The Three Realities of SCRM Right Now


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I spent the past four months talking to as many people as I could about Social CRM.  I talked to thought leaders, analysts, vendors, consultants, C-level executives, corporate managers and directors — anyone who wanted to talk about it.

We discussed definitions, and models, and strategies and plans.  What they are doing, what they want to do, what they would love to do. Ended up with a great view of where the market is now from all different perspectives.  There are three different views of SCRM.

Before, we start — do you want a refresher on what SCRM isHow to make it work?

The Vendor Reality

Vendors are rushing, well walking very fast or running at the very least, to call themselves SCRM vendors.  Are they correct? Yes. And No.  Since there is no defined SCRM market beyond taking on the social channels and integrating them with CRM, they are all right.  What they call SCRM is an integration between Social Media (Channels) and CRM functions (Sales, Marketing, and Service).

Alas, none of them provide more than one single function well enough to earn the label of complete CRM solution.  Actually, I would even go as far as to say that there are any that provide complete functions, they all provide parts of a function (for example, using the customer history via Twitter or Facebook is something I have not yet seen – yet, that is a critical function of service).  I already covered via different interviews and articles how to attack Social SalesSocial Marketing and Social Service and talked about what vendors are doing.  It took us almost 20 years to perfect,  well optimize is a better word, those same functions via old-fashioned channels — why shall it take only 6-18 months to do the same for social media?

Are vendors moving towards bigger targets?  Sure, Helpstream showed they want to do more than simply social support by adding  social marketing to their social service tools, Oracle and SAP unveiled platforms that allow them to tackle any function – even end-to-end processes, and Salesforce showed how to move the social network to the platform and forget about business functions altogether.  There are many other examples of vendors figuring out through integrations and partnerships how to offer more complex SCRM solutions (Radian6 and Lithium come to mind right away as an example).

This reality will start shifting in 2010 as consolidation starts to take over and a market begins to materialize (led by customers spending again, slowly at first), and larger and well-funded vendors begin to look for tools to complete their suites.  We will see a lot of movement in this market as we approach the summer, and very heavy towards the end of the year.  I will be talking about a very different reality in 12 months.

The Provider Reality

Just to be on the safe side, providers are consultants, integrators, analysts, and other people who help organizations adopt and deploy SCRM.

This group tends to be rather skeptical (pragmatical may be a better word) on anything new – at least until proven (which of course never happens since no one installs it as they wait to be proven – just kidding).  Alas, with SCRM without being a defined market yet, and with little to go beyond one-channel, one-function implementation (usually without ROI or strategy), you can expect a lot of negativity in this field.

But that it not entirely the case.  Sure, there is some skepticism on whether SCRM will succeed, on what it is, and failure versus potential success.  Alas, this is all mitigated with a heavy dose of reality this time.

There is a realization that the shift to social will happen – no matter what.  There is a realization that beyond the hype, vendors and organizations are actually beginning to understand that, and starting to see the path.  And the echo chamber (what happens when visions of the future and how to achieve it become common speech among practitioners and no one else) is quieter than usual. We also see more organizations embracing the concepts early on.  Encouraging.

There is one more thing that I am seeing among practitioners that also is encouraging: less hype.

The comments on what is possible are based on the reality of what vendors are delivering today, and what organizations are focused on.  Not really on what could, may, or should happen based on vendor promises and pie-in-the-sky visions.  It is certainly interesting to see more of a reality-based approach to SCRM than what I have seen in past iterations of  CRM.

The Organization Reality

The organizations are going wacko (my wife is a physician, that is a medical term – look it up)  and it is our fault.  On one hand there is a group of people led by those inexperienced in the enterprise applications market that is screaming at the top of their lungs how you have to engage, you must listen, become social or begone.  On the other hand we tell them they must create a strategy, that it is all about a strategy and everything else falls into place, don’t worry about the social aspect yet.

So, what do they do? What they can, namely Twitter and Facebook.  I cannot even count how many meetings and conversations I had in the past four months with executives who wanted to talk about SCRM – only to be asked how to setup Twitter or Facebooks Fan Pages.

