CRM war of words

There's not one single deployment of enterprise CRM in Australia - in the true sense.

These fighting words were uttered recently by Mark Camilleri, formerly managing director of CRM supplier Onyx Software and now strategy director with CRM rival Graham Technology. He reckons that in terms of bad news CRM will be the next ERP, as stories emerge of millions of dollars spent without appropriate business benefits realised.

I'm not 100 per cent clear on what enterprise CRM ‘true sense' means, other than to repeat press release-type spiel about a customer-facing system that works across all channels and interfaces seamlessly with all transactional and operational systems.

Some may say his assertion is crap. Mark loves to hurl unkind words such as the ‘fat five' at the major consultancies operating in the CRM space.

I have also heard the laments of CIOs who find stitching together a CRM ‘solution' really isn't a single vendor exercise. And claims from other CRM players such as Stay-in-Front, out of New Zealand, that the architecture of the majors' solutions make them fundamentally out of scale and too cumbersome to be a cost-effective fit for most Australian organisations. Now this seems perfectly plausible.

Gartner's recent survey of 697 Asia-Pacific enterprises with more than 250 employees suggests that trouble in CRM looms. The research firm reckons that spending on CRM in our region suffers from chronic under-budgeting of the services component of their projects. This may be throwing petrol on the fire of Camilleri's ‘fat five' jibes, but Gartner figures on a spend of ‘between one and five services dollars per one software dollar' as being a realistic.

It contrasts this ‘reality' with IT budget breakdowns marking 38 per cent for software, 29 per cent for hardware, 19 per cent for services, and 14 per cent for internal development. Gartner also stated that for CRM, 42 per cent of organisations prefer to integrate best-of-breed products, 31 per cent would build the solution internally, 19 per cent would prefer a prepackaged suite, and only 8 per cent would use an ASP model.

Budgeting is one issue but the bigger problem seems to be a lack of acceptance of CRM as a strategic business investment. Only 50 per cent of Gartner respondents said their organisations had such a strategic view.

The challenge of getting the message up the line and out through the various divisions is currently being experienced by the likes of Mark Wright, general manager of IT for Boral, who notes varying degrees of understanding throughout the enterprise and the associated need for business and organisational change.

The vendors will always love baiting each other. What's your CRM reality?

David_Beynon@idg.com.au.

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