The cost of CRM project failure...
By Richard Boardman
I get a bit blasé about the importance of selecting the right vendor. MyCustomer.com is due to publish an opinion piece that I wrote about CRM consultants not just being about vendor selection. And I have been known to suggest from time to time that effective requirements definition is actually more important. I think this is partly because we get to work with excellent vendors and avoid the incompetent. And while I'd love to say everything works perfectly all of the time, that would not be entirely true, but we tend to be dealing with hiccups rather than major issues.
However from time to time I'm reminded as to the price organizations pay when they make a misjudged purchase decision. I made a call this week to see how the second phase of a project we've been working on had panned out. The client had first involved us a couple of years earlier wanting help turning round a failing project. They had installed a supposedly front/office back office solution which had been partially delivered substantially over budget, considerably late, and with a wealth of missing functionality. The internal project team was working silly hours to make the best out of a bad lot, while having to endure the inevitable finger pointing that only failed IT projects can generate.
The impact of the failing system was widely felt. Not only was senior management embroiled in a time consuming battle to at least get things on an even keel, the lack of a stable IT infrastructure was impacting customer service, and key new product releases were being undermined. Overall the 'system' disrupted operations for about two years.
While the temptation was to throw the system out entirely, many of the elements of the system were so bespoke and critical to ongoing business continuity, that this wasn't a practical option. We helped the company install a mid-market CRM package to take over the front office functions, integrated with those back office functions that worked, and have been steadily helping them steadily migrate functionality from the failing system into the new CRM environment.
The vendor we selected to implement the CRM system has done a great job, and the client's confidence in using and implementing technology has steadily increased. The fault for the failing project lay exclusively with the 'rogue' vendor, but inevitably in these circumstances there's a tendency to blame yourself as well, and as a result there was a creeping lack of belief within the client as to their ability to implement technology successfully.
Rather coincidentally another client we later worked with had a similar encounter with the same 'rogue' vendor. After two years trying to implement a system the client simply gave up and wrote their own solution. The cost of the episode was enormous and the psychological scars are deep.
It's perhaps the impact on confidence that project failures create that may ultimately be the most damaging aspect. In an era where corporate success and failure will increasingly be determined by an organization's ability to harness technology, it will be the confident that ultimately prosper.
The 'rogue' vendor is still trading and still gaining (and presumably fleecing) new customers. The laws of economics don't seem to apply well to IT companies perhaps. We seem to tolerate incompetence in IT far more than in any other field of life. For anyone looking to make a major investment in technology I'd strongly advise they perform their due diligence well, the cost of project failure may be bigger than you realize.
Richard Boardman is something of a grizzled veteran of the CRM space having worked in the industry for the last 12 years and having been involved in implementing over 300 CRM systems. In 2004 he went from poacher to gamekeeper, and left one of the UK's leading CRM vendors to set up Mareeba CRM Consulting with the pretty simple objective of helping organizations get a considerably better return on investment from CRM technology than was the traditional norm.
The Management Curve is a blog dedicated to discussion and debate about the impact sales metrics programs such as CRM, Sales Performance Management and Sales Force Automation Programs are having and will have on how the sales function is managed. Hosted by Paul McCord, the blog also features articles and commentary by other sales trainers, consultants, product developers, and the sales managers and salespeople who actually use the products.