CRM Evolution

  • August 27, 2014
  • tumblr_m5x6lo3syJ1qggdq1Last week’s CRM Evolution conference in New York was interesting for multiple reasons.  Most importantly, perhaps, is the perception that the market is moving into a higher gear, slipping past the restraints of a recession that would not quit.  Good things are in store for the industry, I think, as buyers step up their games and vendors unleash a passel of new solutions.

    There was also no small amount of contention as vendors and analysts jockeyed for position to be remembered as the one who rightly predicted the future first, or perhaps loudest.  “CRM is dead,” announced Bob Stutz of Microsoft.  He should know because he’s had a strong hand in building CRM first at Siebel, then at SAP, and now for Microsoft.  But even if you take Stutz at his word you still need to account for the rubble and debris of a 20-odd billion dollar break up.

    The fact is that CRM, or whatever we want to call it these days, is far from dead but it has certainly morphed from the stove-piped applications of fifteen years ago to the social, mobile, collaborative, cloud-based, work-flow infused thing it has become.  If that’s what Stutz was thinking, then I concur.

    I ventured that we are already in a “post-CRM era” at a breakfast roundtable and, because of this, I think Bob and I are on the same page.  The species that we knew long ago have evolved into forms that would be barely recognizable to a time traveler from the turn of the century.

    All this is well and good, and there’s no better place to discuss CRM’s evolution than at an eponymously named show.  So perhaps the better question to ask, and the one I tried to answer in a breakout session, is what has it become?  Also, where is it going is never a bad thing to contemplate.  Kind of reminds me of Gauguin.

    So what has it become?  It largely depends on which Church of CRM you belong to.  If you or your vendor have moved aggressively into platform technology, then you see great value in applying all of those formerly disparate apps like social, collaboration, and workflow into CRM apps to produce wonderful systems that can anticipate and even recommend courses of action for vendor personnel and customers.  If you also adhere to a mobile first strategy then you know the importance of not only building for small screens, but of maximizing the ability to specify rather than code.

    However, all of this lacks a unifying principle because it assumes our applications have become smarter in numerous ways and that we can blithely continue with business as usual — a comforting thought, but is it realistic?  I think not, and I wish to convince you that this is no bad thing.

    Our time traveler would have a hard time recognizing today’s CRM but he or she would have equal difficulty recognizing today’s front office work.  When the millennium turned email across the Internet was not very old, social networking was an idea embedded in a paper that came out of the Harvard Psychology department in the 1950’s, Windows ruled the desktop, and my favorite, sales people made appointments to take orders.

    Static, discrete front office applications were all you needed in that business world.  Actually, one argument then raging was whether you needed even that much — after all spreadsheets ran SFA just fine.  But look where we are today.  Customers shop on-line selecting, or more often eliminating, vendors without them even being aware that they were under consideration.

    We are in a post-CRM era by my estimate precisely because the old technology can’t keep up with business any more.  Moreover, the new apps are being used in only a so-so way as many users pick and choose which functionality to implement (Why do I need workflow and why can’t I skip a step in the sales process?) or use it in only the most rudimentary ways (My analytics package tells me what we sold last month).

    The missing element in all this, I say — and I know I will get mail on this — is leadership, specifically leadership from the vendor community.  If you watch closely, virtually all vendors are happy to bring out a bit of functionality such as social, collaboration, workflow, and all the rest but they are also careful to discuss these bits in isolation.  I have not heard a convincing argument from any of the vendors for why it all needs to be incorporated in our entire suite of customer facing applications.

    That conversation doesn’t happen because no one wants to utter the words “best practice” any more for fear of losing a deal because a customer liked the software but didn’t want to be told how best to use it.  If you doubt this refer back to CSO Insights famous research showing that half of sales organizations have no process or technology supporting the sales effort.  That’s too bad because the post-CRM world is a process-centric one.

    If CRM is “dead” or we are in a “post-CRM” era, then it is because of the obvious fact on the ground that we do business very differently today than during CRM’s golden era.  CRM was fundamentally a transaction tracking system or system of record.  The era we are in deals with a great deal of business process complexity and requires systems of engagement.  The glut of new technology that every vendor offers is bringing this reality home and businesses that make the leap from transaction orientation to process are reaping new rewards.  It’s time for everyone to reap those rewards and time for vendors to get on with thought leadership in that direction.

