Enterprise CRM: 5 Considerations

Updated: November 23, 2009

CRM is a fact of life at most mid-size and larger enterprises. In fact, at many such companies, there are multiple CRM solutions in use across multiple departments and groups. In addition, CRM solution vendors are constantly trumpeting new features and options designed to appeal to IT and business decision-makers at these companies. This raises numerous questions for those decision-makers: How best to decide what solutions and features make the most business sense? How best to deploy and manage CRM to maximize the value and consistency of its business benefits?

Below are five considerations intended to help decision-makers at larger enterprises achieve these goals.

Consideration 1: The Fewer Solutions, the Better

In some cases, the only thing worse than no solution is too many solutions. Where CRM is concerned, multiple disjoint solutions can result in inconsistent, mismanaged marketing, sales and support efforts, disgruntled customers and partners, and reduced sales and revenues.

If there are numerous CRM solutions in use at your enterprise, it should be a primary, immediate goal to reduce that number, preferably to one. This will avoid the above-mentioned challenges, improve company agility and responsiveness, and improve IT-business alignment, since CRM is an IT-empowered solution. CRM decision-makers should use the remaining considerations discussed below to frame an approach to choosing which solution(s) to keep and which to replace. Those decision-makers should also ensure to involve affected users in every stage of the decision-making process, and to reassure them that any changes to be made will result in benefits and not detriments to those users and their professional performance.

Consideration 2: Integrate, Integrate, Integrate

To maximize its effectiveness and business value, your chosen CRM solution must be integrated with other relevant applications, such as those for SFA, ERP (enterprise resource planning) and marketing automation. Your designated CRM solution must also be integrated with whatever business intelligence and analytics tools your enterprise uses, and with key financial and operations applications where they exist. And while you're reducing the number of CRM solutions in place, those remaining must be integrated with one another sufficiently to ensure that, to paraphrase a recent U.S. president, "no customer is left behind."

Consideration 3: Customization Is Key

Cynical observers like to point out that every business and individual is unique - just like every other business and individual. While true, this is also incredibly important to the success of CRM across an enterprise. To the extent that a CRM solution deviates from what have become embedded practices and traditions at a company, that solution risks inconsistent adoption and use that will limit its effectiveness and value.

A key tool to help avoid these problems is customization. CRM solutions that make it easy to integrate company-specific processes, terminology, workflows and even logos and other images are more likely to be used more consistently by more people. Ideally, your chosen CRM solution should enable sufficient customization to maximize adoption, minimize training and support requirements, and optimize alignment with business goals and integration with other key IT-empowered resources.

Consideration 4: Drive Toward Total Adoption

Consolidation and elimination of multiple solutions, integration with other resources and customization are each important considerations individually. In addition, they are important collectively, as each can and should be used to drive complete, consistent adoption of your enterprise's chosen CRM solution. Inconsistent adoption is one of the most common impediments to maximizing the business value of CRM investments.

To combat this major challenge may require additional efforts on the part of those implementing and promoting the CRM solution. Two of the most critical such efforts are the support of senior management and payment-related incentives and mandates. In short, no sales or customer support efforts conducted "outside" of the designated CRM solution should be eligible for commissions. Since no salesperson wants to be denied any commissions, this approach can help to achieve the complete adoption necessary for success. Senior management support in this area can contribute significantly to this goal, the importance of which is difficult if not impossible to overstate.

Consideration 5: Focus on Measurable, Repeatable and Scalable Business Benefits

In addition to the above considerations, to maximize the adoption and business value of CRM, your organization must demonstrate clear and credible business benefits. This means your chosen CRM solution must support sufficiently powerful and flexible information gathering and reporting to help you to know for whom and how well it's working, and where and for whom it's not. Your chosen solution should also allow you to choose to use its included reporting features, to integrate with other incumbent reporting tools or both. The goal is to translate CRM efforts into results that can be measured, repeated, scaled and explained easily to others -preferably with no or very little "slideware" required.

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