Defining Your Company's CRM Rules of Engagement

Certainly, no one expects a CEO to design data profiling screens, or a software developer to determine how the company should face its marketplace. Nonetheless, the ability to collect customer data and effectively go to market are critical components of any CRM implementation. Companies need to develop guidelines for involvement--or rules of engagement for different levels in the organization--so team members understand how and where their skills will be utilized and, more importantly, what issues they should resolve and what issues they need to raise to the next level of management.

With most CRM implementations these rules are not clearly defined. As a result, key strategic decisions are often made by the implementation team--those least equipped to make business decisions. A well-constructed implementation allows the people who best understand the issues to make the decisions.

The CEO manages the inevitable trade-offs among strategic priorities. Top operating management is accountable for the operational/tactical trade-offs. The first-line managers and implementation teams make the detailed design and execution trade-offs....

In one company with multiple divisions making different airplane subsystems, a corporate growth strategy was to extend past the traditional OEM customers and serve new markets in service and maintenance. This would require the divisions to work together in new ways to provide one face to the new airline customer. The CRM "go" decision had been a division-level call, but the CEO recognized that local division CRM implementation would complicate the servicing of new markets. He mandated that CRM for these aviation subsystems be done in concert with a new service strategy.

In making this decision, the CEO forced the organization to engage in a series of dialogues that advanced the process while aligning it with key strategic and operational priorities. The company translated the various choices that had to be made during the implementation into the right language so dialogue could occur throughout the organization. Fortunately, setting up the process of dialogue is not difficult. Unfortunately, most CRM methodology or vendors never mention it.

A meaningful series of ongoing discussions should start at the top, with the CEO and upper management. The conversation should focus on implementation issues that affect the achievement of strategic goals. The CEO must keep in mind the alignment between the implementation and the strategic vision, making certain that upper management understands the strategic priorities in a concrete way. In the same manner that operating management has an ongoing dialogue with the CEO, it must conducts discussion with the implementation teams, focusing on operational and tactical alternatives. The goal is to balance business processes with systems roles. These decisions often drive where a new process will be developed or an old one re-engineered.

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