Getting close to your customer, we're told, is the key to success in the marketplace. That mantra of modern marketing has led to a boom in information-technology spending to help companies get in touch with their customers. Indeed, interest in customer-relationship-management (CRM) systems continues to heat up.To improve service and retain customers, CRM synthesizes all of a company's customer “touchpoints” — including e-mail, call centers, retail stores and sales reps — to support subsequent customer interactions as well as to inform financial forecasts, product design and supply-chain management.But given the mixed history of other recent big-ticket IT projects — from enterprise-resource planning (ERP) to supply-chain systems — just how successful has CRM been? And what are the keys to its success?Research published recently by two industry groups reinforces the notion that CRM has to be more than just a marketing and customer-service initiative and that success depends on extending the effort deep into the organization.“CRM is a paradigm shift in terms of what you are focusing on,” says Wayne W. Eckerson. Eckerson and Hugh J.