Blogging Before It Was Called That

The 5 seconds worth of research I just did tells me that “blog” was coined in 1998.  I certainly didn’t hear the term until much later.  But I had already been active in blog-like on-line activities.  That was two careers ago, when I was VP Marketing for a software company called Maximizer (or sometimes Multiactive or Modatech – it’s a long story).  We made Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and that class of product was just hitting its stride: Microsoft CRM and Salesforce.com were just coming out and the industry was poised to explode.

SearchCRM Logo

So it behooved me to make myself and my company part of the discussion about CRM wherever that discussion was happening.  One such place was an online forum called SearchCRM that had just been formed.  It’s still there and still active.  I signed on to be one of the “Experts” for “Ask the CRM Experts.”

Traffic was fairly slow at first, but over the next two years I answered dozens of questions.  Some of them are still posted and can be seen here.  (I don’t know why they all aren’t there, or why these ones were chosen to survive.)

The point is that I enjoyed answering the questions, and I think that’s why I will enjoy blogging.  It’s the fun and creativity of writing and trying to communicate or persuade, but without the bothersome deadlines and content restrictions that go along with writing business stuff like, say, White Papers or ad copy. 

[UPDATE] – Yesterday the link to my posts on SearchCRM was broken.  Today it’s back, so I went and copied all my posts, which can be viewed after the jump.

 

Handle:  Stephen Brooks
Occupation:  VP Marketing
Date of First Post:  02:24pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
Number of Posts: 53
 
Stephen Brooks has filled many roles in his seven years at Multiactive, most recently responsible for the development and implementation of product strategy. He brings over 13 years experience to his position, having worked as a Management Consultant prior to joining Multiactive. Stephen sits on the board of the Canadian section of the Software and Information Industry Association, studied science (biology and physics) at the University of New Brunswick, and holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce from McGill University. Stephen recently received the Canadian CRM Pioneer Award from CRM Power for his significant contributions to the CRM industry.

