Problems with usability hits half of all vendors' flagship customer relationship management (CRM) projects, but resellers can help users set realistic expectations, according to research.
A survey of 80 vendor reference sites by AMR Research showed that almost half had struggled to gain user acceptance of the CRM system.
Such a level of negativity from customers highlights the depth of the problem, said Rod Johnson, vice president of customer management service at AMR.
"There are firms out there that believe in adopting a customer focus. They believe that technology can play a part in improving it.
"But vendors don't do enough to set expectations, to say it will be hard," said Johnson.
As the functionality of CRM suites becomes increasingly similar, successful projects are less related to software choices and more related to the processes put in place to support the project, said Johnson.
But vendors have rejected the criticism. Charles Grover, PeopleSoft's European CRM director, said PeopleSoft had recognised the importance of getting end users on board, and had reconfigured its software to make it easier to use.
"We've spent time with ergonomic experts and end users to ensure our user interfaces are easy to use," he said.
But it is unrealistic to expect vendors to focus on potential problems, said Keith Binley, principal consultant at Glenbrook Management.
Businesses needed to work with trusted partners to iron out potential problems, he said, adding: "It's not in [vendors'] interests to highlight pitfalls."
That so many of the reference sites struggled with end user adoption did not surprise CRM vendor SAP.
"Adoption is a key part of successful projects but it is an issue that is very much in its infancy," said Ray Barratt, head of CRM for SAP UK.
"I would expect it to be as important in 2003 as return on investment has been in 2002."
One of the key principles in gaining user acceptance is introducing technology that makes people's jobs easier, said Chic McSherry, managing director at Onyx reseller Prosys.
Introducing technology that automates filling in timesheets for service engineers was a good example of how this could work, McSherry added.
"That is where we come in. We can work closely with our customers to understand their business processes, and then provide technology to meet the need," he said.
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