CRM In 2020: Interpreting Gartner’s Predictions


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What will CRM look like in 2020? Based on IT analyst Gartner’s recently released top 10 technology predictions for 2020, soon we’ll all be consuming pizza and beer created with 3D printers.

For those of us concerned with CRM, however, our interests may seem more mundane — although from a business standpoint, of course, no less essential. So went my thinking, as I attended last week’s 2013 Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Orlando, FL.

My Cloud Sherpas colleagues have already provided great detail on the symposium’s dominant changing of the guard theme, including how the era of Microsoft and on-premise technology is giving way to cloud-based software and businesses such as But Gartner’s big-think event also highlighted multiple technology predictions that could have a big impact on CRM.

Accordingly, here’s my rendering of Gartner’s top 10 predictions for 2020 and the impact they will have on CRM:

Prediction 10: By 2020, 5% of sales from the Global 1000 will be “driven” by data collected by consumer wearables.

When it comes to gathering sales and marketing data, imagine the possibilities of crossing fitness and personal monitoring tools (such as Fitbit) with geo-location positioning tools (such as the proposed London trash can monitors) and smart apps to manage what people do during the day (more on that below). For example, when you walk into a store, what if the saleswoman could walk up and tell you — unbidden — that they’re having a sale and just happen to have two size nines left that would be a perfect fit? The saleswoman would know what you needed by using a variety of data – perhaps in-store data backed by processes that haven’t yet been invented (because we don’t yet have this type of data) could supplement outside data, such as information about you (like shoe size) that already knows.

But for CRM practitioners, if the above comes to pass, that means the types of data we’re going to capture, store and analyze via our CRM systems will need to be different — or at least supplemented. So businesses like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, for example, will need to ensure they still comply with HIPAA regulations governing allowable data capture and storage security. Meanwhile, would Nike be storing your average blood pressure in its CRM system? I’m not sure, but I can guarantee that there’s no field for that today in

All of that being said, the “wearables” bit seems like a hedge. Don’t smartphones already create many of these possibilities today?

In addition, here’s a related warning about big data: Simply collecting tons of data won’t make businesses smarter or salespeople more productive. As noted by U.S. presidential-election-predicting expert Nate Silver, the real skill is to pick out the causality, not the correlation. So once we collect all of this data in the future, we’re still going to have to find ways of understanding it.

Prediction 9: By 2017, 10% of computers will be learning.

Prediction 8: By 2020, most knowledge workers’ careers will be impacted by “smart machines.”

At the Gartner Symposium, multiple analysts directly referenced Google Now, which is an Android app designed to learn about and streamline your daily activities — for example, suggesting a better route to work during your daily commute if it knows there’s a traffic jam ahead. In short, it shows how a learning app can enable your smartphone to watch what you’re doing and suggest improvements, both for your personal and your business routines.

Now, imagine the CRM possibilities for your salespeople. Cue the HAL 9000 voice: “No, Davida, you should be looking at this opportunity and at the end of the day, you really need to call John Smith an Unum.” In this age of Siri, having to set calendar pop-ups is so unhelpful. Enter predictive analytics.

Such learning could be applied not just to individuals, but also to sales cycles. For example, one of our customers reviewed their historical sales data and found that when they win a deal the average close period is 60 days. But the average time that an opportunity is open is 120 days. Now, what if a learning application could funnel salespeople into activities based on key dates? So on the 50th day of an open opportunity, the CRM system would be saying: “Davida, you should really be focusing on this opportunity here. And I’m not even going to show you the other opportunities until you look at this one.” Enter the era of the micro-managing machine?

Prediction 7: By 2024, 10% of activities that could cause injury to people will require use of a robotic “smart system.”

Prediction 6: Rate of digitalization will cause social unrest by 2020 due to destruction of jobs.

Prediction 5: By 2020, 75% of formerly sensitive data will be set free by governments and enterprises.

My take on these three: None have much crossover with CRM (and as an aside, the “robots” prediction doesn’t square with my knowledge of economics, including the labor fallacy).

Prediction 4: By 2017, 80% of individuals will barter or sell their personal data.

My take: Will this bartering and selling become explicit? Because they’re implicitly bartering it today; that’s how companies like Facebook make money.

Prediction 3: Crowdsourcing will account for 75% of consumer goods, innovation & R&D.

My take: On the crowdsourcing front, aren’t we already doing this with customer-lead portals and focus groups?

Prediction 2: At least $100B in IP per year will get stolen through the use of 3D printing.

Prediction 1: 3D printing of tissues and organs will provoke global debate.

These 3D printing predictions don’t have much crossover with CRM, but it’s great news for pizza lovers, especially if they’re in outer space.

Driven By Data, And Caveats

Above, I’ve abbreviated some of Garter’s concepts for space reasons and excised as many weasel words as possible. Indeed, just what does “driven by data” mean?

All of that being said: Do you think my 2020 CRM predictions are out of this world? Or should they should be marooned in space with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney? Please hit me with your CRM thinking.

Learn More

Cloud Sherpas is one of the world’s leading cloud services brokerages and helps businesses adopt, manage and enhance their CRM investment by identifying desired business goals, finding the right tools and technology for the job, and delivering rapid implementations that remain focused on achieving the desired business capabilities.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Steve A Johnson.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


  1. Like most of Gartner’s pontifications, you need to add a barrel full of salt. Their list may apply to North America and western Europe, but I don’t think many of the 1+billion people in India will be using wearable computing devices in the near future.

    That said, some of this will happen to the more developed world, but for CRM I would like add some different predictions:

    1) CRM systems will be made easier to use
    2) Business Application pricing will fall in line with consumer pricing

    John Paterson
    making CRM Simple

  2. The sources of data going into CRM systems are always changing and personal device data is just an extension of what's already beginning to take hold with thought leaders like Google providing a more rewarding user experience by utilising Geo-location signals and other implicit data. However though the sources are becoming more complicated, CRM certainly doesn't have to be, not for the user anyway. I fully agree with John in the assertion that CRM will become easier to use – it's what we at Maximizer CRM hold central to everything we develop.

    My prediction for the future of CRM is an add-on, cloud based culture of differing applications being able to integrate with your main CRM system.

    Mike Richardson


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