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Who Should Run the CRM Show?
Companies are increasingly struggling to choose between sales, marketing, IT and service for control over customer-centric programs.
Posted May 11, 2001
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Finding the right team to lead a CRM initiative is sometimes more of a struggle than the project itself. Everyone from IT to sales to the CEO wants their hands in it but with the wrong people in charge (or constant battling over power), a solid plan may be doomed for failure.

To handle technology projects many companies are increasingly forming special groups which have both business and technical expertise. Early on, according to Barry Trailer, a business process consultant, IT departments initiated CRM projects, which were then imposed on the sales and marketing departments. "A lot of disappointment came from IT-driven initiatives," says Trailer. However, projects initiated by sales weren't the solution, either.

"The problem with initiatives endorsed by departments other than IT is that the purpose is vague," says Trailer. Sales has goals such as "increase team communication" or "increase productivity." According to Trailer, it is difficult to measure the success of the project with such vague goals, so companies are focusing on return on investment and as a result, are getting a clearer idea of what business problems they want to solve and how CRM can help. "But there's still a ways to go," he says.

Out of the Loop

Administaff, a Kingwood, Texas-based company that serves as an off-site HR department for small and midsize businesses, learned how important it is to have the right people in charge of a CRM initiative. In 1995, when Administaff first started looking for a CRM system to track marketing leads, the company's vice president of IT and its director of marketing made a joint decision to implement GoldMine. After initial use in a fall marketing campaign, the sales department approved the system and Administaff installed one copy in each of its 30 sales offices.

Though IT was involved in the initial decision-making, the department quickly worked itself out of the loop, according to Administaff's Lori Haynes. The director of market research and automation at Administaff, Haynes was involved in the GoldMine project from the start. "IT told us they would offer only limited support," she says. Then Administaff began to have synchronization problems. "We were getting invalid information," says Haynes. "The sales side was not motivated, so GoldMine just sat there."

Fast forward to 1997. Administaff's sales and marketing departments merged, and the company wanted to put GoldMine to better use. The company decided to roll the system out to all its sales consultants. Starting in February 1998, Haynes spent four months going from city to city training the sales force on their new laptops and the GoldMine system.
This time, the decision to expand the GoldMine program was made exclusively by sales management, which allowed for quicker turnaround time, says Haynes.

Haynes was aided in her training effort by a special group of sales automation support specialists formed by Administaff's sales and marketing department in 1998 to offer IT support for sales and marketing personnel. The group is independent from the IT department, reports in to sales and marketing, and has both the technology and the people skills necessary to support Administaff's sales consultants. These specialists go on calls with the sales force and know Administaff's sales process well. "I feel the reason our automation project was successful was that we had people supporting our sales consultants who understood the sales process," says Haynes.

It's a Hybrid

Administaff's experience highlights the importance of a new breed of manager that is emerging to take charge of CRM projects. This hybrid manager is not just a salesperson, not just a tech geek, not just a marketing savant; he or she is a little bit of all the above. "CRM works best when you've got someone in charge who can stand with a foot in multiple camps," says Dave Roberts, vice president of product development at Siebel Multichannel Systems, Siebel's sales process consulting arm. "We come across hybrid managers more and more," he says. At a recent Siebel user week, for example, Roberts says a large proportion of attendees had this type of cross-functional background.

Increasingly, companies are forming new departments, headed up by a hybrid manager, to be the liaison between the business organizations in the company--like sales and marketing--and the IT department. These new groups take business needs into account when planning technology initiatives.

Internet Security Systems (ISS), an Atlanta-based provider of information security management software and services, has just formed this type of department. Karyn Mullins is manager of "business enablement" for ISS. She reports to IT. "We were struggling to separate the business issues from the software development issues," says Mullins, who has both a technology and a business background.

The business enablement group is in charge of 10 strategic technology projects that ISS wants to complete in the next two years. The first major initiative Mullins will undertake is reviewing the company's CRM system. In 1997, ISS implemented an Onyx system that automated its selling process, allowing marketing to more easily distribute leads and sales to track them. Now ISS wants to implement a global CRM system and will be evaluating various software packages.

