Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Know Thyself

Who knew that the ancient Greeks could give advice on CRM implementation? This article from shows that the Greeks were, indeed, correct about the importance of self-understanding and self-awareness.

Titled "CRM will disappoint without an honest self-assessment," the article discusses the importance of a company truly understanding and articulating what they require from a CRM system before any tool is even contemplated, much less purchased.

From the article: "CRM is doomed to disappoint without a clear focus and self-assessment of a business's needs, according to a recent analyst report (Forrester Research).

History has taught that the "big bang" approach to CRM, massive implementations of technology deployed across sales, service and marketing all at once, has proven to be a failure. Instead, organizations looked to smaller, tactical deployments and are now deploying CRM tactically with an eye to long-term goals."

The article goes on to state that historically CRM purchases were made with a focus on techology, as opposed to developing the understanding that the chosen technology would meet business objectives. I know that we've seen many CRM teams headed by IT, as opposed to sales, marketing, finance or other key users. Now, I have nothing against IT--without them businesses cannot run and, more importantly, :) I can't get my hands on customer data that is so important to my database marketing programs. But, IT should not be the lead decision-maker in a CRM decision.

And, the lack of a focus on business needs when making CRM decisions is evidenced by the high failure rate experienced. "Forrester surveyed 94 business and IT executives responsible for CRM and found that less than 50% were fully satisfied that the benefits met expectations. That's usually due to a lack of focus on specific business capabilities, according to the firm."

So, the lesson learned: Take the time to perform a proper needs assessment. And, by the way, sometimes an outside perspective on this will ultimately save you time and money. An outside firm will have no pre-conceived notions of how the new CRM system 'should' work. They won't bias the process.

What does a CRM needs assessment include? Here are some important steps:

Interview key system users. Listen carefully to what they say. Understand how they perform their day-to-day functions. Understand what would be 'utopia' IF they had the right technology. Document what you learned.

And very important--understand where your leaders are coming from. Get on senior managements' calendars. Talk to your CEO/CMO/CFO about short- and long-term goals. Make sure that any recommended technology addresses these goals and then articulate how the CRM investment is going to take the business closer to meeting objectives. Get management to 'buy-in' to your system, even before you know what the system will look like.

The third component is to get your arms around existing technology and data structures that you'll have to integrate the new system with. Again, documentation is key here. Another benefit--if you have a clear understanding of the systems and data architecture, it will be much easier for your selected vendor(s) to provide you with an accurate view of how their tool will work--within YOUR environment. And, it will help them present an accurate price quote, too.

Finally, once you have developed an understanding of users needs, determined how the system will complement corporate goals and have a feeling how the new system can integrate with existing data and systems, NOW (and only now) is the time to research and interview vendors. We've seen the vendor selection process proceed the above three steps. That's a bad decision. You will be amazed at how much more focussed the decisionning process will be once you have a clear handle on today's environment and future goals.

So, yes, the Greeks were right. A company definitely must "Know Thyself" prior to making the significant investment in CRM technology.

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