I see this type situation arise all too often: A VP of Sales has a great idea like “if we knew more about our customers’ collective buying patterns I could be more effective at providing them with value added solutions at the right time”. Sounds like a pretty good idea.
Well, this idea gets tossed around with management, and eventually a decision is made to do something to capture the opportunity. So the process starts. They get somebody to write down requirements for such a project. Because this deals with customers, someone at some point will likely suggest “you need a CRM (Customer Relationship Management System”. Upon doing more research, all the wonderful things that CRMs do are built into the requirements document, because - ‘that’s a good idea’. At some point, finance is involved to set a budget. Then they give it to IT with the instruction: “Source a CRM system and someone to implement it for this much money”. IT now owns the project and goes about casting its net and find CRM implementers.
Can someone say ‘broken telephone’? The poor VP of Sales is looking for something to help him analyze customer buying patterns, but he’s going to get a full-blown CRM - how is that going to help him?
This is an exaggerated example, but the underlying flow of events is common among a lot of companies. What those companies don’t get is that software is supposed to solve business problems – not keep IT guys employed. I don’t mean to be hard on IT guys, since I’m one too on some days, but since when did the role of IT start to involve making key Business decisions to solve Business problems? Maybe I missed that memo.
If you’ll indulge me, let’s go back to the example and look at it from the bottom up. The bottom in this case is the poor CRM implementer who is entering into a situation they just can’t win. They don’t know anything about the customer’s business or what specific problem the software application is trying to solve. They may gain some keen insight as to what’s required by going to their IT gatekeeper, who will tell them all about what a CRM is supposed to do within their organization. They may even get a chance to meet with others and maybe even that VP of Sales, who has by this time been convinced that what he needs is a CRM system – because that’s what’s been approved for purchase. Chances are they won’t get to the root issue of what started this whole thing off.
This could have gone a different way. The VP of Sales could have directly gone in search of a partner to provide him with his problem: “if we knew more about our customers’ collective buying patterns I could be more effective at providing them with value added solutions at the right time”. What he would have found is a partner with expertise in Business Intelligence. That partner could have worked directly with him to understand his business, understand the problem and the impact it has on the business, and propose a solution that would specifically meet the business needs with a measurable return on investment.
Sound too easy? Well in our business the second scenario is a recipe for success – if we can’t engage with the business user then we won’t take on the project. We just won’t do that to your business.
Written by Dino Bozzo
Dino has led large international projects spanning the globe, cultures and languages. With more than a decade of consulting experience in both marketing and business software solutions, Dino has proven to excel at matching business software solutions with appropriate technology. You can find him on Google+.