What's the Place of IT in CRM Initiatives?

Should IT be kept away from CRM projects because CRM projects are really all about the business function? No, that would be a big mistake for three reasons.

  1. Business users typically lack the technical knowledge and expertise required to evaluate and implement CRM systems. (By the way, vendors know this, and some may take advantage of the situation if you try to do it alone.)

  2. IT almost always has a role in implementing the system, be it by providing system administration for the machines used by the CRM system, database administration for the underlying database, or network tuning required by the implementation. If IT is not involved early on or at all, it will be difficult to get cooperation and the long-term future of the tool will be threatened.

  3. IT is the logical place where the overall company CRM plan can be created and nurtured, so if you have any hope to one day integrate the various pieces, at any level, you'd better invite IT to play early in the game.

Should IT be at the center of CRM projects? No, again that would be a big mistake because CRM projects cannot succeed without strong and direct business user sponsorship, guidance, and feedback. IT should not attempt to drive CRM projects because buy-in from the users is critical. However, IT should suggest CRM solutions to functional managers who may not have the time or the expertise to delve into automation issues. Ideally, IT and the business function owners should work on CRM projects as equal partners, each concentrating on their area of expertise. The role of IT increases for enterprise-wide deployments since IT often provides some of the coordination required between the various functions, but I would strongly caution against IT playing a lead role in enterprise-wide projects for fear that the functional owners will disengage. Political will from the functional owners is the first requirement for the success of CRM projects. CRM implementation can bring both tangible and intangible rewards to your organization, whatever its size. Your chances of success are excellent as long as you follow a sensible strategy, as will be outlined in the rest of the tutorial. CRM nirvana may be a completely integrated system, but you can be very successful with a piecemeal approach, provided that the right players are involved. Let's begin.