    Published: 10 years ago

    At the recently completed CRM Evolution conference, sponsored by CRM Magazine in New York, Esteban Kolsky presented some of the results of our social media research.  We’d been working on it for most of the year and we were writing up the findings almost until Esteban gave the presentation.  It killed me not to be there but I had a client engagement.

    The research was sponsored by Microsoft, Kana, Moxie, Dun and Bradstreet, Attensity and  And while we will be issuing a free white paper for general consumption soon, I thought it would be good to share our key findings, which will be part of the paper, as an early thank you to all of the people who used social media to drive the response rate up.  Using social to study social might not have been a first but it was certainly demonstrative of the benefits we were studying.  So, without further preamble, here are the key findings.

    1. It’s still an early market.  The majority of companies surveyed have some experience with social media primarily through the big name social media companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, corporate blogs and video sharing sites like YouTube.  This suggests that companies are just getting started; other data shows that reliance on these media is primarily outbound.  In other words, companies are using social as a low cost way to broadcast a message but not necessarily as a means of collecting customer input that can be turned into valuable information.
    2. Obstacles to adoption remain but they are largely not technical.  Executives “get it.”  The line of business people are less sure and younger people generally have more experience with social media and they get it too.  The sticking points are not IT related.  People say they have some concerns about legal issues, security and many haven’t figured out where in their organizations to first apply social media or which business processes to start with.  This shows there’s plenty of opportunity AND that vendor messaging has not cracked the nut yet.  It also shows a tremendous opportunity for vendors and providers to show the way to do social well, including lessons learned, best practices, frameworks, and methodologies.
    3. The usual suspects have the greatest adoption e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, plus the corporate blog and video.  Reliance on these media, which are primarily oriented toward outbound personal communication, is a good indicator of the level of sophistication for social media use.  While these channels are important they represent the last mile for social media use.  Other activities like capturing customer input lag and a strong case can be made that companies are building out their social strategies in a sequential process — from the customer in or from the data out.
    4. It should not be surprising that video and picture sharing are among the top social media.  Many organizations have not yet adopted video as a messaging tool in part because it can be expensive and it requires additional expertise that must either be hired or bought on a consulting basis.  But in this and other research, we have seen that organizations that have adopted video and sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo are discovering strong ROI especially in the sales and marketing process.  Video sharing through links in social media is a natural fit and companies are eagerly adopting it.
    5. Marketing and service have more uses for social media than does sales, so far.  Customer service has more use cases for social media than the other two areas combined.  Sales adoption is clustered around the early parts of the funnel such as prospecting and providing information.  Marketers know that social is useful for capturing supplementary customer data and using it in nurturing programs.  Customer service uses social media in a variety of situations for improving first call resolution and providing correct information to customers. Overall, marketing’s use of social media appears to be more sophisticated than either sales or service as these two departments use social for outbound communication primarily.  Marketing is at least beginning to collect customer input for data collection.
    6. Social media has also made significant impacts inside the organization for communicating with and among employees.  Among its benefits are, better employee feedback, greater individual participation in problem solving and greater job satisfaction.  Although people see easier recruiting benefits, they do not see improvement in employee retention with social media.  Nonetheless, a company’s positive experience with employee give and take through social media will give some the confidence they need to use social media in novel ways with customers to capture more feedback — internal successes will easily lead to further adoption of the technologies and to seek external use cases.
    7. Content is king.  Ranking the three major social media for usefulness, Twitter is first followed by Facebook and then LinkedIn.  Interestingly, corporate blogs and product/service blogs are rated higher than the top three services indicating that people want specific content and they are not put off by content size or the time it might take to read or view it.  So the three popular social tools might help get the conversation started but successful companies will quickly discover that they need more content for follow up.  Our CRM Idol experience this year confirms this point: we are seeing a larger-than-normal number of vendors focused on content creation, tracking, and management.
    8. About 70% of those who completed the survey said they were involved in the purchase process and 27% said their job titles were in a range from SVP to C-level or board members.  We therefore feel that this report represents opinions of serious decision makers.
    9. We conducted this survey in Europe too.  But the results did not yield a sufficient response to be deemed quantitative.  This analysis focuses only on data collected from the primary, U.S. based survey and while there may be some responses from overseas in this data we are considering it the primary data and not loaded with a significant response from outside the U.S. or North American market.

    Stay tuned for more.


    Published: 12 years ago