CIOs: Guilty of CRM!

John Taschek discusses CIOs, customer relationship management and the blame game. Readers Respond: CIOs: Guilty of CRM!

Who else besides me is tired of hearing CIOs blame everyone but themselves for their organizations IT failures?

CIOs have three purposes in life: to define the vision, work with the CFO on the budget and communicate the vision to the staff. Finger pointing is not included. But invariably, CIOs decry everything from expensive software licensing schemes to buggy software and then end up firing huge chunks of their staff in desperate acts of self-preservation.

CIOs demonstrate their technical incompetence most flagrantly in packaged business applications. CIOs are awful at CRM.

CIOs gained much of their current stature in the mid-1990s when they were charged with implementing CRM systems that bridged business and technology. But faced with ballooning costs two years or so into the deployments, CIOs began blaming vendors.

Sure, the Big Three CRM vendors at that time—SAP, PeopleSoft (more of a human resources solution then) and Siebel—were expensive, and their products took 18 months to three years to implement.

Well, guess what? Thats the CIOs problem. They picked the applications in the first place, knowing ahead of time how long business re-engineering takes. They did it because thats what people did back then. The sheep!

I have been looking at CRM solutions for years and just completed an . I also evaluated the architectures of three more, including solutions from SAP, PeopleSoft and Siebel. There is, and was, absolutely nothing wrong with the big CRM systems. The problem was that CIOs failed to grasp how their own businesses were run. Blaming a CRM system is like blaming a word processor for poorly phrased letters.

Most of the early blame from the CIOs targeted vendors for cost overruns. CRM software is expensive, but its cost is fixed. Therefore, those cost overruns were the result of systems integration problems. The choice of a system integrator was the CIOs responsibility.