6 lessons in CRM project management: What brands would do differently next time

We speak with leading organisations on the lessons learnt from deploying a customer relationship management platform, and their advice for marketers and IT teams investing in new CRM solutions

4. Business News Australia

Platform implemented: SugarCRM

Live date: July 2014

Business News is a boutique publishing company based in Western Australia with about 30 staff. CEO, Charlie Gunningham, recognised the need for a new CRM platform upon joining the organisation three years ago. For the previous 11 years, the publisher had been using a clunky Access database deployment, as well as an SAP accounting system, neither of which were Web-enabled.

“The way we use CRM is way more than a traditional CRM – it’s a whole business platform,” Gunningham explained. “Every advert booked on our website, paper or emails, is run through our CRM. Every phone call from subscriptions and invoices is done via CRM. Access to our member-based website is dictated by CRM and all data is housed in CRM. We totally and utterly rely on it.”

Having evaluated multiple vendors, Gunningham decided on SugarCRM’s platform and worked with Perth-based implementation partner, CRM Online, to make the switch. At the same time, the organisation flicked over to Xero’s cloud-based accounting solution.

For Gunningham, making a CRM project successful is about understanding that it’s never going to be perfect. “CRM is like a house, you’re always improving it – it’s never finished,” he said.

“It’s OK to be OK on day one, as long as you are live and agile enough to respond to what needs to be done. The first month is difficult, the second month easier and by the third month, it should be right.”

At the time of going live on 1 July 2014, Business News had migrated about 75 per cent of its platform on SugarCRM. The two exceptions were subscription renewals, which took another six weeks, and events sponsorship, which came online at the end of the third month.

In advance of going live, Gunningham also spoke to several of CRM Online’s clients and gleaned some very useful advice:

  • Use this as an opportunity to clean out your old database before you start on the new platform. “Rather than throwing all 57,000 records into the new system, where all the bad stuff, such as wrong phone numbers, staff who’d left and so on are still there, use it as an opportunity clean out your database and start afresh,” Gunningham said. “You want to question everything and just throw out the crap.”
  • CRM projects are about managing people. “You have to take the people on the journey, and you learn a lot about your people,” he said. “Some accept change, some hate it no matter what you do, some will see the advantages and fly with it on day one, some don’t. People are different.”

Business News’ approach to people management included one-on-ones and small meetings, as well as sharing updates as it “cut the CRM code” onsite. “We could show releases and bits to people and they were more involved in coding,” Gunningham said. “It made things agile, as opposed to having hours of interminable workshops, with ridiculous spec documents.”

It also helped Gunningham and CRM Online to discover things staff did they weren’t aware of.

“For example, we thought we had every report people needed and wanted to make those available from the first week, but we found in week two or three, they absolutely needed certain reports that they hadn’t told us about,” Gunningham said. “So we had to drop something else and do it. That comes back to being agile.”

5. Tabcorp

Platform implemented: Salesforce

Live date: July 2015 (sales) and October 2015 (marketing)

Tabcorp implemented a new CRM platform across its TAB, Luxbet and Keno businesses in stages in the second half of last year. Its CMO, Claire Murphy, described it as a significant piece of work given the sheer volume of customers and transactions it manages every day.

“With the scale of the project in mind, we were careful to ensure we understood the areas of risk and aimed to mitigate them early,” she said.

In selecting the right CRM tool, Tabcorp kept two things at the heart of the process: Customers and stakeholders.

“Specifically, Tabcorp’s ambition was to use a system that would allow us to know our customer better and personalise our interactions,”she said. “The second key consideration was our stakeholders or users of the CRM tool. We needed to ensure the system was user-friendly to encourage internal adoption across the marketing, sales and distribution teams. It also had to allow for a flexible user experience.”

Murphy saw the greatest challenge throughout the process as taking different legacy systems and migrating to a single CRM platform in Salesforce. “We partnered with System Partners to ensure that this migration and integration into other key systems was successful,” she said.

Murphy also offered the following advice to others going through a CRM transformation:

  • Start with the end customer in mind and take a collaborative approach with all stakeholders;
  • Remaining agile is pivotal;
  • Consider usability and scalability;
  • Change management is just as important during the period post ‘go live’ for user support and to encourage adoption;
  • Depending on the size of the business, consider partnering with experts in implementation.

Checklist: Getting your CRM ducks in order

Michael Wong is a CRM and business applications implementation expert, and has worked with a variety of companies and organisations including Austrade, Foxtel, Hotfrog and Cirrus Media. According to him, almost every CRM project fail can be linked to three problems.

The first is the lack of consensus and buy in from internal stakeholders. Wong said this is usually due to organisational issues like silos, or a communication breakdown. “Many times, I’ve seen a CRM project that is at risk of failing for the simple reason that IT, marketing, sales and operations view the project with their respective blinkers on,” he said. “In large organisations, this is probably the biggest single reason why CRM projects are failing today, and these are failures of agreement that are costing some companies millions of dollars.”

The second problem is a lack of experienced staff, or having the wrong staff responsible for the project’s delivery. According to Wong, the most important staff at the start of any CRM project are the functional owners – the people who will be using the platform as core to their roles, which usually means marketing and/or sales.

“I’ve seen CRM projects that are primarily resourced with project managers, data and IT expertise. Don’t get me wrong, these people need to be in place, but unless you have the functional owners in the room leading the project, writing the business case and the requirements and making the decisions that align the project with real outcomes, you often end up with what I call ‘empty delivery’,” he said. “Companies have the CRM system in place, but with immature or vaguely scoped features and functionality that if you’re lucky, are used to send email newsletters.

“Further to this, way too many Australian companies are under resourcing CRM as a function. To be truly successful in CRM, you can’t rely on training up existing staff. You need to hire people with real CRM expertise early, and empower them to lead the CRM journey for your organisation.”

The third major problem Wong identified is poor decision making around data. “Either companies under scope the data requirements, or more often, the project is treated as a data landfill and gets lumped with massive amounts of data that is effectively irrelevant,” he said.

In one organisation Wong worked with, there was 12 years of customer data expected to be included in the new CRM system. More than half the records were from customers whose accounts had expired more than five years ago, and the project was delayed as a result.

“You had several hundreds of thousands of dollars of project and company resources tied up dealing with records of people who weren’t even customers, and hadn’t been for over five years,” he said. “Frankly, if your organisation hopes to win back customers from over five years ago because you have a new CRM platform, you’re doing it wrong.”

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

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