It's no secret that CRM has faced its challenges with failed business intelligence (BI) implementations. Invariably, the fingers usually point to poor user adoption, insufficient training and a lack of post-training support and/or inadequate documentation. Research conducted in 2007 by AMR Research cited user adoption as a key factor that in the 29 percent CRM implementation failure rate with the companies studied.1 This is reinforced by Forrester's research in 2007 that highlights that 66 percent of executives would promote user adoption as a crucial area for best practices in CRM deployments.2
Most business intelligence solutions are extremely powerful, but highly complex and require at least a base knowledge of the underlying data in order to leverage them effectively. Given that the day to day go-to applications for sales and marketing professionals have proven to be a challenge to deploy successfully; do we really have any chance of consistently deploying a BI tool that is likely more complicated and less frequently used? The research speaks for itself (and the numbers are staggeringly similar): 25 percent of companies surveyed by Business Week Research Services in September, 2006, blamed BI implementation failures on insufficient user adoption.3
It's understood that a successful BI implementation needs good data cleansing strategy and clear alignment between IT and the CRM business owners. What is often overlooked is the usability challenge that plagues BI within the sales and marketing organizations.
CRM's broadest user communities, front line sales and marketing professionals, could benefit greatly from powerful insights into their respective areas of the business. But, their reporting needs are specific and vary massively by role, time of the year or quarter, the type of product sold, region, etc. Their BI needs include custom reports that are highly time-sensitive so they can quickly turn data into actionable insight that delivers results.
Let's take the simple example of a software sales representative who is one month from the end of the quarter and falling just short of his or her quarterly target. In this case the salesperson is likely going to be looking for the up- and cross-sell opportunities to bridge that gap among existing accounts within their territory, because existing customers likely provide the shortest sales cycle. In this instance, a list of customers that bought core product X and not add-on module Y represents a legitimate target list of prospects to help achieve the revenue goal for the quarter. Without the ability to quickly access this information through a self-service ad hoc query tool, the sales person goes back to working the big-ticket opportunities that will help next quarter, but not solve the immediate problem and make a positive impact on the current quarter's results.
It's time for a new perspective and approach
For some time, many BI vendors have been trying to solve this problem with easy to use drag and drop user interfaces or search engines that go and find existing reports from their report repository. But due to the complexity of using these tools, they continue to encounter the substantial implementation failure rates mentioned earlier.
If we look at it from a pure usability perspective, it's clear that search has been ubiquitously adopted without significant training and it represents a vehicle through which existing reports can be found. The dichotomy in this circumstance is that if it hasn't been created yet, you're essentially searching for nothing.
So what's changed? In their report from May 2008, Search & BI = Unified Information Access, Forrester Research presented the idea of a new BI technology.4 This new approach marries two existing technologies: search and sophisticated natural language processing. With this approach, when a user enters a search the new solution both searches for existing reports and also translates the search into a query of the underlying database(s) to create a new report that answers the question. The benefit of this new approach is that it eliminates the need to learn a "new" tool or understand how and where the data is stored.
With companies increasingly adopting this approach within sales, marketing and other departments; its clear that the time is right for the BI advantage to be realized within the traditional user communities of our CRM applications.
1Ending CRM Failures: Get in the Loop-AMR Research, by Robert Bois and Chris Fletcher, Sept. 2007
2Best Practices: Getting the Most From Your CRM Deployment-Forrester Research, June 2007
3Getting Smart About BI: Best Practices Deliver Real Value-Business Week Research Services, September, 2006
4Search + BI = Unified Information Access-Forrester Research, by Boris Evelson and Matthew Brown, May 2008
About the Author
Steve Walsh is vice president of strategy and business development for Progress Software Corporation's EasyAsk division. Progress EasyAsk makes it easy for sales and marketing professionals to query, analyze and share data so they can quickly turn it into actionable information.
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