I’ve spent my career spotting CRM trends and predicting the impact those trends will have on businesses. I develop trends by assessing multiple factors including: customer expectations and demands, changes in enterprise business strategy, technology market direction and maturity, CRM vendor product roadmaps and application goals. To my way of thinking, trends should be actionable; they should inform CRM strategies, influence IT CRM budgets and enable organizations to “future-proof” themselves relative to changes in the CRM technology market.
The CRM technology trends that you should bank on for 2007-’08 revolve around three categories:
- Integration: technology to support customer (such as cross-channel integration), application (front/back office) and customer data integration (customer system of record). Tools include EAI technologies, middleware, process orchestration, customer data integration (CDI) technologies and emerging web services standards. Emerging services oriented architecture (SOA) application frameworks (like SAP’s NetWeaver) will morph into customer process platforms.
- Analytics: customer analytics to support customer equity optimization, which will emerge to balance the external expression of CRM with internal financial goals. In 2008-’09, profitable customer relationships will be characterized by a balance between the optimization of customer equity and customer experience.
- E-commerce: an overhaul of outdated dot-com-era e-commerce engines, which will integrated into enterprise CRM initiatives to enable a consistent multi-channel customer experience.
But as I write this article for you to read in January 2007, I know it’s too late to influence your 2007 IT budget, which was probably locked and loaded sometime around October/November. I also know that many of the CRM projects you’ll ultimately support will be funded by a business unit, whether you’ve sanctioned it or not. So let me help get your year off to a great CRM start by offering you some ideas for things you can do with little to no capital expenditure:
- Create a marketing function. I don’t mean a function to support marketing systems, nor do I mean a function to liaise with your business’ marketing organization. I mean create a function to literally market the IT organization. Think four Ps: product, price, place, promotion. With a heavy dose of marketing communications. Why? If it’s true that as many as 65 percent of CIOs think that their department’s potential to add value to the organization is gated by the business itself, then get closer to your customer, and a heavy dose of value management, consistent communications and managing IT like a business will really help.
Action Item for 2007: Appoint a full-time marketing professional to work as part of your IT organization, reporting to you.
- Build IT business skills. One of the most profound disconnects between business and IT is “language,” as in “Business is from Mars and IT is from Venus.” All the marketing in the world won’t sell your capabilities if you speak a different language than your clients. Each IT employee must understand the basic business principals of each department to establish and underscore business credibility at each interaction.
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Action Item for 2007: Implement a program to school IT employees in your organization’s business. Partner with various departments and consider a shadowing program, where IT team members shadow a business person for a day or a week and vice versa.
- Advocate for the customer. Let’s assume that your organization has a smattering of CRM systems, perhaps functioning nicely but at best optimized for use within the department that “owns” it. This is not CRM (a whole separate column), and you’re not doing the organization’s customers any favors by simply doing a bang-up job with CRM technologies.
Action Item for 2007: Examine your organization’s CRM business strategy, and if there isn’t one, start lobbying for a cross-functional exploratory group to develop one.
- Help the sales organization help itself. According to a survey we recently conducted in partnership with CRMGuru, sales professionals equate sales automation technology with performance improvements, though very few organizations have useful implementations. Indeed, 74 percent of respondents said that lack of, or a poorly implemented, sales automation system was affecting sales performance to some extent or more. And when we looked more closely, we saw that the problem gets worse as the company gets larger. So we were heartened to see that 77 percent of respondents said that it will be very or extremely important to implement or improve their sales automation system next year.
Action Item for 2007: Proactively partner with sales to (finally) help them get their SFA implementation right.
These ideas will give you some practical ways to lay a CRM foundation within IT, even if you haven’t budgeted for it.