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The State of eCRM, Part II: Page 2

By Arthur O'Connor     Feedback
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So while integrated, cross-channel CRM will continue to make for great sales pitches for technology package vendors, it will remain simply a vision for most organizations, at least this year.

4. eCRM, like CRM, will begin to be seen as part of the supply chain (now called the "demand chain")

In my not-so-humble opinion, we're still in the Stone Age when it comes to sales and customer service. For most businesses, the prevailing mode of operation is: "If you can figure out what you need and want, and if we have it, we'll sell it to you."

Most businesses have only begun to scratch the surface at fulfilling current demand, much less predicting and anticipating customer needs. But, ultimately, the consumer will take center stage as the focus of an organizations inner-workings (as opposed to the companys product line, its technical infrastructure, or, in some egregious examples, the ego of its CEO).

Some years back, thought leaders and industry pundits introduced the concept of a "closed loop" marketing system, in which customer needs are identified, produced and fulfilled in a continuous loop. Put into practice, one can imagine an integrated, multi-platform customer intelligence-gathering process to identify and define needs. This customer-facing system would be tightly integrated into a Web-enabled supply chain (or, perhaps more accurately, fulfillment network), which is dynamically configured to produce and fulfill this demand in a given point in time. Translated into plain English, this means businesses will have the ability to find out what a consumer wants and pull together a set of business partners to provide it at the right time, at the right price, in the right way.

The "demand chain" is still a concept. But with the growing power of XML-based business networks, the realization of this concept may not be too far away.

5. eCRM, like CRM, will remain extremely challenging to implement

Tom Peters once wrote, "The technical part is harrowing; the politics are horrendous." He was writing about enterprise resource planning software implementations, but it could also be said of CRM and eCRM projects.

As a strategy consultant, it never fails to amaze me how difficult and painful it is to introduce anything new or different in an organization. You may be familiar with the symptomatic cries: "This new system just doesn't work." "The old system had its flaws, but we could at least figure out ways around it." "Management really made a big mistake buying this system!"

The reasons? There are many, but here are the top five:

  1. Some applications are, in fact, prematurely released, without all the major bugs identified.
  2. Staff are often inadequately prepared, and many small, inexpensive readily-addressed training issues become big, expensive help desk technical support problems.
  3. Vendors of software packages that typically require tremendous amounts of custom coding and/or configuration often sell this technology as "plug and play" solutions.
  4. Corporate managers tend to believe that implementing this software will in itself magically improve employees' talents and capabilities as well as re-engineer the company's business processes.
  5. Some consultants make the same mistakes as their clients in underestimating the cultural and political obstacles to implementing such systems.

Organizations are facing serious challenges in adoption rates as they put larger, more complex, and more integrated systems on faster time frames for implementation. Not only are employees being asked to work smarter and do more (via self-service HR portals), but so are customers -- often without the required incentives or enabling user experience (the reason for many dot-com failures).

As long as people are involved, the elements of awareness raising, acceptance, training and adoption mus

This article was originally published on March 14, 2001
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