• March 1, 2009
  • By William Band, vice president and principal analyst, Forrester Research

Risk-Proofing Your CRM Initiative

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Despite the recession, the need to create differentiation through unique customer experiences, strive for deeper insight into customer needs and behaviors, and serve customers cost-effectively remains. To support achievement of these goals, leading-edge CRM technologies are much easier to use and offer faster time-to-value—driving higher user adoption—compared to solutions available three or four years ago.

A recent Forrester survey, however, found that the risk of CRM failure can still be high. Only about one-third of enterprise-class organizations, and about half of midmarket ones, agreed that “the [CRM] application really improved the end users’ productivity.” Only about half agreed that the “[vendor] professional services team had good technical skills that helped with the implementation.” Over 200 problems were reported, across four categories.

Technology (33 percent): This category comprised functional deficiencies (30 percent), lack of the skill sets needed for implementation (23 percent), data problems (19 percent), and system performance shortfalls (19 percent). With product deficiencies still atop this category, decision-makers should keep a sharp eye on the breadth and depth of any product offering, including specific industry requirements. Evaluate customer data management abilities and usability. Examine how the application integrates with other technology systems. Gauge the size of the vendor’s customer base and the quality of systems integration partners. Examine the depth of human and financial resources available to enhance products.

Business Processes (27 percent): This group included technical/integration difficulties in supporting company processes (48 percent), poor business process design (31 percent), and the need to customize solutions (21 percent). Can you avoid these risks? At one diversified chemicals company with inflexible business processes across different lines of business (LOBs), business process experts were assigned to each business unit. These key individuals, who came from the business and not from IT, were chosen for their ability to identify the most important business needs. The business process experts were given the authority to make decisions for their group, and were responsible for designing and managing necessary workflow items pertinent to their operating LOBs. A quarterly review process ensures that, as business processes change, new requirements are captured and incorporated into the IT plan for future releases.

People (22 percent): The key pitfalls here were difficulties in achieving user adoption (49 percent), insufficient planning/attention given to change management (36 percent), and cultural resistance to new ways of working (15 percent). One global medical-products company, suffering from very low user adoption of CRM, implemented a program whereby any user could submit a question about the CRM application. These were reviewed by the CRM project team, which conducted a monthly survey to collect broader feedback from users. The team then conducted short information sessions with users to address specific issues. As a result, users came to realize the potential of the application, increasing adoption.

Strategy (18 percent): Comprising CRM strategy and deployment issues, this category included inadequate methodologies (40 percent), poorly defined requirements (25 percent), not achieving alignment on objectives (18 percent), and failing to tightly manage costs (18 percent). Successful CRM projects require a constant balancing of objectives, priorities, resources, and schedules. One financial services company created a CRM steering committee (senior IT and business unit heads with direct accountability to the board of directors), and a program committee (project and operations managers) that allocates resources as needed. Reporting to the program committee is a project team of IT managers; the project team meets with its business counterparts every two weeks to monitor progress and document and resolve issues or escalate them to the program committee. Under this structure, there is a clear line of accountability, and decision-making processes are well defined.

William Band (wband@forrester.com) is vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research. His research focuses on helping organizations establish and validate CRM strategies and plan for project success. For free related research from Bill, please visit www.forrester.com/CRMmarch.

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