Why CRM Fails: Inflation!

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The introduction of a customer relationship management system has the potential to highly improve the productivity of the sales and marketing teams through better access to information and streamlined processes. Nevertheless, according to various studies, between 50% and 70% of CRM system introductions fail to fulfill these expectations. This may partially be attributed to the systems themselves, but to a greater extent, the problem lies in the implementation process.

The Promise of CRM

When a company decides to buy and implement a CRM system, the implementation process, if it isn’t managed carefully, can lead to un-controlled inflation of features, screens and fields, which make the system hard to use and maintain.

Among future users, the decision to implement a CRM system triggers a lot of expectations: Any information will be available at the touch of a button. Workflows will be seamless and fully automated. Marketing campaigns of any kind are a snap. Managers hope that they can perform analytics from multiple perspectives and right down to whatever detail they want. And, due to modern technology, to a large extent this will come true, provided that the implementation is done right.

Setting Expectations and Change Management

Prior to the implementation of a CRM system, people have been used to inefficient processes and difficult access to information due to a heterogeneous data environment, both leading to significant frustration. On the other hand, people have been living with these deficiencies for a long time and have learned how to deal with them. They know what to do and what is expected from them. The implementation of a CRM system offers a great chance for improvement but also means that the existing routines are no longer valid. People therefore often try to mix the old and the new processes. They often want to see the same fields in their new system, fields which they become accustomed to.

It’s All About the Data

To get data out of a system, it has to be entered in the first place. Automatic routines have been designed and set up to deliver the desired results only if the data is clean and up-to-date. But data is often maintained and managed by people who have many of other obligations in their daily life. Most of the data will have to come from sales people and service engineers who spend lot of their time on the road and lead a hectic life. If they are asked to enter too much data, which may not even be used, they will not be cooperative resulting in incomplete data, which makes the database useless. What makes it even worse is, that people in the field are typically using mobile computers with smaller screens than the ones used by their back office colleagues. An inflation of fields can turn the use of such devices into a nightmare. As a result, the number of missing data entries, obsolete data or data errors will increase. This results in disappointment and frustration about the new system. The question is not so much about the cost of programming or customizing, but is more about the ROI between data maintenance and data utilization.

Luckily, these problems can be avoided by just following a few guidelines. Instead of asking every user what he or she would like to have, the objectives need to be clarified before anything else. For each extra field, ask what purpose does it serve? How often will the data been used? How important is the data if it is only needed occasionally? Could the data be derived indirectly or from other sources? How often will a routine be used? How labour intensive is it to perform it with or without automation and how likely is it, that the data will be clean and up-to-date?


Conclusion: Ask the Right Questions

Whether it is for an opportunity management system, a marketing and sales CRM solution or a full CRM solution including service, the key to success is a diligently managed implementation process which avoids an uncontrolled inflation of fields, data entries and automated routines. Just asking people: “What do you like to have?” will lead to inflation. It will make the best system cumbersome to work with and is a recipe for failure and frustration. Instead, making the objectives clear in the beginning and having a careful look at importance (ABC analysis) and frequency of use (XYZ analysis) along with ROI considerations for each demanded field or process, is the winning road to success in CRM or SFA implementation. Not everything that’s doable is viable. It is not the sheer amount of data but the right amount with high quality that makes CRM and SFA successful.


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