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What went wrong with CRM?

Two primary reasons that so many CRM projects fail are poor data quality and lack of proper system integration.

For several years, the implementation of CRM technologies and techniques has been high on every organisation's priority list. Unlike some of the ideas of the new economy, the underlying concepts of CRM are not new and much of the technology used in its implementation has been established for some time.

The main principle of CRM is that of customer service provision delivered consistently across multiple channels. The integration of the organisation's operational and analytical systems ensures that interaction with the customer through multiple systems takes place in a seamless manner. Analysis of data collected across these systems allows modelling of customer behaviour and preferences to provide an insight into the customer. This enables the customer relationship to be further developed through personalisation techniques to cross sell and up sell further products and services with the aim of retaining and developing the customer relationship.

So, the concepts are easy to understand, the technology is established and of course the potential for return on investment is clear to see. It all sounds very simple, common sense in fact - but all too often CRM projects are reported as failing. This may be due to the project not being completed or a failure to deliver the expected return on investment. Two of the key reasons for these failures are poor data quality and lack of proper system integration.

A CRM implementation is a significant undertaking for any organisation. Not only does it include the deployment of new systems and technologies, but it also requires a business change from the organisation being product centric to becoming customer centric which is driven by the organisation's data. In the planning and scoping stage of the implementation, the organisation must consider how they want to operate in the new customer centric world, which in turn drives the definition and implementation of the CRM solution.

The failure of many CRM implementations comes down to the poor execution of two critical areas of any CRM solution - integration and data.

In order to be effective, CRM solutions must take an organisation wide view of the customers, cutting through every system that maintains any customer related information from the customer file through to the invoicing systems through to the data warehouse. This requires the ability to integrate the systems throughout the organisation so that a customer centric view can be determined. Data is key to any CRM system. In order to obtain the maximum benefit from a CRM system, timely, accurate and valid data must be available and of course, it must be consistent across the integrated systems.

Good data isn't a sole property of a CRM solution, every system needs the highest quality data possible and yet we all know the world is full of data that isn't updated or even referenced and yet we're often too scared to do anything about it.

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