Implicit personal contracts and actor-group consensus in CRM implementations – evidence for their role in influencing success

Corner, Ian and Hinton, Matthew (2008). Implicit personal contracts and actor-group consensus in CRM implementations – evidence for their role in influencing success. In: 2nd European Conference on Information Management and Evaluation (ECIME), 11-12 Sep 2008, Royal Holloway, Egham, UK.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have been seen to offer significant advantages to organisations seeking a more professional approach to the acquisition and retention of customers. The majority of early implementations have been reported as failures. There is substantial evidence to suggest that the high failure rate reflects excessive reliance on technology alone to improve performance and that insufficient attention has been paid to organisational and behaviour-related issues. This paper considers evidence from two longitudinal case studies in medium-sized companies that operate in the business-to-business sector. The first investigates the operational risks to CRM implementations and subsequently a three-dimensional model is developed to illustrate how the cognitive schemas and values of the actors in the implementation process may influence the emergence of risks to the implementation and subsequent business performance. The second case study is based on video recordings from the implementation process to study the behaviours of the actors and validate the model. Evidence emerges that although project management and resource allocation was poor the implementation was, nonetheless, considered successful. The paradox of success despite functional inadequacy is explored further to reveal evidence of shared motivation to make the project successful and flexibility in the relationships between the main groups of actors. Analysis of the data reveals implicit contracts between the main groups of actors within the consensus of a will to succeed. These behaviours are described as ‘actor-set consensus’ and ‘flexible contracting’, which are combined as constructs with the three-dimensional model of cognitive schemas and presented as a systems implementation meso-theory. The theory is seen to sit between generalised multiple factor theories of systems implementation and micro-level single factor research and to offer constructs that mediate between the two polarised approaches. The work is seen to have practical application through the provision of insights for the development of management tools for encouraging actor-set consensus and flexible contracting. Elements of flexible contracting are explored with this objective in mind.

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