You did the business case, you got the project done pretty much to time and pretty much to peoples budget expectations (nobody is perfect after all) yet something is not quite right; some indefinable element is missing and you just don’t feel like saying your program has delivered to a promise that you may have had in your head at least and I’m sure other people had in theirs.  The problem lies with the expectations of your stakeholders and the disconnect between these and the business case that got your crm program launched all those months (maybe years) ago.

The CRM business case is not everything

It got you the program funded and structured and it even helped populate those slides when presenting to executives everywhere yet in a lot of cases the business case lacks a very significant element that prevents it from moving away from slideware/or spreadsheet ware and towards being a living breathing element of your crm program.  The key word? Ownership.

How slideware becomes benefits realization

Every business case will say what will be achieved with a CRM program be it increased revenue, reduced costs, improved customer image etc etc.  Some CRM business cases go on to detail how these benefits will be achieved (better segmentation of high value customer groups, enhanced cross selling through yadda yadda).  Those business cases that will really help you succeed will be the ones that connect the past to the future.  That connect business performance today with proposed business performance tomorrow.  That means ensuring that your business case contains the following vital elements

  1. Freshness and relevance. The business conditions and the business environment in which your business case was written will have changed.  What was a pressing case for 12 months ago may now be yesterday’s news.  The program may still be relevant and vital but not for the same reasons.  It’s a program cliche to say you need to keep your business case up to date but it’s true.  But keeping it up to date means changing the focus and emphasis while still being true to the core aims and the core reason for change.  It also means making sure that your communications, and stakeholder management material is updated to reflect the emphasis of the business case.  Above all make sure that your governance process includes a business case review and sign off stage.  They own the document not you.
  2. Baseline metrics So that seems easy right? gather a few baseline metrics and then stick them in the business case?  Not so fast.  What you measure today will not be the same as what you may want to measure tomorrow. So when you carry out your baselining you will need to ensure that the baseline metrics are based upon those things you consider important for the future.  This means you will need to create a
  3. Benefits realization matrix.  I sounds fancy (and in some ways it is) but in essence it is a simple enough spreadsheet that describes
    • What you want to achieve with the program
    • The preconditions that your CRM program needs to satisfy to achieve the benefits
    • The actions needed to achieve these preconditions
    • The owner of these actions
    • Any business changes (be they people, process or technology) required to enable these actions
  4. Performance improvement ownership Your benefits realization matrix will also make it explicit who will own the ongoing metrics and the management processes needed to improve them.  These should obviously become a part of the standard performance managementr process within the business.

It seems obvious but it isn’t

Let’s take a very simple example.  I will try and set out how a simple business case statement can have some profound knock on effects.  We’ll need to make some cicular arguments but bear with me.  We have a business case approved for a new web based customer portal.

  • Our first priority in the business case is that we want increased margins from our customers
  • A precondition of this is that the cost of serving a customer through the portal is therefore less than through current methods
  • If it is we therefore need to get more of our high value customers through the portal
  • We need to understand who our high value customers are
  • We need to know how many go through our channels
  • We need targets for each of our channels
  • We need marketing and sales strategies that push them through these channels
  • We need owners of these strategies
  • We need people who own the implementation of these strategies

It’s a simple example but goes to show the ramifications of a single line in a business case.  In many situations these things “shake out” naturally over time but in a lot of cases you will need to ensure that the realization matrix contains a very clear connection from business case item to how future operations will be structured to deliver on that item.  What is more each line item may have multiple preconditions which will have multiple actions and measurement points.

When you should not bother

In some cases the cost and effort of developing a metric will simply not be worth it.  Each item will require an initial cost benefit analysis to see “if it is worth it”.  If not, state it accordingly and move on.  Your benefits realization matrix should act as the bridge between the past and your future and give you and your change managers a clear way of demonstrating to your stakeholders and leaders how you will deliver on those promises made all those months ago.  Good luck!