(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
If you Google around you’ll find that a great number of customer relationship management systems — anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of them depending on the research — don’t achieve their objectives. That’s not entirely surprising. Many companies don’t think their CRM systems are as critical as their accounting systems, for example, and as a result less attention (and resources) are provided.
But even where the systems are a priority, they oftentimes fail. CRM experts will list of lots of reasons why this happens, from poor planning to inadequate training and all of these have merit. But in the 20+ years I’ve been implementing CRM systems at mostly small and mid-sized firms there’s really only one major reason — the biggest — why they never reach their potential: it’s people. Well, one person actually.
That person is the administrator. If you don’t invest in an administrator for your CRM system then your system will fail. Period. That is a cost and it is probably not included in your software vendor’s budget. But ignoring it will be fatal.
So who is this “administrator?” It’s someone who’s in charge of your CRM database. Because a CRM system is nothing more than that. It doesn’t matter whether you have Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Zoho or any others like them. These are all just glorified databases. The CRM administrator’s primary job is to make sure that the data in your database is complete and accurate. If anything is wrong, out of date or missing it’s his or her responsibility to fix it and implement whatever data entry controls are necessary to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
After that, the administrator is in charge of making sure that everyone is using the CRM system effectively. Goals are set. Answers are provided. Training is given. Problems are fixed. Advanced tasks, like creating workflows, designing reports, adding fields, integrating with other applications and sending customized messages are performed. This is the person responsible for not only helping to set the agenda, but getting it done.
An important note here: your administrator is definitely not your IT manager. That person has enough to worry about what with security, networking, connectivity and daily break/fix issues.
No, your CRM Administrator doesn’t have to be very technical or even a database expert. It should just be someone smart and eager. Someone confident and with good communication skills. Someone who’s part of the group using the system. Someone who isn’t afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. This person should have your full authority to wipe the noses of users and diaper the salespeople when needed. That person should be fully supported by outside consultants or the vendor and receive all the training necessary to do the job of the CRM administrator to ensure that the data in the system is complete and accurate.
How much does this cost? A lot. If you have someone in house then that person will be taken away from other tasks. If you don’t have someone in house then you’ll have to hire. Depending on the size and usage of your system the effective administrators at my clients spend anywhere between half a day to three full days a week dealing with the CRM system. A few even more.
Is this a good job for someone? Actually, it’s a great job. A CRM administrator works with different areas of the company and plays an important role in designing process and maintaining valuable data in what is a big data world. My best clients pay to get their administrators certified in the product, which not only benefits their companies but also increases that person’s marketable skills. So if you’re recruiting, make sure you mention that.
One final thing: if you have a great administrator make sure you have a backup plan. That’s because great administrators soon become well aware of their value and oftentimes make career moves. Good for them. But it won’t be good for you if you haven’t considered this reality. Maybe a small team of admins is the answer. Or maybe just one person who shadows the administrator.
Still not convinced? Then consider this: would you buy a million-dollar horse without a jockey? Do you have a mechanic for your car? An accountant who does your taxes? People specialize and CRM systems that are effective always have someone who is specialized driving them. If you’re not prepared to invest in that person then don’t invest in a CRM system.