Taking the Pledge for CRM Success, Part III

Arthur O'Connor

Updated · Nov 29, 2001

Photo Arthur O'ConnorThis represents the third and final part of a three-part open letter to corporate executives who are struggling with the issue of making CRM successful in their organizations.

In the previous Parts I and II of this column, I outlined the qualifications of the three-point pledge and described in detail the first and second pledges.

The first pledge can be summarized as follows: Don't adopt new technology without a clear understanding of how it can generate economic benefit, given its potential risks and rewards, and given your organization's design, strengths and weaknesses.

The second pledge goes something like this: Use a portfolio management matrix with quantitative performance criteria to prioritize, coordinate, consolidate and streamline CRM initiatives across different business groups within your organization. Respect the fact that different businesses have different needs, and understand what technical and business processes can be shared and/or standardized and which ones should not.

The third pledge outlines the final promise for ensuring CRM success.

Promise #3: Take responsibility for the culture of your organization, for doing the necessary preparatory work, for making the developing creative solutions and making touch decisions in designing and deploying your CRM system. Senior management must ensure that it has the right people, in the right roles, with the right skill sets and right incentives, in order to be successful.

“I promise to place the burden of formulating a CRM strategy and creating a customer-centric culture upon myself and our senior management team. We, as a team, take full responsibility for the behaviors of our employees, based on the formal incentive structure and examples we set. We recognize that leadership cannot be delegated to an outside consulting firm. It will be up to us to design our approach, make the technical, business and political trade-offs, and work together to fully leverage our assets and resources to deliver superior value to our customers.”

This is the toughest pledge to take. If you — the senior executive involved — are not the chief sponsor and architect of the solution, then the project is probably doomed to fail. Consultants (such as myself) can provide great advice, competitive perspective, knowledge of best practices and comparative analysis of solutions, but we can't successfully implement the solution without your input, buy-in, involvement and ownership.

You need to recognize that this is your CRM system, for your organization, that you need to design and run it as part of your business tactics and strategies. It's not some new thing dreamed up by the people at the corporate office, or, worst yet, the IT department to make things run smoothly and efficiently. You need to understand that, with CRM, automation is a result, not a cause.

Sadly, many organizations have undertaken CRM without doing their homework. The embark on a CRM implementation without first having a clear idea of:

  • Their customers' behaviors, needs and interests and how to attract and retain them
  • Their business processes and how to improve them
  • Their systems and applications and how to integrate them
  • Their technical infrastructure and how it fits into a overarching strategy and architecture
  • Their human resource/talent mix and what they need to change in order to succeed

The last point is particularly telling. Many organizations adhere to the definition of corporate insanity: using the same people, operating in the same roles, with the same skills, behaviors, loyalties and incentives — and expecting completely different results!

Do you agree? Don't agree? Got an interesting insight, opinion or real-world example to share? What are your thoughts? Please write me at [email protected].

Arthur O'Connor is one of the nation's leading experts on customer relationship management (CRM) and customer-facing IT systems and strategies. He's currently the national columnist for eCRMGuide.com and this year serves as the chairperson of the Institute for International Research's CRM Conference. Arthur has over 20 years leadership and management experience in the area of customer management, strategy and new business development, including 15 years as a senior corporate officer of two NYSE-listed inter national corporations, and over five years experience as an independent management consultant and Big 5 firm practice manager selling and managing large-scale IT engagements.

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