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Six major impediments to change and how to overcome them in CRM (and politics)

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3rd Jun 2001
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As most of you will know, we've been running a survey over the last month to try and get an understanding of how the industry is going about implementing CRM, the objectives of CRM projects, how well they're doing, and the primary causes of failure to achieve benefit.

We stopped gathering data a week ago, with nearly 900 responses, and have now started on the process of analysing the data. It will be some time before we have the formal report from the survey, but I couldn't resist having a look at the results from one of the more interesting survey questions: If your CRM program does not produce the expected benefits, what do you regard as the main reason?

The pie chart below summarises the findings from the around 700 CRM practitioners from client-side companies, CRM suppliers, and consultants who answered this question. Click here for a more detailed analysis of the responses.

Causes of failure to achieve CRM benefits

The pie chart clearly demonstrates that the biggest issues preventing the delivery of benefit are the political issues: getting over the company politics and inertia and implementing the required organisational change. Together, these two factors are quoted as the major cause of failure by 50% of respondents. These two political issues are closely followed by skills / know-how issues, with a lack of CRM understanding and a lack of CRM skills being quoted by over 25% of respondents.

Only then do we see the more traditional causes of project failure - poor planning (12%) and budget constraints (4%) - being flagged. No other individual problem area was identified by more than 2.5% of the respondents, so we need not consider further causes.

Before we go on to explore what we can do to minimise the risk of failure in these areas, I'd like to broaden the discussion. Here in the UK, we are in the midst of a general election to appoint a new government. The current government, led by Tony Blair, looks likely to be re-elected, although the general public appear disappointed with its performance over the last four years since it was elected. Its previous manifesto promised significant improvements in the areas of public health (the National Health Service), education, and transport (particularly the railways). All of these services are quite frankly awful, not up to the standards of our European neighbours, and the general opinion appears to be that they have deteriorated over the last 4 years rather than improved.

In an hour's prime-time television last week, dedicated to questions directly from members of the public to Tony Blair, these areas came up again and again, and Mr Blair's response in every case pointed to a lack of money. In brief his argument was that his first period in government was spent stabilising the economy, and only now were the tax revenues coming through which could sort out public services. We can expect to see significant investment in all these areas over his next period in government that will sort the problems out.

There may well have been shortages of revenue in the last four years, but I remain unconvinced that throwing money at problems solves them, and the survey responses outlined above suggest that lack of budget is not a major cause of CRM project failure. Now of course you could argue that it is not a major cause because such projects are well funded. We'll have to wait for more detailed analysis of the survey to see if that's true, but my personal experience is that there is often an inverse correlation between size of budget and likelihood of success. The most successful CRM projects I have been involved in have had small budgets. Is there any similarity between CRM projects and Mr Blair's tasks? Well he himself says that the issues in the National Health, in transport, and maybe even in education are about the adoption of new technology and new ways of doing things, which is precisely what we're trying to do in CRM. I fear that in another four years we may be looking at a government which has invested significant sums into these three areas and yet again has failed to deliver the benefits.

So how should Mr Blair (or a CRM program manager) go about avoiding the major risks of failing to deliver benefit? Let's look at the following major issues identified by our respondents:
- Organisational change (29%)
- Company politics / inertia (22%)
- Lack of CRM understanding (20%)
- Poor planning (12%)
- Lack of CRM skills (6%)
- Budget problems (4%)

Major ways we have used to minimise the risk in each of these areas are outlined below:

Organisational change / Company politics & inertia:

I hesitate to try and advise Mr Blair in these areas. He's the politician, so I hope he could help us. However, within our CRM scope, there seems little doubt that this is the hardest issue to deal with, and it is sometimes impossible to crack. If possible, don't try and change an existing organisation, start a new one!!

If such an approach is ruled out, then maybe the following will help:

  • Make sure that your project sponsor comes from as high up the organisation as possible. If the project sponsor is not at CEO or board director level, then think carefully before you commit to the project.
  • Appoint a program manager with the right skills to manage the program (not a CRM enthusiast but a politician), including management of stakeholders, benefits, issue and risk management, and change management to name a few.
  • Appoint a cross-functional steering group / change management group to build the consensus for implementing the required change.

This will give you the right sort of structure to run your CRM program and we hope to publish more documents on how you run those programs in the near future.

Lack of CRM understanding / Lack of CRM skills:

The first and most important thing - recognise this is a problem if it is. There is very limited significant CRM expertise in the world, and there are large numbers of CRM projects going on, so expect to have limited expertise in this area. If you do, then plan your program appropriately. Some of the actions you can take:

  • Make sure that you have regular input from one or more CRM practitioners throughout your project, especially at key points, and put in place a skills transfer program to build those skills in-house.
  • Make sure you are building your CRM business skills in parallel with your CRM technology base, and using those skills to deliver tangible benefits from each project phase. Think big, but start small. Have an overall strategic framework, but deliver it through a number of small steps, and check at the end of each step that you have learnt the lessons from that step and transferred the relevant CRM skills. Expect your strategic framework to develop and change as your skills and expertise builds.

Poor planning:

Well, what can one say? Surely we know by now that if you want a project to go well you have to plan. A quote from Sun Tzu, 'The Art of War', courtesy of Jennifer Kirkby of Gartner: "Conquerors estimate before the war begins. They consider everything. The defeated also estimate before the war, but they do not consider everything. Estimating completely creates victory. Estimating incompletely causes failure."

Budget problems:

If you've been following this editorial so far, you'll realise that this shouldn't be the issue. If you are taking small steps in a strategic framework, you won't be asking for large sums of money, and you'll be proving the benefits as you go, by delivering tangible, quantifiable benefits from each phase.