http://www.multiactive.com
Your Bridge to the Customer Economy

Here are the messages posted by Stephen Brooks:
Strategy before Vendor, and WRITE IT DOWN. * post #9 * posted to  Sound Off on 02:24pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Many CRM projects fail for a very simple reason: no-one has defined what “success” looks like. If there are no, written-in-stone, goals for a CRM project, than one of two things happen: you actually achieve what you were trying for, but nobody knows it; or far more common, the implementation goes off track and the final result is incomplete, the wrong answer, or both. The deceptively simple solution to this problem is to clearly define what the aims of your CRM project. The best goals are quantifiable (we will decrease customer complaints from 12 per week to 2) rather than qualitative (we will deliver better customer service). Once you and your project team have determined the goals, WRITE THEM DOWN. Even better, post them up in some highly visible area of the sales or marketing office, along with timelines and responsibilities. By definition, it is impossible to finish a race that has no finish line. By establishing and displaying your goals, you create a finish line for your project, and ensure that is won’t get moved. A moving finish line is as bad as none at all – it will either move towards you and you will “finish” the project with less than the desired results; or it will move away, and you will never finish. Don’t get me wrong – constantly striving for a better solution is a good thing. But it is imperative to declare success for one phase of a project before embarking on additional improvements. The CRM project team needs a defined goal even more than most people in your company – they are working on something that has not been well defined to date in the industry, and probably not in your company.
Planning is Important * post #8 * posted to  Sound Off on 02:21pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Abraham Lincoln said, “If I were given 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 6 sharpening the axe.” The same wisdom applies to any CRM project. The better the planning that is done before you start exposing the new CRM solution to your salespeople, the more likely it is to be beneficial to them and the entire organization. Start by setting clear goals, and then set them in stone. It is important that they be quantifiable, such as, “We will decrease the average sales cycle from 6 months to 10 weeks,” or, “The average number of proposals written per month will increase from 16 to 28.” Anything less tangible will be impossible to measure, and you will never be able to tell when you’ve reached your goals. Once the goals are established, detail the plans for getting there. A tool like Microsoft Project is essential in creating and maintaining the schedule for a project of this scope. Have meetings at least once a week to make sure all parties are on track. A key part of the rollout should be a pilot program. This is a mini-roll-out to a small group (usually 5 – 10%) of the eventual users. The pilot should be conducted where you KNOW it will work. Every sales group has a subsection of people who are keen on technology and eager to try new things. Let them be the Guinea Pigs – they will tolerate technical glitches better, and are more likely to use the new tools effectively. Make sure they get lots of attention, especially from senior management. When the company-wide rollout happens, you want the rest of the sales force to be saying, “Finally – we get to use the cool new software,” and not, “Uh oh – they’re going to make us use that new crap.” Planning and a well-targeted pilot program will go a long way to ensuring a successful implementation; and will deliver the ROI faster than a quick but ineffective rollout.
Marketing CRM Solutions * post #11 * posted to  Sound Off on 03:35pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Speaking as someone who does his best to market my own CRM company’s products every day, let me try to address this. The hi-tech marketing challenge has always been to educate the market about the usefulness of whatever the latest innovation is to them personally. 25 years ago, if someone had run an ad saying, “Call now and order this object that will allow you to watch movies on your television the same way that you can do with projectors now!”, no-one would be rushing to their phones. Today, you don’t even have to explain what a VCR is. But you do have to tout the advantages of one manufacturer over the other. That’s branding. CRM is still in the, “We’re not really sure what it is, but we think it might be the solution to some of these business pains we’re having,” phase of it’s acceptance. During a recent trip to China, I found that if you asked, Do you need CRM?”, the responses were blank stares. But if you asked, “Do you need a way to better attract and retain customers?”, the response was a resounding “YES!” Even in North America, where we know what the initials stand for, do we know what CRM is? Not exactly. So it’s hard to say the my company makes a better CRM product that someone else in a general way — you have to fit each solution with the needs of each individual customer. That’s why One to One marketing is a much more effective way to sell CRM than mass marketing (otherwise known as branding). Stephen Brooks VP Marketing http://www.multiactive.com Bridge to the Customer Economy
Account vs. Person * post #53 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 06:33pm May 4, 2001 EST
  Anna, It seems that you are developing this solution in-house. I am curious as to why. Many fine and affordable CRM solutions are out there on the market. Your response may be, “But we have unique requirements, like this customer/account quandary!” Let me assure you that there are very few “unique” requirements that have not already been addressed by CRM vendors. The customer/account issue, for instance has been handled in my company’s Maximizer contact management since 1988. Regards, and Good luck with your project, Stephen Brooks, Vice President, Marketing Corporate Solutions Team Multiactive Software Inc. Tel: (604) 601-8000 Fax: (604) 601-8001 mailto:sbrooks@multiactive.com http://www.multiactive.com Bridge to the Customer Economy with Multiactive Software.
