Aberdeen's Top Ten CRM Projects

Despite the noise surrounding failed CRM projects last year, it wasn't all bad news. Aberdeen Group released its much-anticipated "What Works: Ten Significant CRM Implementations of 2001" study today, which is chock full of case studies of successful, ROI-laden CRM implementations.

The winners include: Hewett-Packard and Allegis; AMF Bowling and Applix iCRM; Oncology Therapeutics Network and Blue Martini; Compaq Canada and Blue Pumpkin; City of Des Moines and Frontrange; Tupperware and Talisma; Sonus-USA and TriVium Systems; Textron and Salesforce.com; Rockwell Automation and Selectica; Asyst and Siebel. Receiving honorable mentions are Ernst and Young and Aprimo, and Timberline Industries and Ardexus.

Aberdeen looked at various factors to determine the success of a given project. Mostly though, evaluations centered on a project's ability to achieve measurable ROI and hit its business objectives. Certainly, CRM varies greatly in scope and scale, making it difficult to compare one CRM project with another. For Aberdeen, CRM embodies six key disciplines: Sales Force Automation; Marketing Automation; Customer Service and Support; Field Service Automation; Help Desk; and Call Center. Thus, the research firm decided not to rank the ten winners and crown a champion.

Denis Pombriant, research director and author of the report at Aberdeen, provided this gem to Line56: "What you won't find in the report is the fact that several of these cases represented customers who had tried to implement CRM before and failed, or at least not achieved the kind of results they wanted." All of this points to a stiff learning curve for companies embarking on a CRM project

Part of the problem is that CRM projects are an ongoing process that gets more complex every day. Simply put, CRM projects are nearly impossible to map out entirely and require a boatload of expertise. Consequently, professional services will play an increasing role in CRM, according to Aberdeen, and already represent over 50 percent of worldwide spending on new CRM systems.

Increased complexity also opens doors to specialization, and thus Aberdeen expects to see CRM vendors continue to focus on certain verticals in emerging markets, especially in manufacturing, process industries, retail and consumer packaged goods. CRM staple markets previously consisted of high-tech, financial services and telecommunications.

Overall, CRM is still one of the hottest technologies out there. Tough economic conditions aside, the CRM market grew more than 9 percent in 2001. And more robust growth is expected to resume later this year, on the coattails of a greater economic recovery. Vendors haven't missed the signs, either. CRM's largest vendors (Siebel, PeopleSoft, Oracle, SAP) will continue to grow and expand their reach into newer application segments, such as marketing automation, partner-relationship management and even employee-relationship management.

But don't look for big vendors to gobble up niche vendors to accomplish these goals, says Aberdeen. The integration of third-party technologies is often too painful and costly. While mergers and acquisitions will happen, most suite vendors will likely opt to build functionality in-house, Aberdeen says.

Another trend is that the CRM industry is seeing a rapid increase in adoption within the small- to mid-range enterprise (SMB), with emphasis on the low end. These small organizations, which also include franchises, will provide a rich market for CRM vendors that have the wherewithal to re-tool and re-price their offerings to this unique space.

Tom Kaneshige also writes for Line56.com

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