CRM, Success, and Best Practices: A Wake Up Call Part Two: Modeling Success with Senior Management and CRM Culture

  • Written By: Glen S. Petersen
  • Published: October 22 2004

CRM, Success, and Best Practices: A Wake Up Call Part Two: Modeling Success with Senior Management and CRM Culture
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In the previous article of this series (see Searching And Establishing The Business Parameters Of CRM) it was established that customer relationship management (CRM) is an industry where the technology has outpaced the sophistication of the user community to properly utilize the tools; particularly in the sense of enterprise deployment. Specifically, several statistically-based studies consistently identified a relationship regarding the existence of a coherent CRM strategy with success. Currently, the industry is operating with a sense of best practices that focus attention on deployment methodologies that are necessary, but not correlated with success. Thus, a new framework is needed to address these findings. This final article in the two-part series on CRM and best practices will introduce a best practices model. It will address strategy and organizational aspects of CRM. It will highlight deployment practices and will integrate these into a self-assessment format. The interactive assessment will be presented at the end of this article.

This is part two of a two-part note.

Part one discussed how to approach CRM as a business strategy.

Part two will describe a points-based assessment approach as well as an interactive assessment to achieve this goal.

The Model

The statistical studies indicated the need for senior management leadership in terms of

  • A commitment to embracing CRM as a strategic and operational philosophy.

  • The creation of a compelling message to the organization that addresses the necessity for change and the consequences of not acting on these issues.

  • The establishment of a change process for moving from internally focused performance metrics to customer behavior based metrics.

  • The dedication of staffing and funding commensurate with initiative needs and its importance to the organization.

Although CRM success is certainly dependent on these senior management actions, for CRM to be effective as an operational strategy, it requires a receptive culture that subscribes to key operating principles such as

  1. Results Orientation
    Excellence is dependent on balancing and satisfying the needs of all relevant constituencies, shareholders, employees, customers, and partners.

  2. Customer Focus
    The customer is the final arbiter of the quality and value of the product and service. Performance is best optimized by acquiring, developing, and retaining profitable customers.

  3. Leadership
    The behavior of a company's leaders creates a clarity and unity of purpose within the organization and a culture in which people excel.

  4. Management by Processes and Facts
    Effectiveness is leveraged when companies understand and manage inter-related activities and operational decisions are made using reliable information.

  5. People Development and Involvement
    The full potential of the employees of a company are best released through shared values, a culture of trust, and investment in the development of employees.

  6. Continuous Improvement
    Long-term performance is best achieved through a sharing of knowledge and improvement through closed loop processes.

  7. Partner Development
    The creation of mutual benefits is the framework for long-term productive relationships.

Components of the Best Practice and Assessment Model

The Best Practice and Assessment Model is organized into nine sections. Each section addresses culture- and initiative-oriented issues because for CRM to be effective, it must not only be implemented correctly but it also must be integrated into the fabric of the organization so that it has a chance to be understood and grow. The top six sections are primarily oriented toward the culture, while the bottom three sections address implementation issues. Figure 1 provides a graphical version of the model. It is then followed by the description and rationale for each section.

Figure 1: Best Practice and Assessment Model

Policy and Strategy

These elements reflect how the organization intends to implement its mission and vision. It is supported by relevant policies, plans, objectives, and processes. These materials provide the framework for initiatives and impact both top and bottom line results. Starting a CRM initiative in an environment where policies skew behavior toward low risk and cost containment is analogous to launching a carrier-based plane without an engine; it will clear the deck but will quickly sink into the sea of bureaucracy.


How a company hires, manages, develops, and trusts its employees impacts the degree to which the full potential of the organization will be achieved. Many organizational studies have demonstrated a significant correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. The heart of CRM is the entirety of the customer experience. In most cases, this includes either the productivity or interface with employees.


