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According to the latest figures from CSO Insights, more than 25 percent of new CRM project plans call for two or more technology providers. Avoid finger-pointing hangups and incompatibility holdups by remembering these key procedures:
The best time to build a cross-vendor collaboration plan is before anybody has agreed to a contract. "Sit down when you have the most buying power and say, 'Before I buy from any of you, when I've got a [cross-vendor] service issue, you resolve it,'" says Jim Dickie, a partner with CSO Insights.
Communicate the plan to all involved
Even if the vendors or implementation partners appear to be working on completely different areas of your business process and your technology systems, ensure that they each understand the full scope of your effort. It reduces the risk of introducing accidental incompatibilities, as well as territorial clashes when different vendors start calling on the same internal resources for guidance, training, integration assistance, and so forth.
Communication up-front will not prevent all surprises, but will eliminate some, as well as demonstrate which vendors are paying attention.
Engage an experienced watchdog
Corralling the strengths of disparate vendors will be easier with a qualified hand to guide them. The vendor watchdog role does not necessarily have to go to the CRM visionary or overall project manager, but should go to a person who has a high degree of ownership in the project and a strong background with multiparty projects. The project watchdog also must be a trusted resource, so that the service providers feel comfortable airing the squabbles and be perceptive enough to detect when trouble is brewing under the radar. A veteran team leader or executive with a consulting background makes a good choice. If internal resources are thin in this area, consider engaging a consulting or advisory firm with no stake in the technology selection whose sole job is to manage the interface of all of the internal and external resources assembling the CRM system.
Pick a key system
In the data back-end, it is certainly possible to build many-to-many integration between all of the CRM data and systems you use, but the people charged with actually using the technology will appreciate seeing the entire CRM capability presented as a single, seamless interface. This requires either choosing a core system and building the other functionality into it as push-button add-ons, or using a portal or enterprise software integration kit to create an entirely new interface. "Whether it's the opportunity management application or the campaign management [tool], make it so that I don't have to go through multiple sign-ons," Dickie says. "The systems clearly support that kind of interoperability, but you have to be sure you support it."
Remind them who the client is
Each of the practitioners in the project will have unique methods and preferences for completing their portion of the work, and may bristle at the notion of changing their ways to accommodate the needs of a peer or competitor. If these problems occur, remind them that the purpose of the project is to advance your way of conducting business, not theirs.
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