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Another excellent post, KD.

Different definitions of "important"
It's amazing how relative "easy" is in platform migration. Companies merging the same, customized CRM systems spend mere hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, instead of tens of millions to merge completely different platforms or implement them from scratch.

Hired guns to the rescue
Part of the problem is the supposed ease-of-use of the various CRM systems themselves. SAP & PeopleSoft, in particular, were designed so that non-programmers can "customize" them. Thus in the mid-to-late-'90s, many people without MIS or similar degrees/experience followed the siren-song into the field. As a result the technical abilities of some of them is often stunningly low. I know CRM developers who can't import a comma-delimited ACSII file. Although there are certainly exceptions, this, sadly, seems to be the rule.

All of the CRM systems that I've seen have user-interface issues, which are usually very difficult to improve. Of course, user-interface issues are the some of the most important considerations in designing any system, which can plague even good programmers, but having non-technical developers working on a system seems to aggravate the problem.

Not all problems are technical
I would add turf-protection to another typical, potential pitfall. Someone (DBAs & programmers, their managers & directors) always loses, but still has the ability to sabotage the process.


"The work may take months or even years, but it does get done in hundreds of corporations every year."

Some still fail. A company I worked for abandoned a CRM implementation after 2 years & $25M.

Of course, success in this particular project isn't, and shouldn't be just measured in the usual, on-time, and on-budget way. Most companies don't have the resources that our government should be able to apply, or expect the apparent forgiveness that the American citizen has that the shareholder does not. Failure is less excusable.

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