CRM information glut

..........Using knowledge management to combat the CRM information glut

With customer relationship management (CRM) relying increasingly on an organisation's knowledge resources, knowledge management has become fundamental to the success of any CRM programme . [spokesperson name] [position] [company], examines the burgeoning role of knowledge management and its integration into CRM.

Knowledge management (KM) is defined as the conscious, comprehensive gathering, organising, sharing and analysis of an organisation's knowledge according to its resources, documents, and people skills. More simply put, it formalises the management of the organisation's intellectual capital, and looks at the best ways of investing this capital.

Because intellectual assets are intangible, their value may often be overlooked. In truth, they can represent a significant portion of any organisation's market value. It follows, therefore, that KM can propel profitability precisely because it yields information that would never before have been extrapolated. This is knowledge that typically resides in people's heads, in data files, documents, business processes, on networks, on Internet sites, and in various other formats.

There are a number of reasons for the growing focus on the role of KM in CRM, not least of which is that fact that companies are waking up to the fact that CRM initiatives do not - by themselves - improve customer interactions. Instead, they are finding that the information emerging from their interactions with customers is proving to be the most valuable source of competitive differentiation - provided, that is, if they know how to gather and where to look for that information and what to do with it once they have it.

KM is about optimising the management of knowledge that is critical to the organisation despite the fact that it may be dispersed and unstructured. This process begins with according knowledge its strategic value, and then implementing the processes that will organise and maximise that value. KM therefore involves data mining and the implementation of a means to push information to users. The challenge is to select or build software that fits into the context of the organisation's plan and to encourage employees to share information.

Organisations seeking to set out on the KM path need first to analyse their corporate goals and examine the tools required for addressing company needs.

  • Key to the development of any KM programmes are the following considerations:
  • What are the specific requirements of the organisation's employees? How will KM support them in their tasks and their interactions internally and externally?
  •  Is the proposed KM programme in line with the organisation's business goals and strategies?
  •  Are the KM processes aligned to the organisation's business processes?

Organisations that pay attention to these requirements can quickly begin to reap the benefits of KM in terms of maximising their intellectual capital and using it to drive their broader business goals. Bear in mind that you are aiming to see returns not from the KM processes you set in place, but from the ways in which your KM processes enhance your business processes.

CRM relies on knowledge resources from a number of perspectives, from corporate knowledge about customer behaviour, and employee knowledge about products and services, to knowledge-based marketing programmes. Hence, it is clear that as CRM programmes continue to evolve, they will incorporate KM processes that enable organisations to capitalise on all these intellectual assets.

Research by Gartner points out that CRM has an intrinsic need for KM:

  • KM provides the tools to manage the vast quantities of information and content that is generated by CRM;
  • KM links knowledge seekers with knowledge providers, echoing the link that CRM establishes between customers and partners and the business; and
  • KM captures what people know and turns that into explicit or tangible information that enables collaboration and enhances business practices by reusing knowledge and distributing it throughout the organisation and beyond.

A sophisticated, integrated CRM/KM programme streamlines the collaborative processes that are crucial to the marketing, sales and services environment. It is important to note, however, that KM is accomplished through human interaction supported by defined business processes and strategic objectives, all of which must in turn be supported by technology.

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