Non-sales Executives Need Access to CRM Data: Here’s How They Can Get It
No one doubts that the customer relationship management (CRM) system is a central store of data vital to a company’s operation, but that system doesn’t store all the data about a company’s operations or its financials. In fact, the business’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, not its CRM application, is typically the company’s system of record. That said, the CRM database contains a lot of data about activities that people across the company find interesting.
A business’s ERP system records the facts of which items or services were sent to which customer, what the price was, and how much profit they generated, but the CRM system contains data about the future. Planning and projects are based on future projections: Future sales data are gleaned from the CRM database. Using the CRM system to access those data isn’t typically part of the accounting department or quality control manager’s job description, however; nor are CRM data stored and organized in a way that enables everyone to gain insights.
The typical and most logical way to distribute CRM data to those who need them is to use a top-down data approach. Executives in departments other than sales can interpret and communicate information from the CRM system to their departments so that everyone is working from the same data. Just saying it does not make it happen, though: The chief financial officer (CFO) is no more able to use and report on data in the CRM system than the accounting clerk is. There has to be a translation layer and a means of distributing the information.
CRM systems are designed to store data in detail: records of individual contact events, emails, notes on conversations, and so on. Most CRM systems also emphasize grouping and categorizing contact events, customers, and salespeople. Reporting and monitoring within the sales department tends to be based on groupings because examining individual customers repeatedly is tedious.
These aggregations and summary views may be exactly what non-sales executives need from the CRM system. If that’s the case, they may simply need a sign-in or link to the standard report.
Standard reporting in the CRM application typically won’t be what non-sales executives want to see. Even if the standard report is good, executives might want something different to assert the uniqueness of their department.
Many companies bring in their companywide business intelligence (BI) tool to create custom reports. Non-sales executives are likely already getting reporting through the BI tool, so adding the CRM system as a data source with customized views is a just another project for the BI team.
Typically, non-sales executives need access to CRM data to make projections based on sales predictions. Making predictions automatically is the arena of advanced analytics. The predictions might be built into the CRM system, or they may come from a separate group and technology. Whatever the case, non-sales executives have the opportunity to direct what’s predicted and the format in which it’s delivered to their department. This process is a better fit for changing projections and planning based on CRM data because it removes the human interpretation element. The potential downside is that a company could end up with several different predictions in the same area.
With all the formal systems for aggregate reporting and advanced analytics, many executives will still want a personal sign-in to the CRM system. Think of this desire as a need to extend their control.
Few of these high-level executives will attend training on how to use the CRM system, but they’ll still want the ability to look at the detailed records of customers and prospects. Fortunately, most CRM systems have limited-access user roles; users assigned such a role can only view records without being able to make changes. Combine this limited access with a more formalized reporting or advanced analytics process, and non-sales executives get the CRM data they need.