• June 1, 2005
  • By Jim Dickie, research fellow, Sales Mastery

A Little Help From Your Friends

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Achieving CRM project success is still an elusive task for many companies. You can have two companies in the same industry that use a similar sales process, install the same CRM applications, and achieve dramatically different results. Why? To help shed some light on this mystery, as part of our latest sales effectiveness survey of more than 1,000 firms worldwide, one of the key issues we explored was the challenges companies encounter when they implement CRM systems. The figure at right details the issues impacting CRM success in 2005. We have been studying this topic for each of the 11 years we have conducted this survey, and it's been interesting to see how the answers have changed over time. In the 1990s many companies experienced problems with the CRM technology itself; the systems were often not robust enough, scalable enough, or stable enough to handle the job. But issues of the software failing to live up to expectations are seen far less frequently today. Now the top challenge is content--populating and maintaining CRM systems with the right types of information and knowledge that our front-office teams need to effectively do their jobs. Data-related frustrations with CRM systems take on several forms. The issue may be data duplication, information currency and accuracy, inability to access data from other systems, or the lack of critical knowledge altogether. So do we just roll over and lament that CRM system data management is a difficult task? Not hardly. In fact it is an imminently manageable job with a little help from your friends. Over the past couple of years a number of firms have stepped in to offer services that tackle these challenges. If you are starting a new CRM project and need to integrate data from any number of existing legacy systems, companies like OneSource, Harte-Hanks, Factiva, Data Flux, and D&B offer data rationalization services to help you populate your systems with a single view of the customer. These types of firms also offer data updating services to refresh key customer knowledge over time. They go beyond just updating customer contact data to provide insights into changes in a client's marketplace, financial conditions, and business strategies. By mining hundreds of external data sources they can provide your account teams with detailed insights into the issues their customers are dealing with. Are you looking to mine key knowledge that exists in your documents, presentations, and spreadsheets regarding your customers, your marketplaces, and your competitors? Here companies like Involve Technology, OutStart, iCentera, Purisma, Pragmatech Software, The Sant Corp., and others offer a variety of approaches for collecting and sharing information between sales teams via their CRM infrastructure. Help is available: Your reaction to this news may be, "Yes, but at what price?" The issue of CRM data management is often woefully underbudgeted, and so the thought of adding to the expense of a CRM initiative may seem unattractive to many. To those who balk at the idea of adequately funding this key task I ask a question in return: "If you think CRM system knowledge management is expensive, what is the price of ignorance?" The chart below clearly illustrates that if users are not satisfied with the content in their CRM applications, the project's chances of success are very slim. Project failure is the cost you should be worried about, not project success. CRM Project Challenges chart

Jim Dickie is a partner with CSO Insights, a research firm that specializes in benchmarking CRM and sales effectiveness initiatives. He can be reached at www.csoinsights.com
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