Churchill Downs' formal change-management effort addresses different levels of CRM understanding and, like most change initiatives, emphasizes that change is good.
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When we last visited atique Shah, Churchill Downs' vice president of CRM and technology solutions, he was sizing up recruits, sorting out which data sources will feed the new E.piphany 6.5 system, and finalizing his role in ensuring that the horse-racing company will win its high-stakes bet on CRM.
Including Shah, Churchill Downs now has 15 professionals on the CRM team. Shah hired two directors: a project manager and an MIS director.
Shah selected the project manager for his "hard-core project management skills" and the MIS director for his years of data warehousing experience. Prior to narrowing the field Shah had planned to fill the director positions with a project manager and a director of analytics. But Shah felt that these two people complemented each other so well that he changed course. "One of the directors is the yin," he says, "and the other should be the yang."
Shah also he realized he could get more bang for his personnel buck by hiring a more junior-level analytics person to support his own analytics capabilities.
"The executive team has shown commitment and far-sightedness in letting me capture the skill sets I need to make this successful," says Shah, who reports to Andy Skehan, chief marketing officer. "E.piphany is not going to make money for this company. The people who run E.piphany will make all of the difference."
Shah and his new team have visited the company's other racing properties to spread the word that CRM is coming and to discuss each track's needs and expectations. "We wanted to gain a better feel for their environment," Shah says. "What are their challenges? What are their limitations? What does CRM mean to them?"
Churchill Downs' formal change-management effort addresses different levels of CRM understanding and, like most change initiatives, emphasizes that change is good. The company's execution of that mandate sets it apart.
"It is vital to give control, not take control," says Shah, whose high-profile CRM successes with the National Basketball Association and other organizations seem to make him an unlikely candidate to relinquish the steering wheel. "So, I'm saying, 'Look, we're about to do this and it's going to require a lot of change. But we're going to be in the back seat helping you navigate. You're still driving.'"
In the past 30 days Shah and his team also have researched the options for hosting the servers that the project requires. The decision boils down to in-house versus outsourcing. Shah is leaning toward the latter, because it will likely be a much more cost-effective approach.
After finalizing the hosting environment Shah and his team will turn their attention to the project's engine by performing the initial layout of the database schema.
Shah's Churchill Downs CRM team expects to put the finishing touches on an official statement of work (SOW) within the next 30 days. It will detail how the company will implement and execute its CRM strategy from both a business and a technical perspective. The SOW also lists the initiative's complete resource requirements, and identifies the metrics that will be used to track ROI for the multiyear project--Shah knows that even a champion can't cross the finish line first without a plan.
Eric Krell is a freelance journalist based in Austin, TX
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