It only took about a decade but after enough CRM evangelists beating the drum for a long enough period of time I believe that the concept of CRM is finally starting to hold mind share with executives and other strategic thinkers inside of most organizations. For years and years many have struggled to figure out what CRM means and now more and more people are assessing the value of CRM as it applies to their organizations.
Right after Y2K many of us that sat in the board room across from many sales, service or operations people. In those meetings we espoused the virtues of CRM only to watch a fair number of those projects go down in flames. How did it happen? Was it the product? Was it the approach? Was it the mentality of the user community? Was it the lack of common database standards? Was it inability to integrate successfully with ERP of back end systems? If you said “all of the above” you are partially correct.
Assuming that you agree that all of the preceding factors could have a significant impact in the success of a project there was also plenty of blame to go around on the implementation side of the table. There were many people that took and ERP approach and designated systems as reporting engines and forced them from the top down. There were just as many project managers that took a “big project” approach and bit off way more than they could chew. It didn’t matter what the technology or its capabilities the size of the projects sunk many deployments.
So what has changed over the past 10 years? Just about everything has shifted and one of the most important shifts has come through the sheer availability and affordability of CRM for just about every type of organization. With availability the came out as the cloud solutions flooded the market came more and more every day users that have had exposure to some type of CRM. The tools have also gotten better but we will get to that shortly. As people have had experience with CRM the conversations in the board room have shifted from “Will it work?” to “How do I make it work?”
The number of people with significant CRM project experience has also grown considerably and with that knowledge and best practices have emerged. For those of us that started in the world of packaged software the argument used to be whether the best choice was on premise or the cloud. Now most of us have evolved past that argument and now we look at that decision as simply a deployment option. The good news with the evolution of cloud computing is that users now have a simple expectation that CRM is available when and where they need it.
If you talk to any of the industry analysts they will tell you that everyone is talking about mobile and tablets and having the data and the tools at your fingertips that enable good decision making or empower customer facing employees. What this tells me at the very least is that many of our industries sales people are no longer selling the concept of CRM but selling the concept of why their capabilities and delivery methods are better than someone else’s. This also tells me that decision makers sitting in the chair now get the fact that CRM is imperative and done correctly can be a significant competitive weapon.
Now we start to look at what will matter for the next 10 years…
There is no doubt that the tools that are in use now are significantly better than where we were a decade ago. I mentioned this earlier in this post but the winners in CRM technology will be the companies that understand the commitment to innovation and providing new and meaningful ways to give front line personnel the ability to interact with their customers and their peers to provide high levels of service or real time information to buyers. The sheer pace at which CRM tools are evolving at this point is almost mind boggling. That is fantastic news because we don’t have too many industries where we are the clear leader.
I think that the evolution of CRM is going to be an exciting journey and I am convinced that those of us that continue to learn and grow with this market will see many exciting success stories now that we don’t have to try and convince stakeholders that CRM is a necessity and not an optional undertaking.