What defines a "best practice"? The most efficient and effective way of accomplishing a task, based on a repeatable process or set of procedures that have been proven over time. Today, a best practice is considered to be a common way of doing things, and therein lies a problem — essentially the term has become synonymous with status quo.

All too frequently, banking technology vendors promise that their products provide a best-practice solution, especially when it comes to customer relationship management. Yet all too infrequently are the organization's current day-to-day business realities taken into consideration — even when existing operations are displaced or disrupted while implementing these solutions. As a result, the new technology often fails to gain user acceptance and falls short of the institution's overall expectations for process improvement.

"Best practical performance" is the blending of current, day-to-day organizational processes and procedures with the new technology.

This blending provides the organization with a deeper understanding of how the intended best-practice solution truly fits into its current business operations; it leads to user acceptance, which ultimately drives a successful transition and new technology deployment.

Let's take a closer look at how a best practical performance approach can eliminate these common barriers associated with best-practice solutions and enable institutions to extract the greatest value from new CRM technologies.

Tap into organizational knowledge. Every organization has its best performers, the people who are always on top of the sales volume reports, or the team member we count on as the "go-to person." These folks have a wealth of organizational knowledge and practical experience. Factoring their insight into the setup of a new technology solution brings relevancy and legitimacy that is critical in gaining user acceptance; again the key to success when implementing any new solution.

Collaborate with and engage the user community. Create a focus group of users who can provide input into the requirements and the custom design of the solution, accommodating some of the top priorities of the group. Members of this group would also continue working with the project team by participating in the testing and quality-assurance efforts as well as leading the communication effort targeting the entire user community specifically aimed at generating excitement, awareness, and user acceptance of the new solution.

Small wins make for a successful project delivery. Achieving best practical performance is about managing change. Introducing new practices at a pace the organization can absorb determines the success of a new technology project.

A staggered introduction of functionality and process enables a more manageable deployment and allows users to adapt to changes gradually. Getting those small wins first is better than a much larger introduction of new process that never quite gets accepted by the users.

There is an important distinction between best practice and best practical performance solutions. The latter is essentially best practices through the eyes of the beholder, designed specifically to support a particular institution's day-to-day reality. Somewhere along the way best practices have lost their meaning for many institutions. It's only through the best practical performance approach — engaging the user community through partnership, user participation, collaboration and communication — that a new technology can be successfully deployed and begin to add value to the organization.