Tuesday, February 15, 2011

CRM Problems

I dug out some depressing numbers from the CRM world: only 30% of companies with a CRM implementation feel that they've had a positive return on their investment.

Mostly, the issues are not technical ones (it's not that hard to get the software installed and some superficial training completed). But there are some similarities with many IT projects:
  1. Lack of agreed goals and business case "Fail to plan, plan to fail" is the old saw that is daily proved true. I've seen clients invest in new hardware and software for the wrong reasons. (Last year, one IT department wanted to buy new software to secure training for the existing team in an attempt to secure their jobs and enhance their CVs...) Resist the temptation to launch into a new technology implementation without knowing realistically what you expect to get out of it.

  2. Difficulties with customization and integration with existing systems "No man is an island..." proves even more true of IT systems. Very often it's better to retain an existing system that's mostly working and add to it with appropriately designed extensions. This is cheaper, faster, better than the costly disruption of replacing the core systems, but only if there's a clear plan to integrate the data from the new extensions with existing systems and business processes.

  3. No long term strategy I encourage those around me to "Skate to where the puck is going to be" rather than merely playing catch-up with what others are doing. The risk of starting a project just because that's what others are doing is that by the time you've figured out what to do and done it, they've moved on or the environment around you has changed so much that you're in the wrong place. Much better to think and plan strategically and, perhaps, leapfrog the competition.

  4. Data migration issues This one has bitten me and teams I've worked with more times than I care to remember. Somehow it seems that even knowing it's going to be a problem doesn't much help! The biggest difficulty is that normally the only time someone really looks at the data in the company holistically is when there's a migration project. It's only then that you discover that someone put "Zurich" in the house name field because they didn't know it's a city in Switzerland and belongs in a different part of the address. True story. The costs of manual clean-up can wreck the project unless it's planned in.

  5. Lack of acceptance CRM is guilty of making life easier for the managers rather than for those who have to work with the system day in and out. One of the first laws I learned in computing was that of "Garbage In, Garbage Out" and I've seen CRM implementations wrecked by users who just plain flat out refused to make it work. Most of the issues around CRM are of the interpersonal, human relations kind (see the pie chart above). But they're the ones that are often ignored until it's too late.

  6. Poor accountability I heard last week of someone interviewed for a job by a panel of 16, presumably because no one was prepared to take responsibility for the hiring decision! To get a successful CRM implementation one of the first pre-requisites is for a senior business manager, someone from the business not from the IT function, to take responsibility for success.
Despite the gloom and difficulty, this can all be made to work. Find out how