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Cloud-based CRM: Beware bad data and silly object models

David Taber | Feb. 8, 2011
The marketing around cloud-based CRM systems is all about how fast they can be created and deployed, how they can scale up (or shrink to fit) to any business situation. But theyre still IT systems, and a lack of discipline still spells trouble.

• What does it mean to be a lead? How many lead statuses are there (e.g., open, contact attempted, contacted, qualified, unqualified, dead)? • What does it mean to convert a lead? What are the qualification criteria required before conversion?
• When is an opportunity created? What does it mean to have an opportunity of $0 value?
• What are the sales stages for an opportunity? What are the entry and exit criteria for each of the stages, and how long is each stage expected to last?
• What's the difference between a no-action opportunity (there isn't a deal here for any competitor), an unqualified one (there's a deal, but not one that matches us), and a lost opportunity (where we were in full competitive status, but were not selected)?
• What are the criteria for a Severity-1 vs a Priority-1 case? What are the SLA thresholds and ramifications for each of the severity and priority levels?
• What's the difference between a "strategic customer" and a "mid-market customer"? If a strategic account has only a small departmental deal, does that make it a mid-market opportunity?

Some of the ambiguity and imprecision surrounding these status and criteria come from the political consequences of their definitions. If it's too clear what's in and what's out of the sales pipeline, this can make sales or marketing look bad. The problem, of course, is that a CRM system is going to enforce logic and consistency — and the ambiguity around meaning can cause ridiculous misrepresentations in reports, alerts, and dashboards. The temptation among novices is to try to blur the clear logic of the CRM system, rather than tighten up the definitions of their own terms.

Shoot the Messenger

In both marketing and sales, there's a real aversion to lost deals and weak leads. The temptation is to simply delete all the losers from the system, so that all that's left are winners and hopefuls.

Unfortunately, as Bill Gates wrote, "success is a lousy teacher." By erasing data — even clearly bogus or corrupted records — we're erasing the possibility of learning anything. Instead, leaving the "bad" and "loser" data in the system leaves open the possibility of troubleshooting and rectifying the business process that created them. Too many bad leads? Maybe that marketing vendor we use isn't careful enough. Conversion rates too low? Maybe we should stop buying leads from a list broker.

This last issue can be often solved by simply removing the Delete privileges from most users. But the general problem remains: just because clouds make it look easy doesn't mean that users can forget about IT and system design issues.

 

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