Importance of Measurement * post #32 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 07:37pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Someone once said, “you can’t improve what you can’t measure.” I think this applies to CRM projects in spades. Many CRM projects fail for a very simple reason: no-one has defined what “success” looks like. If there are no, written-in-stone, goals for a CRM project, than one of two things happen: you actually achieve what you were trying for, but nobody knows it; or far more common, the implementation goes off track and the final result is incomplete, the wrong answer, or both. The deceptively simple solution to this problem is to clearly define what the aims of your CRM project. It is important that they be quantifiable, such as, “We will decrease the average sales cycle from 6 months to 10 weeks,” or, “The average number of proposals written per month will increase from 16 to 28.” Anything less tangible will be impossible to measure, and you will never be able to tell when you’ve reached your goals. By definition, it is impossible to finish a race that has no finish line. By establishing and displaying your goals, you create a finish line for your project, and ensure that is won’t get moved. A moving finish line is as bad as none at all – it will either move towards you and you will “finish” the project with less than the desired results; or it will move away, and you will never finish. Don’t get me wrong – constantly striving for a better solution is a good thing. But it is imperative to declare success for one phase of a project before embarking on additional improvements. All that being said, the answers to your questions are: 1) To what extent do you find enterprise CRM strategy performance measurement important in maximizing CRM success? Hugely important. As I’ve said above, in my opinion it’s IMPOSSIBLE to have any “CRM success” without measurement. 2) Could a measurement framework like the Balanced Scorecard, focused on measuring CRM performance across all customer touch points, contribute significantly to an enterprise’s CRM success? Yes, but it could also result in a bit of “analysis paralysis.” The Balanced Scorecard approach requires a large amount of data gathering and crunching that will be difficult, especially before the CRM project is finished. Simple, easy to measure indicators might be better to start with. Stephen Brooks http://www.multiactive.com Bridge to the Customer Economy
Non-partisan? * post #28 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 01:57pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  The fact that the PMO are non-partisan is exactly why I wouldn’t want them in charge of my project. They are beholden to many masters. If the Finance department says, “We need a new billing system or we won’t get any revenue next month!”, the PMO will (rightfully so) drop the CRM project to put out the fire. I would want someone who is fiercely partisan in charge of my project. Someone who will rattle whatever cages and shake whatever trees they have to to to GET IT DONE. As I have said in other posts in this forum, CRM projects are not easy, and require a strong, focused leader. (You can tell I’m a little passionate about this.)
CRM Project Leader * post #26 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:54pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Whomever you choose to champion the rollout of your CRM, make sure they have both the necessary clout in the organization to make people adhere to their deliverables, and the free time in their schedule to devote at least half of every day to the project. Make it clear that this is their number one priority. Usually, it is a bad idea to give this responsibility to Vice Presidents of Marketing – they have far too much on their plates already. The result will be delegation of key tasks to people too far down the organization chart to hold other people accountable. In your case, I agree that the new Director of CM is the right choice. He/she is new enough that they haven’t been bogged down with other responsibilities, and their job is obviously focused on the success of the project. The MO presumably has many other projects from all over the company on the go — they would be difficult to keep focused.
CRM Projects Need Dedicated Leaders * post #25 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:50pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  When implementing a CRM solution, most companies are smart enough to appoint a project leader – a single person who is accountable for the success of the CRM rollout. The mistake companies sometimes make is not ensuring that the project leader has the authority or the available time to effectively lead. Whomever you choose to champion the rollout of your CRM, make sure they have both the necessary clout in the organization to make people adhere to their deliverables, and the free time in their schedule to devote at least half of every day to the project. Make it clear that this is their number one priority. Usually, it is a bad idea to give this responsibility to Vice Presidents of Sales – they have far too much on their plates already. The result will be delegation of key tasks to people too far down the organization chart to hold other people accountable. The CIO or Director of Information Services can be a good choice, but only if it is clear that other technology-related projects in the organization will have a lower priority for some period of time. The reality of the IT world these days is that there are not enough skilled personnel; so other projects must take a back seat if you want to deploy resources to the CRM rollout. A solution that works for many companies is to hire an outside consultant to manage the implementation. They have four distinct advantages: because they’re getting paid by the hour, it’s to the company’s advantage to do the tasks required quickly; they have no other tasks to distract them; they are from the outside, so don’t have to worry about politics and stepping on people’s toes; and they probably have experience in this sort of project, unlike their clients. So whether you hire someone to manage the project, or use an internal resource, make sure they understand that their primary goal is a successful rollout. You might even want to make their jobs depend on it…
CRM users’ needs * post #23 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:38pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Early CRM projects often didn’t work. A GartnerGroup study in 1998 stated that 70% of CRM projects failed to deliver expected benefits. One of the main reasons for this staggering failure rate is that the systems were simply not used by the salespeople. Salespeople are, as a breed, motivated by personal gain. That gain can be monetary in nature, or just the satisfaction of seeing their customers better served. The fact of the matter is that if CRM software does not help them make more money or do their jobs better, they will not use it. Most early CRM solutions were designed by and for sales executives, not field salespeople. They were systems that required the salespeople to enter reams of information, which was then amalgamated into reports and analyses for the executives. They did NOT deliver useful tools into the salespeople’s hands. Therefore, the software was not used, and the projects failed. When selecting your CRM vendor, be sure to have salespeople involved in the evaluation process. They can tell you if this is a tool they will use, or one that will be ignored.
