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Tales From the Dark Side
It's tough getting the gritty CRM stories.
For the rest of the October 2001 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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As an editor at CRM magazine, I travel quite a bit to trade shows, conferences, expos and seminars. I go to glean information on a better way to do business, and to develop a greater understanding of the business tools in the CRM industry. I often talk with vendors, analysts and those satisfied users of CRM solutions who find their ways to seats on panels, and I almost always come away with a wealth of information. Unfortunately, I also come away with the feeling that I missed the most important thing--stories of difficult CRM implementation experiences.

We all hear about the high percentage of CRM project failures, and we know the process is challenging. I believe we can learn from others' experiences--especially when they are thorny. But it's not easy getting to speak to users when I am writing about CRM solutions. Vendors try to help me with that. I always appreciate their help, but vendors will present the finished stories, the ones with the happy endings, and so many taxing aspects will not be brought to light. And of course this is true. Why would a vendor present a client facing, as of yet, unsolved problems?

It's not that I feel I am a modern Diogenes, shining my flashing superball down the long aisles at trade shows. I meet mostly honest souls in my travels. The problem is that I meet with second-hand versions of the truth. I hear from vendors who tell me what their product will do. I hear from analysts who tell me what their clients have said. I want to talk directly with users about what is actually happening to them.

But I got a lucky break. One day last winter at an analyst-sponsored seminar luncheon, I found myself seated with a group of people who were grappling with CRM planning choices and challenges. Like a fly on the wall, I listened to all the stories being told. It was amazing.

First, there was the customer service manager from a large corporation. She told me that as she was shopping for a CRM solution, a manager from another branch in her company was also shopping for a CRM solution to deploy in his department. "Do you talk to each other?" I asked. "You could really leverage one solution over both departments."

She told me that they did not talk, and because the other manager wanted to own his corporate turf, company politics guaranteed that there would be two separate solutions, two separate implementation experiences and two separate systems handling customer information within one company. "It's such a waste," she said.

One CRM project manager had been taken from his previous position and put in charge of the CRM rollout. He felt his implementation experience was invaluable. "But, they promoted my assistant into my old job," he said. "When this is over, what will I do? I wonder if I'll have a job."

Next we talked legacy systems, customization, integration. The food was getting cold, and I was getting an earful. People finished each other's sentences, and at my table, informal benchmarking progressed rapidly. We finally looked around and noticed that the lunchroom was deserted. I couldn't believe what a great discussion we had enjoyed, and as we all turned to dash to the afternoon keynote, I said it was remarkable to hear so many stories from the trenches like this. There was a communal gasp as each person requested that I not use his or her name or too much detail when writing about this.

Diogenes had it easy.

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To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com
Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationCRM.com/subscribe/.
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