Let's Keep to the High Road
I find myself reflecting, as I reach my 50th birthday, on many areas of my life. One area is the CRM industry, to which I have devoted the past 21 years of my professional life. There are two conclusions I've reached regarding how best to move the CRM industry forward: We must always insist on the highest levels of ethical behavior, trustworthiness, and integrity, and we must never lose sight of the basics.
Insist on the Highest Levels of Ethical Behavior, Trustworthiness, and Integrity
Industries grow because the products/services offered are deemed valuable by users and because the vendors are held to the highest levels of ethical behavior, trustworthiness, and integrity. This is why a recent scandal that broke in our industry should be of great concern to all of us. A large Virginia consultancy/systems integrator's CEO abruptly resigned in November 2004, and the CFO announced that he would retire early. Since then this integrator has received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California. While the outcome of the scandal remains unpredictable, this is not the first time the company has faced legal action. Simply said, the CRM industry does not need this or any other scandal at this or any future time. To secure the bright growth of our CRM industry, it is imperative that all players (software, hardware, and communications vendors, systems integrators, analysts and consultants, end-users) insist on the highest levels of ethical behavior, trustworthiness, and integrity.
Never Lose Sight of the Basics
We paid a dear price for the rapid growth of the CRM industry in the mid-to-late 1990s. As a result of vendors overselling the value of technology and underselling the people and process side of CRM, the early 2000s turned out to be a difficult time, and forced an important consolidation in the industry. During 2003 and 2004, we saw a rebound that included many successful CRM initiatives, in large part because companies undertaking their first or subsequent CRM implementations insisted on getting this important people/process/technology mix right.
For example, AAA Mid-Atlantic mandated enhancement of customer-facing business processes prior to automating them. Another firm, VSP, took the time and spent the money to put into place an effective change-readiness program to ensure that CRM buy-in would be high. CRM software vendors like Amdocs insisted on implementing their own software technology solutions, rather than relying on third-party implementers, which helps stop finger-pointing between the software vendor and systems integrator when an implementation gets off track.
There is increased emphasis on getting the people/process/technology mix right, but two recent examples remind me that we can never lose sight of the basics. A midwest pharmaceutical company confirmed that it would improve its customer-facing business processes, get people ready for enhanced CRM tools and techniques, and then purchase the CRM software. Yet several weeks into the initiative, the hammer came down from a key executive that the software needed to be purchased sooner than planned. In another instance, a not-for-profit organization's executive team similarly insisted that it would first improve the organization's customer-facing business processes, get people ready for enhanced CRM tools and techniques, and then purchase the CRM software. Several months into this initiative one of the senior executives decided to cut the training budget, which led to serious end-user buy-in problems.
The increased emphasis on getting the people/process/technology mix right has greatly improved the professionalism and the results in our industry. We should all be proud of it. But let's not forget the importance of keeping our focus on this mix as we move our industry forward.
Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM and real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of
CRM Automation and the publisher of
The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org