Marketing vs IT: Framing the Coming Games

Does CRM make marketers smarter, or, does it simply demand smarter people to manage the CRM environment?  Are the most expensive CRM systems so superior that they provide measurable results and provide value so sellers close deals more easily?  Talk to some of the folks selling these apps and you might come away believing that a big investment in CRM software will help you lose weight and miraculously attain perfect pitch.  Talk to the guys who are saddled with making these systems line up with your data and you may hear a host of other stories.  Talk to managers who made the decision to purchase the system, well, just try to get those guys to talk about it.


Type CRM and IT problems into Google and you find at least five million links.  In Phil Bligh’s book, “CRM Unplugged: Releasing CRM’s Strategic Value,” by , he describes the results from some of these problems as, poor customer service, falling sales and, of all things, “cultural impacts.” These impacts, “low morale within IT” and “cynicism” in the adoption of business change are dragging companies backwards.  In fact, he says, recent industry research shows that only 16 percent of CRM projects provide real, reportable business return on investment (ROI).

In Bligh’s book he discusses a $1 billion dollar effort by CIGNA Healthcare folks to upgrade some infrastructure and migrate large chunks of customer data to the new system to avoid threatening law suits that have been plaguing the industry.  Folks unable to get coverage and doctors unable to save lives will definitely get the attention of all these days when healthcare is on the lips of everyone in an industry threatened today with government takeover.  No wonder Obama’s first economic stimulus was to “upgrade” healthcare records.

The goal of course for this investment is not just upgrading customer service, but to use this information to sell more services and share the information for other profits.  Anyone with healthcare undoubtedly has their own “My” records page and on it you, and your behavior, again become fungible eyeballs for the media.  So the endgame is that not only will this streamline treatment, theoretically, but it opens this data to mining in the opportunity sense.  It is the proverbial growth model tapping the public for more demographics.

Bligh also outlines Hershey’s fifteen year old drama trying to integrate their ERP system with their new CRM system so they would be able to capitalize on the benefits of their 1,200 sellers being able to view records, especially inventory and distribution records, only to end up losing $100 million in sales.

While I thought the problems for CRM and infrastructure middleware upgrades would ultimately point to IT and data records run amuck, the proximal cause points at business leaders who refuse to accept real change and often try to adapt these great technologies to old ways of doing business.

According to Bligh, “many organizations focus on existing customer processes rather than enhancing or building new interactions that customers may prefer.”  He adds that, “top management is either not engaged at all, loses interest once the initial high-level decisions have been made, or doesn’t focus long enough to ensure successful post-implementation operation.”

One thing that technology still shares with the stone age, and the last couple of centuries as well, may be the refusal of leadership to listen and be able to interpret what customers want and how they want to interact with their world.  Bligh’s book is a must read for any company keen for success.  From the inception and visualization of their legacy actually evolving with their business, leaders will learn a step-by-step plan for getting there.


From a practical standpoint, I am told that one key to a successful CRM system is making sure your data is right, making sure it is at its optimum strength and make sure it is installed before it leaves the IT provider’s shop. Trying to install on site may be the biggest risk of all according to data expert, and Chairman, Jeff Wilkins.

If you have practical or actual stories or tips to share on any of these applications, share them with us and we will look for solutions.


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Founded with the goal of providing the best solution to getting important technology products and services to the IT community on a permission basis. The goal has always been to streamline the information acquisition process and adapt the marketers to the buyers.


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