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CIOs Aren't Getting What They Need From CRM

A new report from ZS Associates finds that many CIOs use CRM only as a management tool, not as software that can help them with customers.
Salesforce Vs. The Competition: A CRM Primer
Salesforce Vs. The Competition: A CRM Primer
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CRM is a big-ticket software item that promises companies a way to work better with customers and give valuable insight into what those customers want and how they buy.

It's a technology that CIOs are always evaluating, and it has fueled a cloud computing revolution thanks to companies such as Salesforce.com and its SaaS tools.

But is the promise of CRM being met?

ZS Associates, a sales and marketing consultancy firm, has published a new study on CRM. Ron Siahpoosh is a principal in ZS Associate's Chicago office and the CRM practice lead. He wrote the report dubbed "Where CRM Falls Short -- and What to Do About It."

In Siahpoosh's opinion, the technology is fine. It's the analysis that needs work.

"We have the appropriate software in place compared to 15 years ago," Siahpoosh said during an interview with InformationWeek on July 20. "But we do not have the business processes in place or the data analytics in place to support the software."

The key to CRM is to use it to gain greater customer insights, not just to use it as a management tool for the sales team.

"The big takeaway for me [from the study] was that when you think about CRM, don't think about it just as a management tool," said Siahpoosh. "That just alienates the sales reps, and leads to poor customer data. The CIO needs to use CRM to think about the customer experiences, the user experiences, and only then about the nuts-and-bolts of the technology. CRM should be more than just a process technology. It should be a way to create better customer experiences and relationships."

The survey asked 115 respondents -- mainly sales and sales operations leaders and members of the Sales Management Association -- to rate how much value they derive from CRM in 15 areas. Roughly 75% of respondents were from companies with more than $10 million in revenue, and approximately half of them were from organizations with more than $100 million.

Industries with the largest representation included manufacturing, software, healthcare, financial services, and professional service.

The organizations used a variety of CRM platforms, with Salesforce.com in the majority (54% of respondents), followed by SAP (19%), Microsoft Dynamics (17%), Siebel (13%), Oracle (10%), and other systems (29%).

While some -- though not a majority -- reported achieving "high to extremely high" value in areas such as opportunity management (42%), customer information look-up (39%), and sales forecasting (35%), fewer participants see similarly high value in areas like customer communication (13%), internal coordination (13%), and collateral and proposals (7%).

The areas where the fewest respondents reported generating positive results were incentive compensation management, partner management, and collaterals and proposals.

Data accuracy was an issue for most survey participants.

[Read about CIOs and the platform economy.]

The accuracy of data about existing customers, prospective customers, or future sales was rated "high" or "very high" only in select areas such as sales results (42%), opportunities (24%), and prospect profiles (19%).

The information that could lead to future sales -- data on prospective customers, activities, and opportunities -- had a low accuracy rating.

Fewer than one in four respondents believed this data was accurate. The result was consistent across both groups of respondents: sales leaders and sales operations leaders.

Three quarters of respondents wanted to see improvements made in the quality of the data used in CRM. By the same margin, they also wanted to see more tie-in of the CRM function in the support of sales and marketing processes.

It's clear that fixing CRM is more urgent for larger organizations. In almost every instance, the percent of respondents citing data quality and supporting processes as priorities rose as a function of the company's size.