Change is a fact of life for the modern enterprise. That includes change driven by the adoption of new technologies, such as marketing automation and CRM solutions, designed to revitalize sales and marketing organizations.
That's the promise of transformative technology. Yet the reality is often very different: According to some studies, more than one third of all major IT initiatives fail, and many others don't deliver their expected results.
DemandGen Report (DGR): Couch & Associates has a lot of experience implementing enterprise IT projects. What is the biggest problem you see with today's enterprise IT project methodologies?
Ryan Abreo: Whether you’re talking about sales or marketing, CRM or a marketing automation platform, what you’re really talking about is one part of a larger funnel — that funnel is one system, one engine whose purpose is ultimately to drive revenue. Viewing these as disparate systems, and them implementing in isolation, almost always leads to missed opportunities.
DGR: What is the most common problem you see in terms of why IT projects fail to deliver on their potential?
Abreo: A major issue is the perception that these were viewed as “IT” projects in the first place. Whether you’re talking about CRM or MA the technology platform just supports a process. That process is ultimately driven by people; the gap between the leadership that defines the strategy and the field reps that execute on the ground leaves significant room for miscommunication and frustration.
DGR: Given that gap, and the problems it creates, how do you build a project methodology that delivers results?
Abreo: The critical first step to remedy this is to get a 360-degree perspective of an organization — from the bottom up and across marketing and sales. You have to identify incomplete or broken processes and strategic disconnects. You also have to consider the integrity of the operational framework and the political landscape humming just beneath the surface; these things provide the most honest view of the health of the organization.
The second step is to build alignment – if it’s all one funnel, then everyone is accountable for keeping it healthy, and people in general want to do a good job. Establish clear definitions between marketing and sales so there is one view of the truth, and establish SLAs between marketing and sales. Make your expectations clear, and get unanimous buy-in for them. Then make sure that your initiatives are strategically road-mapped to meet the big-picture objectives.
The last step is to fit the right technology to these processes. This is still a critical step — if the technology is difficult or unstable the whole thing falls apart — but it’s just not the place to start.
DGR: What role does strong leadership play in dealing with these challenges and implementing a successful project?
Abreo: One thing I can't emphasize enough is the need for a strong, executive-level sponsor. The need for change starts from the top down; every organization needs a high-level champion to rally the troops and set the agenda. This is actually one of the main “soft” differentiators between successful and unsuccessful projects.
DGR: Why should enterprise decision-makers care, on a personal level, about the limitations of current IT project methodologies?
Abreo: I believe that every sane decision-maker recognizes that his or her own fate is closely tied to the technology or (as importantly) the implementation partner they sign off on. These are career-building – or career-killing – choices. If that doesn’t drive home a sense of relevancy and immediacy for executives dealing with these problems, I don’t know what does.