Forget Smarty Jones--a new champion is inspiring the Churchill Downs crowd.
After launching a multiyear, multimillion-dollar CRM strategy and technology implementation about nine months ago, Atique Shah, vice president of CRM and technology solutions for Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI), has periodically recognized project members for their extraordinary contributions. Shah named Jeremy Borseth, director of online channel strategy, as his most recent "champion."
Borseth's contributions and Shah's recognition program address two implementation challenges that often receive short shrift from project leaders: CRM is a tough sell to the rest of the organization, and much of the implementation work is mind-numbingly boring.
Borseth is one of three members of Shah's 10-person CRM team who worked for Churchill Downs before the project began, in June 2004. For most of Borseth's four years with the company he oversaw the Web site and its supporting infrastructure, an area that Shah folded into the project shortly after launching the implementation.
Shah and his team picked apart the existing Web site to figure out what worked, what didn't, and what could be changed to support the CRM initiative. "Jeremy kept his head up, really listened to feedback, and immediately contributed to the redesign of the dot.com area," Shah says.
The rest of the team was impressed with much of Borseth's work, and he absorbed both compliments and criticism equally well. That adaptability impressed Shah, to the point that Borseth retains much of his previous authority over dot.com activities under the company's new CRM umbrella. "Successful leaders and employees adapt to change," Shah says. "That's often said, and it's true. In practice, though, adapting to change requires individuals to relinquish ownership and overcome personal reservations, which is extremely difficult to do."
Thanks to his status as a veteran CDI employee, Borseth has helped oil the CRM team's larger change efforts. "When the rest of the employees hear Jeremy say, 'You know what, this CRM thing is pretty cool,' it has ten times the impact of me saying the same thing," Shah says. "The rest of the employees know, trust, and respect Jeremy based on his previous work." Shah has relied on similar forms of team recognition in previous projects.
During a stint with a Fortune 100 technology company, Shah doled out smiley faces to deserving members of his team. That might sound like a page from a kindergarten teacher's handbook, but Shah's smiley faces have a harder value: The team member who had amassed the largest number of happy yellow circles at the end of each quarter received one share of company stock for each smiley face. "When you are in the middle of a complex, multimillion-dollar, multichannel CRM project, some of the work is so tedious and so boring," Shah says. "There is no flash, glitter, or glamour attached to dealing with data." So, Shah continually seeks new ways to stimulate the interest of his team, and to spur it to perform at the highest level possible.
In February the team focused on testing extract, transform, and load processes to ensure that the right data is collected, cleaned, and dropped into the E.piphany architecture. By the end of this quarter the team needs to have all its CRM systems in production. The interactive wagering platform (and its industry-first customer service module), the campaign management engine, and the redesigned Web site also need to be up and working.
"I feel like a jockey who is riding three horses at the same time," Shah says. "Our analytical horse, dot.com horse, and campaign management horse all have to cross the finish line together."
Eric Krell, a freelancer in Austin, Texas, will work for smiley faces