Since the original Onyx implementation (which was driven by the vice president of sales), ISS has grown from 75 employees to 1,500 employees. "With 1,500 people in the company, you don't get to talk to people in the hall," says Mullins. "You have to go out and meet with each department and get a list of requirements they have for the system." Once Mullins and her staff have the list of requirements, they prepare a cost/benefit analysis and a feasibility study. Then another, more technical group in IT identifies solution candidates. "It's a big advantage to have Karyn's group to balance potentially conflicting requirements," says Lynn McInerny, director of field marketing operations for ISS.

Team Building

A hybrid manager is great, says Trailer, but he or she cannot replace the commitment of the affected departments. Having someone with a multifunctional background in charge of the CRM project can help achieve success only if the vice presidents of sales, marketing and customer service and the CIO don't abdicate their responsibilities. "Commitment is easy to measure," he says. "It's involvement."

Which brings us to the next question you need to ask yourself: Who should be on the CRM implementation team? "When putting together a team, think 'i2 ,'"[i squared] says Siebel Multichannel Systems' Roberts. "You need people with insight, and you need implementers." There's no magic number of people to have on a team, says Roberts. But, he warns, there's a balance to strike. "If too few people are involved, the end-user community will not feel they have been consulted and they won't use the system," he says. "If too many people are involved, you get analysis paralysis."

The Madding Crowd

It's clear you need representatives from sales, marketing and service on your team to ensure those departments' needs are met, but should you include every single salesperson or call center rep in the implementation process? "You can't have the crowd in charge," says Trailer. "But you have to have the crowd enrolled."

Administaff can attest to the importance of getting the sales team enrolled. When the company initially rolled out GoldMine in 1995, sales was not fully behind the system, and it went unused. Then, when sales and marketing executives took stock of how GoldMine was doing six months after the re-launch in 1998, they realized sales was viewing GoldMine as a corporate reporting tool. "Sales consultants didn't see the value for them," says Haynes.

So Administaff embarked on the third phase of implementation, which was to teach the sales force to use GoldMine as a relationship management tool. Administaff changed its sales training to emphasize five phases of the sale process. After the training, sales consultants finally started to see the value of using GoldMine to manage their pipeline. Now, with GoldMine's reporting function, sales consultants can see where there are gaps in the pipeline. They can also identify weaknesses in their sales process and seek the appropriate training. It took months of repetition, patience and handholding to get the sales consultants trained, but now they're convinced of the usefulness of the system, says Haynes.

"Buy-in is key," Haynes adds. "We noticed that when a district sales manager did not have enthusiasm for the project, it was harder for that office to get up to speed."

Empire involved brokers in the FirePond implementation process early on. "We brought brokers in to test the prototype," says Empire's Bell. "We picked brokers we knew would give straight feedback." For example, brokers said they loved the ease of preparing quotes electronically, but they also would like to be able to print out the proposals to send to prospects. They pointed out places where it was difficult to navigate between Web pages. Empire incorporated these suggestions into the final version, and the system was immediately successful. Within three months 550 brokers had registered to use it. "We are pleased with the results," says Bell.

"One of the most skeptical communities in the world is sales," says Siebel's Roberts. "You've got to prove what we call 'WIIFM,' or 'What's In It For Me?'" he says. "The key to success is to articulate value for sales. If the data is just a 2-by-4 to beat them up, you won't get meaningful usage."

From the Top

On the other end of the spectrum, executive sponsorship is equally important, agree the experts. Empire's Chief Operating Officer Dave Snow was the main motivator behind the health insurer's move to install FirePond. "From my past experience, I know that not having executive sponsorship is a killer to any project," says Bell. Empire has a weekly senior management meeting to discuss corporate initiatives (those that cover more than one department). Updates on the FirePond project were discussed at this meeting every Thursday. "Dave was important when we found inconsistencies in our processes," says Bell. "We as a team laid out the pros and cons and said the team couldn't decide. Dave made the call."

A CRM initiative needs both initiating sponsors, like the CEO or COO, and sustaining sponsors, like sales managers, says Roberts. "CEOs are getting involved more and more in CRM projects," he says. "Companies have already streamlined manufacturing processes, quality and distribution. The back office has been done. CRM is the next frontier in competitive advantage. When CRM becomes a key competitive differentiator, more CEOs are truly interested. If they're not, they should be."

CRM is increasingly viewed as strategic and critical for the future competitive advantage of the company, says Roberts. "This is something CEOs can't abdicate responsibility for," he says. "The CRM system is the physical manifestation of the company's philosophy of how to treat customers. It's not just tin and wires anymore."

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