Learning From The Same CRM Mistakes Made By Others
Learn From the Mistakes of Your Predecessors
One of the most painful parts of being an observer of CRM is that this vantage point allows you to see different companies repeating the same mistakes over and over again when selecting and implementing CRM software systems. Here's a few cheat sheet items that countless others have learned before you.
Talk to peers and other companies to understand the pitfalls they went through.
Ask your potential CRM vendor for some legitimate reference customers who can give them a warts-and-all view of the things that did not go as planned (the use of a LinkedIn group or another online community might lead to a more honest advisor than one provided by the CRM vendor).
Read plenty. There is a lot of material out on the Web that talks about these hazards in great detail.
If you arm yourself with an understanding of what can go wrong, you can chart a course to mitigate those repeated problems – or at least understand the source of the problem when you run up against it and be better prepared to deal with it.
A classic example is data migration. It seldom goes as smoothly as planned. The most common problem is dirty data. I was speaking to a customer service manager at a recent trade event about his company's implementation of a new CRM system. He liked the system and says it did everything he could have dreamed of and more, now that it was up and running after a delay. I asked the source of the delay, and 'Data migration' was his response. "We thought we could handle it all in-house. When the time came, though, it was a much bigger project than we thought. It just kept dragging on and on." Of course, this delayed the benefits that the new CRM platform promised to deliver, which made much of the rest of the business seriously cranky, and by that stage of the project it was impossible to shake loose additional resources to tackle the problem. Fortunately, once complete the CRM implementation performed better than expected and his career escaped with just a little bruise.
He was fortunate. There have been many people in charge of implementations who have underestimated the technical challenges of data migration and who have paid for it with their jobs. But they didn't have to – data migration is almost always a bigger hassle than it first appears, and if you know that going in you can budget extra time, talent and resources to tackle the potential problem head on. It pays to look around at the difficulties that have befallen others if you don't want them to fall on you.
To overlook the obstacles that have failed other CRM initiatives requires you to essentially block out the world outside your company – to be inward-focused, or business-centric. Right there, you have the most obvious symptom of an upcoming CRM system failure. If you can't be outward-focused during the implementation process toward peer examples and lessons learned, how will you be outward-focused on customers once the CRM application is in place? I believe these are symptoms of the same problem. It would be interesting to correlate the degree of perceived CRM success companies have against the difficulties during implementation – especially when those difficulties are the same old obstacles that have tripped up so many before them. Of course, this would require a degree of honesty that is not plausible – and a degree of self-awareness that would have probably helped dodge these issues in the first place.
One of my favorite sayings is that a wise man learns from his own mistakes, but a wiser man learns from the mistakes of others. There are few areas where that idea is more true than in CRM deployments.