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Tear Down The Silicon Wall

On a fairly regular basis I get asked to work with organizations that are unhappy with their CRM programs. They want to know why they cannot achieve what they were led to believe was going to be possible. So, we go in and conduct an examination of a number of factors, many of which are common culprits. The things we typically find that get in the way are mostly involving the lack of a sound CRM strategy, insufficient management consensus on what the program should achieve, varying usability issues that drive poor adoption, and then there is the IT function.

If you take a look at the research reports provided by the industry analysts you will see different studies that show a common set of factors that continuously compromise CRM programs. We also repeatedly find the same set of factors, with one exception, that being the last item on the list above. I have never seen the IT function listed in these reports because it is politically incorrect. The analyst firms are completely underwritten by IT subscribers and the technology companies that they are analyzing. You can’t bite the hands that feed you.

But I ask the question, is your IT department playing a gatekeeper role with regard to your CRM system? Is there a shroud of mystique veiling what your system can and cannot do? Are you limited by a silicon curtain?

Please don’t send hate mail. I am not on a personal crusade against the IT function. I have family and friends that reside there. However, it is very important for this strategic business function to be fully aware of when they are serving as a source or the source of limitations to the efficacy of a very critical business solution. In other words, if IT is causing some of the problems, they need to own up to it. I do see this situation arising on a more common frequency than you might believe.

How does this come about? I have seen multiple reasons. Most commonly this is the result of insufficient skill and resources. The folks in IT are asked to do more than they are capable of and they have simply given up on saying no. A worse variation of this is the under resourced team that won’t admit that they can’t handle the task. Many times the IT function is asked to run the CRM program and they run it as a technology project, not recognizing the heavy business and organizational requirements involved. Implementing CRM is not like implementing Outlook - it requires an immense amount of business context.

Some IT functions want to keep the CRM system from getting too hard to manage and support, so the philosophy is to contain it. Supporting the business takes a back seat to managing the application. There are also functions that waste cycles in turf wars with the business or the implementation vendor. Politics get in the way of producing a good solution. These last two scenarios are not as common as the former situations, but when we run into them they can be the most devastating to the effectiveness of the program and hardest to correct.

Once again, this set of observations is meant to be constructive. I have never met a CIO or Director of Applications that was intent on sabotaging the success of a CRM program. But, while this may not be driven willfully, the effects are still the same – CRM investments are compromised. IT has a tough challenge with the mission to both support the business and also serve as the steward of the company’s technology assets. Optimizing the assets can sometimes appear to get in the way of serving and maintaining the correct balance is performed on the edge of a razor. Awareness is the important thing. Keeping the dialogue going with the business is the key. Don’t let that tough project status meeting you just returned from become another brick in the wall.

Pigeon Wall

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