Eight Steps to Developing a CRM Roadmap

Is it any wonder that the new mantra in business today is to become a customer-driven organization that develops enduring relationships with its consumers? In an Accenture study, "How much are CRM capabilities really worth? What every CEO should know," we established for the first time a strong link between excellence in a company's overall interaction with customers, what we call CRM, and financial performance. It showed that companies that have not invested in developing specific CRM capabilities are leaving millions of dollars in profit on the table. And that difference in performance in executing specific CRM capabilities account for roughly half the inequality in financial performance between top performers and average performers1.

So it is no surprise that companies are investing an enormous amount of effort and money in CRM technology that aims to get them closer to their customers. In fact, some studies have estimated that the overall CRM market will exceed $180 billion by 2002 (including services, applications tools, and outsourcing) and is growing at 35 percent compounded annual growth rate. It is also no surprise that the main concerns of many CEOs and CIOs about CRM is how to improve loyalty (customer retention and development) as well as the bottom line (acquiring new and profitable consumers). These two concerns summon the need for organizations to consider a holistic view of their customers. This can be achieved through an innovative approach known as the "CRM Roadmap."

But how are companies presently responding to this challenge in an environment where customers are much savvier, harder to please, more informed, have more choices, and have limited loyalty?

Some companies are implementing point-to-point technology solutions, but while technology can play an important role, it is only a fraction of the overall solution. Companies need to ensure that technology solutions complement their overall strategic approach, and are flexible enough to work with an evolving strategy. Organizations, therefore, need to consider the broader potential of CRM by viewing the enterprise as a cohesive unit rather than fragmented divisions, improving critical customer processes, etc.

Constructing a CRM Roadmap that includes a comprehensive customer strategy is the first step in achieving the full potential that CRM has to offer in becoming a customer-driven enterprise.

What is a CRM Roadmap?

A CRM Roadmap is a strategic plan that identifies how an organization can meet and exceed its customers' needs. This includes, but is not limited to, assessing how the sales, marketing and service entities work together to:

  1. gain insight from their customers (e.g. purchase history, desired products/services),
  2. produce valuable offerings/products (e.g. personalized product) and
  3. provide the ultimate customer experience (e.g. multiple touchpoints, 360 degree view of the customer).

The graphic below provides a "line of sight" that links the business strategy to customer expectations. Following these steps can ensure that your company meets its CRM goals.

steps to a CRM Roadmap

As illustrated above, developing a CRM Roadmap involves aligning an organization's business strategy with its prioritized CRM capabilities. For example, if a company's business strategy is to develop products faster to gain unique market positioning, the capabilities that the company needs to master should be aligned with that strategy, and might include:

  • Leveraging customer information from the service process (e.g. integrating customer feedback during service calls with the marketing department),
  • Effectively managing product mix (measuring success by campaign), and
  • Effectively managing sales channel strategy (eliminating conflict between distribution channels).

    So how do organizations know which CRM capabilities they have, and which they need to realize their strategic goal? Below are the primary steps (which have been used cross-industry, including financial services, electronics and high-tech, consumer products, manufacturing, etc.) to follow when developing a CRM Roadmap.

    step 1: Gain Senior Level Sponsorship

    The sponsor for a CRM Roadmap effort must have a vested interest in the project and ideally has P&L responsibility for the group to be impacted. This helps develop buy-in from the senior management team and the operations staff.

    A Roadmap effort without senior level sponsorship and with little cross-unit influence can diminish the returns of such an effort. As with any project an organization undertakes that involves significant change to business processes, organizational structures, or roles and responsibilities, the lack of key, influential sponsorship reduces the effectiveness of the project, since there is no driving force for implementation.

    step 2: Gather Information

    It is critical to gain insights of various key stakeholders and decision-makers within the organization. These insights can be acquired most effectively by holding one-on-one meetings. We use an "interview template" that consists of more than 30 questions. This template serves as the foundation for framing initial discussions with the client.

    Examples of questions that help us gauge the health of the client's CRM include:

  • How would you define CRM?
  • What types of customer information is captured/tracked (acquisition/retention costs, churn, cost to serve, etc.)?
  • What information would you like to know about your customers that you currently do not?

    Depending on the scope and effort of the project, these meetings may include not only executives, but also individuals all the way to the front line. Given their more frequent and direct interactions with the customer, front-line personnel may know more about customer needs, preferences and concerns that may not have been communicated to the executive level.

    step 3: Assess Current state and Define Future state Gaps

    Through these meetings, we gain an understanding of the client's current CRM capabilities and significant opportunities to improve their customer relationships, and map out our findings. We also strive to understand their company's future direction (usually between 6 months and 2 years).

    We use the results to determine how close these organizations are to meeting and exceeding their customers' expectations, and present the gaps between their current state of CRM and their desired state.

    We then compare the current state of CRM against best practices within the clients' respective industry and across industries that reveal opportunities to help our client become not only an industry leader, but also a cross-industry world-class leader.

    step 4: Identify Value Opportunities

    Value opportunities represent the potential benefits delivered by being more customer-centric. We identify and categorize value opportunities along the lines of people, process and technology by analyzing the gaps between the organization's current state and its desired future state. Once value opportunities are identified, meetings should be held with the executive team to prioritize them.

