The learning process of BSIC was a blend of elements involving team working, business tricks and knowledge about the subject, communication skills, time constraints and pressure. No one, even experienced people can say it was easy, but in the end it was a worthy experience.
As I took notes of every single meeting it was held, I have interesting information of the whole process. However, I am only summarizing the most relevant days, in order to get easy understanding of some reasons of our mistakes such as time constraint and team working style. Because it was a strategy developed in 4 weeks and presented the last 5th week, it can be seen that every single week the approach was slightly different as a result of the regular feedbacks and up dated information that was found. In the explanation of the events, I also mention my role in the group and my contribution as a team member.
The main analytical tool used for the SIS revision was the multi-layered approach presented by Finnegan, D.J. and Currie W.L. (2009). I decided to choose this because it was initially used in the design of the formal presented strategy and it can also show that it was difficult to "afford" a right development of all the 4 layers in the same week or in the last one. In addition, I highlight the most common mistakes done in most CRM integration strategies as it is pointed out by Sudhir Kale (1) in her paper.
Finally, I write the main lessons learnt in this module and how to use this experience to enhance future challenges.
A critical review of the SIS and the reasons behind the mistakes
From the first week of the term, I felt the satisfaction of being in an excellent group because all members were collaborative and have ideas to share. They were active class participants and some of their working experience was also an excellent plus to consider.
Despite of having interesting working experience in business and in some real life aspects, I struggled with my English speaking fluency and this made it to me feel difficult to communicate my ideas. I also believed that another weak point was my lack of technical experience in the IT industry, but it was a bad appreciation because, as I will explain later, our approach was in the wrong direction.
Before entering into the academic part of the Project, I would like to explain chronologically about the most important events and some reasons that were an impediment for getting better final outcomes.
Tuesday 13/October/2009: This day we had the second group meeting after our introductory BSIC class and we were given the RFI and the Press release documents. The first issue to consider was the division of roles and the initial tasks. As I supposed, there were more than one person looking forward to be the leader in the group. Some of my team mates encouraged me ; I told my group that I was eager to actively participate in the meeting sessions but I was not confident about my language fluency and that this could cause communication misunderstanding with the client. By the meantime, I joined English speaking sessions to improve the language as far as possible in the next rounds. Everybody was asked to propose his/her role and we decided three or four people to be the contact with the client. The basis of this election was in the assumption that the Implementation was rather technical, so we decided two technically skilled people and one good communicator as the three main people in charge of the client. The system for choosing and deciding was democratic; majority will accept or reject any idea and so the work began.
Saturday 17/October/2009: At this stage I had already began reading the core book of the course and I was just beginning to figure out about CRM, which I always thought it was just powerful software. In fact, most members of our team group were completely aware that this was more a technical issue and this was the initial approach given to the development of the implementation. I suggested emphasize the customer to be the centre of the approach but it was not important for the majority: our project approach was, at that time, already guilty for the 1st, 2nd and consequently 3th CRM strategy sins before mentioned. Of course, this was caused because at this day the team hardly read academic papers and so the work was only done based on people´s work experience.
Sunday 18/October/2009: After some meetings with my team, I can find myself doing a mixture of roles ranging from Monitor-Evaluator, Team worker, Implementer and Complete Finisher, according to Belbin Team-Role Inventory (2). The first and second roles were particularly useful when any difficult fight or disagreement arose and hopefully I could handle them to ease differences between two or more Shapers. The third and fourth roles were demonstrated when assigned to do a specific task which I could deliver on time. Besides the daily decisions and suggestions given for the project, my tasks at this stage were to complete the information about our company´s profile, previous customers and finish the corporate image of the company.
Tuesday 20/October/2009: The approach now is intended to emphasize the change management and the integration of the technology. In fact, the methodology proposed was supposed to integrate People, Process and Technology, but the idea was not well explained in the document.
Friday 23/October/2009: At this time, because of the particular requirements of the RFP, it was necessary to make some assumptions to base the development of the response. The limitations of the time did not allow us to make key questions to the customer: at moments there was confusion about the scope of the implementation in contrast with the software vendor ´s, but after some research these doubts were dispelled. In real life, it is important to keep the flow of communication with the client on a daily basis.