There is an interesting and growing movement among organizations to control the “rogue” deployments within their organizations.  They may see a potential for them to flourish, or maybe started to see results – but now they want them to conform to the rules and guidelines they have for the organization.  Social Media guidelines are sprouting like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Is this good?

Some of the emerging programs have been curtailed severely, while others have benefited from this control and the resource allocation that comes with it.  It is all down to what was the intended purpose and goal, how structured it was, and whether there was an alignment with the organization’s overall strategy for that specific function.  In other words, if they can stamp the seal of approval on top of a good program, it will grow — most others, not so much.  It is indeed, all about the strategy.

Where to now, captain?

That is the reality from my side of the world.  The common thread? well, no one really agrees on where we are – but most agree on the future being full of possibilities.

So, where does this takes us in 2010 and beyond?

I see three trends that will impact SCRM in the near future, and one pattern for the long term:

Trend #1 – Market Consolidation.  What? This early? Really?  The market is not even defined yet, but we are already going through consolidation? Yep.  We have too many vendors defining SCRM in too many different ways and we need to consolidate.  A wave of vendors beginning to offer truly competitive solutions (as opposed to the disfunctional setup we have today) will emerge half-way through the year and bring some interesting offers to compare to each other.  I twitted earlier today than predicting a consolidation in a market of several hundred different vendors is not a prediction, it’s an overdue reality.  So, it is a trend that will continue and y’all can see that – right?

Trend #2 – Organizational Control.  Control was made to be the evil word of 2008-2009.  Guess what? organizations won’t simply empower an employee or group to become their social voice without some degree of control.  Rogue programs are becoming corporate programs, people-as-brands are becoming workers-for-brands, clear guidelines and rules are becoming more common, and roles for social networks are becoming a reality.  This is good, very good actually for corporate adoption of SCRM and the social channels.  This trend will result in a large number of formal SCRM strategies created and implemented in the second and third quarters of next year.

Trends #3 – I Now Know What to Do.  We are (finally) beginning to get away from ComcastCares, Ford, Dell, Coca Cola, etc. as being the only citable case studies in the world of SCRM.  We are seeing some real results from real companies that are going beyond PR and marketing their brand (why, even Comcast is going beyond Twitter now) to extending CRM to work for the social customer.  This will translate into best practices, clear case studies, and how-to-guidelines becoming commonplace.

These trends probably will hang around longer than 12 months.  How about longer term?  What is going to happen to SCRM in three or five years?  There is one pattern beginning to emerge:

Pattern #1 – Loud and Proud.  CRM is not going away.  Nor is SCRM going to replace CRM.  Neither is Social Business going to make CRM and SCRM irrelevant.

CRM is loud, in your face, with good results (now), and going to stick around for a while.  Did it fail in the past? You bet!  Up to 70% of implementations failed.  Then they recovered and did wonderful things — case studies in most cases.

I dare you to find one single failure from the early years that has sworn off CRM forever.  You won’t.  CRM  failures were part of the early days of moving one million miles an hour and shooting from the hip at the same time.  That is behind us, the bubble exploded and collapsed and we don’t need to support gazillion dollar implementations anymore.  Now we do what we need, pick the tools and technologies that work, and make it happen according to our strategy.

Do some people still fail? Yep, and they will continue to do so.  Why? Because, such is life, because we don’t define success and failure before starting, and because enteprise-class applications are very, very hard to do.  And, more importantly, because someone out there still believes that CRM is simply technology.

I now want to hear from you, with one caveat.  I am not going to engage in a SCRM is dead or alive debate here, but would love to hear why I am wrong, where I may be right, and overall what is your sense of SCRM’s reality today.


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. It guess it’s easier to see the landscape when you can talk to that many people. I might chuckle about an executive talking about Social CRM and a Facebook page in the same breath. But, I’ve been in the mid-market CRM world for 15 years, so it’s really not that funny anymore 🙂

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  2. still funny 🙂

    and those are the good conversations… the funny video making the rounds of grandma tweeting by fax is not that far off from some other people.

    just a question of taking it all with a grain of salt…

    thanks for the read


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