Roll out CRM by July * post #22 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:35pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Mason, I think you may be suffering from over-exposure to the large CRM vendors. Siebel, Vantive, Clarify, E.piphany and others in their strata talk about implementation phases in terms of months or years. Even Pivotal and Onyx quote 20 – 50 weeks, depending on scope. This is because all of these applications require customization before they can be useful. My advice is not to scale back the goals you are trying to reach, but look at alternate, equally effective solutions. My company routinely installs and rolls out 50 seat CRM projects in 3 – 4 weeks, using our award-winning Entice! software. Our competitors, FrontRange Solutions, can do the same. Interact Commerce Corp. is another example. Don’t be brainwashed by the ERP-style vendors that want you to spend millions (unless you truly need a totally unique solution) — it can be done cheaper and much faster.
Why CRM Projects Are Harder * post #21 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:20pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  There are three main reasons why CRM projects are harder than other IT initiatives: 1. Salespeople 2. Culture 3. Customer Dynamics 1. Salespeople are, as a breed, motivated by personal gain. That gain can be monetary in nature, or just the satisfaction of seeing their customers better served. The fact of the matter is that if CRM software does not help them make more money or do their jobs better, they will not use it. Most early CRM solutions were designed by and for sales executives, not field salespeople. They were systems that required the salespeople to enter reams of information, which was then amalgamated into reports and analyses for the executives. They did NOT deliver useful tools into the salespeople’s hands. Therefore, the software was not used, and the projects failed. Fortunately, most of today’s CRM vendors have realized this. In fact, some of the most successful CRM solutions have evolved from shrink-wrapped contact management software (e.g. ACT!, GoldMine, Maximizer) that salespeople have been voluntarily buying with their own money for years. They have voted with their dollars for tools that increase their sales. Recent releases of these products (SalesLogix, GoldMine FrontOffice, Maximizer Enterprise) have preserved the usefulness, while adding the type of reporting and analysis that managers require. 2. Customer relationship management is not something that can be achieved by installing a software package. To truly manage the relationships you have with your customers, it is necessary to create a culture within your organization that focuses every employee on the importance of the customer. All too often, executives think that the installation of a software product will be a panacea to all their customer service woes. The truth is that the technological aspects of implementing a CRM project amount to only 20 – 40% of the required effort. Much more important is the total commitment of the organization to recognizing the importance of the customer. This means that every one who ever talks to a customer, takes an action that will affect a customer, or has anything to do with a product or service that a customer will use (i.e. everyone in the company); understands and buys into the CRM philosophy. It is critical that this sea change takes place before, or at least at the same time as, the implementation of CRM software. 3. Huge ERP implementations (for example) have a much easier foundation to build on than CRM projects. They are automating process like accounting, inventory control, manufacturing, etc. The basic rules of accounting have not changed in 200 years. It’s OK to take a year or two to roll out your ERP solution. Customers, however, are constantly changing their preferences and how they want to deal with you. If you take two years to roll out a CRM solution, you will be installing an answere to problems that aren’t there any more, and not answering the problems that have cropped up in the meantime.
The CRM Project has Stalled — What to Do * post #19 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:11pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  – Is this situation unique to this client? Not at all. Changes in management often result in projects being postponed or shelved altogether. The idea is, “I was hired to replace this other person. This other person was therefore bad. Ipso fact, all projects started by that person are bad. Logically. all those projects should be halted.” Of course, this makes no sense, but it happens in reality. – What are others doing to keep the fire burning’? The only option is to look at this as a brand new prospect, and take them through the entire selling process again. – Is there any ROI analysis to support the use of CRM? This is one of many tools that should be used in the selling process. If you spend some time on this, or other CRM portals, you’ll find that the search for a definitive CRM ROI calculation tool is widespread. I personally don’t think one exists — each situation is unique and requires unique calculations.
Hidden Costs of CRM Projects * post #18 * posted to  CRM Strategy on 12:04pm Apr 5, 2001 EST
  Jim, You are correct that there is MUCH more to the cost of a CRM project than just the license fees. If you’re looking at a $1 million price point for the software, you are probably dealing with Siebel or another giant. Remember, with these guys, more than half there revenue every year is Services. It is in their best interests to do as much customization, implementation, and training work as possible. So you can count on AT LEAST another million for that. And then there’s the hardware. If you’re looking at anything halfway sophisticated using the Web, there are many servers to buy, install and maintain. Also, if you are increasing the number of servers, databases, and interconnected applications, you’ll have to hire more IT personnel — and they’re expensive these days. Don’I forget about your staff training costs, too. If the CRM solution is one that is difficult to learn, or that salespeople are not already familiar with, you can count on 2 weeks of training. Two weeks of not talking to customers, not out in their territories. That’s 2 fiftieths of their annual selling time. Conceivably, that could result in a 4% hit to your revenue line for the year. The solution? Either select a CRM solution that is so easy for the reps that little or no training is required, and doesn’t require huge infrastructure improvements, and doesn’t involve massive integration costs; or calculate that all into your ROI calculations.
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