In the early days of marketing CRM software, gushing articles detailed its many benefits, presenting the product as a near "miracle cure" for problems with any customer facing business process. The IT landscape has more recently been littered with several large implementations that failed to deliver on their promised organizational benefits, tempering much of the early enthusiasm. Like most disruptive technologies, CRM implementations are long, costly and require extensive changes to the organization. What can be done to ensure their success?
Start at the Top as CIO, one of your key roles in any implementation is to ensure support from the top of the organization. Your CEO should be well aware of the project and its organizational impact, and if he or she is not asking you for regular updates then you need to do a better job selling the importance of the project at the highest level. Your sales job must continue down to the highest-level sales and marketing executives. CRM, if done correctly will change the very core of their business, and they must be involved beyond giving mere lip service to the project at the annual sales meeting. You should jointly be driving the project with your counterpart from sales or marketing.
Get the Right Team If you look at many of the teams that implemented a failed CRM project, the biggest surprise is that most were well funded, with excellent project managers, IT staff and consultants. However one key ingredient was missing: team members from the business community. If you want to succeed at CRM, from the day the project charter is approved to the final post-implementation status meeting, you must have at least 30% of your full-time team composed of people from the sales and marketing organizations. These folks will drive your process change efforts, ensure requirements are appropriate and correct, and serve as change agents when communicating with their counterparts back in the organization. It is often difficult to pull sales people from their job of selling, but this is an excellent gauge of how committed the organization is to CRM. When you start asking the SVP of Sales for people, you are effectively asking Sales to "put their money where their mouth is" in support of the implementation effort.
Change the Process CRM will change the very core of your sales and marketing business. All of the major CRM packages are not merely software, but business processes facilitated through software. Resist the temptation to adopt the software to your current business processes and instead seek the reverse. Unless there is an exceedingly compelling reason, modify your processes rather than the software and remember that "we've always done it this way" is not a compelling reason to modify software. The ROI and organizational benefits touted by vendors assume you adopt their processes; do not let your implementation be another case of using technology to merely accelerate a bad process.
Avoid the "Customer Centric" Trap Many of the benefits touted by CRM vendors surround enhanced customer service and the building of a "customer centric" organization. While these benefits may help sell software, remember that the core goal of any organizational change, software implementations included, is to reduce costs and increase revenue. While a good CRM implementation certainly improves customer service, it never does so at the expense of the top or bottom line. If you design convoluted processes and technologies to satisfy every customer whim without respect for the financial implications, your CRM implementation will be unwieldy and ultimately fail. An efficient process increases customer satisfaction through its ease of use, and also reduces costs.
Positive and Negative Reinforcement on the User Community There is nothing worse than spending months of time and millions of dollars on a system that remains unused. Despite your best efforts to involve senior sales executives and get the sales force excited, there are still those that will resist the new system any way they can. As part of your process redesigns in concert with the sales organization, rebuild the commission and compensation structure to encourage use of the new system. All is takes is for one naysayer who ignores the new system to not receive full commission on a large deal to show the sales force that your organization is serious about CRM. Similarly, immediately after the system is live, provide bonuses for those who enter the most correct orders, or document all their leads and opportunities correctly in the new system.
Constantly evaluate your project in these five areas and attack any issues before they escalate into project-threatening problems. If you find your project is lacking in most of these areas, it may be time to evaluate your organization's readiness for CRM, and make an honest assessment before throwing good money after bad. CRM, done right, will provide many of its promised benefits. With solid organizational support, the right team and enhanced business processes that focus on the top and bottom line, your company will be a case study in CRM success.
Patrick Gray is the President of Prevoyance Group, the leading consulting company dedicated to helping companies ensure their large IT projects deliver organizational value on time and on budget. To find out how to increase the value produced by YOUR IT organization and become a hero in the C-suite, please visit http://www.prevoyancegroup.com/whitepaper for a complimentary whitepaper.