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The Value of Good Data in CRM Solutions

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An article in the September issue of CRM Magazine, “Turbocharging CRM with Good Data” caused me to recall our recent growing pains as Green Beacon Solutions “matured” from Microsoft Dynamics v4 to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011.

In the interest of full discloure, Green Beacon Solutions is a Microsoft Dynamics solution provider / consulting / managed services firm. Regardless of any bias I might have towards Microsoft Dynamics (whether covertly implied or blatantly biased), I’ve discovered throughout my career that the benefits of any customer relationship management (CRM) solution are only realized if:

1. The solution supports the organization — not the other way around. Out-of-the-box, the core capabilities and functionality of the solution must meet the needs of the business. Sounds simple, but this core point is often overlooked due to product bias, price incentives etc. If customization is required (as is to be expected of most technologies), then the changes should be relatively easy to make. Additionally, ongoing modifications/support should just as easy and straightforward. Essentially, the product should fit your immediate needs, and have the flexibility to grow/change with your organization.

2. This leads to the second point: if the right CRM solution is identified and selected, it needs to be designed according to the needs of the business in order to simplify user adoption. I’ve had the experience of working with extremely robust enterprise-level CRM systems that provided capabilities galore. Unfortunately, they quickly evolved into such cumbersome systems, that a separate “Database Marketing” team was required to manage not only enhancement requests, but queries, report analyses, and data entry — key functions that should have been placed in the hands of primary users (i.e. Sales and Marketing).

3. After overcoming these two hurdles is the crux of any successful CRM solution — data quality. As the CRM Magazine author points out, “If you knowingly filled the gas tank of a Ferrari with low-quality fuel, then took it out on the autobahn in Germany and pushed the accelerator to the floor, the drive would be very frustrating. You would watch other cars zoom by while you sputtered along. By the end of the trip, would you blame your poor experience on the car?” In other words, if your CRM system isn’t “fueled” with the right data, it will stall and falter. He goes on to note that the results from two recent surveys conducted by CSO Insights highlight that CRM applications received lower-than-expected ratings. Analyzing the data, it was discovered that one of the primary reasons for the low ratings, was that the data integrity/quality of these CRM applications was questionable.

With our recent upgrade to Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011, I recalled the time I spent reviewing, analyzing, classifying and cleaning both data and campaign information. Although it might seem that I should have coordinated this effort with a developer, my belief was that unless I understood what was “fueling” our CRM engine, our implementation efforts would not only double, but I would be presented with a powerful Ferrari that was running on empty. 

In the end, these efforts paid off: I not only was able to delete unnecessary data, but the information that I had analyzed enabled me to identify Sales and Marketing programs that leveraged data that I would have overlooked had I not “lifted the hood and tinkered with the engine.” Furthermore,  working with our databases so closely enabled me to better define reporting requirements and identify and implement “closed loop” processes for managing inbound leads, and existing account management.

As the article notes, “(regardless of the CRM application) all will underperform if data accuracy is compromised. Data inaccuracy, therefore, is a challenge that must be confronted. It would be a big mistake simply to hope that it will go away…..So, as you start to put together your budgets for 2012 or if you have some money left over to spend this year, consider investing in higher-quality fuel for CRM. If you do, you’ll get a chance to see just what a high-performance technology engine can really do.”

Perhaps this is common sense — or is it? I’d be interested in your thoughts….

by Green Beacon Solutions, New York Microsoft Dynamics CRM Partner

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