When Failure Is an Option in CRM Projects

December 12 2007

Why is the failure rate for CRM projects so high?

Depending on whose statistics you read, CRM projects fail at a rate of 50% to 80%. That means that I have spent the last twenty years of my life in an industry where the industry standard is failure. How can this be?

Of course, you have to first define what you mean by failure.

About David Lee

Dr. David Lee is president and founder of Vertical Marketing, Inc., a CRM sales and consulting practice incorporated in 1987 with 5 offices world wide. Through VMI he has been involved in more than 1,000 CRM projects ranging in size from single users to thousands of users.
He has experience in all phases of the CRM life cycle including CRM baseline measurement and ROI analysis, sales process design, RFP development, system selection, system design and configuration, custom programming, Data cleaning and import, system integration, training and train-the-trainer, ongoing support, and rescuing faltering CRM projects.
Dr. Lee holds scores of CRM awards and certifications from customers, vendors and training organizations. He is personally certified on 7 CRM systems with separate certifications for specific modules and versions in many cases. He holds additional certifications and awards for countless third party applications. He is a Certified Sales Process Consultant and Certified Trainer.
Dr. Lee is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Northern Virginia and is working with the staff to develop a CRM course as a part of the MBA program. He is author of Microsoft CRM for Dummies as well as scores of articles and white papers on CRM subjects. He speaks on various CRM topics.
Prior to launching VMI, Dr. Lee held positions as a programmer/analyst, a US Army officer and as VP of Marketing for a Legal Time and Billing software company.

More about David Lee


esandstrand's picture

Dear David, I read your article with great interest, as this is a topic near and dear to my professional heart, as it is yours. Technology, and in this case CRM solutions, can provide a slew of features and functions to sales people that supposedly will help them, as you said, close sales and get bonuses quicker. Among these, features such as mobile access, analyses and reports, price books online, templates, etc, etc, I find a common missing theme. Sales professionals are a dualistic breed, a mix of the temperamental artist and the persistent bulldog. The best sales people will always tell you that successful sales is a combination of the Science and Art. If Science is technology, methodology and the discipline a sales person must employ, then Art becomes the intangibles of such as intuition, trustworthiness, reputation and relationships. I believe, that a CRM system that only focuses on the Science of sales, will soon not only bore our sales guy to death, but he will likely actively reject it as a time waster that doesn't deliver true value to him. CRM solutions feel constraining to sales. As many have said, the hated 'HQ' doesn't have their personal motivation in mind (the bonus) when they implement CRM and the associated rules and procedures. The missing piece is that CRM fails to provide value and especially on the side of things where the sales artist needs them - how to understand and strengthen relationships, how to act on intuition, how to build trust and reputation with customers and prospects through networks and connections. I'd be interested in reading more about what kinds of benefits you thing a CRM solution can and should provide to sales users. If there's any user group that needs and deserves value from CRM (so they can be productive users and contribute value to CRM), it's our sales force. Thanks Eivind ================================================= SalesCentric Relationship Charts for Microsoft Dynamics CRM See. Move. Win. www.salescentric.com

fonsu's picture

How to make sales reps really commit for project, not just say they are commited?

arnehuse's picture

Through research, I have named this phenomenon "The CRM Dilemma." As long as activity controls remain an element of CRM, sales reps will feel they have no choice but to do everything in their power to make CRM fail. I invite you to view the informal presentation of my research on my blog "The CRM Dilemma" I love the quote from Douglas Hartle "It is a rare dog that will carry the stick with which it is to be beaten."

baks's picture

This is a very revealing article on CRM.

colingbradley's picture

Is there a solution? I have worked on both sides of the fence as it were. What a busy and successful salesperson needs is a backoffice that will take the messy and generally unstructured data and transform or fit it to the business model. I agree that it is unlikely that a natural salesperson will also be a bookeeper type personality so it is fruitless trying to make them so. The real problem is that although the solution is clear (to me), there is the cost of the back office people and overheads and so where is the benefit? It must be an efficient back office person (Controller/Sales Manager) who will provide the salespeople with helpful information resulting in more or better sales. There is zero benefit to the CEO knowing the detail, he/she is only interested in results as should all the other line managers. Although I am no longer in sales and marketing, I give thanks to those who are as they provide the wealth for all of us. Anything that can be done to assist them to achieve their and the company goals must be good.