Last week I spoke at Boston Society for Information Management (Boston SIM) CIO Roundtable about CRM*. It was a great afternoon speaking with about 20 CIOs.

L to R: me, panelist Richard Smith from AKA Enterprise Solutions, panelist Kevin Cook from BrainSell, moderator Matt Nerney from Boston SIM.

Whenever I do a talk or a panel I always come in with one main point that I want to get across. And for this event my theme was to focus on process first and technology second.

The most common problem we see with CRM systems (and Salesforce systems in particular) is that they’ve been made too complex because of incorrect or unnecessary customization. This complexity can manifest itself in a number of ways:

  1. Unreliable data: data that’s missing, inconsistent or incorrect
  2. A system that is difficult to use: internal users have a difficult time entering or retrieving data in the system, and end up doing unnecessary or repetitive manual work.
  3. A system that is difficult to change: it’s difficult to add new features, integrations or even write new reports)
  4. Lack of adoption: people end up using offline solutions (like spreadsheets) to store data that should be stored in the CRM
  5. Poor Customer/Constituent Experience: your team has a difficult time creating a great customer experience because they don’t have the tools or data they need.

Complexity often comes from a poorly defined process

No one sets out to build a CRM that’s overly complicated and difficult to use. So why does it happen? A big reason is that the system doesn’t accurately reflect the process that the organization uses to interact with its customers/constituents or (even more common) the customer experience process was never defined in the first place. Defining a solid CRM process allows your team to do the following things that are critical to building and maintaining an effective CRM:

  1. prioritize objectives and features
  2. define the data that needs to be captured in the system (and just as important, which data doesn’t need to be captured)
  3. define the KPIs that are important to your organization
  4. define how constituents will interact with your organization
  5. define how internal users will use the system

I believe that a well-defined process is a lot more important than the particular CRM tool that your organization uses. We love Salesforce, but if I had to choose I’d take a well-defined process managed with spreadsheets than a poorly defined process managed with Salesforce.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Next time I’m going to tell you how to define a simple and solid customer/constituent experience process.

* Big thanks to Matt Nerney of Boston SIM and TPP Global Services who invited me to join the panel.