One of the most interesting circumstances that we see in the CRM industry is the level of flexibility in our customer’s project teams and the fluidity of the user constituency in changing objectives and priorities for their CRM projects. There are many causes of this phenomenon and we will discuss a few of them here. More importantly, I will highlight the newest CRM “toys” and give my opinion on those most relevant to the business climate today.
Before we get into which toys and why it’s probably just as important for consulting and internal project teams to understand why technology is evolving so quickly in this industry. There is no doubt that capital investment from software publishers and SaaS players, coupled with an explosion of accessibility methods and devices, has been the driver here. Add in the fact that there is now a blend between the personal and business aspects of the social space and now you have essentially the perfect storm for CRM innovation.
As many people know I prefer not to get into product specifics as I have to during countless boardroom sessions but I think it’s fair to mention that its not just the CRM providers that are making strides but the ancillary offerings that are also pacing the innovation. With robust market places and constant messaging more and more companies have gone away from concentrating on core business drivers and are focusing on how to “adapt” the newest app or gadget to CRM because they bought in that somehow it equates to competitive advantage.
Let’s dive into five hot capabilities in CRM and give you the skinny on how and where they fit.
Social “Anything” – Just look at almost anything related to CRM and you will see the word social attached to it. This concept is certainly harder for a B2B environment to pull off and the closer you are to dealing with individuals and consumers this has actual value to you. For those in recruiting, consumer goods, fund raising, and retail you have a winner. If you are in another industry and having a hard time visualizing how it applies maybe cool your jets and wait to see a practical application in your industry.
Reputation Management – This capability is also evolving from the “social” sphere and is also labeled social media monitoring. This function can (but does not necessarily) relate to both B2C and B2B but the practical application is probably more in areas where there is heavy investment in brand and where products or services are highly transactional. So if you have a product in grocery stores or retail then it applies but if you are a regional general contractor or technology reseller not so much.
Collaboration – So far we have seen two sides of the coin on this one. There is definite value depending on the situation. If you have a complex, distributed or team selling approach then connecting with team members and sharing intelligence or making split second decisions has value. If you run field sales and service operations there can also be a nice tie in for people to communicate at the central point of concern and resolve customer issues or strategize on managing relationships. If, however, your shop is all about talking and analysis through paralysis some managers have complained that collaboration is just another productivity killer so you have to set rules and boundaries.
Portals – Watch more discussion about portals as one of the catch phrases that will continue to evolve in 2013. The general idea of portals, ecosystems and communities is that there are centralized places for people to work with each other and produce synergies around a common set of objectives. The drawback is that if you can’t readily layout a structure and are “pushing” to define a solution you may not be the best candidate.
Mobile – Now here is the real value add in terms of new capabilities that really matter. We have finally come to the point where information should be available anywhere and anytime so that users can consume at a time and place that makes a difference in their ability to produce either revenue or results. We live in a society where everything happens in Internet speed. If we can’t transact the same way that our users or customers expect then they are at risk of finding someone who can. The only caution is that users should temper expectations of pushing full functionality of any desktop system into a mobile experience. The key driver here is the concept of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).
So, as you head into the Holiday Season and start to eat your body weight in goodies and look at lots of shiny new toys, don’t forget that there is a difference between marketing hype and practical application of technology in your business. If you don’t know how something will fit that a vendor is pushing really hard then just wait until you have a solid business case for deploying new capabilities.