• July 22, 2009
  • By Glenn R. Brûlé, director, client solutions, ESI International

Get a Handle on CRM Tools

In the technology world, CRM tools have the distinction of being among the most difficult to manage. They tend to be massive and highly customized; since little is off-the-shelf, the amount of customization can be overwhelming in terms of complexity and cost. In tough economic times, companies can't afford not to scrutinize every dollar spent on time, effort, and resources to create new efficiencies. The means by which optional project investment is determined has never been more critical. With that in mind, companies taking on CRM for enterprisewide needs should utilize Enterprise Analysis (EA) in order to determine the optimum project investment path and align projects with corporate strategy.

EA is a step-by-step process of identifying and analyzing potential solutions to a business need as identified by the International Institute of Business Analysis. Particularly relevant for CRM tools, EA provides a systematic, disciplined approach for tying solutions and deliverables to overall organizational objectives. Without EA at the outset, organizations deploying CRM solutions face numerous potential problems, including:

  • inadequate alignment of goals and services;
  • priority given to stakeholder demands for quick delivery rather than quality deliverables;
  • lack of enterprisewide collaboration;
  • nonstrategic, ineffective, and/or inefficient solutions; and
  • limited focus on examining only one solution option.

Utilizing the following six steps of EA will help you to avoid these and other potential problems, while developing the optimal solution for your initiative:

  1. Create and maintain the business architecture (BA) - This fundamental first step in EA captures and portrays business and technical information to drive consistency between business operations and technology systems. This four-part first step also forms a context from which potential change impacts can be understood. The four components of studying the BA are:
    (a) determining the scope of the BA effort;
    (b) planning the activities;
    (c) creating or updating the architectural drawing and documents; and
    (d) conducting a quality review of the BA components.
  2. Conduct feasibility studies - In terms of decision-making, feasibility studies are critical because they produce options that represent the best choices for the organization. They help you avoid becoming overwhelmed with too many options, while ensuring thoroughness in investigating optimal solutions.
  3. Define the scope of the new business opportunity - Defining the project scope is crucial in order to estimate project costs, resources, and duration. It should be organized so that the portfolio management group can recognize the full extent and size of the proposed project.
  4. Prepare the business case - This will serve as an essential tool for the portfolio management team to make the best investment decisions. This is where you'll identify and quantify the benefits and costs, prepare the business case for respective target audiences, and provide process measurements.
  5. Conduct the initial risk assessment - This step will help you determine whether your proposed project carries more risk than the organization can bear. The risk assessment should be updated throughout the life cycle of a project. It's also important to remember that the optimum investment may not necessarily be the project with the least risk.
  6. Prepare the decision package - The decision package is a method to describe, model, and improve enterprisewide initiatives, goals, and objectives. This step involves the single-most vulnerable point for most proposed projects. The decision package must be prepared with key messages for respective stakeholders, such as: the best solution; how the conclusions were reached; explanations for solution delivery; any attendant risks, constraints, assumptions, and associated costs.

The successful completion of the EA process will ensure that when investing in a CRM solution, you've selected the right product to meet your organization's needs. It will provide your key stakeholders and portfolio management committee with the critical information they need to:

  • comprehend the business opportunity;
  • recognize the options and relevant costs and benefits of viable project alternatives;
  • determine the organization's project resource capability;
  • understand the process for measuring project progress;
  • offer insights and guidance throughout the project's duration; and
  • ensure delivery of expected results.

A new white paper, "Enterprise Analysis: Building a Foundation from the Top Down," provides in-depth details of the steps outlined above. To download a free copy, visit www.esi-intl.com/whitepaper.

About the Author

Glenn R. Brûlé has more than 18 years' experience in many facets of business, including project management, business analysis, software design, and facilitation. At ESI International (www.esi-intl.com), he is responsible for supporting a global team of business consultants working with Fortune 1000 organizations. These engagements focus on understanding, diagnosing, and providing workable business solutions to complex problems across various industries. He is a member of the Board of Directors and vice president of chapters of the International Institute of Business Analysis.

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For the rest of the July 2009 issue of CRM magazine please click here.

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