CRM and IT failure: An enlightened view

Yesterday's blog on CRM failure inspired an important response from Oracle that I am reprinting here as a guest post.

Yesterday's blog on CRM failure inspired an important response from Oracle that I am reprinting here as a guest post.

The guest post, written by Steve Diamond, Oracle's Sr. Director, CRM Product Marketing, reflects a refreshing, pragmatic, and straightforward view of IT failure.

Without exception, every technology vendor should recite this paragraph from Steve's post and remember it as a mantra. I'm printing this excerpt in red because it is one the most important statements on IT failure I have ever read:

[M]y comments apply to ALL CRM vendors, not just Oracle. As I perused the list, I couldn't find any failures related to technology. They all seemed related to people or process. Now, this isn't about finger pointing, or impugning customers. I love customers! And when they fail, WE fail.

Steve's enlightened comment raises three critical points:

  1. IT failure is an industry problem that does not belong to any one vendor or consulting company.
  2. People, and not technology, are the fundamental driver of success or failure.
  3. Blame and finger-pointing are lousy ways to deal with failure. Far better to focus on customer success!

Congratulations to Steve for summarizing these points so elegantly.

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FAILURE SUCKS, BUT DOES IT HAVE TO?

Hey Folks--It's "elephant in the room" time. Imagine a representative from a CRM VENDOR discussing CRM FAILURES. Well. I recently saw this blog post from Michael Krigsman on "six ways CRM projects go wrong."

Now, I know this may come off defensive, but my comments apply to ALL CRM vendors, not just Oracle. As I perused the list, I couldn't find any failures related to technology. They all seemed related to people or process. Now, this isn't about finger pointing, or impugning customers. I love customers! And when they fail, WE fail.

Although I sit in the cheap seats, i.e., I haven't funded any multi-million dollar CRM initiatives lately, I kept wondering how to convert the perception of failure as something that ends and is never to be mentioned again (see Michael's reason #4), to something that one learns from and builds upon.

So to continue my tradition of speaking in platitudes, let me propose the following three tenets:

  1. Try and get ahead of your failures while they're very very small.
  2. Immediately assess what you can learn from those failures.
  3. With more than 15 years of CRM deployments, seek out those vendors that have a track record both in learning from "misses" and in supporting MANY THOUSANDS of CRM successes at companies of all types and sizes.

Now let me digress briefly with an unpleasant (for me, anyway) analogy. I really don't like flying. Call it 'fear of dying' or 'fear of no control.' Whatever! I've spoken with quite a few commercial pilots over the years, and they reassure me that there are multiple failures on most every flight. We as passengers just don't know about them. Most of them are too minuscule to make a difference, and most of them are "caught" before they become LARGER failures. It's typically the mid-sized to colossal failures we hear about, and a significant percentage of those are due to human error.

What's the point? I'd propose that organizations consider the topic of FAILURE in five grades. On one end, FAILURE Grade 1 is a minor/minuscule failure. On the other end, FAILURE Grade 5 is a colossal failure A Grade 1 CRM FAILURE could be that a particular interim milestone was missed. Why? What can we learn from that? How can we prevent that from happening as we proceed through the project?

Individual organizations will need to define their own Grade 2 and Grade 3 failures. The opportunity is to keep those Grade 3 failures from escalating any further. Because honestly, a GRADE 5 failure may not be recoverable. It could result in a project being pulled, countless amounts of hours and dollars lost, and jobs lost. We don't want to go there.

In closing, I want to thank Michael for opening my eyes up to the world of "color," versus thinking of failure as both "black and white" and a dead end road that organizations can't learn from and avoid discussing like the plague.

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I’d like to thank Steve Diamond for writing this guest blog post.

[Photo from iStockphoto.]

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