Customer relationship management (CRM) started as a sleepy little business initiative. Enterprises intuitively recognized CRM’s importance, but they didn’t give it much focus. Then, a few years ago, a general CRM movement began to gather steam. The movement not only preached that the customer was king (which is an old concept) but also brought together the business processes, software packages, and compelling value propositions into a critical mass that allowed the entire marketplace to explode. Focusing on the customer wasn’t just the right thing to do. It was also the way to drive customer loyalty and increase sales volume and profit.

My company also caught the CRM wave. In this, and three subsequent articles, I’ll describe the process we went through to deploy the CRM software. The name of the CRM vendor will remain anonymous. This is not because it did anything wrong. In fact, in general, we like what we have. However, I don’t want the articles to turn into a commercial endorsement. The purpose of this case study is simply to relate an experience that may help you in a similar situation, whether you’re deploying a CRM package or some other major packaged solution.

What we needed
CRM refers to the tools and processes used to identify potential new customers and retain current customers. For our CRM implementation, we were particularly interested in enabling the sales organization with sales force automation, contact management, and opportunity management. Our marketing organization was interested in campaign management (tracking responses and costs from marketing campaigns through the sales cycle).

Other users in the organization, such as our professional services staff, wanted to be able to browse customer information to keep up to date with developments on their accounts. Although features such as telemarketing and customer care and some aspects of ERP can also be included in a full CRM solution, we were not implementing those capabilities in this project. I should also note that the CRM tool would be used internally by our company sales, marketing, and professional services staff. It wouldn’t have forward-facing components that require direct interaction with our customers.

It all starts with careful analysis … not!
A fairly well-defined process is available for selecting and implementing packaged solutions. You start by creating a value proposition or return on investment (ROI), and then you gather business requirements, create a long list of potential solutions, issue Request for Proposals to gather more detailed information, and narrow the field down to a short list. At that point, you may look at the top-two finalists in great detail, including running pilot tests and negotiating a contract.

On our project, however, this process was deliberately short-circuited. Our division president had some background in CRM packages, and he basically made the decision on which one to purchase. The decision wasn’t made lightly but was based on insights he had about our company and the CRM marketplace. His logic went something like this:

  • We were not going to be able to afford the license price and implementation costs of the top CRM vendors.
  • Our sales and marketing processes and customer interactions were not very sophisticated or complex and did not need to be so.
  • Most of the CRM packages that target middle-tier companies like ours will probably meet 80 percent of our needs.
  • A company we recently acquired had a prior relationship with a particular CRM vendor.
  • This CRM vendor was ranked respectably by Gartner, in terms of the features and functionality it offered vs. the license price.

Based on this analysis, the division president decided to purchase a CRM package from this vendor. All of us recognized that the selection process introduced some inherent risk in the deployment project, but from the standpoint of the division president, this was an intelligent risk.

Working with what we were given
By the time I first heard about the project, the vendor was chosen and the software was in the process of being purchased. The division president then challenged us to do the implementation as soon as possible.

In future articles, I’ll describe how we accomplished the CRM implementation, and I’ll share some of the lessons we learned that may be applicable to projects you manage.

Project management veteran Tom Mochal is director of internal development at a software company in Atlanta. Most recently, he worked for the Coca-Cola Company, where he was responsible for deploying, training, and coaching the IS division on project management and life-cycle skills. He’s also worked for Eastman Kodak and Cap Gemini America and has developed a project management methodology called TenStep.

Are you trying to get more from your customer relationships?

Have you been part of a CRM implementation? Was your package evaluation process handled as well as it could be? Send us an e-mail with your opinion and suggestions or post a comment below.