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Soft systems methodology in IT project management: Implementing CRM in SMEs

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Abstract

This paper reports on some of the outcomes from a two-year Knowledge Transfer Programme (KTP) which included the development of an implementation process for the installation of customer relationship management (CRM) applications in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK mail order sector. Soft systems methodology (SSM) was used to help appreciate the organizational structures and processes of an independent software vendor (ISV) and to facilitate the development of a structured and formalized implementation process. Importantly this action research based project considered whether any elements of SSM could be incorporated into a new implementation process. The paper starts by introducing SSM and its relevance to managing organizational change before detailing the KTP Associate's experiences of using SSM to appreciate the situation of the ISV and developing a structured and formalized implementation process. The selection of appropriate elements of SSM for inclusion in the implementation process is discussed in the context of an initial CRM installation. The implementation methodology was subsequently modified and used for a second CRM installation before being adopted by the ISV.