden.

Because really the core to CRM success, especially in an enterprise situation, is you need somebody who owns the CRM and who is a career CRM person, because it really is a career.

Dan Madden: Well, thank you for that, Rick. I’m flattered.

Rick McCutcheon: All right, so Dan, let’s talk a little bit about what do you think the role of digital adoption plays in the CRM project?

Dan Madden: Yeah, it’s a great question and a great topic. So early in my career, it was a buzzword for me, didn’t really get it right? Heard a lot of it, didn’t really understand it. What is it? Right? It’s basically to leverage, you know, a process where users can learn new technologies software, products, apps, websites to its fullest potential to derive maximum value from a digital processor solution.


So for us you know, at Ascensus where I work, we fully embraced that. When we were early in our journey leveraging Microsoft on-prem, we realized we needed to shift online, right? That’s where the wave of innovation was coming. So, you know, given our team bandwidth and our structure, we realized this is a very big change management and training initiative for our firm.

And we didn’t really have the front end, let’s say, learning and development resources to support us. So that was on, you know, that was on the core CRM team. So we had, we were already working hard and I think that’s what really led us to a, a very successful partnership with ClickLearn because we were already working hard, but we had to work smarter.

And, you know, in training automation that was a huge barrier for us that we had to ultimately embrace so we could be successful in driving our online initiatives. Right? So, you know, we started off small. We were thinking big. Now we have, you know, quite a few authors internally. What started off, you know, with just CRM start to catch waves internally. Because we were embracing a new way of thinking around training and the beauty of, I think this whole story is.


This was in the old days prior to the pandemic, right? Then a lot of the global workforce for a lot of enterprises shifted remote. We were already ahead of that curve where we were fully embracing training really remotely embedded within our technology solution. So now the world’s still mainly remote.

And it’s nice to be an early adopter of such an incredible product because we got in at the right time and now our user base has grown exponentially. Some through organic growth, some through mergers and acquisitions, but ClickLearn’s, been there every step of the way for us.

Rick McCutcheon: Well, maybe we can talk then a little bit about what you’ve actually created with ClickLearn.

Dan Madden: What type of materials? Yeah, so we’ve done geez, we have everything that you can imagine from a brand new user, starting with a census all the way through your more seasoned crm, what, what I would call veterans who really are higher up on the maturity scale, leveraging CRM as a lights on application.

[00:06:00] And when I say lights on application, if we were to have a, you know, a bug or something that ultimately impacts our production environment. They can’t do their jobs effectively, right? So we really have everything from baseline training to accelerate onboarding, right? What is crm? How do we use it? All the way through to, you know, seasoned sellers who are ultimately driving their pipeline and customer service associates driving the client experience for Ascensus. So we’ve developed hundreds of training materials all embedded within the solution. We have two dedicated authors on the CRM team. But thanks to ClickLearn and being a very good partner of us, we’ve actually grown this to other groups.

Our learning and development department uses this. We have other business people using this application, and I stress the word business users, right? So this technology really. Breaks down a lot of the barriers that , that, you know, you need to have successful training plans. Everything from leveraging, you know, items like, Show Me, Try Me, Test Me, right?

[00:07:00] There’s different things that we could do within the product where it really adjusts to different learning styles for different personalities, and that’s one of the big reasons I think this product has been fully embraced internally.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay,Great. Joachim, would you like to add anything?

Joachim Schiermacher: No. I don’t want to add anything, but I have a question because I know that Dan, you’ve been going through a relatively large increase in your user base recently, and the numbers are quite staggering.


Could you, could you share that story with, with us and how did you undertake that? You know growing essentially To almost doubling size, right?

Dan Madden: Yeah. It’s a very good question. And you know, anyone in the CRM space who’s struggling with adoption, I think this is a story that you should fully embrace, right?

So it all starts with the end user experience, right? And I think a lot of that dovetails directly into training, right? Unless you have a massive team that could sit there and, you know, focus on training. But really what we like to do, I call it the 80/20 rule. 80% of our time as a team, I feel we have to be focused on innovation to be successful.

The other 20% is more running the engine, right, keeping, you know, the system purring. So everyone has a good user experience and our think, our focus for that has enabled us to drive business results and value in the form of increased revenue, right? Reduction of length of sales cycle, increases in win rates, right?

[00:08:30] Success is spreading. A seat at the table with the right people.

Because we’ve really had a finite focus on sales. That success has caught certainly customer services attention. Where now we’re starting to shift towards more of a focus towards our customer service associates, the frontline workers, you know, ultimately responsible for driving our customer experience and our net promoter scores internally.

So I think whenever you’re able to put your foot on the gas pedal and have a seat at the table with the right executive leaders and sponsors of your CRM project, that gets you a lot of attention and then it ultimately gets you a lot of, you know, users in the long run. But again, I would, I would have to say that if we didn’t have a tool like ClickLearn.

[00:09:00] Imperative to have tools to help grow your user base

You know that 80/20 would be more like 60/40 or even 50/50, and then that limits the amount of innovation and business results and value that we could drive. So I think it’s very imperative that you have a tool that can help you grow your user base without growing your team. And that’s our story with Click Learning in a nutshell.

[00:09:30] Service more users with the same team

Joachim Schiermacher: So how much did you grow your team with, with you know, doubling up the users that you suddenly needed to service.

 No growth. How did you need to grow this?

Dan Madden: Zero. No growth. Yeah, no growth. So, like I said, we were already working hard. We needed to work smarter tools like your technology solution for training automation has certainly enabled us to do so.

You know, and that’s, I think the beauty of this story cuz a lot of people who own a cost center like me or a budget, right? You have to think about things the right way. 

