The CIO's Role in Fixing a Broken CRM

Rob Urbanowicz, CRM Practice Area Director, Socius
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Rob Urbanowicz, CRM Practice Area Director, Socius

Many companies have implemented some component of CRM, and many initiatives with grand visions of success haven’t proved their worth.  Here’s how the IT leader can turn these around. A new client of mine complained that their CRM system was a failure. Their field-based users weren’t entering data on a daily basis as desired.  As it turns out, these users didn’t have the right data, at the right time, on the right device, that was easy to use.

If you’ve implemented CRM but it’s not living up to the hype, you’re not alone. Gartner Research has reported that 50 percent of CRM projects have failed over the last 15 years. Other research organizations like C5 Insight and the Merkle Group have that number between 60-63 percent. In projects that have failed—I have consistently observed that failure stems from one of two main sources—the system itself or the leadership behind it. The IT Leader is in the ideal position to align the organization for success, make the right fixes, and regain momentum to turn CRM into a company success. If your company is in this situation, here’s what to do. 

Digest the Past

Before you dig into fixing, it is important to digest how the CRM initiative arrived to its current state. Take time to interview key users, managers and executives responsible for CRM to understand their expectations and reasons for failure. Many CRM project issues stem from lofty, unrealistic goals combined with bad decisions to use an existing technology or one that doesn’t fit, or a data architecture built on many short-term decisions that now looks like spaghetti.  Sometimes leadership or organizational changes are to blame.  Being able to identify the source of the problems will help you thoughtfully conclude when and how best to attack, while not repeating the sins of the past. 

  ​By partnering with the business leader, you can rescue a failed CRM initiative, and pick up the pace to deliver short-term wins  

Pick up the Pace and Partner 

Sales and Marketing teams operate in high-speed mode all the time.  The last thing a sales person wants to do is slow down a deal to enter data in a CRM system. Likewise, the sales and marketing leaders often believe a CRM system can be implemented amongst big competing initiatives such as major product launches or big trade show events. The IT Leader needs to do two things right away.

First: seek to understand the business leaders’ real key objectives. Many projects spiral out of control because sales, marketing and customer service lose sight of obtaining realistic short-term goals in a CRM project. Instead, they look to build everything into the solution, and either never go live or overbuild what they actually can use. By partnering with the business leader, you can help drive focus in a CRM initiative, and pick up the pace to deliver short-term wins. For example, I recently helped an organization re-format their users’ screens to better align to the way they capture data, while removing unused fields. This short-term focused win meant that the CRM users saw immediate progress, enabling a momentum gain and higher user adoption.

The second important factor is for the business leader to understand where the IT team adds value. Most business leaders don’t realize they need capabilities that IT team excels in, like data management, integration expertise, platform experience, agile development, and project control. Highlighting the value the IT team brings to the table will help you and your business counterparts determine areas where the IT team’s competencies align to the gaps in the business team’s CRM, and help you fix the problems. 

Think About the Users

While it is the business leaders who need to champion the project to the users, you as the IT leader, have a lot of influence over CRM user adoption. You have the ability to build the solution and its processes from the users’ perspective. Understand the situation that users are in and deliver to their specific use case. For example, do sales or service reps need forms adapted for faster and easier mobile entry while in the field? People embrace tools that make their day-to-day life easier. If you can facilitate making that happen, your project will have a significantly better chance at success. 

Provide Meaningful Metrics 

CRM users are typically visual in nature—and a great way to engage users early is to provide visually appealing graphic metrics that measure personal progress. Dashboard graphics will get users and managers comfortable early in understanding data, and by focusing on personal metrics and goals, they will revisit the CRM system often. Our consulting team has a utilization dashboard that is visited more often than any other page in our CRM system—and it drives our KPI—consultant utilization.

In the early stages of a CRM launch, it iss important to measure adoption, use of new functions and user engagement. A CRM adoption dashboard will help monitor against expectations and provide early indicators of potential issues like lack of training or poorly designed aspects of the CRM solution.

Finally, it is important to realize the difference between leading and lagging metrics in business. Most operational areas of the business focus on lagging metrics, like sales, costs, shipments and backlog. These metrics are fine to manage costs of a business, but CRM leaders need to focus on forward-looking metrics like new prospects and number of website hits. Working with your sales and marketing leaders will help develop mutual goals for CRM metrics that include customer satisfaction, percentage to sales goals, website statistics, and social engagement. And the business leaders will have a vested interest in ensuring that they and their teams are not only delivering on their goals, but using the CRM system to track and measure success.  

Celebrate and Look Forward 

Each milestone is a cause for celebration and you need to take advantage of every win. But, don’t just celebrate the typical IT project wins, like a go-live event. Rather celebrate the wins of the business, like achieving adoption goals or closing deals in the CRM system.

As you experience these “wins,” engage with your new friends on the marketing team and get them to share the success in a company newsletter or Yammer post. This will strengthen the alignment between IT and the CRM teams, and the rest of the organization will be excited about their success.

Finally, CRM initiatives are never really “finished.” You and the business leader should always align to “what’s next.” Keeping a log of future projects, mapping it out for release, and sharing it publicly will keep everyone engaged in delivering more and more success. These few key areas will help you get on the right path to CRM success and enable you to deliver the right data, at the right time, through easy-to-use devices, and ensure on-going CRM success.

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