If only computers owned computers


GBA Proper

I just got back from Seattle. Nothing too strange in that. I have been there before, and may even go there again. I was at a conference. Nothing at all strange in that. I have been to one of those before, and I think it is safe to say that I will be going to another one.

Probably quite soon.

The subject of the conference was also not particularly strange. It was about CRM (and datawarehousing). The buzzword beloved of CRM vendors and behated of companies trying to get their ‘CR’ right. As our man in North America said the other day: “A system will never cure a congealed process” and CRM, sold as a system, as a solution, is not the answer to the congealed process of 21st century customer care.

The interesting thing about this conference was that it was not just about one industry, as most conferences tend to be (you will be aware by now of my opinions on industries refusing to learn the lessons of other industries). And another interesting thing was this: every industry, almost every company on earth has a mission to become more customer centric. And almost every industry, almost every company is failing at some point.

Part of the reason is the system. Ask your colleagues what the CRM strategy is, and if the answer is the name of a system, then you need to worry. Systems need ownership. CRM is normally ‘used’ by the people who want to use it the most – marketing or sales, perhaps. Then the question arises – if everyone wants to use it, but no-one wants to own it, which is the customer database of record, and who owns that? The CRM system? The billing system? The finance system?

Politics then raises its ugly head, and turf wars break out about who owns which system; and thus, far from improving the ‘customer centric’ situation, it makes it worse.

And as every industry, and every company, gets frustrated by the failures and the fights, they learn the same thing: that the complexity of achieving the goal of real customer centricity, which can only be achieved by distributing the right information to the right people, lies in the intertwined complexities of technology, process and leadership. And the least of these is the technology, and the most of these is the people. And, sadly, it is the people who own the computers, and program them.

Watch this space, as the GBA seeks out best practice.