Understanding Structured Data Will Revolutionize Your Approach to CRM Implementation
From Big Data Warehouse to Just-in-Time Information
CRM is not a warehouse; it is a mine and a refinery. The CRM sits atop a vast field of raw, unstructured data. Unstructured data deposits come in the form of emails, images, Excel spreadsheets, customer orders, memos, records, and any file extension the business creates. Unstructured data is searchable but not analyzable in any organized sense.
Data warehouse intelligence is extremely limited. Human intelligence is not about raw storage. It is about prioritizing meaningful facts over meaningless static; it is about modeling information in a simplified but actionable form.
CRM shapes unstructured data into structured information. Strategic CRMs are called relational databases for their ability to link disparate pieces of information together in meaningful ways. For example, a CRM would be able to link a referral source to the initial sale and any relevant business development activities that contributed to the referral, piecing these disparate pieces of information together from the files the business generates. These links would then be structured and stores for smart queries and reports.
This is one example of the rocket fuel a relational database can refine from crude oil, as well as the reason for C-Suite and management to salivate over CRM: less guesswork and increased confidence in real-time decision-making.
LOB CRMs Need Holistic Vision to Refine Big Data into Relevant Information, Says C-Suite and Gartner
CRM converts massive heaps of data into information, but by now it should make sense that conversion requires a systematic approach to business documentation and processes. Any thorough CRM implementation company will ask for this documentation – how the LOB (Line of Business) or silo organizes and has organized its sales process, where the meaningful information can be found, how to extract and sort it. More importantly, the CRM will make prioritization decisions about what data has meaning to the business versus what data does not.
We see mid-market businesses approach CRM as a sales enablement tool and roll-out LOB CRMs. Multiple CRMs will each be configured to the demands of individual silos. But without a shared definition of what is meaningful for the business as a whole, each CRM will be relatively ineffectual in combination with the others.
This appraisal is purely from the standpoint of structured data. Without an holistic approach, business analytics will focus on segmented constituents. Decision-making will be like comparing oranges to apples. A decision that benefits one side of the business and detracts from the other will be like picking favorites instead of making a reasonable conclusion.
Going beyond data, these implementations can be a long-term detriment to core business functionality. Unofficial processes become systematic, even when they run counter to the core business strategy. CRM implementation decisions force the LOB to come to a conscious awareness of its values and goals. There is a period of change and growth. Performing a CRM implementation is a coming-of-age process. And when the business does not come-of-age together, it comes apart.
Gartner has warned against CRM silos for over a decade in its popular report, The Eight Building Blocks of CRM.
“Look beyond fragmented CRM approaches that remain popular because of their associated quick wins and the desire to avoid the political difficulties of convincing different business units to cooperate.” (Gartner: The Eight Building Blocks of CRM: Overview, 2013).
The report has emphasized the importance of a single CRM to span the organization since 2002. Yet in 2013 when this last iteration was published, less than one-fifth of businesses had implemented a company-wide CRM. The current estimate is that by the end of 2016, only 25% of businesses will have a single CRM platform, with 75% using multiple.
What this tells us is that implementing one CRM project for the core business will continue to provide a competitive advantage for many years to come.