Tips for making the CRM project team

With today's tight budgets, customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the few areas in which many businesses are planning to spend more. As such, plenty of IT professionals are looking to latch on to CRM projects. But how?

Because CRM is such a broad field, and because so many IT job titles are needed for a sizable project -- database administrators, network configuration experts, server administrators, remote communications specialists and systems administrators all contribute -- there's no foolproof approach. But experts say you can make your resume stand out in the following ways:

Request a tour of duty in a customer-facing operational area. With exposure to the sales, marketing or service departments, you can learn how real-world users, both internal and external, experience your company's CRM applications. "If you want to bet your career on CRM, this is invaluable," says Beth Eisenfeld, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

Seek "soft" skills training. Steve Weissman, an account manager at Management Recruiters/CompuSearch of Woodbury in Woodbury, N.Y., a division of Management Recruiters International Inc., says IT professionals seeking jobs on CRM teams should have specific technology skills but also develop soft skills through management and business-psychology courses, as well as project management certifications.

"If you want a career in CRM, get certified," stresses Paul Greenberg, executive vice president at Ayer, Mass.-based consultancy Live Wire Inc. and author of CRM at the Speed of Light (McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, 2001). More universities are now teaching CRM, he says. And some, including Baylor University in Waco, Texas, even offer MBAs in CRM.

Look for assignments that put you in touch with customers. When studying resumes for CRM positions, Weissman says he looks for candidates who have experience gathering requirements from internal users, turning them into specifications and then developing an application. "If the [career] ladder they progressed up had heavy client interaction, that's a big plus," he says.

It's important to note that even interaction with internal customers is deemed valuable training for the nascent CRM arena. "IT people have been dealing with customers for years, and they didn't even know they were doing CRM," Weissman says.

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