Ask the Right Question: How Do You Decide Who Owns the Technology?


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The question of who owns CRM is one that has been contemplated time and time again —with no definitive answer. Yet, it’s a fact that any major CRM initiative will face serious difficulties if there is not clear ownership of the key elements of a CRM project.

If IT owns the initiative and does not have a strong business sponsor, there is a risk that investment decisions will not be based on business return on investment but, instead, on other factors, such as the technological sophistication of the proposed software solution to be deployed.

Likewise, if “business” is the driver without IT involvement, people might choose software tools based on functionality without properly considering the impact of integration, whether it aligns with processes and fits with existing IT deployments.

In addition, the coordination of business stakeholders in marketing, sales and customer service can further complicate the goal of providing an integrated customer experience via CRM technology.

Among the CRM deployments I have been involved in, these issues are consistently present, and, depending on which camp wields the most influence, they can affect CRM success or failure.

More important than the question of who owns CRM is that of


you decide who owns CRM in your company. In my experience, the answer is


business and IT. A business lead from marketing, sales or service (or a CRM team with representation from each) must join with IT counterparts to champion this process and balance the challenges associated with such a major deployment.

This will ensure that the proper perspective is represented and ultimately embraced by users organization-wide. Given our success with CRM deployments within Global 2000 organizations, I offer a few scenarios outlining the roles and responsibilities of both business and IT that can go a long way toward helping ensure your CRM initiative’s success.

  • Within the business community, various components of CRM can be owned by different departments, but they, then, require a coordinated effort at integration.

    For example, marketing may own the customer database and direct marketing and campaign management components, while a sales and service organization owns the contact center or Sales Force Automation aspect. At U S WEST (now Qwest Communications), we created a CRM group staffed by marketing and sales and service to coordinate the development of integrated CRM functionality, which could then provide a cohesive set of CRM requirements to IT for implementation. As a result, we overhauled database marketing processes and technologies to drive 100 percent improvement in the volume and effectiveness of marketing campaigns, increasing customer service and expanding revenue opportunities.

  • A business-led team with executive management support should own the business case, business process and functional requirements. In other words, it’s the role of the business to define how the company will derive value from a CRM project. Keep in mind that it does not need to come from technology investments alone but can also come from process changes; compensation and incentive changes; and other factors. Business management must also articulate business requirements in enough detail to make sure the IT group knows what processes and functionality are most critical and which will result in the highest ROI.
  • IT needs to work in close collaboration with the executive management team, sales, customer service and marketing groups. Once the business case and ROI metrics are defined, IT must play a critical role in identifying the data and technology systems and align them accordingly. IT must also provide key input to the business case and help the business understand the cost side of the cost-benefit equation critical in achieving ROI.

    When there is a need to purchase new software, the IT organization must evaluate each option and address the impact to current technology architectures, ease of integration and the cost for ongoing support. At a major cruise-line (and longtime Adjoined client), the IT group owns and controls the overall CRM budget. However, recognizing the need for strong business sponsorship, the company developed a CRM steering committee consisting of marketing, sales and service executives to approve specific projects with defined ROI.

CRM initiatives address a variety of dilemmas confronting today’s growing companies: the burden of legacy systems, the inability of such deployments to support anticipated growth, the need to keep pace with growth and changing customer requirements, among others. In effect, the right CRM solution can solve these challenges and help associate it with a broadening customer base, an increase in product or service lines—and the migration and integration of data necessary for growth through mergers and acquisitions. With this in mind, it is imperative that both business and IT work in unison (or at the very least, they must own different, yet harmonious, aspects of the CRM initiative) to create a successful business.

So the question of who owns CRM may still arise each time an organization decides to implement a CRM initiative. However, if you consider my points above, your organization will know how to assign both business and IT necessary roles to create a successful implementation and achieve maximum results. By taking a balanced approach, both business and IT will jointly own every aspect of the CRM initiative, have an equal stake in its success and eliminate the possibility of a failed implementation.

John McCaffrey
Adjoined Consulting
John McCaffrey is managing officer at Adjoined Consulting, Inc., overseeing the Customer Value Management Practice of Adjoined's Strategy Services. McCaffrey has more than 14 years of industry and consulting experience advising senior executive management on the formulation and execution of strategic initiatives with a measurable impact on shareholder value.


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