Five myths of CRM

Myth No. 1: "CRM is primarily about technology."

There's an old saying, 'A bad workman always blames his tools.' Sometimes, the failure to realize projected benefits from implementing customer relationship management (CRM) software packages may be because of functional or technical capabilities within the package itself. However, the most likely reason that these projects may fail to deliver is because of the way the technology is implemented into the business.

CRM is primarily about three things -- people, process and technology. The first two, people and process, are paramount. They are key to the profitability equation and shouldn't give way to technology. It's extremely important to focus CRM initiatives on the business issues, the customer relationship model and the specific customer interactions within that model, before choosing any technology for implementation.

Furthermore, once the technology is selected, it must be deployed within those predefined parameters to ensure success. Otherwise, we'll find ourselves paving a gravel path instead of building an expressway.

Myth No. 2: "Successful CRM projects are managed by IT."

On the contrary, successful CRM projects are driven by the business, in conjunction with IT, to realize specific business goals. Implementing CRM as an IT initiative, simply to automate existing business processes without examining the need for business process improvements, is likely to become an unprofitable exercise.

Myth No. 3: "Executive buy-in is the key."

Although executive buy-in, at the earliest stages, is critical, it's only one of multiple stakeholder acceptances required. In addition to business executives, the needs of the impacted users must be examined and included in the CRM modeling. It's imperative that the users are motivated by the 'dangling carrot' benefits of CRM rather than purely by the incrementally accurate management reporting on their activities. Other stakeholders such as customers, business partners and, of course, the internal IT department, are equally critical to the CRM initiative's success.

Myth No. 4: "We need to roll this out across the enterprise ASAP."

Ultimately, this is correct. However, the implementation of CRM initiatives is better off starting with small departmental or functional wins, rather than the big-bang approach across the enterprise. The sheer vastness of the business processes behind customer-facing applications prohibits an organization from effectively implementing CRM systems across the company in one fell swoop. Our approach is to develop the enterprise vision at the beginning of the initiative but implement in smaller increments, constantly validating, and achieving buy-in and payback along the way.

Myth No. 5: "CRM systems are intuitive . . . users will only need some initial hand-holding."

CRM systems will impact users significantly, and the best strategy to ensure effective compliance (as opposed to ineffective work-arounds) is to employ comprehensive and targeted training programs to clearly demonstrate the user benefits as well as the corporate benefits of the new approach.

Additionally, the users should be trained just prior to rollout, with a follow-up session planned within the first 30 days. Additionally, accessible help desk support should be available from the first day of deployment.

Kevin Rosen is the director of the CRM practice at Silverline Technologies Ltd. (NYSE: SLT), a business integration firm headquartered in Mumbai, India, and Piscataway, N.J., with more than 2,600 employees worldwide.

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