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The CRM Development Team

CRM is big. It has captured the attention and imagination of corporate executives. Marketing VPs are betting their jobs on it, CIOs are asking their staffs to formulate CRM policies, and CEOs are creating job roles such as "Chief Customer Officer" that not only embrace CRM but depend on it.

Hopefully by now your company has adopted a customer-focused strategy and is putting in place the inevitable customer-focused programs and accompanying organizations. This often means organizational change: product managers have become "segment managers," spearheading customer segments irrespective of the products and services within them, and CSR job definitions are being continually modified as companies better understand customer channel usage and interaction preferences.

In addition to the broader organizational and cultural changes that accompany an evolving customer focus, CRM calls for specific implementation roles and responsibilities. In many cases, these job roles are new; in others, existing functions play key parts in CRM development.

Table 9-2 lists the core job functions within a CRM development team. Make sure you've accounted for each of these roles before embarking on a development project, and understand the skills from both inside and outside the company might be necessary to fill these positions.

Table 9-2: Core CRM Development Roles

Job Role


Business Sponsor:

The business sponsor might serve across a single CRM project or across the entire program. His main role is to establish the vision, articulate overall goals and objectives, set the tone for the project team, and serve as a tiebreaker for implementation issues. The business sponsor often funds the initial CRM application. The more departments CRM spans, the greater the level of authority the sponsor should have.

CRM Steering Committee:

For cross-functional or enterprise CRM initiatives where implementation must be prioritized, a committee of decision-makers familiar with the "pain points" CRM can address should convene on a regular basis to provide new requirements, prioritize proposed improvements, and communicate key corporate initiatives.

Implementation Project Manager:

This person's job is to ensure that the requirements defined by the business sponsor and steering committee dictate the functionality to be implemented. The implementation project manager oversees the day-to-day implementation activities, tracks status, and updates the business sponsor on current issues.

Lead Developer:

The lead developer should manage the technical development and customization of the CRM product as it relates to the requirements. She should participate in CRM technology selection (see Chapter 8) and hire the appropriate developers to implement the CRM toolset.

Database Developer (and team):

The database developer should lead the necessary data integration, regardless of whether it is operational or analytical CRM. Often this means working with the company's data warehouse and its development team. In other cases, an understanding of key company source systems and how to capture their data is mandatory, requiring a separate team of database administrators and data "extraction" experts.

Front-end Developer (and team):

Depending on the chosen CRM product, programming is needed to develop or customize the end-user interface.

Subject matter experts (SMEs):

Critical to CRM success are subject matter experts—usually businesspeople from the department slated to use the CRM system after it's in production (for instance, a CSR or a sales manager). SMEs usually have strong ideas of what CRM should and shouldn't provide and should participate regularly in the development and testing of a CRM product.

Depending on the breadth and complexity of your CRM program, the job roles listed in Table 9-3 can also participate in CRM development.

Table 9-3: Optional CRM Development Roles

Optional Job Role


Director of e-Business:

Your company might have a separate division dedicated to e-business that—despite the goals of CRM—must be involved to ensure the integration of, for instance, Web-based customer services with new CRM functionality.

Director of Data Warehousing:

If your company already has a data warehouse, you're ahead of the game. Existing data, development processes, source system knowledge, and metadata can all be used to get a jump-start on CRM development. Development teams might consider sharing resources in order to integrate the data warehouse as the de facto CRM analysis platform.

Chief Information Officer (CIO):

Due to the strategic nature of many CRM initiatives, it's politically if not technically wise to get approval and visibility from the CIO, who can usually facilitate activity with the IT department to ensure the appropriate systems and data resources. The CIO can also help socialize CRM as a corporate information resource.

Vice President of Strategic Planning:

In large companies, where this position exists, the Vice President of Strategic Planning should be able to share with the CRM team new business areas or product offerings the company expects to move toward, acquisition and partnership strategies, or existing products and services the company expects to abandon.

Chief Privacy Officer:

A new position in most companies, the Chief Privacy Officer should be able to provide details on corporate or regulatory policies regarding the use of customer data.

Each of these job roles can play an important part in CRM success, but simply understanding available skill sets can take you a long way in ensuring you can supplement your CRM team with outside help if necessary. Of course, such responsibilities as executive sponsor and the CRM steering committee should be filled by staff members having history with the CRM-related need, pain, or problem, as well as the authority to make decisions.

There are roles in CRM, however, particularly in technology implementation areas, where external experts should be leveraged. Consider the following questions as you decide whether to beef up your current staff with outside help:

  • How well do we know the CRM vendor's development environment? It might serve you well to bring in an expert from the vendor's professional services staff or from a partner-integrator to provide knowledge transfer as development gets underway.

  • Are there critical one-time-only tasks that need completion? For work that isn't likely to be repeated, such as configuring the data, a good consultant can shave days or even weeks off a project.

  • Are we comfortable that our requirements are well defined? Sometimes an objective third party can find the "holes" in your requirements definition. This can help you avoid false starts—which could be a bargain at twice the price.

  • Can we get started with our existing staff? It's often true that by the time you hire and train a full-time resource, a consultant could have jump-started a critical task and the entire project could be that much farther along. Everyone would rather hire permanent staff members who have skin in the game, but don't let principle usurp progress. Be willing to focus on the value of time to the business, and invest accordingly. This might mean hiring consultants who can hit the ground running.

Another important consideration in CRM staffing is the existence of a corporate program management office (PMO). First made popular by the aerospace industry, where complex projects were the norm, the PMO deconstructed a multifaceted system into manageable chunks involving repeatable tasks such as requirements definition, software coding, design, testing, validation, and software packaging. Each project chunk had its own project manager, goals, budget, and deliverable. Usually stationed in the IT organization, the PMO is dedicated to running corporate programs such as CRM so project teams can concentrate on succinct deliverables while the PMO ties them all together.

CRM programs are business integration projects whose scope is often corporate-wide (similar to enterprise ERP or supply chain management initiatives). Because CRM is driven by business requirements and involves the integration of business processes with technology and data, its complexity and organizational reach is usually greater than the straightforward application. The PMO formalizes tried-and-true practices that can be applied to CRM implementation. This not only ensures consistency across projects in a program but can also provide consolidated status reporting, often to executives, affording a level of visibility CRM could never otherwise generate.

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