Connecting CRM with the enterprise

By | June 4, 2012
I do think that a big part missing from modern CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems is the connection between CRM as a front end and the rest of the company. But even this solution is not perfect – although it is a better start than most solutions currently offer. The biggest flaws I see are:

1. The connection needs to go both ways. A business ecosystem forms when communication builds between a customer and a company – including the operative elements behind the scenes. Collecting customer input is only one side of the balance; a truely effective solution echoing the business ecosystem model requires going in the other direction as well, automatically pushing important responses back to the customer as quickly as possible and without a human link when it isn't necessary (for example, status updates on an order).

2. Navigating the sprawl of information. Creating hundreds of communities, one for each project and one for each collection of documents is extremely hard to maintain an overview of. Sure, employees will remember the projects that they work on a daily basis, but not projects which they only occasionally use. The search box isn't necessarily reliable – even with search, it is easy to miss something important or relevant. There needs to be a better way for users to categorize information in a way that fits their working style – sort of the way Google+ circles allow a multitude of different usage patterns.

3. Analysing qualitative information. What does all that social information mean? What emerging trends can we recognize from the quantitative data? When I recall correctly, there is some hidden tagcloud option that may help to identify the biggest trends across all projects, but this does not go down to the level of individual requests. Analysis at both scales could be very valuable.

I also believe that it isn't just CRM that needs to be connected to daily enterprise operations. The same goes for any other business subsystem, be it accounting, supply chain, tracking, or support. And as the systems continue to merge, we are going to see the business ecosystem become considerably more effective, efficient, and connected.

Reshared post from +Stefan Pfeiffer

Social Selling mit SugarCRM und IBM Connections

3 thoughts on “Connecting CRM with the enterprise

  1. Michael Kelly

    +Sophie Wrobel "in the case of the former, CRM is being introduced primarily as a new measurement tool, not primarily a sales driver"

    That is part of the problem that I hope is changing, though I have seen and heard many organizations using CRM as primarily a measuring stick.  That is unfortunate, because CRM is at the core something that enables sales.

    CRM is essential to even the smallest sales team, because it helps prevent waste and improve efficiency.  The promises made by CRM even in the midst of the hype, were completely real.   The problem is that no matter how effective a tool is, if people do not use it – or take advantage of the value….they lose some or all of the benefits of having the tool in the first place.

    I believe that most CRM companies are indeed now rightfully focusing on usability by users, but this was not always the case.   And it is understandable that the feature sets that were focused on were more for management initially, those were the very decision-makers that had to be impressed enough to sign the contract. 

    Regardless I do believe that good CRM  does three things:

    1.   It makes the sales process easier and more effective for salespeople.  This means it must be easy to use, and must provide immediate value in time/effort to sale, and in adding % to close.

    2.  It provides a window into the customer engagement process, from sales to delivery.  This helps a business understand what sales as individuals or in the aggregate are experiencing.  This helps identify ancillary markets that could later become primary markets.  It helps show when markets are changing and identify when the business must change with it.  It is the window to your markets that make new opportunities visible.

    3.   It provides oversight, management, measurements and records of the sales, delivery, and customer service process.  This helps identify problems, keep a record of prospecting, and prevent duplication of effort even during salesforce turnover.   

    One could argue that many organizations focus on CRM in the order of importance #3, #2, #1 when my own opinion is that it should be #1, #2, #3.  

    But in all of those, the information is primarily provided by a single side of what is a two party transaction.  To me, that is if not a weakness, it has to be considered at least a point of concern.  

    Anyone that has heard completely different descriptions of the same event from multiple parties understands the perils of only knowing one side of the story.  

    A relationship implies a mutual dealing, which the aim of sales should actually be.   And yet a lack of understanding on either or both sides can doom even a potentially wonderful relationship.

    CRM is an essential tool, if it is used correctly it is packed with value, but I still believe that it is only seeing half of the picture.

