To succeed in the age of the customer, IT leaders that that support “front-office” business processes cannot afford failed technology initiatives. In recent blogs, I have been sharing the results of a recent survey of practioners to define and quantify the best practices for CRM success.  

Working in partnership with CustomerThink, Forrester collected opinions from more than 600 individuals who had been involved in a CRM technology project as a business professional in sales, marketing, customer service, or IT. Previously, I reported that our data show that CRM technology deployments require a balanced and multifaceted approach that addresses four critical fundamentals: process, people, strategy, and technology.

Notwithstanding the relative maturity of the CRM solutions available on the market today, more than one-third (35%) business and IT professionals that we surveyed report specific technology snares that you must navigate around.

The  top technology challenges to implementing a CRM solution include difficulties in consolidating customer data (45%); lack of the skill sets required to implement and support the solution (45%); poor usability of the CRM solution (34%); system performance shortfalls (32%); perceived functional deficiencies in vendor solutions (29%); and integration challenges (25%).  These can become key roadblocks to the effective use of CRM solutions to achieve better business outcomes.


What does this mean for you?

  • Pay attention to data quality management issues early in the project. Our clients tell us that they encounter obstacles with the migration, acquisition, cleanup and hygiene, normalization, and partitioning of data. A VP of enterprise services at a business services company told Forrester, “Uploading existing contact information was a problem. We had no previous standards, but the vendor’s staff helped solve this problem.” This problem is more prevalent for organizations with heavily customized legacy systems. Progressive companies are moving away from efforts focused on technology and after-the-fact customer data cleansing and are starting to manage and use customer data more proactively. An important step in this process is ensuring that data is consistent across varied sources.
  •  Beef up skill levels commensurate with new technologies. Survey respondents worry that their organizations lack the technical skills, product knowledge, and trained resources needed to implement and maintain their CRM solutions. For example, a senior advisor of healthcare strategies for a business services company told Forrester that “There was a fairly steep learning curve for the product.”
  • Use rigorous and comprehensive vendor evaluation criteria. Selecting CRM software means much more than evaluating feature/function lists. Organizations must spot deficiencies in vendor solution functionality but also understand the flexibility or lack thereof in the solution. An operations controller at a retail and wholesale trade company reported to Forrester: “The vendor features promised during the sales cycle were not fully implemented or working correctly at the time of system configuration.” And the director of CRM at a finance and insurance company said, “We anticipated more flexible sales tools that weren’t there.”

Traditionally, IT organizations have existed to support internal operations but in today’s world, the technology leaders must play a key role when it comes to delivering solutions that support better external customer experiences. With business partners in need of help, it’s up to technology leaders to help identify and deliver solutions that will give their companies a competitive edge.