Create a Blueprint for CRM Success
What are vendors leaving out of the conversation?
For the rest of the March 2015 issue of CRM magazine please click here

To call the speed of the evolution of CRM platforms frenetic is like saying that someone in the path of a hurricane might experience a little moisture. Innovation is key in business, and the means of applying it to gain productivity or competitive advantage are becoming increasingly elusive. In fact, achieving CRM success is still a reach for many, even those with well-thought-out plans.

Most firms that are vetting a CRM platform for the first time or replacing a current solution probably feel as if they have a pretty good handle on what their needs are, as well as on the process for picking the right CRM product. Much of this confidence comes either from experience with customer relationship management or the readily available information on the Web on best practices for deciding on a new system. Yet shortly after kickoff meetings, those firms find that the project starts to head downhill...with momentum.

Does this sound familiar? Companies get frustrated when they don't understand how things go sideways after they put significant attention into choosing the right solution and dedicating the right resources to ensure success.

One of the most important things to understand is the vast difference between the data nirvana that exists in a vendor's demonstration system and the state of your data. Having a vision for how various components of the platform will work requires that all of the elements of the system have significant and meaningful data.

Therein lies the crux of the issue. To get off on the right foot with a new CRM solution, a layering process needs to take place, or gaps in some areas will cause problems in others. A common mistake is focusing exclusively on configuration and functionality but not the data sets and the business rules for dealing with imperfect data sets.

The best analogy here would be the process of building a house. The product selection is similar to deciding on the location of your home. The implementation partner is similar to the architect. The specification is synonymous with the blueprint. And the users are the people that ultimately have to live in the house. In this case, you also have the furnishings, which represent your data. The process of deciding what furniture makes the move and what doesn't will have just as large an impact on your happiness as your success. In other words, even if you choose not to deal with the ugly chair in the living room, it is still going to have an impact on your end result.

Thinking back to that leap from demonstration to implementation, it is paramount to consider processes that teams undergo, to rip apart data sets through internal meetings, and to score the value of data points. Why collect data if it has no value to marketing, sales, service, and, ultimately, revenue?

Another trick of the trade is to look and see where there are manual data entry points and turn those into selection lists or static data sets. Why is this important? Ever watch the show Hoarders?

Letting go or making changes is one of the biggest challenges that we face as individuals and in business. Yet this has the single biggest impact on launching a successful CRM project or even more advanced capabilities, such as business intelligence or analytics. This also brings to light how important it is to focus on the evolution of the system in the early stages before trying to optimize the bells and whistles that your vendor stressed during the selection process.

Danny Estrada has worked in CRM for the past 20 years. As a practice leader, he has guided teams through the implementation and development cycles of more than 500 CRM projects. He is the author of the Practical CRM blog (http://blog.practicalcrm.net) and a speaker on real-world application of CRM concepts. You can reach him at destrada@practicalCRM.net.

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