One Foot in Front of the Other
Success in CRM is achieved one step at a time
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Last month I took an extended backpacking trip in the Rocky Mountains. When I got back to the office my co-workers ooohed and aaahed over my vacation photos and then, for the most part, allowed as how they could never imagine hiking 60 miles.

But it's like most things in life. It's not about 60 miles. It's about that next step; it's about making it to that stump up ahead and forcing yourself to go one more minute before you stop to catch your breath.

This issue includes special sections on two topics that are both a subset and a superset of CRM: analytics and demand chain automation. These technologies have the potential to change the way many industries do business. It's exciting to me to see the definition of CRM grow to encompass these and other business technologies.

Yet I'm troubled.

Remember sales force automation? SFA was going to change business--the only trouble was, more than half of all SFA projects bombed. The technology wasn't flawed, but most projects failed to address vital non-technology issues--people, processes and politics. Consultants urged us to get a handle on those issues, and some users listened. But for the most part, the industry's response to SFA's failings was to rename itself "customer relationship management" and build even bigger and more comprehensive technical solutions.

And of course, CRM finds itself in the same boat. I attended a CRM software conference last week, and the story was the same that it's always been: consultants urging folks to remember people, process and politics while software executives touted elaborate technical solutions.

Is analytics a bad thing? Heck, no. Analytics--which is, after all, just a fancy word for knowing your customer--is a very fine thing. Is demand chain management a bad thing? Again, no; though I think it represents a state of business utopia that's probably farther from reality than its proponents would like you to believe.

The failure rate for CRM implementations is not going to be solved by tacking on more functions or by renaming it e-Enabled Enterprise Collaborative Business Optimization. Whatever is wrong with CRM is going to be solved by focus and hard work.

Don't let anyone sell you a journey that you aren't ready to complete or get you so focused on the mountaintop over yonder ("See Your Customers Coming 500 Miles Away!") that you forget to look at the path in front of you.

Set realistic goals, maintain a fierce focus on them, and remember that you can buy all the fancy gear in the world, but it's human heart and sweat that's going to get you where you need to go.

It ain't easy. It ain't romantic. It ain't even particularly pretty. But the journey is in putting one foot in front of the other.

Larry Tuck, Editor

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