By Dave Akka, Managing Director, Magic Software Enterprises UK

CRM applications promise to increase efficiency between departments, improve cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and enhance customer satisfaction by providing convenient access to customer data throughout customer-related processes. The ideal CRM implementation provides users with actionable, real-time data from multiple enterprise systems, turning a “vanilla” CRM information repository into a valuable resource.

Integrating data and processes from multiple sources into one system increases the chance of satisfying all stakeholders and creates operational efficiencies.

However, making CRM data and processes available throughout the enterprise is not easy. In fact analysts at Meta Group estimate that up to 75% of CRM implementations fail. Like most large and complex projects there are many challenges, including defining priorities for different departments and securely and reliably moving data across different technical environments such as legacy systems, mobile apps, and public and private cloud architectures. If not well thought-out or implemented using the wrong tools, instead of providing the promised benefits, these projects can end up wasting company time and resources.

Here are six reasons why CRM projects fail.

  1. The big picture is missing. Companies typically have a wealth of customer data stored in various information silos across the organization, from accounts receivable, manufacturing, pre-sales, sales, customer support, and logistics. Companies need to consider the entire picture of the customer’s digital world (including structured and unstructured data from social media networks, e-commerce interactions, website visits, email and messaging interactions), define what’s most important and make sure it can be actionable, by bringing it into work flows. Without a high level understanding of who needs what data, where and when, it’s almost impossible to provide users with the actionable real-time information they need to be more productive. Whether it’s one data source or several, lacking a big picture view of the enterprise leads to further silos and missed opportunities.Ensure you have a big picture view by mapping out the information flows your enterprise needs in order to run its most common and critical processes from CRM to ERP, call center, e-commerce, and other enterprise systems to ensure a full and complete view of customer histories, orders, credit status, service issues, and more. Visualising these data flows allows users to contribute their intimate knowledge of bottlenecks and shows where integration can automate processes that are currently manual and laborious.

    A big picture view often leads to the inclusion of systems that may never have been considered, such as external social media tools. While many CRM systems offer their own social tools and connectors, they often don’t cover the whole range of social media on which customers discuss the company and marketing, customer service and account managers communicate with customers. Social messages are very useful to sales, who can gain a better understanding of their customer while actionable social media alerts allow customer services to quickly respond to customer concerns. Therefore, it’s worthwhile for companies to examine specialised social management tools that can best fit their needs.

    Companies that adopt a best-of-breed approach by integrating the best social management tool to their core CRM are likely to yield better results across the board.

  2. Not enough user involvement. The purpose of a CRM implementation is to improve business performance by enhancing customer experience, and by improving user and business intelligence. In many CRM implementations, it’s assumed that implementing the CRM system with a few integrated processes is all that is needed.While management typically focuses on dashboards that provide the information they need, as discussed above, the organization needs a big picture view in order to map out relevant business processes and workflows. Without user involvement the project will rarely live up to expectations because it will be based on a “best guess” and not the true processes and workflows needed to make users more efficient and to provide them with a complete view of the customer. Moreover, as users are naturally resistant to change, it’s critical to get them engaged. What better way than to get their input and proving that their experience matters?

    The best approach to getting the desired user involvement is to appoint users champions in each department. The champions should have a deep understanding of departmental processes and system usage, understand the pains of the users they represent and be able to articulate potential concerns to management. Having multiple champions also mitigates risk should one of them leave during the process. Champions thus become a key conduit between management and users, with visibility of the big picture and strategy, and the input to highlight inefficient processes and problems.

    In addition, employee involvement can be encouraged by using an informal “water cooler” approach where users are invited to identify the most important data and processes that can help them provide the best service and work more efficiently. Getting employees involved early and often increases the chances for smooth adoption of the new CRM as a portal to the enterprise and helps optimize the business benefits.

  3. Information is not ‘actionable’. While access to accurate up-to-date information is undeniably a critical requirement for any business; if the information is unable to be used, manipulated and acted upon then you’ve only provided a partial solution. Actionable information is fundamental to business success. If people can get real work done, it increases enthusiasm for the system, amplifying its impact on improving customer service and increasing productivity.Don’t forget to apply the “actionable principle” to dashboards and reports as well. Make sure management and users have quick access to important information and key performance indicators, in a manner that can be easily understood and acted upon. Just like process flows need to be mapped out, action flows need to be as well; both need to be part of the big picture view.
  4. Lack of integration. While many integration tools can move data from one place to another, such as batch uploads to a data warehouse, CRM implementations require more than that. An integrated CRM should provide a single location to activate business processes from multiple channels including desktops and mobiles. For example, by integrating an enterprise social tool into your processes, users can follow objects and projects, and receive automatic notifications when these are modified. This type of connectivity requires far more than data integration, it requires process integration. Process-based integration allows you to follow the business logic that your users already use when updating information across systems, turning your existing ad-hoc and informal processes into automated, robust ones. This enables your CRM to become a central hub, boosting productivity and engagement by helping users work more efficiently and collaborate effectively.
  5. Mobile is overlooked. Many implementations involve systems that have traditionally been used with desktops and laptops, so mobile sometimes becomes an afterthought. Think about which processes and functionalities are most important to your mobile employees. Location services can add a lot of value to your sales force. Your work-at-home Help Desk staff can benefit from context-based services, especially if using small mobile devices that limit the retrieval of information. By bringing relevant data and processes to the right people when and where they need it and making it actionable, your mobile CRM app increases operational efficiencies and improves productivity for customers, partners, and employees. In addition, by incorporating enterprise mobility, businesses can increase support and enthusiasm for your CRM implementation from all levels of management.While most CRM vendors offer mobile apps, these tend to be “vanilla” and not appropriate for all users. Customers, partners, and presales people can all benefit from having access to integrated mobile apps, but they don’t all need the same process flows or access. Rather than trying to build one overarching mobile CRM app, it can be best to start with the vendor-provided app and use a smart mobile app development platform to rapidly create custom process-specific apps for different stakeholders as needed.
  6. Poor return on investment. Integrating CRM data and processes with other systems often becomes a large and unwieldy venture, creating cost overruns and taking too long for management to see positive results. Adopt an approach of continuous change, allowing the effects of small completed projects on the business to become clear so that the lessons can be incorporated in the next project.Keep the project focused on revenue generation and cost savings by working towards specific goals. For example, provide ways to service low-profit customers more cost-effectively (e.g. self-service), work towards enabling easier renewals, repeat business, and increasing the sales of high-margin products and services.

A successful CRM implementation project depends on knowing how customer information can be leveraged to create business value and positive experiences for your customers and users. This requires that you start with a holistic view but then focus on the most beneficial information and processes. You know you’ve built an effective CRM system when it becomes the first and last application checked by your users every day.

Dave AkkaDavid Akka
David Akka M.Sc, MBA, is the Managing Director of Magic Software Enterprises (UK) Ltd.  A self-described “recovering techie”, David has previously worked in project management, professional services and CTO roles and is considered one of Magic’s leading authorities on Cloud computing, SOA methodologies, Big Data and enterprise mobility.

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