Knowledge Management Is a Key CRM Driver

Although more than two thirds of successful CRM programs will have integrated advanced knowledge management (KM) practices in their CRM processes by 2005, Gartner analysts say there is still confusion about what KM is and what it can do for CRM. "Companies are looking to get more out of their CRM initiatives by improving the quality of the information that flows through the system," says Claudio Marcus, research vice president for Gartner. "Using knowledge management technology can certainly help." The report, titled "The Case for Knowledge Management in CRM," says, though, that KM has been slow to develop in CRM processes. In 2003 most CRM products that claim to support KM include mostly knowledge-base (k-base) management, which for some companies amounts to little more than a database of internal company data. While these k-bases do improve internal productivity and even provide customer value in self-service environments, they rarely offer competitive process design or distinguished service capabilities. "CRM requires far more sophisticated forms of KM, such as collaboration, active knowledge sharing among CRM professionals, engaging customers in communities, and using e-learning as a customer value-added service," Kathy Harris, research vice president for Gartner, said in a statement. "Ultimately, CRM needs KM to enable innovation and collaboration among and between customers, employees, and business partners." However, there is substantial progress toward KM in sales and marketing, Marcus says. In marketing, sophisticated business intelligence and other knowledge-intensive processes are fundamental requirements in campaign creation and support. Collaborative processes for knowledge dissemination are rapidly emerging in sales and support, and e-learning is becoming an essential part of sales team support, according to Marcus. Marcus also states that sales and marketing is a hotbed for KM systems, since customer data, as well as e-learning initiatives, rely on integral data that needs to be well-managed. Over time CRM should integrate sophisticated KM across all the CRM domains: marketing, sales, and service. These knowledge-intensive investments can return both tangible and intangible business value. "In marketing, KM will enable more effective reuse of internal knowledge, around and within high-value marketing resource management processes, and is key to driving broad marketing user adoption and ongoing utilization," Marcus says. Companies looking to begin a KM project, according to Marcus, need to first assess their infrastructure and personnel to find out where the important date and process knowledge is kept. "Important knowledge is still in heads and hard drives a lot of the time," Marcus says. The next steps, according to Marcus, are doing gap analysis to discover where the company wants to be KM-wise, and to see what technology and process gaps need to be filled. "At this time, some effective moves like creating who-to-call lists and forming a directory of experts for certain business processes is helpful," he says. Finally, companies should look to integrate KM applications into the CRM system and create a self-repeating system of positive data flow throughout the company, Marcus says.
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