CRM Is More Than Just Technology
I have to admit that I was a little surprised to read in this month’s cover story, “Tips for Maximizing CRM Investments,” by Associate Editor Oren Smilansky, that 91 percent of North American firms with 10 or more employees already have CRM systems in place. Given all of the complaints we hear about the technology; the low levels of adoption and everyday use by employees, especially in the marketing and sales departments; and the integration challenges with other key business applications, I would have thought the numbers would be a lot lower. I’m glad they are that high and encourage the 9 percent of businesses that still haven’t deployed the technology to get on board. There’s a lot that can be done with CRM systems today that wasn’t possible just a few short years ago.
But somewhat disturbing is the fact that less than a third of the companies that already have solutions in place “feel adequately equipped with the tools they need to actually be successful” or that the solutions are “fully executing on their companies’ missions, strategies, and tactics,” according to the article. That leaves the entire industry, and the vendor community in particular, with a lot of work to do.
As the article indicates, though, businesses can’t rely solely on their system vendors to keep their CRM solutions up to date, functional, and otherwise used by employees. End users need to take an active role if they are ever going to maximize the CRM investments that they’ve already made and are going to make over the life of their systems. “Until the day that you sell the business or close your doors, your CRM implementation will never, ever, ever, ever be done,” Danny Estrada, a CRM magazine columnist and founder of consulting firm E Squared, states in the article.
This issue of CRM magazine offers a lot of sound advice for updating and maintaining current systems, supercharging them, or adding the latest shiny new innovations, like bots. But no matter what you do to your CRM system, every project has to have at its heart at least three pillars: people, process, and technology. Modern theorists add a fourth element, information, into the mix, and with good reason.
Too often companies fail to take all four of these elements into account when deciding where to invest their IT dollars and to what degree. They place a disproportionate amount of emphasis on the technology and overlook the people who will use it, the processes it will enable, and the data that will be fed into it.
Having perfect data without personnel who are adequately trained to use it and derive value from it does little good. Taking the data and making sense of it without having the processes and technology infrastructure in place to make sure it is available to sales, marketing, or customer support teams at just the right moment also does little good.
Over the years, analysts have exhausted a lot of brainpower trying to come up with just the right formula, the exact percentages that technology, people, processes—and now, data—should make up in the overall project scope. It’s nearly impossible in a modern business context to say exactly what percentage should be dedicated to each element because every implementation is different. The four elements are so inextricably intertwined that none can be considered alone. Every company has its own goals and expectations from whatever system it deploys. Every company has its own unique culture, organizational structure, and technology ecosystem into which anything new will have to be incorporated.
Companies need to evaluate the returns to be gained from any new technology and then develop a set of processes for sharing insights gleaned from whatever data they collect and getting it out to the people who can most benefit from it. Ultimately, getting the most from CRM has less to do with what you buy and more to do with how you implement and use it.
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.