Successfully managing CRM initiatives is a difficult job, and it may actually be getting harder.
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Lou Holtz, University of South Carolina's head football coach, had an especially trying experience early in his career when he took over the University of Minnesota football program. The Gophers were a poor team at the time, and many of his friends questioned his judgment in taking the job.
Holtz tells the story of how, three months after starting work, he ran into a colleague on the campus, who was concerned about Holtz, so he asked him, "How's it really going?" Holtz smiled and said, "You know, since I have taken this job I can honestly tell you I sleep like a baby--I wake up every morning at 3 a.m. and I cry!"
Based on the results of CSO Insights' Sales Effectiveness State of the Marketplace Review 2004, which polled 1,337 companies worldwide, many CRM project managers can undoubtedly relate to Holtz's experience. Successfully managing CRM initiatives is a difficult job, and it may actually be getting harder.
As part of our survey we asked the 800-plus respondents who said they had implemented a CRM system to share with us the top-three challenges they faced during that effort. The summary of their responses follows:
Populating/maintaining data 46.5%
Gaining user acceptance 32.0%
Measuring project ROI 30.9%
Matching technology to process problems 30.7%
Customizing CRM tools 29.5%
Identifying process problems 23.4%
Effectively rolling out the system 23.0%
Getting users productive 22.1%
Supporting remote users 13.6%
Getting executive support 10.6%
Getting adequate funding 9.4%
In looking at the summary it's clear that CRM success is a juggling act, requiring project teams to deal with a number of issues. Anyone who has gone through a CRM implementation is well aware of the technology hurdles, but overcoming software, hardware, and communications challenges is just the tip of the iceberg.
The quality of the information used within CRM systems has risen to the top of the list of concerns among CRM project leaders. Rationalizing the data imported into the system, and then keeping it current and accurate, is a never-ending challenge, and one that many companies do not adequately budget for.
Solve that problem and you run smack into people-related issues: Gaining user acceptance, effectively training people during the rollout of the applications, getting them productive using the systems, and then providing ongoing support are all required elements of a successful CRM initiative.
Then there are the process-oriented challenges. Technology is not a magic bullet--if you fire technology at poorly constructed sales, marketing, or service processes, you will only end up doing inefficient and ineffective activities faster than ever before. Successful CRM often requires some serious process redesign.
Finally, in today's tight business climate budgetary issues will continue to influence CRM implementation decisions. CRM teams need to constantly justify the ROI being generated by the projects to get adequate funding and executive support.
With all of this to consider, is success even possible? Clearly it is, as our benchmarking survey uncovered numerous world-class success case studies--it's just that CRM is clearly not a slam-dunk. So take a lesson from your peers. Review the chart and ask yourself if are you considering all the issues that can and will come up. If you proactively deal with these challenges, you will find that you sleep a lot better this year.
Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. Contact him at www.csoinsights.com