A Tale of Two Companies

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While the industry took a major step forward a decade ago, with vendors concluding that solid customer-facing business processes need to be in place prior to installing CRM software, I continue to be surprised by how many companies fail to understand the impact of getting the people/process/technology mix right as they implement or upgrade their CRM systems.

As I see it, 50 percent of a CRM initiative's success depends on getting the people component right; 30 percent depends on putting into place solid customer-facing business processes; and the remaining 20 percent depends on your CRM software application/related technologies.

Let's compare two companies we worked with in 2011, which have had very different outcomes. At the first, a global services company, the president personally kicked off its CRM initiative and hand-picked the project manager. He gave the manager carte blanche to create a CRM Center of Excellence, responsible for creating meaningful customer-facing business processes, guiding the CRM software implementation team through their business requirements work, and driving their CRM communications effort.

Three business processes have now been successfully enhanced—sales pipeline management, national account management, and marketing campaign management—and the CRM implementation team has configured its software application to support them. The CRM communications plan has won accolades from the president down to the end-users. The project manager created a schedule covering a 12-month period that drove home the "what's in it for me" (WIIFM) for each group of CRM users. Each communication piece describes the WIIFM for each type of user, along with a short story of how other organizations have successfully leveraged that CRM functionality. The company is now creating business process and CRM application training for its Q1 2012 system launch, which likely will be a raving success.

The second company, a global manufacturer with factories worldwide, has not had similar success, although its effort has been just as valiant. What went wrong? This CRM initiative was led by the CIO, who had a unique talent that bridged the technical and business worlds. His technical team configured its CRM application to meet the needs of its users—mainly sales—and then promoted its adoption one factory at a time. He quickly implemented a mandatory business process training program that all users had to take prior to receiving CRM application training. He listened to users who had been trained on the system and concluded that better reports were needed by sales managers to know how to coach sales reps based on information in their CRM application. He created these reports, valuable sales dashboards, and a sales manager training program that focused on how to read the sales reports/dashboards and use the insight gathered to help manage sales more effectively.

He could not, however, secure the sponsorship of his CEO or the regional VPs to whom all sales personnel reported. These individuals were not against CRM, but rather they were not willing to promote it to the troops. Sales managers ask, "Why do I have to use the system when my boss isn't using it?" This initiative limps along as the CIO attempts to secure understanding and support from the executive team.

Here are my takeaways:

The best CRM software doesn't overcome process or people shortfalls.

You cannot count on CRM software to contain the business processes that your company requires; you must first design enhanced processes and then configure your CRM software to support these processes.

Do not underestimate the importance of solid user buy-in to the CRM initiative. This requires getting users involved early on and throughout the initiative, getting the WIIFM locked down early and promoted effectively, and having solid executive support, a strong project manager, and effective process and application training.

Whether you're launching a new CRM initiative or enhancing an existing one, never underestimate the value of taking the time to perform a proper assessment that has at its core the right people/process/technology mix.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a consulting firm that applies CRM, social CRM, and social media to successful customer-centric business strategies. He is the publisher ofThe Guide to CRM Automation (17th edition) and author of CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today Inc.).

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