Telecommunications executives talk about "the last mile": the challenge of connecting to customers through wires controlled by often-hostile local phone companies. In fact, many new technologies face a similar problem. They are stalled because downstream systems cannot deliver the benefits the technology is supposed to provide.

Marketers have heard the story often. The sales automation system failed because the salespeople wouldn't use it. The e-mail inquiry system failed because we couldn't respond quickly enough. The segmentation system failed because we couldn't manage so many variations.

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