Most of CRM's ills can be fixed using "ERP 101": focus tightly, define clear goals, iterate rapidly.

If you haven't yet begun a CRM implementation, take a page from the failures of many ERP implementations in the 1990s. Establish a long-term vision so you have a roadmap for the kinds of business and customer value you want to create. Then make sure everyone's on the same page by setting expectations with the business side that clearly define the project's business goals. "The business case has to be the guidepost," says IBM's Kapreilian.

At times, those goals can be as explicit as "increase sales per customer by 2 percent in six months." But more likely, you'll be relying less on financial goals than on more generalized analyses that aren't quite as concrete. According to Saugatuck's Guptill, "Most of the metrics people are using are nonfinancial." Dave Martin, senior vice president of finance planning and analysis at Charles Schwab Corp., says his company's CRM focus is simple: "What do we need so we don't sound stupid to the customer?"

Next, focus down to something doable. Make sure you report the results you get, good or bad, to everyone concerned, so that business-side stakeholders can reset their expectations if necessary. Work what you've learned into the project plan, update your metrics, and roll out the next set of features.

If your company has already kicked off a CRM implementation and it's going awry—or worse, if you're through with a project and it's not providing the value you expected—you need to shoulder the responsibility of stopping the madness. That may mean sustaining some political damage in the short term. Still, says IBM's Kapreilian, "the only hit bigger than that is allowing the chaos to continue, instead of being asked about it by your board after you've spent millions of dollars." Reset expectations by going back to the original business case, and make sure everyone is back on the same page. Focus on delivering something of value to the business or to the customer rapidly, then roll out additional features in waves, measuring as you go.

Ask Your Business Constituents:

Do you want to keep throwing good money after bad, or are you willing to accept a much narrower set of near-term deliverables?

Tell Your CRM Project Leaders:

Go back to the drawing board and tell me what it's going to cost to salvage this project.

Ask Your Vendors:

You sold it to me, so we're in this boat together. What are you going to do for me in terms of support services to get back on track?

This article was originally published on 11-02-2002
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