How to...select the right people for a CRM strategy team

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Succeeding with the business transformation that accompanies CRM requires a dedicated project team. Consider these four strategies when putting yours together. 1. Secure Sponsors, Not Buyers The executives on the CRM team need to have more in the game than a large check and a board report for contract renewal time. Companies need to focus on ensuring that the top person's role is a sponsor in every sense of the word, according to Mike Maszka, vice president of professional services for RightNow Technologies. "It needs to be a strong decision-maker who can break ties for critical decisions and understands why the solution was purchased and how it is going to benefit [the company]," he says. "[The person] needs to build consensus for the project." The best approach to engage sponsors is through a steering committee, from which the sponsor committee should receive regular reports about the day-to-day implementation. The sponsor committee can approve the big-picture changes to the business that the CRM project is meant to foster. "Anything that changes the entire business process needs someone senior to say yes to it," says Brahim Hoosein, CIO of Belvedere International, a consumer packaged goods manufacturer. That approval comes from the sponsors on a steering committee.
2. Consider Every Impact Even if your CRM project does not appear to be a big bang, enterprisewide initiative, carefully consider the impact a seemingly tactical implementation may have on the business as a whole. If sales intends to perform an overhaul that might affect its interface with production, a high-ranking production executive needs to participate on the team, quite possibly at the committee level. When Belvedere engaged in a company-wide PeopleSoft implementation, Hoosein was careful to ensure that all affected functions took part in the decision-making process. "We said that certain VPs had to be members of the steering committee," he says. 3. Consultants Consult, You Lead Don't mistake valuable consulting expertise with true project leadership. Although consultants can bring important skill sets to the table, resist the temptation to give up project management authority to an outside group. Belvedere tried it both ways, struggling to communicate with a consulting group that assumed too much control without working well with others. "They didn't spend a lot of time understanding our business," Hoosein says. The consultants introduced layers of bureaucracy that did not mesh with Belvedere's open style, so after a few unhappy months Hoosein released the firm and started again with a collection of smaller consulting firms and independent contractors. He also took over the project manager role from the dismissed consulting outfit. "I wanted to control more of my own destiny, rather than have an outside person telling me where I should be going," he says. 4. Include IT and Superusers The vision and guidance for your CRM project cannot come narrowly from the middle or upper echelons of one particular division or function. IT can provide frank assessments of the impact of your business decisions. "I've worked my way up in this company, so I understand how the whole business runs," Hoosein says. Don't forget the superusers, the employees who on a day-by-day basis will be responsible for executing your new strategy. They need a voice, as well. "These are your team leads and customer service managers who understand how things are done today, why things are done the way they are, and are able to objectively look at a solution that will morph their business processes," RightNow's Maszka says.
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