The year ahead appears strong for CRM solutions, in categories from marketing and sales to customer service applications.
According to the latest Forrester Forrsights Software Survey of 556 North American and European enterprises, 50 percent have a CRM solution in place and plan to upgrade it in the future. Another 23 percent plan to deploy a CRM solution this year or beyond.
Among small and midsized businesses (SMBs), 41 percent of companies reported having deployed a CRM system, and another 25 percent plan to do so in the next year or later.
"The [software-as-a-service (SaaS)] solutions that have come on strong in the last four or five years have definitely encouraged late adopters, because it's a lot easier to consume, to use, and to deploy," explains Bill Band, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.
In the Asia-Pacific region alone, SMBs will invest an estimated $16.5 billion in cloud computing technologies in 2012 as part of their growth and innovation strategies, according to research from AMI-Partners.
The "increasing maturity of cloud offerings, as well as rising customer demand for mobile business scenarios supported by increasing tablet and smartphone penetration, will continue to drive demand and investment for SaaS and infrastructure-as-a-service solutions," said Stefan Haas, consulting director for Asia-Pacific at AMI-Partners, in the research findings.
Though SaaS offerings are a strong driver of CRM adoption, the multichannel touch points that companies now rely on to reach their customers are also fueling adoption.
"[Companies] are thinking about the need to adopt e-business and e-commerce and Web sites and social technologies and mobile, all of which broadly fall into the CRM domain," Band says. "The core issue is [that] it's hard to keep customers, so you need to be more efficient. SaaS is driving [adoption], but I also think it's an interest in this broader set of technologies."
Despite the forecast of CRM growth, an organizational barrier to adoption remains: aligning business strategy and processes to foster a true customer-facing strategy. In "Navigate the Future of CRM," a Forrester Research report authored by Band, some of the hindrances companies reported facing when implementing a CRM strategy included inadequate deployment methodologies (40 percent); poorly defined business requirements (25 percent); failure to achieve organizational alignment of objectives (18 percent); and inadequate management of program costs (18 percent).
Band says any time a new technology or process is introduced to an organization, a training and support program must also be in place to sustain the momentum that change brings. "A common pitfall is not planning for an ongoing sustaining of the effort."
According to the Forrester report, the discrepancy between IT objectives and business strategies can hinder a CRM strategy from moving forward and reaching its full potential.
"It's not always obvious for people who will be involved [in a new strategy] what's in it for them unless you really make it clear what the value is, find something to rally around, and provide a reason why change has to happen in the first place," Band says.