Solid CRM is difficult, but not impossible

By Mario Apicella, InfoWorld |  Software

If that foundation is difficult to integrate with or poorly designed, your CRM project will grow more expensive and implementation will be delayed. A whopping 46 percent of the IT leaders surveyed indicate that integration with existing applications is a major impediment to CRM, and 40 percent put the blame on the lack of skilled IT resources. In addition, 20 percent of respondents point to the lack of IT infrastructure as an obstacle to CRM.

It's hard to disagree with 500 InfoWorld readers. Some aspects of a CRM project will put a huge demand on your IT department and often relate to areas that go beyond their traditional technical skills.

For example, a call center may require integrating telephony resources, such as your PBX, with your CRM applications. The need to coordinate telephone equipment at different locations poses problems more suited to the technical expertise of a telephone company.

Also, implementing the infrastructure to manage wireless applications requires mastering incompatible and unfamiliar standards. If your target market crosses national boundaries, you have the added burden of having to deal with multiple regulations. Managing these issues may require more skill and expertise than is available in-house.

Is CRM really too difficult for the average company to implement? Other companies have solved this overwhelming mountain of problems, so you can, too.

Many respondents report that they've begun implementing CRM with particular applications and plan to deploy more over the next year -- a cautious, smart approach to CRM. But not surprisingly, our readers' answers were diverse, implying that one size does not fit all when it comes to CRM.

Almost 35 percent of survey participants deployed an SFA solution from major vendors such as Oracle, PeopleSoft, or Siebel. Oracle, a company that only a few years ago had no presence in the CRM market, ranks first among our respondents for current and short-term deployments of SFA, marketing, and call/service center applications.

Presumably, the large portfolio of applications these vendors offer is what motivates IT leaders to purchase their solutions; the large selection facilitates a staged implementation that is not limited to CRM. In fact, 73 percent of respondents stated that the availability of a complete solution from a vendor is a very important or critical factor in their choice. In addition, an impressive 27 percent have deployed a CRM solution that is open to integration with e-commerce applications.

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