The challenges faced by organisations seeking to become 21st Century Digital Enterprises combine many new elements, such as the rise of social media, but also some that are more familiar. A browse through any of the current literature or promotional material on Customer Engagement and Commerce (CEC) flags up a number of themes that were also there in equivalent Customer Relationship Management (CRM) pieces from ten years ago; customer centricity, web channel, self-service, usability and so on.
It is important to recognize that there are some major differences – mobile did not exist in the same context ten (or even five) years ago and omni-channel is not the same as multi-channel. But the similarities are significant – which begs the question, if these are still seen as the objectives of today, did the CRM implementations from that period in history ‘fail’ to deliver? And if so, why – and what can we do to avoid today’s raft of CEC projects suffering the same fate?
There are many reasons why projects fail to meet their objectives – some are related to the underlying applications whilst others are more human in the nature, and many are a combination of the two.
Poor usability: system uptake by reluctant or difficult to please system users (such as sales representatives, field engineers, etc.) is a fundamental requirement for the success of a CRM project – and key to enabling that is a solution that is easy to use. It seems fair to say that the claims around ‘high usability’ made for SAP CRM solutions in the early and mid-2000s almost certainly exceeded what the technology of that era could deliver. No-one who has ever used the PCUI interface could ever genuinely claim that it was an enjoyable experience… The result was frequently poor adoption of the CRM solutions and users looking to find ways around the solution.
Excessive customization: this is a problem that afflicts many SAP projects, but SAP CRM ones seem to be particularly susceptible. A CRM solution is often required to be used across multiple business lines or geographies – and whilst all sales offices within an organisation may have conceptually similar business processes, the line of business or country based differences are often significant. Unless there is strong executive sponsorship and control, coupled with rigorous change management, the end result is often a CRM solution customised heavily in an attempt to be ‘all things to all people’. This is seldom a recipe for success – driving delays in project timescales, non standardised processes and a system that is complex, inflexible and has a high TCO (not to mention making future changes even harder to deliver). Customisation is effectively a “one way street” – once you start down that road it is hard to turn back. There is a real risk that it becomes a bottomless pit into which more money is continually poured in the attempt to reach the elusive ROI that remains always just out of reach over the horizon.
Silo-ed thinking: many early CRM projects suffered from one major problem – no-one knew what “CRM” was or who it was meant for. To many it was just another name for a call centre, or alternatively a customer database for the sales team. Too often the focus of a CRM project became simply replacing existing applications with a new one, or systematising previously offline processes. Whilst these approaches can of course deliver some benefits, they fall far short of the high ideal of re-engineering businesses to put the customer at their core.
Data quality: accurate and complete data is at the heart of all solutions – and CRM solutions are no exception. Poor data quality (either as part of an initial implementation of in ongoing operations) reduces the value that the solution can generate – which drives users away from the solution and initiates a negative spiral where alternate data sources flourish and the objective of establishing a single view of the customer is destroyed.
So… why should we expect that the current breed of CEC solutions (such as SAP hybris and Cloud for Customer) will enable organisations to avoid those pitfalls and deliver on the claimed business benefits?