Wine. I love it. And I love visiting wineries whenever I can. Not just because great wine makes a great meal even better. But also because wine and wine making are such rich sources of history, have an element of the artistic, and just feel closer to the basic and raw elements of the earth. Like farming, there are a lot of simple lessons in wine making that apply to everything else in life.
But the lessons learned when my wife and I visited a wine maker on a recent trip still came as a surprise – I wasn’t expecting to see the connection between making wine, and improving customer relationship management (CRM) projects with solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com.
It was a mid-sized winery, but the wine maker personally took us on a tour of the vineyard and the wine making facilities. She had taken over the struggling winery several years earlier.
“One of the first things I did was to select a custom crush partner to work with,” she commented.
A custom crush partner, she explained, is an organization you can ship your grapes to in order to have them processed. Wine makers can outsource a portion of the wine making process to these organizations rather than handle those tasks themselves. We’re the curious types, so we asked why a wine maker would choose to work with a custom crush operation rather than handle the process internally. Here are the four reasons she gave us – and how each of them parallels the support issues companies often experience with CRM projects:
When she had first purchased the winery, she found that much of the equipment was out of date, and they were also short-staffed. If she wanted to get the operation up to speed quickly, she would need some support. So getting some outside help was imperative.
“That’s the reason why I initially started working with a custom crush partner,” she went on. “But as it turns out, it was the least important reason to work with them. We stayed with them for a completely different set of reasons.”
Like the wine maker, businesses using Salesforce and Microsoft CRM projects need outside support from time-to-time – and the need for this is usually more intense immediately after a new project (or new phase) launch. The IT team may be a bit short-staffed and need to increase their bandwidth, or power users may need to escalate support issues to an outside partner. So it’s important to work with a partner who has the technical expertise to be your support team and occasionally implement a new project for you.
Most organizations think this is the key reason to get CRM support from an outside partner. But, also like the wine maker, this is the least valuable part of ongoing support.
“I thought I would only use them for a few years, and then bring the process in-house,” the wine maker continued. “But I found that they provide much more than just an outsourced process.”
She went on to describe the broad array of expertise required to produce a fine wine. Process expertise on transporting and crushing the grapes. Timing expertise on the optimal time to begin each part of the process – a difference in a few days can mean the difference between a great wine and a wine that doesn’t sell. Mixing expertise on the best grapes available in the area – almost every wine uses more varietals than those found in the wine maker’s vineyard. Technical expertise on the equipment used for the process. Expertise all the way down to the type of closure that will do the best job of allowing the wine to age and giving the consumer the best possible experience. Re-creating the breadth and depth of expertise required would either be cost-prohibitive, or she would have to hire a few generalists to cover all the bases but who would never have the breadth and depth available from the custom crush partner.
“I wanted the people in my organization to do the most important things. Things like creating our brand, focusing on grape growing and wine quality, and building relationships with distributors. Trying to be an expert in all the rest would only pull us away from our core business,” she told us. “The custom crush partner not only gave us experts to handle parts of our process, but these experts became our trainers and coaches, helping us to make good decisions for our business. Because of this, I’m moving way faster than my competitors.”
Most organizations support their CRM projects by assigning internal resources to them. Like wine makers, they often don’t understand that these internal resources will never have the depth and breadth of skill required to make the project successful. A fully supported customer relationship management project requires expertise in: business process across multiple teams (sales, marketing, customer care, web, information technology, etc), specific product configuration expertise, systems integration, business intelligence, user training, sales manager and sales rep coaching, project management, requirements gathering, change management and custom development. Even for organizations that have individuals with all of these titles, most of them have to apply these skills to many other areas that simply don’t align with CRM support processes.
Research from Gartner indicates that, within just a few years, the CMO will control a larger technology budget than the CIO will. Why? Because the technology required to support and enhance revenue generation and customer loyalty is dramatically different from traditional technology projects. One of the primary reasons why CRM projects fail at an alarmingly high rate is that they are executed, and supported, by the IT department, in the same manner as other IT projects.
“I didn’t need equipment or expertise most months of the year,” she continued. “Why should I pay for all of that overhead when I’m not using it? And the volume I produce may vary significantly in some years. If I took all the equipment and talent that I needed in-house, I’d have to pay for my highest capacity need all the time, even though I may only need it occasionally. I only want to pay for the resources I need when I need them. They may be a little more expensive while I’m using them, but they cost nothing when I’m not using them.”
Although CRM support isn’t seasonal in the same manner as the wine industry, it certainly experiences peaks and valleys. New processes need to be developed, existing processes need to be tuned, new projects and functional areas need to be built out, and new data sources need to be integrated. People get out of the habit of using CRM and need some prompting and training to re-establish good habits. And things may run smoothly for a while, with little need for support. Most organizations have heavy sales seasons where CRM support needs to focus on rapidly managing incoming requests; and slow sales seasons where support needs to focus on building out new functionality to prepare for the coming busy season. Different types of expertise are needed for each of these seasons.
“And fourth: Every year, the wine industry rolls out new technology, most of it is incredibly expensive, but not all of it is the right investment for me. I can’t afford to fall behind. But I also can’t afford to make the wrong investment or it could put me under. Working with a custom crush partner, I’m able to constantly have use of the latest technology and to decide what works and what doesn’t for me. And their people invest in keeping up with all of this changing technology. Very large wine makers can have full time staff to keep up with all of this, but I need a partner to do this without running my costs and risks up,” she concluded.
To become “certified,” a CRM professional must learn hundreds of pieces of functionality. But becoming certified is only the starting point – to become experts, they must put hundreds of hours into working with the solutions day in and day out, across multiple different scenarios. Different skills are required for those in the role of business analyst, developer, solution expert, trainer and manager. As noted in the book, The Tipping Point, it takes about 10,000 hours to become an expert in something – that’s 5 years of full time work with CRM.
Add to that the pace of change. Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM each receive significant updates at least twice each year.
Add to that the related knowledge. There are dozens of extensions and add-ons available for these products – some available from the software makers and others available from partners. Keeping on top of the most important ones, in and of itself, can be a full time job.
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