Successful CRM Integration Model
It is finally happening…after two decades of anticipation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications are hitting the mainstream. Companies in record numbers, and of all sizes, are implementing packaged CRM applications. Even Microsoft, Intel has jumped in with both feet with their Microsoft CRM offering. This is good news for business executives who have intuitively known that CRM could help their business, but were concerned about the seeming lack of success and adoption for those companies that had implemented these systems before them. The key question for many of these business executives as they create their CRM strategy is; where will they gain strategic advantage if their competitors are implementing these same CRM applications?
Many are quickly realizing that integration represents the key differentiator for CRM. Integrating their CRM application into the enterprise effectively leverages institutional knowledge of customers into actionable competitive advantage for their sales and service teams. Companies that can leverage their existing information assets better can turn CRM from a tactical project into a key strategic initiative.
Over the past decade, in my role as a Consultant and Marketing executives, I have worked with hundreds of companies seeking to improve and thrive for excellence into their overall enterprise environment. Some of these companies have struggled to get it right, but many have found success. What distinguishes the successful integration projects from those that have not delivered? Interestingly enough, the answer to this question is not complicated and is the inspiration for the right CRM integration success model outlined here.
The most common mistake that companies make when integrating their CRM application happens right at the beginning of the project; they try to do too much. This mistake is not surprising since integration is such an ill-defined project in the first place. In any organization, there seems to be reams of customer data that could be integrated. You cannot possibly integrate all of it at once. So what’s the most important data to be integrated today? What should you consider in a later integration phase? I will try to help and answer these questions and increase the probability of a successful CRM project.
Many people think that CRM integration is pretty straightforward…just make these darn systems work seamlessly with the same data. If only it were that simple. The challenge is that companies implement multiple applications for a reason; each is designed to support the needs of a particular user group in performing their specific tasks. Each of these systems has different priorities, different data structures, different user interactions, and different levels of importance to the business operation. One of the best examples of this is the difference between an accounting and a sales system. Accounting systems are designed under a set of defined rules (FASB), require extensive data validation and follow rigid and documented step-by-step processes. Sales systems must be responsive to customers…which cannot be expected to operate by any set of rules. Sales system users capture information as it comes available throughout a very fluid customer-defined sales process. In fact, the value of a sales system is not defined by any one piece of information, but by the collective value of a large set of “imperfect” data.
Can you imagine a sales person not being able to complete a task because they did not fill in an extensive list of required data elements? That system would be completely unusable for the salesperson. Conversely, imagine an accounting system that allowed users to put in an accounting transaction that didn’t balance. That system would be unusable for a completely different reason. Given that these systems are so different, you can imagine the difficulty in trying to tightly integrate them. By building dependencies between the systems, you can in essence detract from the core purpose of each and diminish their individual usefulness.
1. Peter R. Chase, Executive Vice President, Scribe Software Corporation