You often see customer relationship management software in reference to business outreach and customers however it’s useful for IT operations too. I was interviewed this year on this topic. As with most 3rd-party interviews, parts are summarized and truncated. There’s value in sharing the “full answers” to their questions so I’m providing my “director’s cut” [giving you my full answers] in a 3 part series. This will provide a practical overview roadmap.

I welcome your comments, suggestions, and questions here or send me an e-mail, sibaraki@cips.ca.

Thank you,
Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P.


Part 1/3 Questions:

How would you use CRM software – what business processes is it aligned with and who are the primary users?

A common use of CRM software is to manage marketing efforts [marketing campaigns], support sales teams, and maximize customer relationships. Those organizations that do not use CRM software have individuals tracking contacts and relationships using their e-mail client such as Outlook and office productivity software such as Word, Excel, or Access. So you have a situation where there’s no central repository of data managed in a unified way with a standard coding structure. And there are multiple applications being used with duplicate data repositories. In the IT trade, we call this “multiple silos of information” with no effective coordination between them. There is also no means for the efficient forecasting of revenues/expenses, controlling workflow and business processes, and generating effective business intelligence/reports. This is not good for the business, especially in the internet age where business agility is paramount utilizing technology to maximize opportunities as they arise and with a fast response rate. Without CRM, copy, and paste are the ways valuable client data gets transferred from Outlook, into Excel, and Word or the data is entered manually. In these scenarios, it’s impossible to get a coherent picture of marketing, sales, and customer support. Marketing campaigns are ad hoc, revenue/expense forecasts are not reliable, and resource scheduling/planning is haphazard. And there are wasted employee cycles due to duplication of efforts or inefficient delayed response to leads or problem areas. CRM software addresses all of these issues.

Describe your work [awards/background] and your views on CRM “specifically” in the IT environment.

I am often called upon for interviews as an industry analyst; likely due to the awards I have received. In this capacity, I perform analysis of organizations ranging from 10 to several million employees. However, I am finding there is a particular demand for internal relationship management in the mid-range business sector. These organizations typically have 3 to 10 IT staff serving 100 to 500 PCs. Within these businesses, there is a need to manage the contacts, problem resolution scenarios, and system support issues with the internal employee population. These employees are in essence clients or customers of the IT staff and this relationship needs to be managed in a structured way to improve overall organizationally efficiency, reduce costs, improve productivity, and support a positive corporate environment. If a CRM system is integrated with the business systems and processes, there is an overall improvement in operational efficiency of up to 15-30%.

Can you provide more details on CRM in the IT space?

This market is not efficiently addressed with targeted IT help desk software. The products do not integrate efficiently with the business systems and desktop productivity applications. In addition, their price points are multiples of those offered by vendors such as Microsoft and their offerings are complex. For example, products with an IT focus are costly, and process intensive. There are estimates of $3-5K per seat with concurrent licensing which is not cost effective for mid-sized businesses. Often an added system is used to manage the business CRM processes which require maintaining and supporting two systems. It’s more effective to have one CRM system to manage all requirements. With other traditional CRM providers, companies find their solutions costly and complex or too limiting. Microsoft's first release with MS CRM 1.0 did not fully tap into this unrealized market and the product had limits in its usability. However, MS CRM 3.0 does address it fully and also provides for up-market expansion since its features rival the long-time enterprise applications but at a fraction of the cost and with no added complexity due to its tight integration with MS Office and Outlook.