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Analyst to business users: Grab the CRM reins

If we've learned one thing from the widely reported CRM failure rates, it's that people and planning hold the keys to success.

So you think that this is a positive thing, then?

Yes, definitely. It's really the business managers that understand the processes involved, and they're the ones that are closest to the customer, that understand how to sell to their market. An IT [department's] goal is really to lower total cost of ownership, to bring a single integrated business application together to manage centrally without really any kind of customization. Sometimes there's a conflict there. So how then do you reconcile these two groups? How do you get IT and business to work together for this common goal?

I think more and more companies need to push their line of business managers to really owning the deployment and making them responsible for success or failure. In the past, we've seen too many scenarios where a marketing manager might say, 'I need an e-mail marketing system or a marketing process management system' and turn to IT and say, 'Here are some of my requirements, find the right people to talk to, let me know when we're ready to start testing.' I think the business managers now need to put more skin in the game, need to own the budget, need to own the entire project. Rely on IT as more of a checkmark to say 'this system will integrate with what we have, here's some of the data the system's going to be required to map to, make sure it kind of stays within the overall goals of the enterprise and the overall IT strategy.' But more and more, that responsibility has to shift over to the 'line of business' person. They feel like they're sort of being done out of the process?

They're probably also worried that they're going to have 800 maverick vice presidents of marketing, sales and service running around, all trying to do their own system. So I think they look at it as the way that they can still kind of control it, and put maybe the initiatives that they have, whether it be a systems management initiative or an overall portal or Web site kind of thing, first on the agenda. It seems like the role of the IT department is decreasing somewhat in the software selection phase.
I'd agree that it is decreasing. What we are seeing, though, is that [IT] still has quite a bit to do with it. We're actually talking to our clients about why there is a need for [IT's role] to be decreasing and why business users should really start to get more involved in the overall purchase. What role do these political issues have in CRM's failure rate?

You hear the failure rates of 70% or 80%. I think you have to look at what that was because, in a couple of the questionnaires, I had seen [that] a failure was characterized by anything that went over time or over budget. In that case, I'm surprised it wasn't a 100%. The most current research that AMR Research has done has shown about a 60% satisfaction rating from CRM systems. Kind of a big difference there. As far as how much [politics] lended to some projects not being as successful, you can give [any project] to a good project team and you can give it to a bad project team and the good project team's going to be successful. The bad one's not. So there's a lot of onus put on the users [to buy into the system] and not blame the software vendor. Seems like that could be kind of a relief for the IT manager anyway.

Yeah, but we don't see too many really wanting to give up [control]. Even within the cross-functional team, do you still need someone to be in charge, one executive steering the ship?

[You'd like] an executive to be just that, not one person from the team. Typically, if it's a CRM application, it's probably a chief operating officer or somebody in charge of operations, because they would have responsibility over marketing and sales. So you wouldn't want somebody within that group to really take ownership, but you would hope that it would be at that executive level, somebody that really has an understanding of all the cross-functions that are involved. What's the difference between a good project team and a bad project team?

There's a cross-functional mentality. It's one that's a combination of IT- and business-savvy people. I think folks that can really understand the business process and really have a handle on what they want to achieve rather than just saying 'OK, we need a better contact management system, so we're going to go buy an SFA application.' Folks that can really quantify what the pain point is and where the business process is failing them, and then go out and find applications that can help them fix that process, rather than just saying 'OK, I need a better type of system X. Why don't we go out and purchase this?' Sort of someone who has both authority and distance?
Yes.

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