IN 2001, CRM remained a priority for many CIOs even in the midst of the economic slump. Perhaps that's because
CRM technology offers an interesting advantage: the potential to gain customer intelligence. And with customer intelligence comes the ability to drive revenues.
Everyone knows that a business cannot survive without customers, and as budgets shrink and profits begin to decrease, companies focus more on maximizing value from those customers -- and they turn to CRM. Therefore, the coming year promises to be another exciting one in the CRM industry.
One of the biggest ongoing CRM debates is that of CRM suites vs. best-of-breed applications. The CRM suites are products of the giants like Siebel, Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP. These companies have always enjoyed the largest portions of the market share pie chart. However, the cloud of mystery that once surrounded CRM has begun to clear.
People understand the technology better now and are less influenced by the popularity of a vendor's name. Now, companies are committed to making a purchase only after a rigorous research and evaluation process. They are beginning to ponder whether unique business processes and frustrating integration issues are better addressed through a modular approach, and they are very interested in demonstrable results. For example, Oracle's "CRM in 90 Days" campaign is slowing to a crawl because people don't care as much about implementation speed as they care about ROI.
So the more companies weigh all of the pros and cons of the available packages, the more likely they are to investigate best-of-breed applications. After all, if the one-size-fits-all approaches of 1999 and 2000 only achieved a miserable 70% success rate, maybe it's time for a change.
If last year was about "making the CRM decision" this year is about "making sure to make the right CRM decision."
Additionally, we will likely see more companies that were so hasty to categorize themselves as "CRM companies" making great efforts to define themselves more clearly within the market. Companies that have existed under the nebulous "CRM umbrella" will need to brand themselves according to their specific offerings or they will get lost in the shuffle. We saw early evidence of this phenomenon when Partnerware -- typically known as a PRM company -- began referring to itself as a "channel management company."
Finally, there are at least two growing trends in this market: analytics and security. The analytical nature of BI-related technology is a very hot topic right now. For years, companies have been collecting and storing customer data, and as data warehousing technologies have become more sophisticated, there has been a decisive movement toward intelligently using that data to make solid business decisions. Indeed, we will likely see an emphasis on establishing best practices and methods for collecting, organizing, qualifying, cleaning and analyzing data as it relates to obtaining customer intelligence.
We will also see a rise in Web analytics as the Internet continues to gain momentum as the preferred customer contact channel. Consequently, the security and privacy concerns that are associated with the Internet will be adopted in the CRM industry -- especially in terms of protecting sensitive customer information.
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