Think About CRM – What’s Changed in 10 Years?


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This article was first published at where I am a regular blogger.

Has CRM really developed in the last 10 years?

Almost ten years ago, I designed and then implemented a new sales and marketing management tool within the company I was then working. For those of you interested in the technical details, this tool worked within Lotus Notes (the company’s communication platform at the time), accommodated 6 languages including Cyrillic and Latin scripts and was fully integrated into the legacy accounting systems of the company.

An additional module was developed to link the tool to our planning department so that when sales calls were made, our teams would know about available manufacturing capacity. Finally I developed an additional interactive sales tool linking to the system that provided our sales force with 6 variables they could manipulate (e.g. cycle time, manufacture date, quantity, price) on any sales call to get the sale.

It was, in my humble opinion, a thing of beauty. We could look, real-time (or at least on-line because this was in the days before ADSL/broadband) at sales vs. targets for all our clients and numerous other KPIs and management metrics that we defined as we developed the tool.

Anyone with a modicum of experience in CRM will know what’s coming next. We implemented the tool trained everyone and started using the system. Within 12 months use was limited to planning, marketing and finance. 12 months later, we abandoned the solution altogether as the company changed the enterprise platform to Windows and our Lotus Notes programs could not be redesigned to fit.

While thinking about this recently, I wondered if anything has really changed in the world of CRM since then. I questioned if the mistakes we made in developing our CRM tool still prevent effective adoption when we are all much more programmed to use web and online applications as a matter of course.

What were those mistakes? Here’s why I think our system failed:

  1. Sales did not get involved in system design. Implementing our CRM system was driven by the marketing team. Our objectives were not the same as sales, yet we expected them to get involved and spend time inputting data and entries into the system. While we had mapped out the sales process, we totally underestimated that recording data in a prescribed manner would totally change the way that sales worked.
  2. Legacy data that was input to the system was insufficient. While we tried to import and integrate as much legacy data possible into the system from the start, it was not as clean as it should have been which created frustration with users. One or two stray pieces of data in the wrong hands resulted in the CRM tool getting a bad press from day one.
  3. The CEO and CFO were not seen to be using the system. Senior management buy-in to any major change program is essential. Without leadership from the top no one else will follow. We had hoped that once the CEO saw the benefits of the management accounting that the system offered, he would lead from the front. This might have worked had the CFO used the new management accounts available within the system instead of presenting reports generated by the finance team ‘based on’ the CRM data.
  4. We did not have a great enough emphasis on inbound sales. Our sales team failed to see the value from the system because it did not do enough to help them by providing inbound sales leads and opportunities. The sales team did not perceive the system as helping them to drive revenue. Instead, they saw it as a management tool that intruded in the relationships that they had developed with their customers.

I have no doubt that there are many more reasons why CRM implementations fail.

What are the lessons learned here?

  • Alignment in developing any CRM system is key. Even though we had process mapped the whole of our business in developing the CRM system, process mapping and reality are often very different things. We should have aligned more closely with the objectives of other departments and functions we wanted to engage in the system.
  • In any situation of change remember WIIFM. We failed to gain the trust of all the potential users of the system by demonstrating to them what was in it for them. No-one will change their behavior until they really believe in the benefits for themselves and trust that the change has not been implemented to monitor them. With finance and sales as partners who needed to buy into the project not supporting the change, we were bound to fail.
  • Ease of use, not functionality will drive use. This is a development of the above point. If in developing the tool I can find a way to reduce the workload on people it is more likely they will use it. I still believe that the functionality we developed in our system was top notch – but it did not necessarily make reporting easier for the users.
  • In business revenue is everything. Any CRM system has to be seen very clearly to drive revenue. Users did not immediately see that our system would deliver revenue. As a result they could not see the benefit in compliance and adoption. Explaining how the system will deliver value and revenue should be the number one priority.

I have posted regularly about how CRM can drive customer loyalty. That is a very honorable objective, but purely theory if I cannot get my own team to use the system. Have you got a solution for this that you want to share?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Kohn
Results driven, inspirational innovator with extensive global experience. Blue-chip experience in FMCG, B2B & professional services. Respected for delivering actionable & game changing business solutions across all aspects of a commercial operation.


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