Who should own CRM?

CRM in its various shapes and forms has been in existence from the time we’ve had sales men. In the recent past it has morphed from the venerable Rolodex to on-prem software such as Siebel, ACT, Goldmine etc., to residing in the so called ‘cloud’ as an angel taking care of the sales-folks in the form of Salesforce.com (SFDC), SugarCRM, Zoho CRM, Nimble, Close.io, Stride, Highrise etc.

The value proposition of today’s CRM is manifold. But, the basic premise is that CRM will enable a business to better serve it’s customers better while at the same time helping itself to thrive by being able to better manage the veritable sales pipeline among other things. CRM vendors today claim at least a 30% improvement in sales efficiencies. While that could be a tough claim to validate, there is no question that CRM does help and there are some solid benefits of on-boarding CRM into a business.

If a firm is not using CRM today, then, I think it is at a disadvantage because at the very least it’s competitor is using some form of CRM. With cloud-based CRM, the IT edge has moved to the front lines of business. Just the last decade IT has seen some remarkable transformations and IT is now no longer a back-office function. The role of the CIO has morphed and is increasingly very business oriented.

The reason this is significant for Sales and Marketing is that now, perhaps for the first time, ownership of a mission critical tool lies squarely on the business side. It’s almost like a part of IT has detached and embedded itself in the trenches of Sales and Marketing. With SaaS based CRM, IT as we know it is really not required to maintain a tool. And with that, we have the question of ownership of CRM – Is it Sales or Marketing that should own CRM?

My take is that CRM is sales related activity and hence Sales should own the tool. But, Marketing needs to be joined at the hip with regards to CRM. Current CRM tools such as SFDC are very comprehensive which allow for tracking contacts, leads, pipelines,  accounts etc in addition to help creating dashboards/reports that would ‘typically’ help management get a real-time pulse of their business. Ideally, Marketing serves to funnel in qualified leads into the sales funnel and help manage the price/promotion/discounts process. Everything else is very sales driven.

But owning a tool end-to-end is a royal pain-in-the-behind for anyone, let alone Sales. Suddenly, the VP of Sales has to not only contend with owning a tool and all the joys that come with it, but also drive his sales team to hit quota. Certainly, not easy by any measure. In mid-size to large companies, this task is being delegated to Sales-Ops. In smaller companies, there is typically a designate admin who also presumably doubles as a rep. Tough!

And by the way, the challenges of configuring, customizing and maintaining a CRM tool, has spawned a very robust CRM consulting business.

On a parallel track, the debate on who would own Marketing Automation tools (think Marketing, Eloqua, Hub-Spot etc.) was long settled in favor of Marketing. So, Sales can be happy that Marketing has not gotten away scot free and have their own ‘tool’ troubles to contend with :-).

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