While your department may be excited to deploy that new technology it has been eyeing for months, in the hope of exceeding its business goals, has it seriously considered how this deployment may impact the business outside its own four walls -- good or bad?

We live in a golden age of business thinking around the customer. It’s not just the technology -- it’s the emerging ideas about engaging with customers, creating dialog and then taking key elements of those conversations and turning them into data for your customer relationship management (CRM) efforts.

CRM is now the nucleus of the customer-centric organization, with business intelligence, sales enablement, sales performance management, marketing automation and other software tools revolving around it, exchanging data with it and driving value out of it.

The Less Utopian View of the Golden Age of New Technology

When constructed with thought and careful consideration, this creates an exciting environment for both businesses and customers. Businesses can relate to customers in new and imaginative ways, and customers feel as though their contribution to the conversation is having an impact.

That’s the sunny, utopian (and, with work, achievable) view of where we are. Unfortunately, not many businesses can achieve that. We still work in departments, each with its own goals and its own set of tasks to perform. We know the tools that help us achieve those goals -- but we’re not really motivated to think beyond that to see how our use of the system impacts other departments.

Similarly, many departmental heads -- especially in marketing and sales -- want to apply new ideas, ranging from innovative promotions to full-on social media efforts, to help their departments smash their goals. But, again, these actions are taken as if they occur in a vacuum. They most assuredly do not.

The golden age of these technologies has a ton of upside to it -- but there’s also a down side. Since they are often inexpensive and, thanks to the cloud, fairly easy to deploy, they are frequently introduced at the departmental level, often initially viewed as one-off projects, with no thought as to how they will impact other aspects of the business. If several departments bring in new technologies -- sales a new lead management tool, marketing a new automation package, and service a new social media monitoring system, for example -- the effect is the isolation of the benefits of these new technologies inside the departments that introduced them. One of the benefits CRM is supposed to offer is the destruction of these data silos for the benefit of the entire company, but these departmental efforts simply re-built the silos in the cloud.

An Example

The classic result of this is the example of a marketing department initiating a promotional campaign but failing to let sales know what it was launching, or a surge in service calls about a product that had been a low-priority item until the marketing team discovered a new way to qualify leads and sell it. While the elements of the truly CRM-centric organization are in place, the effects of those elements are ricocheting off each other and causing problems that completely offset their benefits.

How do you avoid this? You certainly can’t stop adopting new tools for your sales, marketing and service teams -- but you can work strategically with IT to manage how those tools interact. IT’s role is shifting from being the “mechanics” who make software and systems work. Instead, IT is turning into a strategic partner with the other departments in the organization and maintains a cross-departmental view to spot not just the problems, but the areas where new tools can complement each other. Departmental heads have their own departmental goals; IT will have the mission of making sure that the methods used to achieve these goals have impact outside of their primary departmental borders and amplify their success across the entire organization.


New technologies enter the business world through unexpected means -- think of how CRM and sales force automation (SFA) infiltrated business thanks to some self-interested sales pros. The key to maximizing the gains these technologies bring -- and to avoiding a glut of disconnected systems working at cross purposes to one another -- is to be aware of them as they enter your technology ecosystem and then give IT the power to understand the implications of their presence.

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