CRM program planning

Tim Oehlberg, Enterprise PMO Leader,Volkswagen of America

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the next evolutionary step in business technology that integrates Sales Force Automation, Call Center Operations, e-Business (Internet, extranet, intranet) Management, and Product Distribution/Logistics. Although there are many definitions for CRM, the working definition that will be used is “CRM is the integration of business and technology processes used to develop a consistent corporate persona and a responsive market strategy.” The processes that are referenced in the definition include sales processes, customer interface processes, web activity, product development, and product distribution. The promise of CRM is that organizations that quickly identify and respond to the wants and needs of their customers will have greater margins and profits. The customer benefits by receiving consistent, reliable service and the company benefits by forming a more complete picture of their customer and their market. For all of these reasons, and the fear that “we'll be left behind,” many corporations are investing into CRM Initiatives.

An organization that is espousing CRM will need to have some strategic elements in place prior to actually starting the CRM initiative. The strategic intent of the CRM initiative must be developed and internalized by the organizational leaders. This includes determining the focal point of the initiative, and the overall purpose of the CRM environment. The focal point of the initiative is the central function that the CRM will service, such as the sales force or the call center. Although the intent of any CRM initiative is to link all of these functions together into a seamless interface, most organizations have a customer communication channel that accounts for the majority of their interactions. The CRM strategy should be tuned to this channel, but the implementation of the strategy should have an enterprise perspective. The CRM strategy should also address the overall purpose of the CRM initiative. Is the purpose of CRM to improve sales, increase repurchase behavior, or to create a premium service. The development of the CRM strategy will be a continuous process, but the focal point and purpose are needed to organize the CRM initiative into programs and projects.

CRM Program Formation

The formation of the CRM Program creates a road map of the actions that will be taken to accomplish the CRM strategy. In this paper, a program is defined as a collection of projects with a common strategic intent. Although each CRM program will have a unique road map, there are certain features that are common. The projects within the CRM program are either associated with creating the technical infrastructure necessary to support implementing CRM solutions, or they are associated with incorporating the touch points into the CRM environment. A touch point is defined as a source of interaction with a customer, such as the telephone, website, or salesperson. It is also common to refer to corporate groups, such as a call center, as a touch point because they handle all the interactions from a specific touch point (such as the telephone). Each of these touch points within the corporation represent a project within the CRM Program.

A CRM program will consist of the projects necessary to create the initial CRM environment, and the projects necessary to migrate touch points into this environment. The projects required to create the initial CRM environment will be highly customized based on the legacy system, data validity, and system cohesiveness (i.e., how many customer databases do you have?). The projects associated with assessing the current systems and architecture, selecting software solutions, preparing the systems for the new environment, and with implementing the new instance of CRM are collectively referred to as the Enterprise Platform. Exhibit 1 contains a more-detailed example of a branded CRM Program WBS.

The projects associated with incorporating touch points into this environment are labeled touch point projects. These projects are incorporated into the CRM environment using a standard approach, summarized as follows:

Vision Workshop—This starts the project for the touch point members. A vision workshop engages the touch point members and explores ideal and alternate touch point processes.

Process Development—This step consists of mapping the existing business and information processes (As-Is), and developing the future business and information processes (To-Be).

Implementation Analysis—This step consists of the gap analysis between the As-Is and To-Be states, the actions required to migrate to the new environment or close the gap.

Touch Point Implementation—This step consists of migrating the touch point to the CRM environment.

Transition—This step consists of transferring the maintenance and residual issues from the implementation step to the touch point owners (operations). This includes managing new requirements, knowledge transfer, and process management.

Although Exhibit 3 shows these steps occurring in series, there is a significant amount of overlap between each step. Vision workshops are conducted multiple times over the duration of each touch point project, and serve other functions such as facilitating the change to the business processes and educating stakeholders about CRM.

Exhibit 1.Sample CRM Program Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Sample CRM Program Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

CRM Program Implementation

The overall approach in implementing the CRM program is to create the initial CRM environment on a small number of key touch points, and then expand the environment on a touch point by touch point basis.

This goal of this first phase is to create a small CRM environment that functions correctly. Once the initial environment is stable, the system can be expanded to include additional touch points. The first phase will also require the concurrent execution of both a touch point project and the enterprise platform projects, as they are dependent on each other's deliverables. Output from future state data flow and business process is used to select software tools, and the selection of the software tools are needed to implement CRM on the touch point. The amount of integration between the platform projects and the first touch point projects leads to an intricate sequence of project activities. Exhibit 4 contains an example of the high-level activities that are performed in the first phase of a CRM Program.

A CRM Program may have several additional factors that add complexity. As stated, one of the main purposes of creating the CRM environment is to deliver a consistent corporate persona to the customer. This persona is the image that the organization wants the customer to associate with the brand. In organizations with multiple brands, the CRM program must balance the efficiency gained from employing enterprise solutions against the requirement to provide a branded image to the customer.

Exhibit 2.Touch Point Implementation Steps

Touch Point Implementation Steps

Exhibit 3.Program Level WBS

Program Level WBS

Exhibit 4.CRM Program Implementation

CRM Program Implementation

In addition to branding, most organizations do not possess an internal source of CRM knowledge and capability, and will obtain external resources to launch their initiative. CRM programs are primarily organizational change initiatives that use technology to elevate the business to a new level of play. External resources have a limited reach in the amount of organizational change that they can enact.

To summarize, the CRM Program is comprised of a set of projects that create the initial CRM environment and a set of projects that incorporate various touch points into this environment. The projects will utilize a mix of external resources to create a common community data model that supports and reinforces the attributes of the organization or brand. The following are observations and lessons learned from implementing a CRM Program with these attributes.

CRM Strategy

1. The strategy needs to indicate the primary focus of CRM. CRM is a large and complicated field, and has many possible uses to an organization. The strategy needs to indicate the overall goal or objective of the CRM Program.

2. The CRM Strategy will need to be routinely be validated and/or revised. The business environment is continuously changing. The CRM strategy needs to be compared to this environment to ensure that the overall objectives are still valid.

3. The CRM Program represents the creation of the CRM environment; however, the organization will need to continuously invest into expanding and advancing their CRM capability.

Program Planning

1. Utilize multiple external resources and vendors to staff the program. The number of vendors should be aligned with the division of the work scope, such as selecting one vendor to act as a technology partner.

2. The interdependencies of the project deliverables are the key to maintaining the schedule during the first phase of the program.

Enterprise Platform Projects

1. CRM software is really a suite of software products that provide a technology solution. Although the initial impulse is often to select software quickly, the technology solution will be more effective as an enabler of the new business processes.

2. Establish metrics that correlate to the strategic intent of the CRM Program.

Touch Point Projects

1. Vision workshops are a continuous iterative process that should incorporate the attributes of the organization or brands.

2. Process maps should include the flow of information and the business function that is being performed.

3. Process maps will need to be routinely updated and managed based on outputs from the vision workshops and changes to the business environment.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
November 1–10, 2001 • Nashville,Tenn.,USA

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