When business needs to change course–take moving from product-centric to company-centric business models, for example–a “change” industry like CRM springs up. Depending on the magnitude of change–in this case enormous–a very significant business opportunity can emerge. That was certainly the case with CRM. Lots of companies jumped in and made lots of money. Those that didn’t take face plants, at least. But has CRM reached the end of the rainbow? And if so, what will become of the key players–software companies, implementation companies, developers, consultants, teachers, writers?
For those waiting for the CRM business to rebound after the recession, let me make this suggestion. Move on. It’s not coming back.
That does not in any way mean that companies will stop migrating towards more and more customer-centric business models. Or that they’ll no longer need websites like this one to inform them along the way. But the days of companies saying, “We’re going to implement CRM,” they’re about over.
As we look around the business landscape we see customer-centricity happening in many companies and organizations–but not usually resulting from CRM implementations. Customer-centricity is slowly but inexorably seeping into business pores.
Smart business planners innately understand the need to put customers in the center of the business circle. And no longer is customer-centric planning the tail on the CRM dog. More and more companies realize they have to start customer-centricity at the beginning, not the end. Amazing anyone thought it could be any other way.
The process industry, our primary residence these days, talks more about customer-centricity the CRMers do. And it’s much more than talk. Back in the 90s, when we developed Visual Workflow (VW) as a total one-off process approach for CRM, we accidently started something more. Today, VW is part of a burgeoning category of process design approaches known as “outside-in” process, so-named because it starts with the customer and works into the company from there, whereas traditional process approaches start with how employees do their work and expands out from there. Amazing that process people ever thought they could reach the customer that way.
And CRM technology folks are gradually understanding that software designed to work with the front office only doesn’t cut it, because behaving in a customer-centric manner requires close collaboration between front and back offices and beyond–clearly beyond the capabilities of CRM software. Pivotal gets it. That’s why I recently wrote a very favorable review here of the new V6.0, which is not only an application for front office functions but a development platform for creating collaborative functionality tying front office to back. And Microsoft has launched “XRM”–exactly the same concept. In fact, considering Pivotal’s close ties to Microsoft its “CRM Plus” may be “XRM” under the hood. Plus Optima and Oncontact quietly switched to this concept several years ago. Amazing that the bulk of CRM software companies didn’t see this coming.
Moreover, traditional CRM software will very soon face another competitive threat. Two of the major telephony software companies are close to launching extremely sophisticated capabilities that go beyond unified messaging and unified communication to support enterprise-wide collaboration and communication-based process management–which, when adopted, obviates a whole bucket-load of what had been CRM software functionality.
Overall, it was a pretty good ride for the CRM industry. Plus, CRM implementations are fun and exciting, and we still hope to do several more. But as Mr. Dylan so succinctly put it, “The party’s over, and there’s nothin’ left to say.” At least not in favor of a CRM industry revival.