As we know, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a strategy and methodology to manage ongoing and future relationships with customers. CRM today is growing rapidly and harping on this unprecedented CRM growth are public sector enterprises (PS). These are government organizations which work for the benefit of citizens directly or indirectly. Governments are increasingly getting on CRM bandwagon to improve services across multiple channels and deliver fair assessments to citizens being transparent in every possible way. In this blog, I wish to discuss the key challenges which we faced while implementing CRM for public enterprises.
Stakeholder Management – Implementation of CRM program for public sector enterprises requires satisfying interests of multiple stakeholders. Stakeholders include central/ local governments, finance ministry for budget allocations, staff, IT department and citizens to name a few. Change Management is equally crucial challenge while dealing these enterprises. The resistance to change is pretty high due to the breadth of services offered.
Budget and Profitability – The most crucial of them all – Governments walk on a tight budget aiming to impart better quality of life for citizens along with meeting budget compliances. After all, governments and public institutions are run by tax payers’ money and they are very much answerable to their citizens. Several companies implement CRM programs with the sole aim of segmenting its customers and servicing the profitable customers in more favorable manner. However, in case of public sector organizations, all citizens need to be treated equally. Motive of profitability being absent makes it all the more difficult for convincing stakeholders, getting requisite approvals and. Governments, thus must provide citizens with transparent and impartial visibility to the policies and rules.
Complexity – Public sector industry is usually described by high regulations, standards, and policies which in turn leads to high response times due to presence of multiple legacy systems. In our public sector implementations, 360 degree customer data being fetched spanned across 20 disparate systems. All of this makes defining entire CRM approach a much more exhaustive and complex process for public sector enterprises. Silos are further underlined when citizen approaches the government via different channels/ departments. Last but not the least, governments are also marred by plethora of rules, policies, regulations and standards which makes the task of CRM implementation all the more difficult.
Data – The amount of customer information/ data for citizens is enormous. Public sector organizations are invariably looped in to various citizen service departments. All these departments are further interrelated making data all the more extensive. Plus, these PS enterprises also work on globally laid down regulatory frameworks which leads to increased amount of information exchange between states and countries.
Here, I wanted to share with readers a feel of how different it is to work for implementing CRM for a public sector industry vis-à-vis that for any other industry. Although CRM is ask for the day, public and other sectors quite differ in formulating the CRM strategy, in their approach and constraints. As part of my subsequent blog I will explain how we managed to address these challenges. I hope this blog provides budding consultants and business analysts an opportunity to gear up for their next PS implementation!
The only way that we could successfully overcome these was by finding solutions to address them. As part of this blog, I wish to discuss key aspects which helped us overcome these challenges during the course of CRM implementation.
Since stakeholders in public sector enterprises are myriad, the strategy to manage them effectively is to address key concerns which each of them have. In our implementation, we identified the following direct stakeholders – Client IT team (including their architecture division), business users of our solution, interacting legacy systems and their resources, and obviously the finance team. There were indirect stakeholders as well for instance, end customers. The needs of these indirect stakeholders were automatically met if needs of internal stakeholders are effectively handled.
Categorization done, what next?
The next step was to identify the key challenges and mitigation strategy for each stakeholder group. For instance, ‘change management’ was a key concern for business user community. A complete Organization Change management strategy was created to identify the impacted users, map the user roles to the system roles in order to prepare and train this user group. The business user community was continuously kept updated by showcasing application build (at key check points) and sharing proactive updates to build confidence, assuring them of new system meeting their requirements. Training documents were created and training sessions were conducted on key functionalities. Business SME’s were identified as solution champions to help improve the adoption of the solution in the user community.
From a complexity perspective, any public sector implementation is highly data intensive. Our CRM implementation was no different – complexity can be gauged by the fact that the planned solution was planned to replace an existing legacy system (built over a period of 20 long years!). One area was to identify key legacy systems – which fed information and others which queried information stored in application in order to provide real time 360 degree customer snapshot. Another piece was to classify and determine the best architectural approach for servicing complex business requirements. We implemented a business rule processing engine to process an intricate set of business rules and fetch requisite results. This rule processing engine churned close to 500 + rules on a daily basis. It also provided the flexibility to the business to modify their rules based on the changing environment, without having to depend on long IT cycles.
As they say, game of cricket is not over till the last ball is bowled. We actually realized this when it was a last minute regulatory change which was mandatory to be incorporated for the successful project completion. (Not doing was not an option as it would have compromised the entire implementation). Though this led to marathon meetings, consultations and negotiations, we were able to finally push it through. How did we do that? It was by having a strong risk management framework along with having strong communication mechanism in place, which was successfully leveraged. Hence, for any implementation, it’s critical to have risk identification and mechanism strategies.
Challenges are always there, and with CRM projects in Public domain these are myriad. Success does not lie in circumventing these, but in leveraging the right strategy at the right time!