The ABCs of CRM: One Size Does Not Fit All Staff

Updated · Apr 30, 2001

InfoWorld, a weekly magazine that analyzes enterprise technology and strategies, conducted a recent survey which examined the positive and negative aspects of deploying a successful customer relationship management solution. The magazine will reveal the results of its latest reader survey in its April 16 issue.

The poll, conducted last February, asked 500 InfoWorld readers about specific aspects of customer relationship management (CRM) such as sales force, marketing and service automation, as well as links to other systems such as back-office and supply chain management applications. All survey participants were directly involved with acquiring CRM software and services and work with 100 or more other employees. The data has a sample tolerance variance of + or -4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.

According to InfoWorld, the poll reveals a telling contradiction: although the vast majority of respondents (78 percent) consider CRM critical, only a mere 35 percent have actually implemented a CRM system, confirming the complexity and difficulty faced by IT leaders when tackling a CRM implementation. But, according to InfoWorld, a sound CRM implementation is a necessary step toward making a company more flexible and open to today's dynamic business environment, despite difficult implementation and budget constraints.

InfoWorld also found that breaking a CRM project into more manageable and less expensive sub-projects and taking a phased approach, deploying first what is most appropriate and easiest to achieve in a company's environment, is the best way to enable a company to achieve its CRM goals. For example, 49 percent of readers surveyed started with a call center or customer service solution, 21 percent initially deployed a sales force automation (SFA) solution, and 10 percent began by implementing marketing automation (MA).

Based on survey results, InfoWorld recommends ensuring inter-departmental cooperation before embarking on a CRM project. Forty-nine percent of survey respondents said that obtaining widespread cooperation from all levels inside the company is essential to putting a CRM strategy in place, and 24 percent indicated that lack of management team commitment is a serious handicap. Another 29 percent attributed CRM failure to an unsupportive cultural climate inside the company, and 46 percent of technology decision-makers surveyed indicated integration with existing applications was a major impediment. Additionally, another 40 percent put the blame on the lack of skilled IT resources and 20 percent of the respondents viewed a lack of IT infrastructure as an obstacle to CRM.

Nearly 35 percent of survey respondents deployed SFA solutions from major vendors such as Oracle, PeopleSoft or Siebel. Seventy-three percent of respondents said that the availability of a complete solution from the vendor was a very important or critical factor for their choice. In addition, 27 percent deployed a CRM solution that integrates with e-commerce applications. The remainder of survey participants reported using CRM-focused vendors such as Clarify/Nortel Networks, FrontRange Solutions (previously Goldmine), Interact Commerce (previously SalesLogix), and Onyx. While 5 percent of readers reported developing their own solutions for SFA and call/service center applications, none plan to build a homemade solution in the future.

"Based on what we found in this survey, we believe that an effective CRM solution can improve market penetration and strengthen customer loyalty – as long as the implementation is based on a thorough evaluation of a company's business process and ensures cooperation among multiple departments," said Robert Magnuson, president and CEO of InfoWorld Media Group. "Thirty-five percent of our readers reported CRM projects that met or exceeded expectations. By sharing these stories and analyzing what works well and what doesn't, we can provide technology decision-makers with the tools and insights they need to create and execute smart technology strategies."

InfoWorld Media Group's covers key technologies, products and trends that assist IT professionals in leveraging technology for business advantage is substantiated by original research conducted in InfoWorld's $23 million, dedicated multi-platform, enterprise test center.

Headquartered in San Mateo, Calif., InfoWorld Media Group is a wholly owned independent business unit of IDG, an IT media, research and exposition company. IDG publishes more than 285 computer magazines and newspapers and 500 book titles and an online network of Web sites.

Reprinted from Application Planet.

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