Keeping the Faith

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!'ve been working closely with two clients on CRM implementations these past months, one a raving success and the other now in a six-month delay. Both companies are privately owned household brands, and each has rigorously applied ISM's top-down/bottom-up road map to its CRM initiative. The first company, a global producer of toiletries and other household products, was considering replacing its existing, 200-user CRM application, because it was considered functionally incomplete. The company was short on internal manpower, and its top management had mandated completion of its CRM upgrade within six months. It took two weeks to complete the top-down portion of the methodology (based on executive interviews). And it took about two months to complete the bottom-up portion of the methodology (aimed at driving buy-in from the end users, and determined by customer-facing visits, a structured brainstorming session, prioritization questionnaires, a business process assessment, as well as a change management readiness assessment). The household products company's top-down/bottom-up approach delivered a comprehensive vendor RFP and a short (three-week) software selection process. The only glitch? The eight-year incumbent CRM vendor, which was displaced by a competitor (largely because the incumbent vendor failed to listen to the customer company's stated needs), was not pleased. The implementation of the replacement CRM software application also went smoothly, due in large part to the household products company insisting on holding the CRM software vendor 100 percent responsible for configuring and integrating its own software (the household products company's strong, capable IT shop also helped to ensure that the project was a success). In sum, the client benefited by driving its CRM software replacement project by the book. The other client, a financial services company, has hit a few glitches. The client is implementing its CRM application to 2,000 front-line employees. The company, often cited as one of America's best to work for, has a corporate culture based on active participation at all employee levels. The top-down portion of the CRM road map, during which time executive commitment is secured, went smoothly and commitment remains strong. The bottom-up portion of the CRM road map, during which employee commitment is secured, also went smoothly, but with one major difference vis-a-vis the household products company. The financial services company acknowledged the need for business process improvements, but moved considerably slower on realizing these improvements, in part because of its corporate culture. And the CRM vendor got caught overperforming technical integration work at the expense of configuring needed business process improvements--this has led to the six-month delay. During that time the financial services company intends to complete its business process improvements, train all users on the improvements, and incorporate these improvements into its new CRM software application. Both clients identified the need for key business process improvements, but the household products company committed promptly these improvements, assigned a senior executive to carry them out, and set a nonnegotiable timetable for their completion. Why did the household products company coast through its CRM project while the financial services company endured a six-month delay? I attribute this to three success factors in all CRM initiatives: the need to drive your CRM initiative using some type of top-down/bottom-up approach; the need to get your people, process, and technology integration mix right prior to technical implementation; and--something that's part of success in all walks of life--the need to keep the faith throughout the process. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM 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 bgoldenberg@ismguide.com
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