Month 12: To make good on its year-one deliverables Churchill Downs' CRM team must make believers out of everyone.
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Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI)'s CRM project team breezed across the finish line with time to spare. Now, the group is focusing on training, which will help ensure that the company collects the payout it deserves.
"It's one form of success to say that the system is up," says Vice President of CRM and Technology Solutions Atique Shah. "It's quite another type of success when you hear the ka-ching at the end of the day."
Shah is downplaying the staggering amount of work his group did in the past year. Today, CDI's CRM system allows end users to use the Epiphany application to slice and dice data and conduct email marketing campaigns; to generate direct mail lists; and to target promotions correlated to different points in the customer life cycle. An off-site data center, hosted by EDS, is up and running, and customer data is automatically cleansed, merged, and purged through new data-integration processes and technology.
The initial rollout of a new interactive wagering platform, the integration of Web-analytics capabilities with the Web-site traffic, the implementation of a new content management system, and the installation of predictive analytical capabilities also have been completed.
No wonder Shah sounds weary between bites of cake served up on the go-live date. The celebration, designed to communicate that new CRM capabilities have officially arrived, was briefly interrupted by network connectivity hassles--outside the reach of the CRM proj-ect--which temporarily prevented users from putting the new functionality through its paces.
Shah and his team gave out trinkets and sweets while expounding on the new system's benefits, an activity that characterizes the second phase of Churchill Downs' CRM project. "We need to get everybody to appreciate, learn, and use all the capabilities that we have been building during the past twelve months," Shah says. "You can always figure out a way to get systems up. People, and their resistance to change, are a bigger challenge."
The CRM team got a head start on that challenge five months ago by hosting a two-day summit for marketing and IT directors from each Churchill Downs track. After two days of CRM preaching those newly ordained evangelists returned to their units to spread the word, which, as Shah puts it, is about transforming CDI "from a company with a database to a data-based company."
Successfully communicating that message to the entire organization through training, documentation, trouble-shooting, and hand-holding will absorb the project team's time over much of the coming 12 months.
"In CRM, success comes to those who believe," Shah says. "We are believers today, and we will continue to be believers tomorrow. Year two is all about execution. Let's use what we have built and maximize the heck out of this investment."
Contrary to conventional wisdom Shah does not believe that he needs a new team to run a different sort of race in year two. "Too many organizations move too quickly to reshuffle the project team," Shah says. "They think they're doing right, but it's one of the worst things you can do."
Why? Because people are not machines that can be unplugged from their work and plugged in to new tasks on short notice. Shah emphasizes that instructing and selling the rest of the organization on the benefits of CRM requires an empathetic touch. Plus, the current team, with its diverse collection of functional expertise (IT, marketing, operations, etc.), can help communicate the benefits of the new functionality in several different contexts.
"Our team is helping the rest of the people in our company understand that at the end of the day, they are still in control and they are still the decision-makers," Shah says. "All we ask them to do is to use the system to make decisions based on facts."
Eric Krell is a freelance writer based in Austin, TX
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