According to Porter (1985), (3) IT is an enabler of the competitive advantage and sustainable position against the competitive forces in any industry; one of the first steps in any CRM implementation is to align the SIS with the strategy of the organization, which in the project might have been a mixture of Growth, Customer-orientation and Increasing switching costs strategies. Taking it for granted that the most elemental strategy was Growth and Customer satisfaction, it was sometimes forgotten and it focused only on the internal aspects of the organization such as the change management and the technical implementation. Moreover, ´CRM begins with in-depth analysis of customer behaviour and attributes to achieve complete knowledge of the customers, their habits, desires and their needs´ (8). Then, when the organization has been enabled with the IT capabilities, it will use their own strategy to get the best perfomarnce according with the market environment.(4)
With regard to change management and knowledge management perspective, it is important to mention that the approach given was correct because I and some of the members of the team had read the core book and the recommended reading. It was considered the multi-layered analytical tool for a CRM implementation proposed by Finnegan and Currie (9) which includes Cultural, Process, People and the Technical Layer. As part of the change management of the strategy we strongly advised to the Client to follow a process that involves a close relation between sub-cultures interaction, knowledge sharing and psychological contracts (Cultural Layer); and the proposal also highlighted the training to the end-users through a two-way plan as well as the creation of a reward scheme (People Layer). Obviously, this process was defined to be backed by senior managers and other stakeholders. As far as it was permitted by the stage of the project, it was used the Pettigrew´s framework for preliminary data analysis (5) and also its adapted form for final data collection and analysis (5).
Saturday 24/October/2009: When there are still two days left for the delivery of the document, it was just incorporated the final analysis about the technical implementation; the material about this is extensive and this also gives again the impression that the strategy is still very technical. The development of the plan for the Process layer was more technical and it was misunderstood because we should have reviewed carefully the impact of the CRM in the different departments of the company .It is such as important to align the new system with the organization processes as well as with the people and technology(8).
Because of the shortage of time most of the document was incorporated in parts due to the silo working style of the team. So, my task of doing the Planning and Costing was, honestly, an estimated of the average price of the market for a CRM implementation instead of a realistic vision of what the proposal was. It was a mistake to give details about Costing at this stage, considering that most of vital information of the document was ready minutes before the handing in.
Monday 26/10/09: This day I had the sensation that the work was mostly well developed, even when the Interaction with the Client had been a little tricky. I must admit that I found it very interesting the informal feedback given by the Deloitte Consultants because they gave the secrets for successfully handling a real business meeting and presentations. I always take note of those invaluable points.
Wednesday 28/10/09: After two days off, the coordinator of the group made a workshop to realize the good and bad sides of our working style. I gave my recommendations to the team, especially regarding the distribution of the activities: the work is done with low flow of information among the sub teams created to facilitate the completion of the tasks and so it was missing a little coherence of the final document. Besides this, I strongly encouraged people to be more informed and to try to read more the academic material because many parts of the SIS documents were from the technically experienced people and not always formal tools were used. This made it sometimes to align the approach given with the technically minded colleagues.
I still find it difficult to communicate my ideas in English, but I managed to talk with someone who could easier understand me in my language and in that way to back my ideas to the rest of people.
Thursday 29/10/2009: Once received the formal feedback from the Deloitte Consultants, certainly the recommendation was to give less technical approach to the SIS. This made us to change the roles of people doing the presentation and suddenly the most technically minded people were not doing it as they did not feel confident in explaining issues that they did not well. In fact only those who read more the theory and had better fluency in English were decided to do the final presentation to the Den.
Tuesday 03/11/2009: The Data Migration problem was developed according to previous experience of the tech specialist in the team and, as usual, it was more referred to working background instead of academic tools. At this point the strategy is the same as the given in the Week 2; that is a correct approach to the integration of the People and the Culture Layer but a weak development of issues regarding the Technical and Process Layer. By now, the SIS has fallen into the 1st, 2nd ,3rd and 7th deadly sins in any CRM Strategy. However, when doing the review of the final BAFO document it was realized the non customer centric view of the strategy and this embarked me and one of my colleagues in searching about it. I managed to improve the Process Layer and the SIS was better aligned to Aluxtel´s customers. Besides this, I am finishing some last changes to the Planning and Costing. This was the last refine action given to the Strategy and so the development of the written document was concluded.
