Sunday, June 20, 2010

Steps to Initiating CRM

A CRM initiative starts with top management taking a conscious decision towards customer orientation. Visualization of benefits should happen at this stage and should be articulated in the form of a value proposition. A discussion on CRM project’s value proposition is available here. The next step involves outlining business processes that will be impacted by CRM. As mentioned in an earlier post, the impact of CRM initiatives is not limited to the front end and customer facing processes only. While CRM applications have evolved and are industry focused and process oriented, the custom processes of the organization still need to be mapped to standard processes provided by CRM vendors. A process re-engineering team comprising of members from strategy, operations, IT and external CRM consultants should be formed at this stage to analyze custom business processes of the organization and provide clarity on the following:
1.      Time/Cost Estimates of the initiative
2.      Phasing approach (and identification of quick-win projects)
3.      Change management requirements
4.      Metrics to monitor progress/returns at every step
Subsequent to this, the CRM product vendor needs to be selected. Unlike purchasing a cell phone, where one learns after purchasing a feature rich phone first, subsequently realizes his unique needs and next time buys just the right one, CRM product selection is a one time activity unless the organization gets it completely wrong. Product vendors are aware of organizations’ penchant for features and would package numerous additional features highlighting discounts if bought as a bundle. Enterprise vendors would also bundle a few non CRM components for future opportunities. Organizations that fall into the trap may end up paying for features which they will never use. Results of the analysis phase should provide the framework within which the organization should commit its resources. A similar logic should be adopted while purchasing licenses. Organizations should however, ensure that product support and consulting from the vendor are included as part of the package as these are critical to the success of the initiative and will be costly if bought later.
The next step is to decide whether to develop the CRM application in-house or partner with a system integrator (SI). There are advantages and disadvantages of each approach which will be considered in a later post. Some key things should be considered while selecting the SI partner. Reputation and reliability are important because organizations will be exposing their customer strategy to the vendor, trust and mutual respect will play an important role in opening up and sharing knowledge. Good CRM SIs are costly because they employ technologists who in addition to understanding the unique business processes, are expected to understand the organizations customers. Being penny wise here will prove costly in the long run.
Once the organization has mapped out its business processes and selected the product and SI vendors, they are ready to create specific business requirements with help from product and SI vendor’s teams. 

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