Well, I hope that helps any CRM program managers among you to keep your project on the straight and narrow, and if Mr Blair's listening, maybe we'll spend less on improving the UK's National Health Service, educational system, and railways, and achieve more in the next few years.

For a more detailed exploration of some of the issues raised in this editorial, see my earlier piece on CRM pitfalls to avoid

If you have any comments or feedback, you can add them to this article - or simply email me at: [email protected]

Best regards,

Richard Forsyth

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Replies (8)

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avatar
By admin
06th Jun 2001 03:43

My comment is a question. If the survey was taken on implemented solution. Then

What software products ??
How long has the been project been installed or implemented ??

It would very interesting if you had the same survey on companies looking at installing a CRM Solution and if they understand what CRM is ??

I meet alot of company who do not know what CRM is or stands for.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By CRMFeedback
06th Jun 2001 09:34

I just read "The Cause of failure to achieve CRM benefit".

From the info. that provided --

more than 80% of the causes considers as internal factor - organisational
change, company politics, lack of CRM undrestanding, poor planning, lack
of CRM skills.

less than 15% of the causes considers as external factor - software
problems, bad advice, others.

It has confirmed that areas need to be prepared and overcome first are
right in its backyard - the organisational culture and politics, better
planning and budgeting and get more understanding and skills about CRM.

All stakeholders - start from management( all levels), staffs( all levels),
shareholders need to be responsed and acted in the same way - to prepare
themself for that.

For having overcome "the internal factor", it would help them to achieve
CRM benefits and increase percentage for more than 50% - 80%.

The answer or success in achieving CRM benefits are lied on the
organisation itself in term of determination and the willingness to be
there. As the external factor only contributes less than 15% compare with
more than 80% from internal factor. for example:

- Comparing the change for CRM in organisation with the change of the
activities in the human body i.e. to lose some weight, stop smoking and so
on. He/she must make the personal decision about that - set goal and
organise things - exercise,diet and so on. And that needs the co-operation
of the whole body - arms, legs, mouth and so on.

Implementing CRM need a greater cooperation from all stakeholders and not
just some. So the possible main obsticle is not outside the organisation
but rather inside the organisation itself - all the stakeholders need to
act and response in the same direction as one body, one aim.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By r.forsyth
06th Jun 2001 09:39

Peter,

We'll have to wait for the full results of the survey to know what state respondents' CRM implementations are in. We're probably a few weeks away from that, but I promise you we'll be publishing much more on the survey results.

I agree that many companies do not completely understand what CRM is, and I think that is reflected in our suvey results - 20% saying that lack of CRM understanding is causing difficulties, and that could well be an under-estimate.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By r.forsyth
14th Jun 2001 13:42

There is something that just crossed my mind - is it
not the "US-Marines 7P rule" that apply in all CRM
cases/programmes/project ?

"Proper Planing Prior, Prevents Painfully Poor
Perfomance"
This acctually what it's all about, or...???

Here is another one for you - when we all are tossing
around three-letter buzzwords...
CRM+PRM+ERM = CSBM (Common Sence Business Management)

Thanks (0)
avatar
By r.forsyth
14th Jun 2001 13:42

There is something that just crossed my mind - is it
not the "US-Marines 7P rule" that apply in all CRM
cases/programmes/project ?

"Proper Planing Prior, Prevents Painfully Poor
Perfomance"
This acctually what it's all about, or...???

Here is another one for you - when we all are tossing
around three-letter buzzwords...
CRM+PRM+ERM = CSBM (Common Sence Business Management)

Thanks (0)
avatar
By admin
06th Jun 2001 03:43

My comment is a question. If the survey was taken on implemented solution. Then

What software products ??
How long has the been project been installed or implemented ??

It would very interesting if you had the same survey on companies looking at installing a CRM Solution and if they understand what CRM is ??

I meet alot of company who do not know what CRM is or stands for.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By CRMFeedback
06th Jun 2001 09:34

I just read "The Cause of failure to achieve CRM benefit".

From the info. that provided --

more than 80% of the causes considers as internal factor - organisational
change, company politics, lack of CRM undrestanding, poor planning, lack
of CRM skills.

less than 15% of the causes considers as external factor - software
problems, bad advice, others.

It has confirmed that areas need to be prepared and overcome first are
right in its backyard - the organisational culture and politics, better
planning and budgeting and get more understanding and skills about CRM.

All stakeholders - start from management( all levels), staffs( all levels),
shareholders need to be responsed and acted in the same way - to prepare
themself for that.

For having overcome "the internal factor", it would help them to achieve
CRM benefits and increase percentage for more than 50% - 80%.

The answer or success in achieving CRM benefits are lied on the
organisation itself in term of determination and the willingness to be
there. As the external factor only contributes less than 15% compare with
more than 80% from internal factor. for example:

- Comparing the change for CRM in organisation with the change of the
activities in the human body i.e. to lose some weight, stop smoking and so
on. He/she must make the personal decision about that - set goal and
organise things - exercise,diet and so on. And that needs the co-operation
of the whole body - arms, legs, mouth and so on.

Implementing CRM need a greater cooperation from all stakeholders and not
just some. So the possible main obsticle is not outside the organisation
but rather inside the organisation itself - all the stakeholders need to
act and response in the same direction as one body, one aim.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By r.forsyth
06th Jun 2001 09:39

Peter,

We'll have to wait for the full results of the survey to know what state respondents' CRM implementations are in. We're probably a few weeks away from that, but I promise you we'll be publishing much more on the survey results.

I agree that many companies do not completely understand what CRM is, and I think that is reflected in our suvey results - 20% saying that lack of CRM understanding is causing difficulties, and that could well be an under-estimate.

Thanks (0)