"Tasks have no meaning unless they are completed in a way that supports the project's vision."
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Project-management prowess has kept Churchill Downs' CRM initiative, which in year one includes the implementation of E.piphany 6.5 and several customer-analytics applications, on track. As the deadline for completing the first phase of the data mart neared, however, Vice President of CRM and Technology Solutions Atique Shah noticed that his team's vision was focused too much on individual furlongs and not enough on the finish line.
"The project plan says that X, Y, and Z tasks have to be completed by X, Y, and Z deadlines," Shah says. "There is a mad dash to get each of those tasks done in time. But those tasks have no meaning unless they are completed in a way that supports the project's vision."
The CRM team last month identified 27 data sources to feed the CRM engine. The group charged with the construction of the database planned to bring initially six sources into the data model. Loading that number of data sources into the model would help ensure its strength and flexibility.
As the deadline for completing the first phase of the data model grew near, doubts arose as to whether six sources could be loaded into the model in time. The group floated the idea of loading only one data source into the model as a way to hit the deadline and achieve a quick win.
"But a quick win for whom?" Shah asks. "What's the point of giving someone a Ferrari with no engine and no tires on the date that you said you would deliver the Ferrari? The development of a CRM system requires an enterprisewide view of your data sources. There are basic, fundamental principles of building a data warehouse or a data mart. You never develop a data model based on one data source, because you don't know if the other sources will work."
Shah credits his team, and the four E.piphany service professionals assigned to the project, with correcting the group's vision before it lost sight of the larger concerns. "[The service pros] worked with us as partners, rather than as simply a vendor, and really sifted through these challenges," Shah says.
The lesson from the episode is a common one among seasoned CRM experts, Shah says. "When you are in
systems-development mode," he says, "you have to be cautious about falling into the task trap and losing sight of your ultimate deliverable."
After a candid, constructive team meeting led by the project manager, the entire team reached a consensus that a portion of Monday meetings will be dedicated to a detailed rundown of the week's tasks. That is now followed by discussions of how those activities will enable Churchill Downs to provide unparalleled customer service. "And during every interaction with the team I take the opportunity to revisit the vision and resell it to [them]," Shah says.
Shah and his team have also been shopping. They finalized purchases of SPSS's NetGenesis (click-stream analysis and other Web-based analytics) and Clementine (predictive analytics); Ascential's Data Sage (data integration); and Percussion Software's Web-content management application.
Next on the agenda is designing a comprehensive process to support Churchill Downs' channel strategy, plumbing the analytics applications for customer insight, and more database development--taking these things one step at a time, but with a clear picture of the higher-level objective the steps are designed to reach.
Freelance journalist Eric Krell reminds us that the whole of a CRM initiative is greater than the sum of its parts.
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