Perfecting Service Management

Issue #108

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

CRM Implementations: Technology Challenges
By Craig Bailey

In our last newsletter, we continued the series on Addressing the Realities of (Sales) CRM Implementations. Prior articles covered the following topics:

This article covers the challenges of the CRM technology itself.

Proven Technology Really?

Let's face it. We live in a world of highly flexible, sophisticated technologies with the promise of dramatic improvements in productivity. CRM is no different. However, what is often not realized early on in a CRM initiative is that there are many moving (technological) parts. That is, CRM is not just about a single system. It is typically implemented within an enterprise architecture that includes Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Billing, Data Warehouse and other systems. And, there will likely need to be some level of interfacing with these systems. There may also be interfaces with an email/calendar system (e.g., MS Outlook), handheld device (e.g., Palm Treo or BlackBerry), etc. Finally, throw into the mix the fact that your CRM solution may be hosted by a 3rd party while other systems are managed by your internal IT organization.

Another key challenge is CRM reporting. Getting the reports you need in a timely manner is critical to the success of a CRM implementation. Consider carefully the tools and resources available to tackle reporting.

If your company is like most, you have existing reporting tools, including a data warehouse. That said, most CRM vendors offer their own "integrated" reporting tools. Before making what seems to be an "easy decision" to go with your CRM vendor's "integrated solution" for CRM-related reporting, find out exactly what "integrated" means. In our experience, "integrated" means "very tough to customize." What the vendor promises as out of the box reporting capabilities are generic templates that will not meet your reporting requirements if you have done even minor tweaks or customizations to your CRM application (adding data fields that are important to your firm, etc.). While it may be fairly simple to add those fields to the online CRM application, you then need to port these fields over to the reporting mechanism and map them to the appropriate views. This can be more difficult than meets the eye.

Resources are another important consideration in selecting a reporting tool. As with any new application, you need to determine if there are resources in the market-place (the CRM vendor, your systems integrator or individuals whom you might hire) who have the requisite skills to help you initially setup the CRM vendor's reporting application and subsequently develop reports. Our experience is that, for even the premier CRM solution, there are significant challenges to leveraging the "integrated" reporting package. While it can be done, you should take a hard look at your existing reporting tools (for which you have internal competencies) and determine how you might further leverage these vs. attempting to bring on a new reporting tool and taking on the inherent challenges that go with it.

While each vendor or organization may be able to emphatically claim that its technology or solution is "time proven," the challenge is getting all the moving parts to work together. To be clear, it is realistic to assume that you can bring all these moving parts together for an integrated solution. However, it is likely that you will spend far more time and money than originally anticipated to do so. Consider this in your planning and budgeting exercise to avoid missed expectations about what can be done by when and at what cost.

In future editions we will cover the remaining topics of this series including:

  • Avoiding Overly Aggressive Timelines
  • Proficiency After 2 Days of Training?
  • Your Sales CRM is Live: What's Next?

In closing, if you are embarking on a CRM initiative, or are in the middle of a CRM program that doesn't seem to have the traction you'd like to see, give us a call. We'd be happy to assist you in framing up your initial project for success as well as provide objective insight on your existing initiative to ensure that you achieve the anticipated ROI.

As a reminder, our whitepaper Avoiding The Common Pitfalls of CRM is available for download from our website. Finally, if you are looking for a CRM implementation primer, consider the following book: CRM Automation by Barton J. Goldenberg.

 

Contents

+ CRM Implementations: Technology Challenges
+ Recommended Reading
 


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Recommended Reading
For additional considerations for CRM implementation, read NewsFactor's CRM Daily article Planning for Growth with Scalable CRM by Elizabeth Millard. Ms. Millard stresses the need to think ahead and map out growth plans for your company, from the top down (or bottom up), to be able to implement a flexible CRM system that can grow with you.

Happy New Year!
Customer Centricity wishes everyone a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2007!

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