A CRM Lesson Learned, from a Gardener

(note: This is Mitch’s first post as an actual “outsider.” Mitch left SugarCRM a couple weeks ago to pursue his passion for social media and helping others find their way though the web 2.0 maze. As Mitch strikes new ground on his own, I have invited him to share his thoughts and experiences here. Fortunately for us, Mitch will be continuing his relationship with SugarCRM, as he launches his new venture Comity Technology Advisors …)

I read all sorts of diverse articles, and yes, I do still like the feel of a hard copy magazine in my hands. I did spend yesterday trying desperately to convince myself of the need for an iPad – but that did not work. Sorry, going off on a tangent here. So, what exactly did I learn from my Gardener? (Gardener not Gartner) And, how in the world can I apply it to CRM, or further, a CRM implementation?

Plant a $5 shrub in a $10 hole

When I am not in front of a computer screen, (which seems to be a little too often) I long to use some of the handy skills, which my dad taught me when I was young. Build it, fix it, rinse and repeat. About as close as I come is reading my monthly issue of Popular Mechanics, looking at all the cool things I should be doing, or getting some advice on topics such as gardening. The inspiration for this post is the May 2010 issue, page 126 (yes, I bet it is online somewhere). The simple statement, in bold above, “Plant a $5 shrub in a $10 hole” really just sunk in (bad pun, sorry). The small blurb goes on to say: “In other words, your extra labor will be repaid with vigorous trees and shrubs.”

I hope that you, the reader are able to make the leap. If the focus is too heavily skewed towards technology and not the planning, requirements gathering, analysis, design and then implementation – not too mention people, culture, process changes and role changes – then how can you expect success in deploying a new system of any kind? Spend the time, up front figuring out what you need to do in order to make the project a success.

This is not only about something new

The article referenced above is not only about a new ‘hole’ for a new ‘plant’, it actually starts with a question about what to do if a plant does not seem to be doing well after a long hard winter. Hmmm, I wonder if I can get away with calling the economy we experienced during the past 2 years a ‘long hard winter’ – yeah, I think I can. So, in this scenario, do I just say ‘out with the old in with the new’? I am not only talking about CRM, I am talking about technology of nearly any type. Extending the metaphor just a little further, if I simply swap the plant, without checking the soil, making sure there is enough water, or proper drainage, putting in another plant will likely lead to the same end result.

Simply replacing technology with newer technology often seems like the easiest solution. But ask yourself, and your team, what is the real reason we need to do this? I have read from many highly respected sources, that technology is rarely the problem, it is properly preparing for the technology that is the problem. Again, I am not talking about net new here, I am talking about ‘rip and replace’ because of that new shiny object in the corner over there.

7 thoughts on “A CRM Lesson Learned, from a Gardener

  1. Hi Mitch,

    Not only is the problem not understanding the problem you are trying to solve, the problem is also in thinking that the technology will solve the problem. Tis is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The shiny object may look nice, but if it doesn’t get your job done and lad to your desired outcome, why waste the time and the effort?


  2. Thanks Mark, I agree 100%

    People like to use the shiny object because…it is shiny. Somehow how starting fresh always seems to be about using a new tool, not about rethinking what you are trying to accomplish, and the real reason you are unable to do so.



  3. Hi Mitch, great post and congratulations on your new venture. I agree with Mark. The user should think of process and design first, *then* implementation. Technology doesn’t solve your business issues, it’s a tool that helps *you* solve your business issue.

    More importantly, the provider should sell its technology with that understanding as well:
    1- Educate the customer on standard or industry process that would help them improve their business
    2- Provide the technology with a ramp-on plan and explain how it will tie with those processes
    3- Continuously monitor the customer’s feedback

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  5. Hi Mitch,
    Congratulations on the new venture!
    I really like this post because it is a topic near and dear to me. Viewing everything through a sales lens, as I do, this is really an issue of problem solving. There is an old saying that people don’t buy a 1/2 inch drill bit because they want a drill bit, they buy one because they want a half inch hole. they understand the problem so they find the right product to meet their needs.

    If you focus on the problem and the solution you’ll find the right product or service. If you focus on the product or service, you might end up with the same problem.


  6. Chip,

    Great to hear from you, and thanks for the note.

    I like the drill analogy, it is one that I use as well, as people seem to get it! It just seems so easy to focus on the tools and the tech, hard to break that habit.


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