Survey Says: CRM Adopters Somewhat Satisfied

Resistance to process change, not inadequate funding, is largest obstacle in CRM implementations

Rightly or wrongly, there’s a perception that IT organizations that deploy customer relationship management (CRM) software products are going to get burned as a result of their experiences.

A recent report from consultancy Forrester Research takes issue with this view, however. It found that fully 75 percent of organizations deploying CRM solutions say that they’re at least somewhat satisfied with them.

Forrester analyst Bruce Temkin cautions, however, that this shouldn’t be construed as a vindication of the efforts of CRM vendors. “The industry should not be satisfied with this. It should be ripped apart if it believes that 75 percent is good enough. Having said that, however, 75 percent is better than the 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent satisfaction rates that seem to be floating around.”

The inescapable upshot, Temkin explains, is that a not-insignificant number—25 percent—of CRM implementations still go bad. “They fail, just not nearly as badly as the buzz would lead everyone to believe.”

Forrester’s report surveyed IT decision makers in 111 North American companies with more than $500 million in annual revenues. It found that more than half had purchased CRM applications—most (30 percent) from packaged applications vendors such as Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft Inc. or Oracle Corp.

The Forrester survey exposes a number of misconceptions with respect to CRM customer satisfaction rates and the underlying causes that make for unsatisfactory CRM deployments.

For example, Temkin says, Forrester found that more companies (46 percent) encountered issues with process change predicaments than with back-end integration scenarios (34 percent) or software costs (33 percent). Perhaps most surprising, he suggests, is that both satisfied and unsatisfied CRM adopters identified end user adoption problems (23 percent) as more problematic than technology selection or implementation difficulties (14 percent). This finding alone explodes the myth that most CRM deployments are sunk as a result of technical difficulties, he observes.

Another popular misconception, Temkin says, is that most CRM roadblocks occur as a result of inadequate funding. Lack of funding is a problem, he allows—after all, fully one third of respondents cited the cost of software as the issue that most hampered their CRM deployments—but the single biggest obstacle confronting satisfied and unsatisfied organizations alike was business process change. According to Temkin, 48 percent of satisfied companies, along with 39 percent of unsatisfied organizations, cited resistance to process change as the most significant difficulty that they faced. The simple fact of the matter is, he stresses, that all “organizations are inherently resistant to change, and there’s no constituency for change inside of any organization.”

During their CRM planning stages, Temkin says, most organizations fail to anticipate the importance of a synchronized deployment that balances people processes and technology. As a result, he suggests, they’re unable to take proactive steps to minimize disruptions during their implementations. For example, effective process engineering involves not only manipulating processes between systems to achieve business goals, but, just as important, anticipating and accommodating the human processes that are most resistant to change.

It’s one thing to tell end users that they must use a new Siebel sales force management application, Temkin suggests, it’s quite another to get them to actually do so. “How do you get people to do the things that you expect them to do in the new process that you’ve designed? That’s a people-process link. That’s what organizations need to think about.”

Not surprisingly, Forrester found that many firms tended to over-focus on technology issues—linking business processes with technology—and often dropped the ball when it came to getting users up to speed on new CRM applications and accustomed to business process changes. The irony, of course, is that CRM adopters reported that they encountered more difficulty during the end user adoption phase (23 percent) than during the technology implementation phase (11) of their deployments. To avoid this pitfall, Temkin suggests organizations should consider establishing post-implementation milestones—for example, one-quarter of sales people entering at least 50 percent of their forecasts—as key targets.

Perhaps tellingly, companies that were dissatisfied with their CRM experiences overwhelmingly blamed the poor usability of their applications (25 percent). By contrast, only a handful (5 percent) of satisfied CRM adopters believed that usability was an issue at all.

The fact of the matter is that some CRM applications are wedded to poor or non-intuitive user interfaces that can limit end user productivity, Temkin concludes. The upshot, he suggests, is that companies should make usability testing a key part of their deployment efforts.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.