[00:10:00] Tripled the user base exponentially with no growth to the CRM team

How are you going to scale your reach within the enterprise without doubling, tripling the size of your team. Right? So when, when now I look at our run rate and our executive leaders look at our run rate for what we cost as a team, versus what we’re driving through CRM innovations, it’s a very good story to tell and it’s, it’s obviously very well received internally.

So really no growth to the CRM team. But the user base has, you know, pretty much tripled exponentially and will continue to grow due to, or organic growth, as well as mergers and acquisitions.

Joachim Schiermacher: That’s a really good story.

[00:10:30]  Project planning – allow a whole phase for user adoption

Rick McCutcheon: Thanks, Dan. So, you know, we’ve been, you know, both of us have been involved with teaching CRM project management over the years through the user group community.

So, you know, when we hear what you’re doing, you really looked at breaking your project down into what was our planning phase, what was our deployment phase. But you have a whole phase for user adoption. It’s planned out, it’s just not gonna happen by chance. So I think that’s kind of the key to this, that you know, you’ve actually put a frame around this and say, how are we [00:11:00] gonna work on this and how are we gonna get our users to you know, best use the system.

Dan Madden: Exactly. Yeah.

[00:11:00] What CRM managers and partners can do to support better digital adoption

Joachim Schiermacher: So leads to the next question, you know, what can CRM managers do who are listening for the first time and, you know, partners do to better support digital adoption in these projects? And we’ll start with you, Dan.

Dan Madden: Yeah. So, again, I think that’s a very, very good topic and it’s, it’s, it’s very interesting to me cuz when I look back at, at my journey with CRM from my past firm and where I am now.

[00:11:30] Support digital adoption by embracing it

It’s been an evolution, right? But I think, you know, what CRM managers and their partners can do to better support digital adoption is to first embrace it, right? There’s no need to, to fight against it. This is not going anywhere in today’s digital world. And I also feel it’s, it’s imperative. because, you know, obviously these products aren’t free.

[00:12:00] Align leadership then push to the entire enterprise

You know, so that leads me to, you gotta have the right alignment, right? I’ve done CRM projects and I’ve been blessed in my career to not have executive support and do a bottom up organic, grass grassroots approach to CRM and building that. And I’ve also done it the polar opposite way, really. Starting with executive leadership, you know, getting aligned and then pushing that throughout the entire enterprise.

[00:12:30] Support digital adoption with the right tools

You can do it either way, is one way easier than the other, of course. Right? Having the executive alignment is what I feel now imperative to being able to support digital adoption to buy the right tools. Right. We’ve, as a team, saw the power of this solution and it’s actually now leading us into more digital adoption of other tools like test automation, right?

So now we’re working smarter on the testing side of the house to get away from manual testing, right? 

[00:13:00] Empower users with the right tools to succeed at their jobs

So I think it all started with having a vision for what we need to do, getting that alignment, and then ultimately, you know, driving that initiative to empower our users to have the tools they need to succeed to do their job well, but most importantly, the tools, my own team needs to be able to focus on innovation.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay, great. Joachim, would you like to add anything to what Dan’s saying?

Joachim Schiermacher: I think that one of the, the great things about this is, is what Dan started out with staying ahead of the curve really and, and, and being a visionary in terms of what’s gonna happen when we have acquisitions or we have organic growth.

[00:13:30] Manage growth without growing team size

That that’s certainly going in a specific direction where it’s only up. I think it’s interesting to see that. If you have the right preparation this becomes a much smaller task, and you do not have to serve that to your management that, you know, now I’m gonna require you know, six time increase in staff in order to serve exactly what I did yesterday because my team is falling apart now.

[00:14:00] Get well-connected in the Microsoft CRM community

Right. So I think that that is sort of what Dan has succeeded with and I think it’s not easy. I think you need to be really well connected within the community. Dan is an expert in that. So obviously there are some things you can prepare for and there are some things where you just, you need the the Dan Madden vibe. That’s not that easy to train for.

Rick McCutcheon: Okay, gentlemen, I wanna thank you both today for joining us on this talk. And Dan, any closing thoughts?

[00:14:30] The worst place to be in business is on the wrong side of a good idea.

Dan Madden: Yeah. So, you know, Joachim’s point, I think there’s a quote that someone told me earlier in my career that sticks with me on a daily basis. The worst place to be in business is on the wrong side of a good idea.

Right? And I think, you know, that should resonate with whatever you’re thinking about doing, as Joachim said, having that vision, driving towards that vision and executing on that vision. Right. So to his point, we’ve been able to drive a lot of value, a lot of growth, really without increasing our team in our run rate.

Thanks to digital adoption tools like, like ClickLearn solutions. So pleasure to be here today,

Rick McCutcheon: Joachim, any closing thoghts?

Joachim Schiermacher: It was pleasure to have Dan Madden on board this call. We should do that again, Rick.

Rick McCutcheon: Absolutely. So thank you both for joining us, and Dan, we will be back to you sometime in the future to talk more about digital adoption.

Thank you. Have a great day.

There are several reasons why software implementations can fail. One of the primary causes is a lack of planning and preparation. Companies may rush into software implementations without fully understanding their requirements, goals, and objectives. This can lead to a mismatch between the software and the organization's needs, resulting in frustration, inefficiency, and ultimately, failure. This is where ClickLearn shines! Try our on-demand demo and see the #1 Digital Adoption Platform live when it suits you.

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Ascensus chose ClickLearn as its Dynamics 365 training platform because it needed a way to ensure end-user training while driving their CRM enterprise roadmap.