A common challenge of large and global companies is the consolidation of many separate and siloed Customer Relationship Management systems into a single, enterprise-wide application. Many times large or decentralized organizations accumulate separate CRM systems via acquisitions or departmental initiatives. At some point in time, the organization desires to get everybody on the same application in order to get a single view of the customer, improve cross-departmental processes, share information and achieve economies of scale.
How to get from decentralized CRM siloes to a single, centralized system
Having recently finished a CRM consolidation project, I wanted to share some recommendations and program governance measures that can aid and accelerate this evolution.
Start with a clear business case
The first step is to develop the business case as part of your CRM implementation plan. Adoption challenges typically come from the decentralized operating units so the business case should clearly help them understand why it is in their local interests to align with a global standard. The business case often includes the benefits of uniformity, repeatable processes, consistent operations, end to end process automation and enterprise-wide information reporting.
Cost and time savings will be realized by not recreating the wheel at every location. Finding examples where one business unit has solved challenges so that every other unit need not incur the same obstacles can go a long way. Headquarters and lines of business will have different objectives so the business case should harmonize these objectives to the maximum extent.
When inconsistencies are found you may need to find a balance among global and local objectives. Until the decentralized business units understand the big picture and how the global design delivers local benefits, their participation will likely vary from unenthusiastic acceptance to outright resistance.
Design the shared architecture
Design an enterprise-wide architecture, master schema and business model templates. Decentralized organizations typically operate divisions, departments, geographies or other lines of business of varying scale and sophistication. Attempting to force fit a one size fits all CRM application will likely result in overkill for smaller business units and challenge user adoption.
A governance program may instead lead with a master business model which permits child tenants of reduced or alternative feature sets. Another option is to offer small, medium or large business model templates so that each business unit operates from a common schema but can select the operational model best suited for their environment.
Because of the top-down lineage, all decentralized instances are sharing a common data model and application schema – so data and services can be easily shared, and upgrades can automatically cascade from the mater template down through the local instances.
Consider Master Data Management (MDM)
According to Gartner, "CRM leaders must understand the benefits of the MDM discipline and make it part of their CRM strategy. MDM is critical to enabling CRM leaders to create the 360 degree view of the customer required for an optimized customer experience."
The analyst firm goes on to advise, "This single or 360 degree view of the customer requires that all the operational master data pertaining to the customer — and often to product and service as well — be combined from all of the data silos where it currently resides … This data is then checked and cleansed for duplicates while selecting the highest quality values across all data sources for each master data attribute. The result is a single version of the truth for the master data that can then be integrated in different ways with those remaining data elements specific to transactions and interactions in the operational systems."
Share technology assets
Create a library and catalogue of common CRM software views, workflows, dashboards, reports and maybe even CRM data conversions, integrations and customizations. The goal here is twofold. First, to accelerate deployment tasks, and second, to achieve economies associated with repurposing the same effort multiple times.
This later goal will continue to deliver cost savings in the forms of improved support services, reduced system administration and faster upgrades. Making your library social – via user comments, rankings and ratings – will democratize the library assets and achieve improved community participation.
Adopt a Center of Excellence (CoE)
Consider a CoE, sometimes called a Center of Competency (COC), operating unit for the delivery of strategic services. CoEs are used to leverage and scale scarce and high-demand technical resources across a region or across the company. The intent is to centralize to scale and achieve a force multiplier performance effect by disseminating skills, insights, best practices and specialized services from a central team throughout the region.
For example, workflow automation and business intelligence are two areas which can deliver big results. However, these areas require focused practitioners, strong business analysts and deep technical knowledge. These factors may be reasons why so few CRM adopters capitalize on these opportunities.
Centralize an Architecture Review Board (ARB)
Adopt an ARB shared services model for technical services such as architecture frameworks, system integration and software customization. These services require thorough standards and highly technical staff. A central group can codify standards, best practices and support processes into a governance program in a way that repurposes these efforts and ensures the benefits reach the maximum number of users.
For example, no need for every department to invest in security staffing, audits, tools and remediation practices. Let one central group make this investment and provide oversight or services across the enterprise.
Strong governance is essential
A CRM governance body is needed to provide company direction, align potentially conflicting objectives and apply disciplined evaluation criteria to objectively find the balance between line of business and enterprise goals. While this group will vet technical recommendations from many different constituents, their decision criteria are based on decision trees which consider current and future business outcomes for both the requesting business unit and the organization. Many times these governance groups are committees composed of executive management and departmental leaders.