The heart of CRM of course is the customer. However, saying that the organization is customer centric versus its behavior can be two radically different perspectives. This section emphasizes the elements that would broadly be interpreted as being consistent with the best practices of CRM as an operational strategy.


A fundamental tenant of CRM is to provide a consistent, seamless, and transparent interface with customers across channels. Partners must be considered an extension of the organization, which means that they need to be an integral part of the best practices model.


How a company designs, manages, and improves its processes in support of its customer value generation strategy will ultimately define the return generated for shareholders. However, mere process redesign or automation will not guarantee success. Success relates to how the processes align with each other and the overall motivation and spirit of the organization.


Ultimately, the focus of any CRM initiative must be results. CRM represents an enormous investment in systems, processes, and people: there must be a return. The question is, did the company define success up-front and did it achieve what it set out to do.

Implementation Perspective

The last three sections of the model are framed by a double line to emphasize that these three elements must work in unison to create the necessary combination of decisions and actions to generate a successful CRM initiative. The double arrows denote an ongoing interaction with various elements and aspects of the enterprise to achieve this purpose. The three elements are leadership, program management, and change management; each discipline provides a necessary but not sufficient component of success. This helps to explain the relatively low success rates within the industry. When CRM is approached from the perspective of technology only or project only, it is destined to fail. There are few truly customer centric organizations and CRM is not a natural extension for any organization that is structured along functional lines. It is an organizational change issue and senior management must be engaged in the process not merely supportive of it.


Senior management must be committed to making CRM the operational strategy for the company and be ready to place their reputation on it. Anything less is unlikely to endure the personal investment required to rally the organization around this vision and make it successful. Senior management must provide the directional vision for the initiative and provide ongoing guidance and resources to see it through.

Program Management

The use of the term program management is deliberate. Program management typically is used on multiphase projects and implies a more complex environment and the accountability for achieving results. Any CRM project that resembles an enterprise initiative requires the skill and sophistication of program management.

Change Management

As outlined above, CRM is a change management issue for any organization attempting to embrace it. CRM is a business philosophy first and then a deployment of technology. Change management must be disciplined and follow best practices similar to any other project based activity. The change management aspect is often better served by treating it as a parallel set of activities that must tie together at the program management level. This is another reason why a program manager is highly desirable for these initiatives.

Success then (based on achieving tangible and measurable results) is achieved through institutionalizing the CRM philosophy and operational reality through a carefully articulated implementation process that requires the three elements of senior management leadership, program management and change management. It is the intention of the model not to be prescriptive as to a specific methodology to get there but rather to better understand the destination and the tools that need to be in place to get to some desired level of achievement. Remember, CRM is a journey, not a destination. However, on the road one needs signs to make sure that you are on course; likewise, successful implementations require a distinct and unique definition of results for each phase—without these, an organization is likely to lose focus.

The Self-Assessment

The self-assessment process offers an organization the opportunity to learn about strengths and weaknesses and about how the organization is progressing on the journey to CRM excellence. One could accomplish this task without any scoring system at all. However, numeric results are useful from the standpoint of assessing progress.

First, the assessment criteria contains a description of the key concepts and what are thought to be best practices. A rationale is provided for added clarity. The observer needs to compare the situation in his or her organization with this description. Then the observer must consider the degree to which the criteria meets the following requisites:

  1. Is there a clear definition of who is responsible for this section? If no one is specifically accountable, then it is less likely that it will happen.

  2. Is the approach or philosophy of the organization consistent with the best practice?

  3. Is the commitment to this approach or activity documented to validate that it is part of the plan or was included in the original plan and implementation.

