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The 9 Dirty Little Secrets of CRM

By David Taber
July 6, 2009 12:44 PM ET

CIO - CRM products have been around for more than 20 years, The SaaS vendors have been selling their CRM wares for nearly a decade. Despite all that experience, powerful myths and misconceptions about CRM still can catch customers by surprise. While much of this article's advice applies to any CRM system, we've focused on the specifics of SaaS systems such as Salesforce CRM.

1. The CRM system is less important than the data it holds. Even with all the most marvelous features, a CRM system without real users and real customer-facing data is just an empty shell. Don't be hypnotized by features and CRM functionality; instead, fixate on the credibility of the data asset building within it.

2. User adoption and percentage-of-business represented are the only metrics of CRM system success. There's a virtuous cycle in CRM systems: the more users adopt the system, the more data that will be entered. The more credible and meaningful the CRM data, the more valuable an asset it is for all users. The more valuable the asset, the easier it is to get more users leveraging, and contributing to, the system. Even if some users are spectacularly effective thanks to CRM usage, if you only have pockets of usage, most of your customer situations are not represented in the database. Broad usage is more valuable to overall collaboration, as compared to deep but spotty use of the system.

3. You will probably have to spend a bundle on data quality. Even if you're doing a greenfield implementation of CRM, you will discover data quality problems that are irritants to every user and poisonous to the system's overall credibility. Data quality needs to be attacked at three levels:

Never let data, whether an initial migration or a subsequent import, into the system without cleaning it up.

Spot sources of data pollution and systematically correct them. You need self-healing data.

Identify business processes that corrupt the semantics of CRM data. Your team may be causing subtle but important changes to the meaning of data. In particular, watch out for business processes that span departments with different objectives or metrics.

[ MORE ON DATA CENTER: For timely data center news and expert advice on data center strategy, see CIO.com's Data Center Drilldown section. ]

4. There's no such thing as a siloed CRM system. Nearly any interesting CRM system must give users access to data that's beyond the purview of the CRM database. So integration will be essential, and it won't be as easy or inexpensive as the initial CRM project. Integration almost always exposes data problems that were hidden or tolerable in siloed system operation.

This story is reprinted from CIO.com, an online resource for information executives. Story Copyright CXO Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.
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