No, no, no, not the Patriots! Gotta wait a couple of weeks for the Super Bowl to say that.
But! Late last week CRM Buyer published an annual listing of the top 20 CRM blogs by Chris Bucholtz, something he’s been doing since the earth cooled and well before he began his sojourn at ‘Buyer. That’s important because I write a soft for CRM Buyer every week and the two are separate.
This year Chris has selected this blog as his top finisher for which I am extremely grateful and honored. The list is full of great CRM minds like Kate Leggett, Chuck Schaeffer, and Paul Greenberg just to scratch the surface, so this is a great honor. I hope you’ll check out the article and investigate some other CRM voices, any of whom could easily be in the top spot in the future.
We’re number 2 in CRM blogs that is. Every year Chris Bucholtz ranks the best CRM blogs and once again the Beagle blog is in second position right behind the estimable Paul Greenberg. You can find all of the rankings here. Thanks so much for continuing to read this site. Without you who knows where we’d be?
Last 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.
Many thanks to Chris Bucholtz for the work he does selecting, reading and ranking the top CRM blogs of the year. Chris’s list contains 20 top blogs here and here and it includes names of friends like Paul Greenberg, Jesus Hoyos, Esteban Kolsky, Brian Vellmure, and Louis Columbus just for starters. If you want to know what’s going on in CRM you can start with that list.
Tracking 20 blogs to get enough familiarity with them to judge and rank them is a tall order. Bloggers post frequently and even if Chris reads just one post from each blog each week that’s a minimum of a thousand per year. I am sure he reads much more than that too. So hats off to Chris for this valuable service. If you’re wondering I also made the list, which is very gratifying.
This month Beagle Research Group celebrates its tenth birthday. I founded the company on January 3, 2004 and have spent the last ten years doing whatever it is that I do. This isn’t my attempt to draw your attention (ok, maybe a little). But face facts, if you’re reading this you must be a rather hardcore CRM-er and so my real motive for writing about this anniversary at all is simply to say thanks to all of the people and vendors who’ve supported this little experiment in self-employment for over a decade now. To my mind there’s nothing finer than digging into a new business problem with a client and figuring it out.
There’s also a growing community of like-minded people out there starting with Paul Greenberg but also including pals like Brent Leary and Esteban Kolsky, and many others that I will not name to protect the innocent. I see these people at conferences and events; we trade ideas, write reviews of each other’s books, and sometimes collaborate on research together. They make the experience more rewarding and a bit less solitary than working alone can be sometimes.
Let me also shout out the people who work in analyst relations and PR who must have majored in wrangling cats. They make my job much easier by arranging access to key CRM decision-makers, important events, and frequent briefings.
Finally, thanks to all of the editors who seek out my ideas and post my writing. I don’t make a great deal of money from these relationships but the exposure gained by posting my analyses on many subjects helps to keep me in business.
Ok, back to work.