The scoring system is based on a 1000-point system similar to the Baldrige Quality Award System. This model places a significant number of points on results with the reason for this emphasis is that the CRM strategy is about improving performance; all of the other activities and steps are a means to that end. It is very difficult to be completely descriptive in terms of all the subtleties and details associated with this process; therefore, by placing the large number of points on results one does not have to account for this level of detail. A summary of the point system is as follows:

  • Policy and Strategy 50 points

  • Employees 100 points

  • Customers 100 points

  • Partners 50 points

  • Process 100 points

  • Results 300 points (Financial 90 + Employees 50 + Customer 120 + Partner 40)

  • Leadership 100 points

  • Program Management 100 points

  • Change Management 100 points

Remember that success is really a function of getting all the sections correct, so an assignment of a lower point score does not infer that one can neglect that area. The point score for each section will be included in the lead description of each section.

After assessing each section, your points will be totaled and compared to the 1,000 point potential. Points for each criterion are allocated as percentages. If the criterion requires a yes or no answer, then either 100 percent, or 0 percent is received. Use a range if the criterion is more subjective.

Interpreting the Results

This is a self-assessment. As an individual, one can score his or her organization well or poorly; however, the score is not going to help your organization achieve success. It is the learning that should be emphasized and progress against whatever milestone the organization creates for itself. The model and the rationale for each section should be the focus and it should be a reflective attitude not one of wishful thinking. All organizations have their share of warts, it is what one does to eliminate the warts that counts, not the number that exists at any given time. So in looking at the assessment, one must focus on the patterns and areas that build on one another. Start getting the right foundation so that midway up, you do not find that you are out of plumb.

The self-assessment template encourages the capture of thoughts regarding learning and observations gained during the process of completing the assessment. The scores provide insight regarding perceived compliance and the numeric evaluation of that gap. In some respects, it might be easy to simply "shore-up" the omissions and that may be the right thing to do; however, some time should be taken to reflect on the observations from the perspective of root cause analysis. Are the results reflective of more basic or systemic issues that tend to influence other areas of the company in subtle or not so subtle ways?


Taking Action

The self-assessment may be an interesting concept and raise issues but if it does not result in positive action, it has not served its purpose. As previously indicated, the self-assessment can be completed at any phase of an initiative. If the initiative is just starting, it can be used as a form of readiness, at the middle of an implementation it can be used as a calibration, and in the post implementation period, a course correction step.

Regardless of the stage, the emphasis should be on learning and action, not finger pointing or wringing of hands. The sponsor should be thoroughly briefed and ideally involved in the process. When the assessment is complete, it must be reviewed with senior management with the intention of creating understanding and cohesive approach to action items. The sponsor executive must be responsible for dealing with the likely sensitive issues either off-line or during the discussion. The exact outline for the presentation will vary depending on the stage of the initiative and the issues that need to be addressed. However, a generic outline includes

  1. Reason for the meeting and desired outcomes
  2. Status of the initiative
  3. What's at stake
  4. The nature of the self-assessment
  5. The results of the self-assessment
  6. Key learning
  7. Recommended action steps and rationale
  8. Commitment to action


Adapting a best practice assessment model can help management catch up to the fast pace of CRM technology. It can define the implementation objective and guide management in understanding CRM implementation as a business strategy. Regardless of your assessment or implementation stage, making observations and addressing sensitive issues will help you see your ROI in your investment.

This is part two of a two-part note.

Part one discussed how to approach CRM as a business strategy.

Part two described a points-based assessment approach as well as an interactive assessment to achieve this goal.


About the Author

Glen S. Petersen is an internationally recognized speaker, writer, practitioner, and thought leader in the CRM and e-business industries. As a visionary and early adopter of sales force automation (SFA), in 1986, Petersen led one of the first successful national implementations of SFA in the United States. He has held senior level management positions with system integration and end user organizations. As a consultant, he developed a number of proprietary facilitation techniques to help organizations to better understand technology, and how to rally around a single threaded, phased implementation approach. Prior to founding GSP & Associates, Petersen was senior vice president at ONE, Inc. and Ameridata. He has authored six books including CRM Best Practices: Self Assessment and Making CRM an Operational Reality.

Petersen has a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Engineering, and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

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