The Evolution of CRM on Display in NYC


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I came back from two days (technically, 36 hours) of CRM Evolution 2010 last night with my head spinning and lots and lots of new ideas. The event was everything I expected and more, lots more.

Where to start? Quality of presentations was amazing: Ray Wang, Natalie Petohouff, Brian Vellmure, the panel by Paul Greenberg with CRM Executives, and so much more. I will admit that I just peeked into some of the presentations briefly, and attended parts of others — but what I saw blew me away.

Denis Pombriant was amazing in the quality and quantity of information he presented — and the topic and perspective he lent was just above outstanding. In NPS terms, I am definitely a promoter for Denis’s Thought Leadership. He posted his own summary of the conference if you want another perspective on it.

The presentations I missed, I got to “watch” via Twitter – thanks for Prem Kumar Aparanji, Mitch Lieberman (who stoically was up for a sunrise session at 8 AM — something I wish I could’ve done; sorry Mitch), Jacob Morgan and many others. The quality of tweeting from the conference was incredible, with great analysis and links to more relevant information not just repeating what was said. Very well done.

Absolutely incredible what the partnership between Paul Greenberg and David Myron was able to accomplish in just two short years: go from a vendor-led conference where each session was an advertising for their products, to the highest quality content available (and, yes, I was at other conferences recently). The conference grew in attendance this year, beyond all expectations, but I will not be surprised if it sells out early next year. Yes, it is that good — and the content is that superior to anything else that I have seen out there for CRM. Thanks Paul, David, and the staff of CRM Magazine for the incredible work.

But you want to know my impressions… here we go.

  • Social CRM is not going anywhere anytime soon. It got past the point of novelty, as it was last year, and it was firmly embedded as one more item in all presentations and all tweets I saw. Alas, it was not the main issue, just one more — that is a great evolution from 12 months ago (yeah, bad pun – I know). Even Oracle’s CRM Boss (Anthony Lye) who is not the biggest fan of the Social Movement discussed it in his panels and presentations as one more part of CRM (which he reiterated at dinner on Monday). I am actually encouraged by this, I can see how it is making CRM better – not replacing it – and I am glad that the people talking and writing about it are getting the idea. [side note: I have been informed / invited to two great conferences (not related to CRM) that are being made better by adding a Social CRM track to them for this conference season – definitely not going away… and will provide more details soon].
  • CRM has more staying power than Social CRM pundits give it credit. Not only did CRM not disappear as predicted, virtually everyone I talked to at the event agreed that spending budgets for CRM in 2011 are growing, and two-thirds of the money is being allocated to traditional CRM (the other one-third is going to Social CRM in many different models and definitions). CRM growth will continue unabated for some time, regardless of the numbers that Gartner and Forrester and IDC will publish, mostly because companies woke up to the realization that customers are neither forever, nor easy t0 replace. The trifecta of an economic recession, the social evolution, and the rise of analytics in the enterprise finally convinced organizations that customers won’t stand for abuse, won’t stay forever, and are always looking for more value and better interactions.
  • Analytics, analytics, and analytics. In case you ask me what is going to be the hot topic for the next two-to-three years (lots of the presenters will agree with me here).
  • Collaborative Enterprise, Convergence, Collaboration. Same question, but for five-to-ten years.

Paul, as I mentioned above, did a panel with four of the top five CRM vendors. Salesforce was missing — which I cannot comprehend for the life of me. A major conference is not the place to take a stand on — well, whatever the reason they chose not to be there. What made that bad decision worse: CRM Magazine awarded them with best CRM solution for large, medium, and small enterprise. I will tell them this in person – but they need to seriously reconsider their spending priorities for conferences.

Back to the panel, an interesting “vendormercial” as someone noted – but if you got past the good and bad lines, it showed the focus that each of the other vendors has for the future. I tweeted this during the conference:

I wanted to expand on that here, since I think it is critical to understand the direction these CRM (notice I did not say Social CRM) vendors are focused on.

  • Oracle – Oracle focus is making companies run better, improve their bottom line. They want to save them money by providing a complete stack to run the organization, hardware optimized to their apps (nee Sun), and what they need. Oracle is going to be doing lots of avant-garde development, but not usually incorporate it into their product until it becomes mainstream. They have a good base for Social CRM, but are not promoting it since it is not what their clients are asking for. Once that changes and clients ask, expect acquisitions and a fast move to capitalize on their research and development investment.
  • Microsoft – Microsoft wants to provide a single solution, living in the Azure cloud, for the entire enterprise. They would like nothing more than to have organizations standardize all their applications on Microsoft – and if they run on Azure even better. Their applications are very focused on the jobs customers (their customers, the organizations out there) do and deliver against that.
  • RightNow Technologies – As the premier cloud member in the panel, they are very focused on extremely well run operations for their clients. They continue to innovate by providing their customers everything they could possibly need (twitter integration? communities? knowledge management across channels? got them) — as long as they need it in the cloud. They invested heavily in creating a “private cloud” (although not such beast exists) for the government while not losing their core architecture. Their next frontier? Massively Large Contact Centers (and they got a good person as the “Boss” of the Center of Excellence for Contact Center – Ted Bray, I am very bullish on him and his experience and expertise).
  • SAP – SAP continues to have a technology focus, they want to have the best technology out there, the most advanced model of infrastructure. I wrote before about their dichotomy (great technology, not so good implementation of it in their products) but recent conversations with their CRM Team is leading me to believe this technology is being implemented now. Fingers crossed, it will be good to see SAP grow based on their innovation.

    While there I also presented. I did two presentations, I co-presented with Michael Krigsman on the Success of Social CRM and CRM Projects (he likes to talk about failure, I like to talk about success). I also presented my view of Customer Service in the future ten years (some habits die hard, I always did that while at the Gartner conferences). I put the slides in slideshare if you want them, and you can also view them and / or download them here.

    Embracing customer service 4.0

    I also got to talk to a lot of people.

    This was by far the best part of the event for me, as I got to catch up with people I had not seen for a while, met some twitter- and blog-people in person (like the keynote speaker, Emily Yellin, one of the most delightful people I met in a long time and a true southerner to boot; I wish i would’ve had more time to spend talking to her — she did an amazing job in her keynote), and even got to meet some people I have been admiring from a distance. One thing that can and will always be said about Paul’s events (yes, he is only the chair on this one — but that counts): camarederie, friendship, and networking trump content.

    And that, to me, is the essence of being social.

    Were you there? What did i miss? What was the most awesome thing you saw? Did you learn something new? Was it as good for you?

    Republished with author's permission from original post.

    Esteban Kolsky
    ThinkJar, LLC
    Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


    1. Thanks for the post! I heard about this conference and wanted to go but couldn’t, so thanks to you and everyone who still helped me learn from it!


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