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The Manager's Bottom Line

Just because you've bought the tool doesn't mean the spending is over. After you start adding up the time needed for customization, the labor necessary to integrate CRM with your other corporate systems, the cost of external specialists needed to make it work, the time required from business users, and the new staff you'll have to hire to deliver the system on time, you'll be tempted to reconsider reengineering those old legacy systems to become more customer-centric. CRM development costs are routinely underestimated.

As is CRM complexity. Most CIOs are familiar with traditional waterfall development methodologies: projects that are linear, with a defined beginning and ending. They're accustomed to measuring system success based on the new system's number of transactions or number of users. But CRM success revolves around staff efficiency gains and process improvements, so such advances as higher productivity and enhanced customer satisfaction will be more difficult to measure. Likewise, traditional systems development means laying out requirements in concrete terms once and for all. Given that CRM stresses improving customer-focused processes, requirements-gathering should be iterative. Indeed, gathering and refining business requirements is an ongoing process, much like the CRM program itself.

Moreover, depending on the skill sets of the customary in-house business analysts, they might need some extra help. CRM business sponsors might find individuals trained in corporate quality programs to be more effective in CRM requirements definition. Quality-knowledgeable individuals have learned to focus on how people do their jobs and how the inputs and outputs relate to the overall process.

For enterprise CRM, it's essential for customer information to flow freely throughout your organization. If you are to provide the proverbial 360-degree customer view, users must be able to access that data whenever they need it. This often means staff members from elsewhere in the company need to be involved to connect important corporate systems with CRM. Such involvement can render even the simplest CRM application an enterprise-wide effort. Although the PMO can ease the communications challenges of such potentially complex collaboration, strong management is a definite prerequisite.

Know what you already have that you can leverage. Many talented IT departments have short-changed themselves by not advertising the data warehouses and marketing databases they've so painstakingly built. The data source system inventories, extraction and transformation processes, metadata repositories, and other infrastructure components of these databases are invaluable assets to any CRM system. Find them, and use them.

Head reeling yet? Do you wonder whether CRM development might be too complex or costly? Consider the alternative. The Internet and the pressures of e-business have weakened the barriers to competition, and your customers are getting smarter. It's not a question of if you launch CRM but the scale to which you launch it. Don't be afraid to start small, implementing one requirement or one set of business functions at a time. Have a clear view of what's ahead, and understand the potential impact CRM can have on your customers, their immediate satisfaction, and their long-term loyalty. Where customer relationship management projects are concerned, it could very well be now or never.

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