Diplomatic relations


illustration by otto steininger

Customer relationship management (CRM) means making clients feel as if they are each the most important. Companies that invest money in keeping their current clients happy will reap greater rewards than those that focus solely on prospecting for new customers to replace dissatisfied ones.

However, CRM success doesn't come cheaply: Enterprises must have the right leadership, strategy and culture to support the required technology and linkages. The more mature the organization, the greater the chance of CRM success. Four executives discuss how project management brings the consistency and visibility needed for truly great relationship building.

Jack Cline

Deputy Commander, Anniston Army Depot, Anniston, Ala., USA

In our work for Tank Automotive and Armament Command, our primary mission is the overhaul and repair of all heavy-track combat systems (with the exception of the Bradley fighting vehicle and multi-rocket launcher system) and the secondary items associated with those vehicles. Our budget is in excess of $1 billion.

We’ve been using formal project management processes for about three years, and we wouldn’t be able to deliver on customer expectations without this sort of leadership. We oversee about 600 programs, and to ensure we meet customers’ needs, we have established value streams for each of them.

We’re currently in the throes of implementing lean manufacturing, with a project officer assigned to each value stream. To this end, we’ve broken down the elements of our industrial operation into four groups: the track systems, reciprocating engines, turbine engines, and manufacturing and support functions, which include all other processes. For each value stream, we have a process optimization manager, a.k.a. project manager, who oversees cost, schedule and quality. Project managers report weekly to senior leadership on the top 25 programs, which represent 85 percent of our business. This allows us to focus on the main business drivers.


As part of our lean improvements, we ask customers to participate. We’ve given each of our customers electronic access to a scorecard so they can evaluate their program, and if they have any questions within the body of that scorecard, they can send an e-mail to the appropriate person to get answers.

You must have someone who understands project management and touches both internal and external customers. For example, as we were overhauling M1 tanks for the U.S. Marine Corps, we realized that we were not meeting the customer's expectations. Under the leadership of project managers, we hashed out our differences. Once we clearly understood expectations, we were able to change. Now, we are the Marine Corps depot of choice for repair.

Councilor Paul Crossley

Leader, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bath, U.K.

Managing customer needs and expectations has been one of the most beneficial aspects of using project management and has helped us achieve a government grade of “good” in our Comprehensive Performance Assessment rating.

The concept of customer service in the public sector is complex, not only because often the end user has no choice other than to receive a service from us, but also because the customer can vary from the elderly person in a home who receives care, through to the taxpayer who pays for it, or even the community as a whole who want to see the elderly well treated and cared for.

Project management enables us not only to draw on expertise across the organization to meet varying customer needs, but to evaluate future projects to further develop and integrate service delivery. We also use program management to combine disparate projects, which together contribute to overarching corporate objectives. Our customer access program, for example, already has delivered a one-stop shop as well as transforming library services. This program now is implementing CRM and a contact center, working with individual parts of the organization to develop effective processes and systems for integrated, holistic customer service.

Meanwhile, our HR strategy has led to the development of generic managers with cross-functional skills using a competency framework. This further helps provide the “corporate glue,” along with tools such as project management, that will further drive an integrated approach to customer service delivery, thereby increasing not only customer satisfaction but efficiency and value for money.


Customer service also is about interacting with people to let them know why you make the decisions you do. CRM will enable us to manage our interface with customers in a better, more comprehensive way.

Cathy Osborne

President, Business By Design Solutions, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

Today's business environment is complex and moving at an incredible speed, so the only way to stay on top of things is to use project management techniques. It’s in everything I do from marketing to technology implementations—it's a core business function.

I approach CRM from an overall or holistic perspective. CRM is a comprehensive business strategy that encompasses a company's philosophy toward its customers, employees and suppliers as well as its technology and operations. Customers are the core of every business, driving service and the definition of success. Excellent project management skills are essential to implementing CRM effectively and relating with your customers. Unless you have experienced project managers leading your CRM strategy, there are too many pieces that can fall through the cracks.

Because my business is strategy-focused, we measure success in terms of how happy the client is with the work we’ve done and how committed they are to the new vision. I perform one-on-one interviews with stakeholders throughout the project, touching base with clients regularly about our performance.


Using project management methodologies, I’m very well organized and on top of things. Project management gives my customers a sense of comfort—they know that I will deliver things I promise. As a result of our project management skills and CRM focus, I can be confident that we will deliver to and exceed our customers’ expectations.

Mark Goldman

Area Vice President of Government Systems, Citrix Systems Inc., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., USA

Citrix includes CRM in every step of the project management process. In pre-sales, our relationship managers and technical consultants work with our customers to determine their requirements. During and after the implementation, we maintain constant customer contact to measure, analyze and correct “stall points” during the adoption process, which are common with the enterprisewide deployments Citrix specializes in.


All customer account information is input and accessed via an internal CRM tool that allows any internal department to access and update information as it is received. Our sales, engineering and marketing professionals schedule regular calls to discuss customer implementations and offer insight on how to best meet customer requirements. For example, a customer in Washington, D.C., USA, who conducted a complete network analysis before implementing Citrix access infrastructure, may be a willing reference for a customer in New York in a similar situation. By allowing our customers to share their insights and best practices, we help them become more successful.

Internally, we leverage our extensive CRM system to drive project management and customer interaction. It is based on a standardized methodology that provides easy account access and collaboration, which allows for scheduled maintenance calls before, during and after the sales cycle. The system even tracks maintenance and license requirements to structure maintenance and upgrade contacts for years after the sale.

Project management ensures that we attract and retain customers such as the U.S. Air Force Personnel Center, which uses our product for on-demand access to the Military Personnel Data System, the Air Force's primary human resource system. By managing a phased deployment of the technology, Citrix Systems increased the speed at which end users could access data and applications from even the most remote locations.

Results are what good CRM is all about—successfully supporting existing customers while gaining new customers. Project management extends all the way to the “voice of the customer”—involving the customer in media outreach activities such as press releases, case studies, interviews and speaking engagements. Account managers and marketing staff involve the customer in the media outreach process by collecting information about a customer's infrastructure implementations, providing media documents for review and preparing the customer for media interviews. This process empowers the customer to promote his or her successes to a range of audiences, further strengthening the customer relationship with our company.





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