  2. Sophie Wrobel

    +Michael Kelly one moment – let's put thing sinto perspective. CRM systems are not designed to be onerous. But CRM customers – typically executives – make them onerous by adding lots of fields to fill out and making them all mandatory, which leads to the exacerbated problems you describe. We do offer a CRM solution in which it suffices to click a button to 'archive' an email into the system, and click a second button to populate the database from contact information extracted out of the email. There is even a lead-to-revenue chance algorithm to automate calculating success chances – although more seasoned salespeople hate it and prefer to ballpark their own estimates. The rest of the fields are optional, and very often blank – which is about as close as you can go to minimizing extra sales effort in form-filling.

    A lot comes back to company culture. Is the company one which is run by top-down management and heavy metrics, or one that is run by trust and bottom-up collaboration? That is the first thing that needs to be answered… And in case of the former,CRM is being introduced primarily as a new measurement tool, not primarily a sales driver. That is sadly too often the case.

    One of the biggest problem swith CEM is the 'firewall' question: how much information, and what information, can and should be let out of the company? Is it possible to transform qualitative feedback into management metrics without requiring a person in the middle who has to do the double bookkeeping? And what kind of engagement works for the customer – without the customer needing access to each of the 500 CEM systems from vendors that he works with?

  3. Michael Kelly

    When I had first gotten involved in IT sales, CRM was big.  The Next Big Thing. 

    It was as buzzed about as "social tools" are now.   There were so many promises it made, from identifying problems in the sales funnel, to seeing where salespeople needed training, to improving conversion %.  They were so many CRM companies springing up at the time (much as social companies are now)

    Of course the problem was that roughly 80% of the benefits and features in CRM were for management and only 20% of them were for the salespeople.   But salespeople needed to enter the information for management to receive those benefits.

    So what did the sales team do?  For the most part, they waited until the prospect was at least halfway through the pipeline before entering them.   Which meant they were taking and keeping notes in books, or excel, – doing twice the work of recordkeeping in the first place.

    Why?  Because for sales, time is money.  Time spent entering is not time spent selling…and that affected what a salesperson took home.   So the CRM began to paint an incomplete picture.   A lot of missed prospects were never made visible, so a lot of opportunities were lost.  

    Worse, because so much of the systems were designed to work for what managers would want, they were not especially easy to use for salespeople.   In a company I worked for we installed a system  by Onyx and our average sales teams went from 200K per week in revenue to 1.5K per week in revenue – for almost two months!

    The company responded by creating rules to "force" salespeople to use the CRM, and the salespeople responded by doing everything they could to circumvent those rules.   Which resulted in even more lost time and productivity.

    Because of similar issues, CRM failed to deliver some of the wonderful promises and people felt burned.   People started referring to the CRM market as a "wasteland".  But it wasn't, it was just that it was not being used right by salespeople.   It was not really yet focused on sales, more for management.

    It was never that CRM did not deliver, it was just that it was built for one group of stakeholders but depended on the inputs and perspectives of an entirely different group.

    So for years, the tales of companies "burned" by costly CRM installs started to mount.  During my time with the IAMCP I heard them all.

    A few years later, companies came in (like Salesforce) and started to focus CRM on making it easy for sales, and suddenly the benefits appeared that had been promised.  Most CRM companies then changed and started to focus on making things about sales instead of management, and CRM finally delivered.

    So one of the key weaknesses was gone, but there is still another left.   CRM, for the most part, depends on the input and perspective of the sales team and (sometimes) customer service.

    But sales, at its heart, is a process between seller AND buyer.  Yet the buyer's perspective, process, and needs are defined and input, for the most part, by the selling side.  

    While I have focused for almost 2 years building solutions for addressing the issue +Sophie Wrobel points to in point #3, the key reason is for point#1.  CRM needs CEM (Customer Engagement Management) to help provide a front porch so that prospects/clients can provide the seller better insight into the decision process so that sellers can better help them.

    Ultimately, the goal of CRM is to increase sales, primarily by providing greater understanding, oversight and recordkeeping of the markets and sales & delivery process.  But until both sides of the process are more visible, there is still going to be missed value.


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