Gartner's recent report, "Three Steps to Create a CRM Strategy," aims to help CRM project managers, executive sponsors, and operations executives create an effective CRM strategy. The report is an assemblage of findings collected since 2002 by Gartner's annual CRM Excellence Award committees, comprising hundreds of CRM initiatives. In the report, Gartner identifies the factors that drove the winners and finalists above other entrants.
Ed Thompson, the report's author and vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, attributes returning interest in CRM strategy initiatives as the reason for the report.
"As things have been picking up [economically] we started to see conversations again about CRM strategies and cross-departmental stuff," Thompson says. "This paper reflects the return of big CRM projects to the agenda. The $100 million project or program is quite rare now but they're starting to appear again."
Thompson says that there was a year-and-a-half-long period during which he fielded few questions about CRM. With the surging economy, however, companies are now financially able to return to the strategy.
Relying on Gartner's definition of CRM as "a business strategy whose outcomes optimize profitability, revenue, and customer satisfaction by organizing around customer segments, fostering customer satisfying behaviors, and implementing customer-centric processes," the 25-page report lists three key findings:
1. The process of creating a CRM strategy has three steps: Set the destination, audit the current situation, and map the journey to the destination.
- Step 1 — Set the Destination: Managers are urged to examine the various definitions of CRM, creating their own to gain buy-in and cohesiveness from those involved in the initiative. A vision for CRM that identifies why the organization wants the initiative and that defines its desired results should be established immediately. Teams that drive the initiative should be composed of three key roles: a sponsor, facilitator and project/program manager.
- Step 2 — Audit the Current Situation: Beginning with a full assessment of past CRM initiatives, participants should be asked what they thought needed to be changed in order to understand what did/did not work. The report also states that "assumptions, business case, and goals of past projects remain valid, even if the execution was not as successful as hoped." Readers are also warned to beware shortcuts in information gathering. "Seek information from external sources first, and weight customer and consumer feedback highest."
- Step 3 — Map the Journey: Identify the steps to achieve the vision. Core value propositions for customers and motivating factors for customer loyalty should be classified. The company should be revalued on the potential of its customer base rather than on current revenue or profits. Processes and systems that can be altered rapidly and dynamically as individual customers move among segments should be built. Three to five top-line objectives for CRM initiatives should be established — more than five is considered unnecessary. The initiative should be communicated daily to sponsors and executives.
2. A CRM strategy cannot be developed in isolation. It must be relevant and linked to the overall corporate strategy, and it must build on existing sales or marketing strategies that are already in use.
3. CRM initiatives have eight aspects in common: vision, strategy, customer experience, organizational collaboration, processes, customer information, technology, and metrics. Achievement of some of these aspects is not enough to ensure CRM success, which hinges on covering all eight aspects.
While the third finding — a reference to Gartner's classic report, "Eight Building Blocks of CRM" — reiterates the importance of all eight "building blocks," Thompson notes that two in particular correlate with success: strategy and metrics.
"Companies who are good at putting together strategy and executing tend to do well," he says. "But it's surprising how many organizations still aren't good at it. There are companies [that] are good at technology [and] they can implement it. They might have a good vision, but if they haven't gotten the strategy right and they haven't followed through on the three steps, then they tend not to do well."
The report doesn't promise an immediate cure-all for CRM managers. In fact, the first action item calls the effort "an iterative process that may require several revisions before a final CRM strategy is developed. The challenge is to avoid rushing the development process, as the company may be committed to many years of change."
For a copy of the Gartner press release, click here.
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