How was the CRM roll-out for you?

Most CRM roll-outs require the primary involvement of the marketing department. Here Computer Weekly talks to the IT manager and...

Most CRM roll-outs require the primary involvement of the marketing department. Here Computer Weekly talks to the IT manager and marketing manager at UK construction services provider May Gurney about the learning curve they climbed when implementing a new CRM system

May Gurney recently implemented a contact management database to record the interaction between its sales team and the company's customers. It records all of the business-critical information about a project - such as environmental statistics, land contamination details, whether a building is listed - as well as the key staff involved on the project. The aim is to then use this information when the construction company bids for similar projects - searching the database on relevant criteria in order to show the client it has previous experience and skilled staff.

We asked Rob Booty, the company's IT manager, and marketing manager Dave Richardson to answer some questions about working together on this customer relationship management (CRM) implementation.

Dave Richardson, marketing manager, May Gurney

What systems do you have in place to enable your customers to contact you and to gather information on your customers?
Most information is gathered by our business development managers. It is their job to build a relationship with our clients to fully understand their business. Information is recorded on our CRM system.

When did you introduce these CRM systems?
We have had a contact database for over five years, however, we started implementing CRM for real in January 2001.

Why did you decide it was necessary to introduce these CRM systems?
We identified the need to get closer to our clients and to understand their business. We also needed a mechanism for managing multiple contacts from within our organisation communicating with multiple contacts within a client's organisation.

Did you set out any formal objectives that you wanted to meet by introducing these CRM systems?
Yes - we identified key users and formed a working group to come up with a list of requirements.

Which department drove the introduction of your CRM systems? Was it marketing or IT?
Marketing - although the IT department was involved at a very early stage.

Was there a consultation process between various departments within your organisation when you were designing the solution?
Yes - we had key users on the working group who consequently fed back to their own departments. We also looked at using the marketing package that bolted onto our accounts software.

Have you experienced any teething troubles with your CRM systems? If so, please describe them? To what extent are these IT issues?
The typical teething problems we have encountered can be attributed to housekeeping and the accuracy of information being fed into the system. The system has fallen over a couple of times but with IT's help it was soon identified as an operator error keying in information in the wrong area.

Has the IT department been able to help with any issues to date?
Yes - the IT department has supported us pretty well.

Overall, would you say that you are happy with the performance of your systems to date?
Yes - it is much better than the system we had previously which had become quite primitive.

What more do you want from your systems? Do you think that your IT department could do more to help you get more from your systems?
The system we have chosen is ideal for a client/server architecture. We now need to extend it to our regional offices and have discovered that the system is not ideal for wide area networks: our IT department is working on the problem at the moment.

Have you introduced any measurement techniques to help you evaluate the success, or otherwise, of your systems?
We are now able to measure how much contact we have with clients; how active our sales people are; and, most importantly, we have accurate information on the status of our projects both prospective and live.

What impact has the systems had on your business (for example does it improve interaction with customers or provide the company with a competitive advantage)?
It's still early days for us but we are already seeing the advantages in terms of managing information. The CRM system is helping us to service the customer in a more cost-effective manner and identify business opportunities much earlier than before.

Are you currently looking into the possibility of extending your existing customer contact solution?
Yes - the system is soon to be rolled out to our regional offices and it is being extended beyond the marketing department to all of our personal assistants (PAs) who will be responsible for recording client contact results and organising contact schedules.

If you are thinking about extending your existing customer contact solution, can you describe what improvements you are looking for?
The improvements are likely to be from the end-user in ensuring accuracy of data and making sure records are kept up to date. At present the system itself is meeting our needs.

Have you thought about integrating the customer channels you currently use - such as telephone and field sales force?
They have been integrated right from the outset - it would not have worked otherwise.

To what extent did your business processes have to change to accommodate the CRM software, if at all?
It was the way people thought that had to change, it is typical in our industry to play everything close to your chest. Getting people to part with information has been the biggest change and certainly needed "buy-in" from the very top of the company for it to happen.

Was the CRM supplier happy to alter its software to fit your business processes or did it push the out-of-the-box solution?
We worked closely with our supplier, we set out originally to find an off-the-shelf package that would do 90% and be prepared to accept change for the remaining 10%. I believe the package we settled for has met 99% of our needs.

Have the negative stories regarding CRM altered your expectations of your systems?
No - I think you have to look through the hype where CRM has been perceived to be the answer to all our client management needs. We need to accept that like any other marketing system CRM is not a panacea, it only works as part of the overall strategy.

Rob Booty, IT manager, May Gurney

What involvement do you have in the day-to-day running of your organisation's CRM programme?

IT provides the first- and second-line support to the users of the CRM application and liaises with the supplier for escalated issues. The IT department is also fully involved in the evaluation of new user requirements and of product upgrades.

Do you believe that the IT department should be more involved in the day-to-day running of your organisation's customer contact projects?
No, IT is fully involved today.

To what extent were you involved in the design of the CRM solution installed in your organisation?
The IT representatives were involved in the early stages of the project and assisted in the requirements definition and the analysis of the possible alternatives to achieve the optimal solution.

Do you believe that the IT department should have been more involved in the design of your organisation's customer contact programme?
No, IT was fully involved in the design.

Are you ever asked to solve issues/problems with the CRM solution? If yes, what are the problems you typically face?
Typically, the common issues revolve around user errors in data entry or general usage.

What do you believe needs to happen to stop these problems happening again?
In some cases, specific user training would have prevented the issue. Data controls could have prevented other issues.

Are you currently looking to expand or extend your existing customer contact systems?
The system meets the general user requirements. We are looking to extend the usage of the system.

What are you looking for from the expansion?
We are looking to introduce the regional offices and PAs to the system to ensure that it is used throughout the organisation. Given that these users are widely spread geographically, we need to ensure that the CRM system provides an acceptable solution particularly in terms of performance and response times. We are working with the supplier to ensure that the technical solution, using synchronised databases, remote agents or Web/intranet technology, is appropriate and fits in with our network architecture.

Was the CRM supplier happy to alter its software to fit your business processes or did it push the out-of-the-box solution?
The fundamental business processes were a good fit with the CRM solution. However, the solution has some flexibility in how it is used - for example, it is possible to define our own unique data fields.

Have the negative stories relating to CRM altered your expectations of your systems?
No.

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