David Harkins

David Harkins

Dr. David L. Harkins is a social scientist researching the human experience in systems and culture. He is an experienced executive coach and consultant, passionate educator, and keynote speaker. Through his teachings, inspiration, and guidance, he helps individuals and organizations identify and connect with their potential to make a meaningful difference in their communities.

The Trouble with CRM Systems: Tomorrow’s forecast – Sunny with some early fog.

When CRM began to evolve in the mid-’90s, every software vendor with an application that had anything to do with managing customer or prospect data began pitching itself as a “CRM System.” Many of these systems were built to address one particular aspect of CRM, such as Sales Force Automation (contact management, Campaign Management, or Customer Analytics, and could not possibly deliver the value promised as a “CRM System.” It was a case of “over-promise and under-deliver.”

Unfortunately, there were no end-to-end technology solutions for CRM at the time, and today, there still aren’t (although we’re getting closer). As much as vendors collaborate to provide an “integrated solution,” the results have been less than stellar. One only needs to read the Wall Street Journal or any number of business and trade
publications to learn about the failures of CRM System implementation where multi-system integration is involved. It’s no wonder that Pragmatists don’t believe CRM Systems are worth the investment. However, this may be about to change.

While a few CRM System vendors are undoubtedly trying to monopolize the market with an end-to-end solution, there is a somewhat conscious move by most CRM System vendors to segment themselves into specific vertical segments. At this writing, these vertical segments seem to be:

  • Sales(Sales Force Automation, Contact Management, and Telemarketing)
  • Marketing(Campaign Management, Online/E-mail Interaction Management, and Marketing Management)
  • Data Management and Analysis( Business Intelligence, Customer Segmentation, and Data Transformation)
  • Customer Service(Order Management, Supply Chain Management, Call Center Management, and Interactive Customer Contact

By self-segmenting into these categories, CRM System vendors will ultimately force segment standards, against which all vendors within the segment will be measured. This segmenting is the first step to vertical segment consolidation, Forcing the smaller, less well-funded players into merging or failure. Ultimately, each segment will likely have 5-7 significant players.

So, what does this mean for marketers, and how can we benefit from the coming change? Here are my Top 3 predictions, with a few thoughts on how we, as marketers, will help:

  • CRM System vendors will concentrate on delivering value within a vertical segment using their core technology rather than integrating their offerings with other CRM Systems. This will lead to an increased success rate with CRM system projects and give the Pragmatists the comfort level they need to accept CRM technologies. This will be a blessing for the CRM System vendors and organizations struggling to make an internal case for their Pragmatists.

Marketers will benefit from this segment concentration by having the flexibility to select a system that specifically addresses a specific business goal rather than a system that tries to solve all of the organization’s CRM ills simultaneously. For example, suppose the organization primarily derives revenue through direct mail or database marketing. In that case, efforts select campaign management rather than a system focused more on sales automation but offering campaign management capability. A vertical segment system will provide the fastest ROI for the organization and will likely allow for a more compelling business case for additional CRM technology in the future.

  • CRM System vendors will encourage more firms to address “people and process issues” before application installation. CRM System vendors have learned the hard way that implementing technology before dealing with resource skills and abilities and supporting processes often negatively impacts installation success.

This helps create an opportunity for marketers to drive CRM as a business strategy, rather than the technology initiative for which it is often mistaken. Marketers should use this occasion to gain visibility for the strategies, tactics, and processes that the technology enables.

  • There will be increased market consolidation between CRM front-office and back-office applications to gain market domination in the CRM space. This consolidation will provide more seamless data integration between customer service, supply chains, and marketing, providing a wealth of data to use in improving the value offered to the customer. We are beginning to see this with acquisitions such as Vantive by PeopleSoft (www.peoplesoft.com) and Octane by E.piphany (www.epiphany.com). Of course, Siebel (www.siebel.com), Oracle (www.oracle.com), and SAP (www.sap.com) are also players in this space.

Increased data access will be the most significant benefit for marketers in using these enterprise-wide CRM Solutions. The wealth of data from nearly all customer interaction points can give marketers a more complete picture of the customer and offer the potential to increase corporate value through improved message, product, and service delivery. As this occurs, the challenge for marketers will be how to become “information rich” rather than “data poor”.

The evolution of CRM Systems space is taking place. Vendors are beginning to focus their offerings to differentiate themselves from competitors better, and there is a deliberate attempt for market domination (in both each segment and those attempting an enterprise-wide solution). While these critical factors are necessary for CRM System vendors to gain full acceptance of their systems, how long this evolution ultimately takes is dependent on how firmly marketers push their needs, values, and expectation and the proven, documented success of the vendors in meeting those defined goals and objectives.

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