It is the nature of prognostications to be wide of the mark. The famous quip variously attributed to Bill Gates and nearly every other software entrepreneur is that we overestimate what we can do in a couple of years and underestimate what we can accomplish in a decade.
Perhaps one reason for our inaccuracy—beyond that no one knows the future—is that we make straight-line extrapolations based on the present. It’s human nature to do so, but it explains our surprise when trends don’t last forever.
Weather forecasting is an exception. No meteorologist can boast a perfect batting average, but this group does a better job than the vast majority of people who go to the track, for example. Meteorologists rely on data; they know summer doesn’t last.
Evidenced-based predicting is a different animal. The more factual we become, the better our chances of getting it right—to a point. In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb showed us the difference between knowable unknowns, such as tomorrow’s weather, and unknowable unknowns, as in September 11.
I am tracking two trends that will take more than a short time to blossom but will be major change agents for the CRM world: analytics and video. The two may seem an unlikely pairing, but they sprout from the same root: sustainability. The concept centers on increasing the efficiency of your business so that you spend less to make more.
Analytics has been around for a long time, and we’ve grown accustomed to the idea that next year analytics will be big. This is that year. Advances in delivery models and ease of use, combined with the almost desperate need to understand the piles of data churned up by social media, are tipping the balance. Large institutions already use analytics to manage inventories and supply chains as well as complex projects, and to help eliminate fraud.
The next step is to bring it to everyday business processes and mobile devices. We’re seeing multiple examples of sales and marketing teams leveraging analytics for everything from validating the sales forecast to identifying the best targets for a marketing program. Importantly, sales teams are leveraging analytics to improve forecast accuracy, which in many companies seems like it’s done with a Ouija board. Whatever the task, analytics helps ensure that investments in time and resources are put to the best use.
Video is a different story. We grew up watching it, but a revolution in video technology is bringing the power to create down to you and me. No longer is the technology restricted to some Hollywood studio or to Madison Avenue “madmen.” Video’s power is that it is the ultimate content medium.
When combined with fast and inexpensive production tools, video changes how we sell and market and what we say when we do either. It also changes our perception of presence. For example, do we really need to get in front of the customer every time we want to move a sales process along? Avoid some trips based on analytics, which can tell us which ones would have the greatest probability of success. Video is the substitute for a physical presence.
Salesforce.com published a short video in 2010 that detailed the company’s use of video in business, and the facts still buzz in my ear. Salesforce.com has more than 1,500 titles in its library, which gets an estimated 7,500 hits daily. The company conservatively estimates that the traffic is like having 46 additional people making telephone calls.
It is no mere coincidence that these technologies are bubbling up at the same time; they are mutually supportive. It’s tempting to say tablets will be the next big thing, and they just might be—but only if analytics helps us figure out which videos to show.
Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM market research firm and consultancy Beagle Research Group, has been writing about CRM since January 2000, and was the first analyst to specialize in on-demand computing. His 2004 white paper, “The New Garage,” laid out the blueprint for cloud computing. He can be reached via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter (@denispombriant).