    One example of a "process" value opportunity is improving data capture for all customer contacts across sales functions and touch points (e.g. phone, e-mail, etc.). "People" value opportunities may involve additional training on service procedures for capturing customer data. "Technology" value opportunities might include developing a data warehouse.

    step 5: Link Value Opportunities to strategic CRM Capabilities

    Once we determine where the value opportunities lie, we map each to the 21 world-class CRM capabilities detailed in the study mentioned above. Identifying which strategic CRM capabilities are needed enables organizations to more effectively direct their CRM efforts and ensure they derive the projected value of any CRM projects.

    Below is a sample of link between a specific value opportunity and its corresponding strategic CRM capabilities:

    Value Opportunity:

    Improve customer understanding

    strategic CRM Capability:

    • Possess good knowledge of the customer
    • Leverage customer information from the service process
    • Understand customer profitability and cost-to-serve.

    step 6: Define CRM Projects and Requirements

    Once value opportunities are prioritized, specific CRM projects need to be developed. Defining and executing CRM projects will ensure the company masters the relevant strategic CRM capabilities.

    An effective way to define relevant projects is through brainstorming sessions with the client. Samples of the outcome of a session might include:

  • Understand customer profitability
  • Enhance call center operations by implementing sophisticated touchpoint technologies
  • Establish a data warehouse
  • Improve sales force training

    Once CRM projects are defined, it is critical to go one step further and identify the business and technical requirements needed. These should be specific and address the necessary people, process and technology components of each project.

    For "Understanding Customer Profitability," functional requirements might include creating a common definition for profitability formula for:

  • Products, channels, sales staff, customer segments, individual customers
  • Ensuring consistency across the enterprise
  • Defining components of the formula (acquisition, marketing, servicing costs, etc.)

    step 7: Develop Business Case

    Once the projects and requirements are defined, it is necessary to develop the business case to support or refute the criticality of a specific project. The business case seeks to justify the dollar investment needed and the ROI (return on investment) that will be realized over the course of the investment, usually three to five years.

    For example, a typical CRM investment ranges from $10 to $25 million (or more) over a three to five year period. The amount is wholly dependent upon how many initiatives have been identified and how extensive those initiatives are. A Marketing Insight initiative is typically very expensive, and often requires the creation of an enterprise wide data warehouse with links to legacy systems dispersed throughout the organization. In addition, to perform the analysis necessary to glean insight requires specialized software and training for the staff that will use it. Other initiatives can be quite simple. Sales force automation initiatives often fall into this category and offer the additional benefit of introducing CRM concepts and execution to an organization on a small scale with a high probability of success.

    The investment cost takes into account number of users, internal and external human resources, training, infrastructure, hardware, software and implementation costs. The typical ROI for this range of investment though could vary from $22 million to $110 million.

    Each business case should include:

  • Details and costs of required resources (people, technology, training, outsourced resources, etc.),
  • Projected duration of time of each project and
  • Options for completing the project using internal or external resources.

    Once the costs are quantified for each project, potential benefits are estimated. This is much more difficult than simply quantifying project costs. The use of our study "How much are CRM capabilities really worth" provides significant value here. We are able to quantify the benefits of mastering specific CRM capabilities (identified in step 5) and thereby complete the most difficult part of the business case. A key requirement is to ensure that senior executives are in agreement with and will support the extent of expected benefits.

    Business cases enable a company to prioritize each project's value to the organization. With the creation of a "value realization plan," client executives have a tool to judge the impact of changes to the CRM investment plan. An accelerated implementation could be modeled to quantify the effect of earlier CRM benefits. Similarly, an extended investment plan allows them to quantify the impact of a slower implementation in terms of lost benefits over time.

    step 8: Develop a Roll-out strategy

    Developing a roll-out strategy enables organizations to focus their resources, money and time on the most important projects that help them become customer driven.

    Prioritization and phasing of projects is conducted with the executive team, a process in which they evaluate the results of the business cases, and consider for each project's financial results, duration, level of effort required, and technical impact.

    Critical Success Factors

    In order to successfully develop a CRM Roadmap, there are several critical success factors that must be kept in mind:

    1. It is vital to have buy-in from top management.
    2. A strong sponsor is required (skilled, knowledgeable and politically savvy).
    3. It is essential to have buy-in and involvement from all process owners.
    4. It is critical to have a strong leader who can hold constructive, productive brainstorming sessions, and is good at maximizing participation from the client team. Also, it is helpful to hold brainstorming sessions during numerous steps within the development of the roadmap.
    5. Feedback from all affected internal and external parties (customer groups, other inter-dependent internal departments) must be obtained and considered.
    6. Do not lose sight of your customer's needs.
    7. Installing technology without revisions in supporting processes and people/organizational elements will not result in a comprehensive CRM Roadmap.
    8. Lack of communication can be life threatening to a CRM Roadmap project. You cannot over-communicate.

    A Final Thought...

    Achieving success in developing intimate and enduring relationships with customers begins with a holistic consideration of an organization's functions and abilities that affect its consumer's objectives. Developing a CRM Roadmap therefore, is a continuous process and not just a one-time exercise, because customers' needs and preferences change constantly. The correct strategy can help your organization form deeper relationships with its consumers, and also obtain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.


    1. "How much are CRM capabilities really worth? What every CEO should know." Accenture 2000.

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