New York-to-Paris automobile race: [Automobile stuck in snow]

CRM Implementation Woes: How to Make It Work

Forrest Christian Change, Reviews - Articles Leave a Comment

McKinsey Consulting came out with a CRM article the same week I read Mark Van Clieaf’s comments about how to succeed at CRM — he says to run it through Marketing before, during and after implementation. McKinsey’s piece (Anupam Agarwal, David P. Harding, and Jeffrey R. Schumacher, “Organizing for CRM“, McKinsey Quarterly) has some very amusing things to say:

In our experience, no temporary centralized team, however competent and well intentioned, gets everything right. What’s needed to achieve long-term business results is an infrastructure grounded in accountability…. Attention to these perennial organizational challenges, which are easy to overlook in the rush to fix the technology and business-alignment issues, correlates strongly with success in CRM…

These things correlate strongly with success in any business endeavour. You may be able to cheat the piper for awhile, but sooner or later you’re going to pay him. It’s interesting to me that business leaders would need to be reminded that if you don’t have an accountability structure, you’re not going to go anywhere with a project. All too often, CRM and Knowledge Management projects are simply thrown out there to come together.


Agarwal, Harding and Schumacher also had some revolutionary thoughts about the role of accountability::

When the responsibility for different aspects of the solution rests in different places, it’s often hard to muster the organizational resolve to pull in the right people, unclog bottlenecks, and make effective decisions. At worst, companies wind up with the kinds of problems that plagued Soviet-style planned economies: a lack of ownership, a failure to choose the right features, and an inability to meet performance goals.

Trojan Horse enters Troy, manuscript detail


I’m not yanking the chain of the authors but complaining about the state of management in the Western world. Why would we still need to be reminded about these things? Well, maybe because we have our management teams off doing tactical work but being paid for strategic, as Van Clieaf points out. (See my earlier post.) When there isn’t someone who is responsible, things don’t happen. If I am not held responsible for my own actions, I will never do anything but what I feel like doing. If a child’s parents are not held accountable for the child’s behaviours, they will never feel the responsibility for creating an environment where the child is responsible for his or her own actions. Why is all of this so revolutionary?

CRM and Knowledge Management projects fail and fail miserably, at a rate that’s astounding even for IT projects. Some of it is simply that although no one really wants the stuff, no one wants to own up to it. It’s an Abilene Paradox of agreement.

The authors also discuss the difficulties of cultural change, something that is always worth hearing again. Sometimes we forget that the others do not know what we do, that they have not spent the last five years living and breathing this particular technology and its social implications.

The idea of having a sending team and a receiving team is brilliant. It’s what a lot of us do instinctively on projects like this but never really put into words. The image is a good one and I’ll probably be using it again soon. The talk about metrics and “dashboards” strikes me as silly though: why would I spend all that money without having a solid handle on the metrics I wanted to gather to determine success or failure, or where to put effort.

But I’m weird that way.

Image Credit: New York-to-Paris automobile race: [Automobile stuck in snow]. Photo by Spooner and Wells, Inc. Library of Congress #2004670703.

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