Once upon a time if you were a large enterprise you bought your CRM system from an enterprise vendor. And, while in the early days there were some high profile failures, enterprise vendors became pretty reasonable at implementing CRM systems.
However the CRM market has changed. The CRM software that was once intended for small and medium sized businesses, with its flexibility and speed of deployment, is increasingly being used for bigger and more complex implementations.
This seems to have gathered speed in the last twelve months, as organisations emerge from the shell-shock of the financial meltdown. I’m seeing a lot of big CRM projects using what’s traditionally been mid-market CRM technology, with businesses looking to consolidate systems and standardise processes across their operations.
I think there’s a problem though: the power of the technology is outstripping the ability of many of the traditional implementers to deploy it. Implementation partners brought up on a steady diet of smaller, simpler, projects are now, on the basis of their technology knowledge being engaged to manage significantly more demanding ones – and a lot of them are struggling.
The problem is that these major projects are considerably more exacting in areas such as requirements definition, development, data migration and integration, project management and user adoption, and many implementation partners do not have then required depth of expertise or experience.
This may change with time as implementation partners bulk up to address the new challenges they face, but in the meantime I suspect we will see another round of CRM project failures.
For those considering a major CRM project using mid-market technology I would urge caution. The technology may well be up to the job, but implementing it successfully may prove a much thornier issue. You need to be very sure to understand the range of resources you will require, versus what your prospective partners are genuinely in a position to provide.
Since there are very few one-stop shops out there, this is likely to involve assembling the right expertise from a variety of different sources. While it may not be the most convenient approach, it is however a lot less work than trying to turn a CRM project round that’s gone off the rails.