The Unintentional Killing of CRM

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Over my last fifteen years of facilitating CRM implementations, there are two programs that have been the unintentional death of CRM within many organizations:

OUTLOOK
In their efforts to implement a corporate calendar, increase mobility of CRM data, or simply to placate user’s demands, many organizations implement some sort of integration between their CRM system and Microsoft Outlook for the synching of calendars and contacts. Often, this integration is clunky (a technical term for bloated and difficult to use) and fraught with issues.

While integrating the CRM and Outlook seems logical, after all everyone knows how to use Outlook, it ends up dismantling the CRM system at the core. Users usually take the path of least resistance, and that path is usually Outlook. While companies may spend hundreds of hours configuring their CRM system to ensure data integrity, Outlook is the wild-wild west of data.



Add to this the fact that most calendar items in Outlook are not linked to a contact, and the fact that the only contact information available in the CRM system is name, address, phone and email, and you are back in the stone age of CRM.

In an enterprise wide CRM system, contact information is only a small portion of the data available. Opportunities, historic sales, contact history, and service tickets usually round out the remainder of the data; all of which is not available in Outlook.

EXCEL
Excel is the next big killer of CRM. Were Outlook is the wild-wild west of contact data, Excel is the wild-wild west of databases. Excel, while originally meant to be an accounting application, quickly morphed from accounting to an easy database application for the general population. A quick Google search reveals that Excel is used for everything from organizing meal planning to maintaining a family mailing list.

This happens in business as well: A sales manager may require sales people to submit a weekly call report in Excel. An enterprising marketing director maintains email lists in fifteen different Excel files. Actually, I could list over a hundred different Excel “databases” that I have run into over the last 15 years that have been created in addition to the CRM implemented within an organization.

Why is Excel a problem? First, Excel is usually implemented without any concerns for data normalization or standardization. Second, Excel is not multi-user (only one user may modify the data at a time). And finally, Excel is not easy to report upon (multiple Excel files are just that, multiple files, if you wish to report on the data in the multiple files, you must combine the files into one).

If you find yourself needing Excel to augment or simplify your CRM, you may need to review your CRM system, and/or your processes.



CONCLUSION

Ultimately, anything you do to make data available in other places, or to “augment” ultimately frustrates your users, requires duplication of entry and results in bad data. If you want your CRM to succeed, you must reign in the use of Outlook and Excel.

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