IT takes bum rap for CRM failures

Companies burnt by failed CRM projects are blaming IT managers who are getting a "bum wrap".

CRM has too often been isolated from the business goals and seen only as a technology, responsibility for which is handed to the IT manager, according to Meta Group Australia senior program director for application delivery strategies, Michael Barnes.

Without a corporate framework in place for CRM objectives, and without senior management buy-in, Barnes said projects will inevitably fail.

"Viewing CRM as simply an application is a lazy view, the path of least resistance; it is a hard task to map business processes and have a high-level strategic view of a CRM project which means getting sales, IT and C-level executives involved," he said.

"Adding to the mix is the reality that there is no well-defined path between CRM and its return on investment, there is no linear link because soft issues come into play -- such as perception in terms of customer service."

Speaking at G-Force, the Genesys User Conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, the company's CEO and president Ad Nederlof, said CRM has been restricted to the technology sphere when customer satisfaction is a boardroom issue, sheeting blame for CRM's current predicament to CRM vendors.

"In the last week of the financial quarter, software companies generate 60 per cent of their revenue negotiating deals in that time to improve their bottom-line figures; they have to get out of this classic mindset," he said.

"Senior executives in companies that view CRM as a technology simply delegate it to the IT manager, because [the executives] don't like technology and don't feel a part of it; instead they just sign off on the project."

Nederlof said enterprises have to be organised around the customers, not internal departments, products or geography.

Genesys Australasia managing director James Brooks agreed, claiming IT is told to deploy CRM projects by C-level executives with high expectations, adding: "IT is left to make it work and is effectively left with a mission impossible."

Brooks said this mindset has contributed to bad publicity surrounding CRM and has made CEOs technology weary.

As a result he said CFOs are making it particularly hard for IT to get their business cases approved.

Customers first

Business has been in a cost-cutting frenzy for the past few years and is now operating at such lean levels that a new measure of success will emerge based on customer satisfaction.

As part of this process a new title, chief customer officer (CCO) will emerge, an execuitve who will be an advocate for customers, according to a discussion panel held at the Genesys User Conference G-Force 2002.

Supporting a value shift within organisations led by the CEO, panellists said the gap between company revenues and customer satisfaction is slowly closing.

Brooks said cost and efficiencies won't be the only measure of success as organisations focus on customer satisfaction to drive revenues.

This includes CEO reports to shareholders, covering customer satisfaction measures, and CCOs who will take responsibility for enterprise-wide CRM initiatives.

US-based Purdue University's centre for customer driven quality director of benchmark research Dr Jon Anton said CCOs already exist in the US, naming eBay as a high-profile example.

Panellists agreed that in the age of the 'customer economy', lack of support from senior management is still central to the high rate of CRM failures.

Companies are quick to list customer satisfaction in their top three business priorities, but senior management buy-in for CRM projects is still not a reality with disconnect between the organisation's vision and execution.

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