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Why the last mile of CRM implementation is the hardest

David Taber | Sept. 12, 2013
In broadband networking, the last-mile problem is getting from the big pipes to the end user at a reasonable cost. The last mile in CRM is getting data from users' favorite application -- email -- into the CRM system without disrupting their beloved workflows.

[[field name]]Value or contents of the field

You'll need to work out the particular markup that works in your industry and locale. It needs to be consistent and readable by humans as well as parsers. You'll also need to have some smart defaults. One example: Any new line of text that has no markup at the beginning will be put into the notes area of the Task that memorializes the email.

With this kind of markup, a sales rep could send the following message:

Subject: [["du Pont fall2013" Opportunity]] Deal lost — crud!

Body:

Sorry boss, we lost this one due to internal politics. We can try again after October.

[[Stage]]Closed-Lost

[[Loss Reason]]Politics

[[Comments]]This one just got away from me after we got departmental approval.

Email Parsing Products Nice If You Can Get Them
Once you have a simple syntax set up, you need to create a parser that unpacks the mail and updates all records properly. Of course, error handling will be really important. Failed email processing should generate an error log record for all the email contents and error codes.

In Salesforce.com, it's relatively easy to write this parser as an extension of the system's email processing service. Within other CRM systems that have a rich, open API, the same strategy can be followed. Even if your CRM has no support for this, email parsing could be done on an internal server, or up at Amazon Web Services. It's a fairly straightforward application of Web services.

Unfortunately, I don't know of any standard products for doing this. I'll probably get calls from 17 software companies claiming that its available right now. If it is, I'll be happy to stop writing parsers.

Users have three main reactions to this kind of "zero login" CRM. Half don't use it, claiming it's not worth the effort. Just under half use it and find it valuable. At least 5 percent of users claim it's too hard.

I don't know what world that last group of users lives in, or what it expects an IT system to be able to do. Maybe it think Siri will do it for them someday.

 

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