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Rx for Sick CRM Projects 

Rx for Sick CRM Projects

Rx for Sick CRM Projects

By Donna Fluss
Customer Interface Magazine

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CRM remains a priority for a majority of U.S. businesses and increasingly so abroad, as well. As the economic recession continues in the United States, decreasing costs and increasing revenue from existing customers are more important than ever. Managers who successfully deliver CRM projects will be rewarded, but those who fail will do so at great risk. The question is what to do if your CRM project is not meeting its goals?

Sixty to 70 percent of CRM projects stall, fail or don’t meet their objectives. Some of the most common reasons are politics, a poorly defined project, mismatches between needs and applications, bad implementations, inadequate system integrators and budget problems.

Below are recommendations for reversing the odds when your CRM effort is at risk. Of course, the best way to avoid having to fix a problem is to avoid having one in the first place. The majority of CRM efforts that fail do so because of poor implementations. Poor implementations are often the result of poorly defined project scope and bad system integrators. Bad technology is often blamed but it’s not usually the primary cause of failure.

Follow These Steps to Avoid Problems:

Step 1: During the project definition stage of the CRM effort, draft a Request For Proposal (RFP) document that incorporates all project needs. Distribute the RFP to project participants and use it to gain agreement on the scope and definition of the effort. Obtaining agreement is not an easy task. If agreement cannot be reached on the project scope and definition, the effort must be redefined. If you can’t agree on the project’s requirements the project will fail because there will be organizations whose needs are not met. An RFP with a detailed description of the project is a great vehicle for obtaining agreement amongst departments because it will clarify the project goals more thoroughly than project overview documents and should eliminate any misunderstanding about project deliverables.

Step 2: Prepare an ROI analysis for the project and set up a process for measuring and quantifying the project results on an ongoing basis. This will prevent unwelcome surprises.

Step 3: Avoid poor system integrators by interviewing the members of the proposed implementation team to determine if they have the required skills – even if you have a long-term relationship with a consulting firm or the firm is recommended by the application vendor. Interviewing a Partner or Project Manager is not enough as they are not the ones who will be doing your implementation. Consulting firms are known for deploying their best people at the beginning of jobs and then moving them along to the next effort before your job is finished. Require the firm to leave the people you’ve selected on your site until the job is done. Lastly, require the right to change consultants at your discretion. Taking these steps will save you from being a training site for new consultants and will increase your odds for success.

If your project is in jeopardy, don’t wait for the ax to fall. Be proactive. Admitting failure is a huge risk but on the other hand, many who have been “caught” with failing projects have lost their jobs. Communicate frequently with project sponsors – let them know what is happening and what you are doing to nurse the CRM project back to health.

Common Problems that Frequently Derail CRM Projects

Implementations Take too Long – Temporarily stop the initiative and separate the effort into smaller phases, making sure that the goals and benefits of each project phase are measurable and quantifiable.

Project Over Budget – Don’t hide the problem. Temporarily stop the project and put a process in place for measuring the cost and benefit of each project phase. Determine and remedy the underlying problem causing the budget override. (If it’s poor planning, put together a plan and ask management for more money. If it’s poor systems integrators, replace them. If it’s the wrong technology, find the right technology.)

Loss of Influential Project Sponsor – This can bring CRM efforts to a dead halt! Avoid this problem by setting up a CRM Oversight or Management committee so there are a number of senior people involved in the effort.

Budget Cuts – Prioritize project phases with the highest financial return. Convince management of the need for further funding by delivering phased results with real and measurable benefits.

CRM Project not Yielding Expected Results – Too often, even when the technology implementation is excellent, a CRM project doesn’t produce the expected benefits. Instead of blaming the technology, audit the people and process. The problem may be easy to fix with proper staff training and motivation.

Technology not Meeting Needs – When politics conflict with logic, the ensuing incongruity of needs and wants can result in the selection of the wrong application. If the technology can’t do what is needed, continuing will only end in failure. If an implementation has already started, ask the vendor to add needed functionality or make changes. Vendors will promise almost anything to keep their products in your shop, but if the vendor won’t commit to dates or the dates are too far off, the value of the enhancements will be limited.

People Resisting Change – CRM innovators sometimes forget that it’s the sales, marketing and customer service staffs that ultimately determine the success of an initiative. Bring these people “on board” as early as possible. Ensuring that affected personnel are strong proponents, firmly supporting the project is a critical success factor.

Poor Project Planning – Replace the project planner and adjust the plan. If necessary, go back to senior management and request the proper resources.

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