Q for Quandary: Did you ask who is leading social CRM?


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As I prepare myself for the long haul flight from BLR to SFO via DXB tonight & procrastinate on the packing I am catching up on a few ‘news’ articles rather than ‘blog’ posts on Social CRM from my usual firehose consisting of RSS feeds of known sources, twitter mentions & google alerts. As I keep reading them I cannot help going back to my own interactions with various VPs from Fortune 500 companies around the globe w.r.t. “using social media for their business” and correlating what I am reading from the firehose.

The biggest news is that Gartner predicts that Social CRM will be a $1 billion market by 2013. IIRC, thats a revision of their earlier stand of the market achieving that size by 2011. Can’t be sure, drinking a lot from the digital firehose can make you delusional.

OTOH the zeitgeist of the blogosphere is asking existential questions about the ‘Social CRM’ tools. Ranging from it does not exist but a need does to calling it an oxymoron, the discussions on the blog IMHO provide a fair picture of the frustrations with the current crop of tools emerging in the marketplace claiming to be Social CRM.

And then the claims of certain Fortune 500 doing a great job at social CRM. Incidentally the Global IT heads of those same companies are in the process of consolidating various tools that the different brands & functions within these organizations are using on their own – thanks to the SaaS based applications that they have been using for quite some considerable time now without the involvement of the IT.

These Social CRM poster child practitioner companies are the case studies that act as the justification/corraboration for many other social CRM enthusiasts in other practitioner companies; but these poster children have created a different set of problems for themselves – creating yet another set of data silos.

They use predominantly these categories of social software – social media listening tools (monitoring + analytics + response/workflow), community platforms, twitter/facebook/linkedin dashboards. A few of them integrate with existing CRM systems like the Salesforce.com, MS Dynamics, SugarCRM using their integrators to social media/networking sites, but the majority of them do not integrate at all.

Yes, there is a need for social CRM solution, but none exists though the components are available. I drew a high level architecture diagram a little less than two years ago with what was potentially possible back then with the various components available. Its still valid, may be lacks a few components. But it doesn’t exist as the integrated solution I thought it would be.

So, social CRM is an oxymoron if you consider the tools that claim to be so. None of the tools are there yet. But social CRM the concept, thats not an oxymoron. The name given might be different, the definitions used might vary, but the core philosophy is still valid yet rarely existent.

One positive trend I see from the buy side of this market is worth leapfrogging by other practitioners who want to get started: business groups have been using social software without involving the central IT (thanks to availability as web applications) & now IT is being asked to address the potential issues surrounding data integration, security, scalability, privacy, compliance, etc.

There are two corollaries IMHO – consolidation in the vendor space is inevitable; consulting & systems integration firms have a low hanging fruit of being able to integrate the various components. From the C&SI perspective (I am one), it is beneficial to build integrators & solution accelerators; but could lead to, as I keep reminding my team members, conflicts of interest while suggesting solutions to the practitioners. This is pretty daunting scenario for the buy side – how do I know if this company will stay afloat (so I will get longer usage time & support for the tool) and how do I decide on how to integrate the components (until a time a suite is available)?

As ever, understanding the vision of the software vendors and the C&SI is important – not the stated ones, but the real ones. Difficult to get to that, but with almost everybody engaging on the social media & putting out their thoughts out, it would give you a glimpse of their belief system, which would potentially help you understand their behaviors.

Whether you are a buyer, product vendor, service provider (C&SI) or analyst – a quandary exists for each one of you but its not “Who is leading Social CRM?” (a great post by the way, though the title did put me off; but thats just me).

Now let me decide if I should pack those home made heat & eat stuff in my luggage & check the bags in or avoid the long wait at the baggage carousel & the customs questions about the agricultural products – a very existential quandary for me when I have to go to the US; having lived on mostly vegetarian fare, I cant digest very well the grease in the food there. Mea Culpa!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


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