There has been much hoopla flying around the industry during the past few months regarding the health of the CRM market. For a while there it seemed as though analyst after analyst and consultant after consultant took their turn bashing CRM vendors, implementations and the even the technology itself. Suddenly it appeared as if the entire purpose of CRM was called into question.
Well now it's my turn at the pulpit and I'm here to tell all you Chicken Littles of the world that the CRM sky is not falling. Are there challenges facing developers and end-user customers? Sure. The cookie-cutter approach by CRM vendors pushing a one-size-fits-all solution will never meet the real needs of enterprises, because every customer is different and their technology infrastructure is, as well.
As Dick Lee points out in one of our feature stories this month (see "Great Expectations,"), the big CRM vendors need to customize their approach and stop slapping onto their applications more functionalities that are never used by most accounts. That, I believe, will happen as smaller, more focused vendors emerge to solve one piece of the automation equation at a time. Once the Siebels, Oracles, PeopleSofts and SAPs of the world see their market share being eaten up by more niche vendors, they will begin to alter their sales strategies.
While that burden of customization falls on the shoulders of the vendors, true utilization of any CRM system falls on the shoulders of the enterprise.
Although it is easy to point fingers at the vendor community for its licensing practices, its lack of service and its overall sales strategies, nearly every executive, analyst and IT manager I have spoken with has admitted that two of the biggest obstacles in successfully implementing any new CRM solution are managing customers' expectations and getting the organization to embrace a new way of doing business.
If employees are not following through on a new automated business process then it is the organization's fault, not the technology's.
Companies investing in CRM solutions need to embrace the new processes and drill them down to all levels of the organization. Otherwise, these companies will never realize the true return on investment the system was built to deliver. That too, I believe, will improve as companies get more technology savvy and more customer focused.
The winds may be changing, but the sky is not falling on the CRM industry.