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Gartner analyst: CRM implementation is never done

At the CRM Association Conference in Atlanta, the team had a chance to catch up with Gareth Herschel, research director at Gartner Inc. In May, is focusing on the challenges involved with deploying CRM, so we asked Gareth for his take on ensuring CRM success post-implementation. Keep an eye on our home page throughout the month for more ideas on how to achieve success with CRM.

For many years, we were used to hearing about CRM failure. Today, CRM has a better reputation and more organizations are having success with it. In your opinion, what are some ways to ensure success after a CRM implementation?
There are two things to focus on to ensure CRM success. One is the notion that you are never done with CRM. Things are constantly evolving. The second notion is that it takes 18-24 months to change and reinforce the behavior of end users with new CRM software. How can CRM training pre- and post-implementation help ensure end user adoption? Are there any secrets or tricks to get users on board?
If you're relying on training after a CRM implementation, it's too late. The most important thing is to have people want to use the system. By setting metrics and incentives, you can help your employees understand that CRM makes their jobs easier. Also keep in mind that every organization is different, so there are no tricks that will work for every organization. You have to tailor your "marketing campaign" for CRM to the needs of your users. How important is it that expectations be set ahead of time so that multiple departments can measure how well CRM is performing against individual department needs and those of the organization?
You have to set social expectations ahead of time so that users understand what will change following a CRM implementation. Say, "If we put in the system, X will change." It's also strategic to align the needs of the marketing, sales and customer service departments so everyone is on board for the implementation. Each manager should be able to relate what kind of benefit they are expecting from CRM and then know what to expect from the CRM deployment.

You are never done with CRM. Things are constantly evolving.
Gareth Herschel
Research DirectorGartner

Beyond aligning the needs of the customer-facing departments, we often hear about the importance of aligning the business side and IT side of an organization, as both play a role with CRM. How can organizations go about doing that before an implementation?
The need on the IT side is for a plan. They exist to help the business run. So the real imperative is for IT to align with the business side.

I've seen organizations handle this differently. Some organizations will have the business side come up with a "short list" of products and then bring it to IT, while other organizations will have the IT guys draw up a list of requirements first and then have the business side find CRM products to meet those requirements.

The IT guys tend to be more thorough, but on the other hand, they might miss the coolest new products. So the best way is to approach software selection with the old adage of "cross-functional teams." And should power users be a part of that process as well? When do they play a role?
Power users need to be involved at many stages. Get them involved early on so they can help you understand if and when you need CRM. Then, once you've decided to move forward with CRM, ask them what they want out of a system for the next few years, and that will flesh out the features and requirements.

During the evaluation process, have power users scope out a day in the life using the system. This process should happen with the vendor following a scripted scenario.

It's important not only to rely on power users during the evaluation process. You should also consider the peripheral users, as they'll have different needs. Do you think it's necessary to have a CRM director or project manager? How can this role help steer the project and ensure success after an implementation? What should the scope of that position include?
The problem with having CRM directors is that often they have no authority. They can't fire people. It's just a title.

Multiple segment managers should all work together during and following a CRM implementation. The segment manager for marketing, for example, is responsible for making sure the needs of that segment are being met. Do organizations with a small staff need consulting help? Is a consultant's work done once CRM is deployed?
A consultant is a resource spike. They should be there for a limited time. If a consultant is there too long, you should hire them, because you need those resources. We're seeing a lot more interest in vertical-specific CRM. What are some things for organizations to keep in mind when choosing and deploying CRM specific to their industry?
The idea behind vertical-specific CRM is to move beyond cookie cutter and make a great customer experience. The interest in vertical-specific CRM has spiked recently, as CRM systems become mature for the early adopters who deployed CRM years ago. Those adopters are now looking at best practices with vertical-specific functionality.

Looking at the vendor landscape, there are the big vendors who offer many vertical-specific offerings for many industries, and then there are [usually smaller] vendors who provide for one industry only. You need to look at the sales and marketing capabilities of the product, then the data and processes behind the product, and finally at the partnerships the vendor has in place. Ask yourself, "Does this vendor have something specific for my industry, or have they simply repackaged their traditional CRM product for many industries?" Here at the CRMA conference, you're presenting on "Agile customer lifecycle management strategy." Do you think agility plays a role in ensuring CRM success?
To be successful, you need to be agile, but agility operates at two levels. There is agility at the macro-level, which gets a lot more attention. This level includes being agile following acquisitions and mergers. But there's also agility at the tactical level. That might include being able to differentiate between various customer segments and being able to message and market those segments differently.

Companies need to look at tactical things they can do to differentiate themselves, point flashes of brilliance. What I see is organizations being smarter with the smaller things and understanding that the small things can be a priority.

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