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Tech notes.

Byline: By Alan Timothy

The world is changing at a staggering rate and technology is the key driver for these changes, bringing automation into every aspect of the way companies do business.

And as firms strive to find more efficient ways of doing things, they are investing vast sums of money in new systems that seem to promise just that.

But whether it's a case of selective hearing or being seduced by the slick salesman's patter, all too often companies buy technology that doesn't actually give them what they need.

For example, many companies have invested millions in new customer relationship management (CRM) systems, only to find they don't improve the business's relationships with its customers as they'd envisaged (often because CRM systems aren't designed to take into account prospecting activity).

As a result, clients often have to ask technology firms to re-engineer the system they originally bought in order to make them workable ( using up yet more money and time.

We find the same problem when people buy sales force automation systems, too. According to technology research company the Aberdeen Group, the "majority of executives who rely on a sales team to generate sales are haunted by the lack of ongoing visibility into sales activities".

Sales directors, therefore, pounce on these systems, hoping they will help them to manage their sales force better. But they won't ( sales automation tools are supposed to provide historical transactional and profile data on customers, not visibility on salespersons' call rates and daily activities. It's another classic example of businesses searching for an answer when they don't know what the question is.

Investment in technology can be very expensive, so it's essential to know you're buying the right thing. Instead of looking at the solutions on the marketplace, companies must spend time first thinking about their business needs. And it's important to think laterally.

Companies often fork out for a new CRM system to automate their current business model, rather than thinking about what a CRM system could do for the business in the future, and the implications of doing things in a different way.

For this reason, there's a real case for companies to employ the skills of external experts who are not technology vendors (and so have no axe to grind), to take an objective look at the real technology needs of their business.

While this may add to the overall cost and timing, it's a vital step to ensure that millions aren't spent on what fast becomes a white elephant.

Most importantly of all, what businesses need to realise is that many of these costly technology-related problems don't arise because there's anything wrong with the systems themselves--

They do what they say on the tin ( but nobody seems to read the label.

Alan Timothy is chief executive of Middlesbrough-based marketing consultancy Rocket Science.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 22, 2007
Words:472
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