The End of Independence?
Best-of-breed applications are feeling more pressure from full-suite solutions.
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There's been a growing trend within the CRM industry toward vendor consolidation. More and more, stand-alone CRM applications are being replaced by integrated, multichannel applications that cover many aspects of an organization's customer service. Does this mean an end to the age of the independent best-of-breed sales and marketing applications? Perhaps, but industry pundits are still making strong cases for both application types, even though vendors are shipping more best-of-breed, vertical-specific, functional-specific applications. Esteban Kolsky, research director at Gartner, agrees. "No longer is there this slew of sales-force automation vendors," Kolsky says, "but the few that do remain are very good and very efficient, and they tend to gravitate toward being more vertical or functionally specific. This is playing directly into the sales/marketing/service specialist being phased out." On the flip side, there are those who still see marketing as too complex to be completely engulfed by integrated business applications. Marketing is still very service oriented and highly fragmented. Integrated applications are great for customer service, but it still takes a specialist to manage an organization's marketing campaigns. "There are lots of reasons, obviously, why an integrated CRM application that encompasses service, sales, and marketing makes a lot of sense. If there were one area where the CRM industry has consolidated beyond the specialist, customer service would be one example. That's because of the integration that's so critical between the channels," says Elana Anderson, senior analyst at Forrester Research. "However, if you look at travel and entertainment, financial services, [and] the level of analytics that's required to determine how you're going to segment your customers, how you are going to target your customers has kept marketing a stand-alone application."
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