Sunday 06/11/2009: The documentation and slides are already defined, but still some doubts about Data Migration are on my head. I am searching about it and at the same time helping the presenters to do well the rehearsals, giving to them recommendations, encouraging them and congratulating them for doing the best. There is the sensation that most things in our presentation are well done and it is expected to be among the winners. This overdose of trust played against us because It was never practiced the round of possible questions: huge mistake!!. Let us wait and see it tomorrow.
Invaluable lessons learned for future experience
The week 5 was for me one of self reflection and the most valuable because I could clarify mi mind and understand well this experience. The first days after the 9th November were difficult to me and I was thinking once and again what went wrong because in the context, I thought, the strategy was well done. As I mentioned before, in fact we were very misaligned with what the theory and well practices of integration state. It was needed to read more and be much more informed for giving a holistic and refined approach to the strategy.
But it is not only the strategy by itself, there are many other factors involved to be competitive and to impress the client. I am sure that things that are in the books are valuable but there are also others that I only could learn with this experience and when someone else gave me the advice:
Firstly, I believe it is important to be prepared to work in any kind of team and try to contribute in the best way because it will influence the outcomes of the project. Even when there are disagreements I have to hide those problems to the client; behaving like a team makes the customer trust you.
Also, I learnt that little details make a huge difference from the competitors; for instance, very well planned slides and presentations, a professional behaviour when interaction with the client, good command of the body language, eye contact, a clear speaking and communication, appropriate answers to the questions, the branding of your company, etc .The best way to make it natural is practicing as many times as possible.
Finally, a crucial element to get a better outcome is to show a real interest in the client and its needs, to listen to it carefully and try to understand its situation. Sometimes the client is not sure what it really wants and do not want to realize the bigger picture of the problem. And we have to be prepared to give the best options and be adventurous in creative solutions.
If I were given this opportunity again I would use a mixture of approaches to effectively enhance the business model of the organization. I would keep in mind the affordance of the 4 basic layers in any strategic implementation while following the steps given for Ling, R. and Yen, D.C. (2001)(8) and emphasizing the focus given by Finnegan D.(2007)(5) to the sub-culture interactions, psychological contracts and knowledge sharing. The core book gave me a different view of what I used to understand about implementing a CRM or any IT project. From a previous experience I could see that the failures in most projects are a human factor, but I was never aware of the critical details involved. From now, I will be careful in considering all these aspects to do the right things. Also, I will put in practice the experience acquired, lessons learnt and the recommendations given in the feedbacks and in the periodical meetings with the Consultants.
- Parsons, G.L.(1983) ´Information Technology: A New Competitive Weapon´ ,Sloan Management Review, Fall,pp.3-13
- Porter, M., Miller, V. (1985).´How information gives you competitive advantage´. Harvard Business Review, May/June, pp. 115-179.
- Kale, S.H. (2004):´CRM Failure and the Seven Deadly Sins´. Marketing Management, Volume 13, Issue 5, 42-46.
- Belbin, M. (1981). Management Teams. London; Heinemann.
- Porter, M.E. (1985).´Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining superior performance´. Free Press, New York, 1985.
- Orlikowski, W. J. Hofman, J. D. (1997) An Improvisational Model for Change Management: The Case of Groupware Technologies, Sloan Management Review, 38 (2), pp. 11-22
- Finnegan, D. and Willcocks, L. (2007), Implementing CRM: From Technology to Knowledge. Wiley, Chichester. Chapter 4
- W L Currie and Finnegan, D: Integrating Healthcare, Radcliffe Publishing (2009)
- In the January/February 2002 issue of Marketing Management, Lawrence Crosby and Sheree L. Johnson write
- Ling, R. and Yen, D.C. (2001): ´Customer Relationship Management: An Analysis Framework and Implementation Strategies´. Journal of Computer Information Systems, Volume 41,Issue 3,82-97.
- Finnegan, D.J. and Currie W.L. (2009):´A multi-layered approach to CRM implementation: An integration perspective´, European Management Journal, doi:10.1016/j.emj.2009.04.010