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Report: CRM requires a sound IT strategy

How are your IT strategies looking? If they look rather sickly, don't plan on any enhanced CRM initiatives. According to a recent report from Best Practices, LLC, leading companies formulate advanced IT strategies to provide better customer service. Companies that ignore IT's role in CRM, on the other hand, allow competitors to erode their customer bases with advanced customer service tools.

The report, "Global IT Strategy: Driving Market Success," finds that companies are using IT tools to forge stronger relationships with end customers. One company that the study profiled launched a Web site that connects the company, channel partners and customers.

"We're seeing [CRM] working across certain sectors," said Chris Bogan, chief executive officer of Best Practices. For example, the financial services sector has been more customer-focused and has used technology to manage their customer relationships, Bogan said.

"Other companies traditionally good at segmentation are catalog companies," Bogan said. Lands' End and L.L. Bean, for example, have added new functions to their Web sites and services systems. These allow customers to initiate a voice conversation or chat room questions, he said. The sites also offer personalization technology, much like Amazon, which has been a leader in personalizing their site for visitors.

The personalization aspect assists in cross selling, Bogan said. Pharmaceutical company Pfizer is moving into personalization technology with an engine that automatically selects new content from a genre specified by the consumer and updates the content periodically on the Web site. "The Internet is powerful for personalization," he said.

"Mass customization and one-to-one marketing is coming true with Internet-based technology," Bogan said. In this space, there are opportunities to segment and deliver custom content and services to customers, such as with Dell Premier Pages, which are built for individual companies, he said. These allow smaller companies to deliver custom content to consumers.

In order to have this kind of functionality in their CRM systems, companies need to first define their business and IT strategies, according to Bogan.

The study found five key drivers in devising an IT strategy. One driver is to design future technology strategies based on the needs of the company and the demands of the market. Another is to align global IT strategy with company goals to drive ongoing growth. The third driver is to demonstrate early successes and continuous benefits to foster support from the organization and its executives. Employing the Internet and new, more sophisticated software is another driver, and the last is providing sufficient resources for implementation and operational success to ensure that the tools will be used and will be valuable, according to Bogan.

"Make sure your CRM strategy aligns with the business strategy," Bogan said. This, in turn, he said, should align with the factors driving the company's revenue. The IT strategy should keep in mind the role of CRM in e-business and how to retain customers while reducing costs in the CRM arena.

"Sort through the hype," Bogan advised. He cited a recently-published book at a Peppers and Rogers conference that claimed that CRM is business, and the challenge is for IT executives to understand that these are real objectives, to have a system up and running. By determining what the business itself needs, companies can insure that their CRM investment is clearly aligned with their business, he said.


Best Practices LLC's corporate Web site

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