The Need for Customized CRM

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I recently blogged about some analysts' bullish expectations for CRM, with both Datamonitor and KensingtonHouse citing the growing interest in and adoption of CRM delivered through a software-as-service model.


In an October interview with IT Business Edge, AMR Research analyst Robert Bois noted that growth rates for SaaS "continue to dramatically outpace that of licensed software."


With CRM, which has been traditionally hampered by low adoption rates, SaaS is appealing because of its lower up-front cost, reduced risk and because "in a true SaaS environment, there should be no such thing as unused seats of software," said Bois. He added:

While double-digit growth rates can't continue forever in SaaS, we think this model has a lot of legs. This isn't the ASP flash-in-the-pan we saw in the early 2000s, this is truly changing the software landscape, and forcing traditional software vendors to rethink how they develop, sell and support their products to remain competitive.

With similar remarks from other analysts dominating recent media coverage of CRM, it's easy to forget that at least some companies continue to develop their own highly customized CRM software. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, recently migrated from Siebel CRM to an in-house system.


Ken Janssens, the Chase executive that led the project, tells Bank Technology News that the conversion yielded increased functionality for users, cost efficiencies and "consistent performance in the many different parts of the world that we operate."


Chase adapted a CRM system that had been developed for Bank One, which it acquired. The project benefited from the fact that both companies used Web services. Janssens says:

We had to re-write the services, but it was a modification more than a start from scratch. We had to fit into a new data model, which was the hardest thing. But we improved performance in the process. There was an up-front expense; in the end we were able to cut ongoing costs by half, reduce head count and free up dozens of servers.

Customization was necessary not only because of the need for consistency in the company's multi-national footprint, says Janssens, but also because investment banking lacks a "singular sales model." A customized system is the best way to drive user adoption in such an environment, he says.

... putting something in front of (the investment bankers) that is good enough so that they will actually want to use it (means) you've got to embed yourself with these bankers, know exactly how they work, and develop something fairly custom. ...Any package you have to modify more than 20 percent, I challenge that that is the right thing to do.

I believe Chase's willingness to determine what its users needed to do their jobs better had just as much to do with the project's success as the software customization. As I blogged in August, the best CRM technology won't do any good without solid underlying processes in place.


In his IT Business Edge interview, AMR Research's Bois told me that many users eschew CRM because of a perceived lack of benefits. He said:

Much of the software on the market today helps automate process, but doesn't necessarily provide incremental value back to the user. Sales people often complain that CRM or SFA (salesforce automation) is just an administrative burden, and does little more than prove to their boss that they are doing their job. So adoption wanes, and users go back to using familiar tools like spreadsheets, databases or even just Rolodexes.

While this was a problem at Chase, Janssens says, it was solved by improving the system's usability and by integrating it with e-mail. He says:

(The problem is) if you're a smart front-office person, the last thing you want to do is share with people. Your Rolodex is yours. So (the bank needed to) build in features where it's super-easy to contribute and it's easy to find that information, then you lower those barriers. So we integrated it with e-mail. It's linked to the client central system. That creates that single view. Our CRM is much more about client scorecards, using internal and external market data.