When a customer relationship management (CRM) implementation fails to meet expected ROI and business objectives, CIOs and IT departments are often held responsible. At Gartner’s CRM Summit 2000, currently underway in Chicago, industry analysts note that “through 2004, 55 percent of CRM initiatives will fail to meet measurable benefit objectives and will fail to affect positively the ROI due to lack of ongoing measurements.”

CIOs and IT strategists feel the heat for botched implementations because many organizations view CRM only as a technology and not as a business strategy. However, Gartner analyst Beth Eisenfeld said that rarely do the projects surrounding an implementation fail because of problems with the technology.

Don’t breathe easy yet
CIOs and IT strategists shouldn’t count themselves out of the CRM implementation. Gartner predicts that CIOs and IT strategists may be taking on new organizational roles. A recent trend in many organizations is the creation of a customer relationship management officer (CRMO). The job of the CRMO is to keep CRM projects on track and to ensure that all the projects combine seamlessly into a total CRM application. “This high-level officer has the responsibility to maintain and manage the entire CRM strategy,” said Gartner analyst Colleen Amuso.

According to Gartner, the CRMO role will often go to the CIO, making the CIO involved in all areas of the organization’s corporate culture.

The CRMO must interact with executives and project managers across the organization, ensuring that the process of CRM implementation meets predefined business objectives, and navigating the politics that exist between departments.

The political environment of an organization can often stifle a CRM implementation. “CRM is a real political hotbed in any organization,” said Gartner analyst Scott Nelson in his keynote address on the first day of CRM Summit 2000. The political lines a CRMO or CIO must cross before implementation often involve who owns the customer, (sales, marketing, etc) and who will ultimately take the blame if the implementation fails. In addition, political roadblocks occur because customer needs have not been factored into a CRM strategy and the organization’s business model.

Your CRM game plan
Gartner provides a comprehensive CRM implementation strategy that CRMOs and CIOs can follow to bring the customer forward in the business process:

  • Strategize
  • Evaluate
  • Execute
  • Manage

The strategy phase answers the question, “What’s the point of the project?” said Amuso, who emphasized that careful planning must be a part of the first phase for the rest of the strategy to be successful. Brainstorming and help in this phase can come from internal and external sources. In some cases, vendors and service providers can aid an organization at this level.

The evaluation phase includes allocating resources for the project and an overall streamlining of the implementation process. “You have to allocate resources: time, budget, and people,” said Nelson. “Theoretically it would be nice to just devote the money, buy the system, bring on the people, and get it done. But CRM is not going to happen unless resources are specifically allocated for CRM.”

After an organization standardizes the evaluation process and determines which criteria in the organization are important, the execution phase can begin. Execute the work plan, implement the pilot and modified solution, and fine-tune benefit and return on investment (ROI) metrics based on pilot results. This is the heart of the project and requires critical monitoring of process design and change management. Execution works if it happens in small stages. “The organizations that are succeeding have broken down [CRM] into bite-size projects,” said Amuso.

The management phase includes subsequent upgrades and replacement planning. It is the management phase that often is overlooked said Amuso. “Really, the project itself to a certain extent doesn’t end. CRM is a moving target,” she said. CRM, once in place, still needs to be managed so each department’s piece of the solution continues to fit into the overall strategy.