You know how we all make resolutions we can’t keep and predictions that fall far from the mark? Let’s not do that this year, at least not with CRM. There’s plenty to think about for the future that’s factual, that we can be clear about. So let’s avoid the equivalent of flying car predictions and look at some possibilities with minor ground rules.
The big rule to keep in mind is the rule of 10 years—as in it takes 10 years for an overnight success to sprout. It’s derived from Bill Gates’s statement that we overestimate what we can do in two years and underestimate what we can do in 10.
So looking back 10 years, we were all atwitter—no pun, actually; Twitter was 10 years old last year—about handheld devices, and this year marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, released on June 29, 2007, to be precise. So what have those innovations brought us? Well, we just went through a Twitter election, and there are so many handheld devices out there that it’s getting hard to make money if you make those things. Apps are plentiful and cheap, but a lot of businesses still don’t have a footprint on devices, or at least not a good one.
So I’d say the social-handheld trend is getting long in the tooth for personal use, but it’s still got legs in business. The driving force for business is and will continue to be development platforms because corporations have mountains of development still in front of them. Over the fall show season, just about every vendor with a dog in the hunt gave us glimpses of tools that deliver for the small screen, so it’s highly likely, to my mind, that the competition in platforms will continue as businesses can’t get enough social-mobile apps.
But what’s up longer term? Aside from mobile devices, CRM has penetrated the corporate mind-set to a high degree. Sure, there are holdouts—perhaps as much as 30 to 50 percent of the addressable market. Given cloud computing’s prevalence, it’s hard to believe that CRM’s affordability is a big issue, which leads me to believe that some businesses will never convert to CRM because it just isn’t right for them, just as your aunt Millie still goes into the bank lobby once a week.
But for a larger section of the population, I suspect there are training and adoption issues in play. Perhaps the apps are still not easy enough to configure, or the number of deals or cases is just too low. One or both of these issues might apply to a lot of self-employed people, and there’s just no money to be made from them. So maybe we need to take another look at the addressable market.
One area where CRM could be of significant value, which I wrote about last year, is government. There’s precious little CRM in local, state, or federal government. There are automated systems that enable people to report potholes, but CRM is certainly not pervasive. That’s a problem, too, because constituents are also customers, and we’ve all been trained by the market to expect certain levels of responsiveness. When consumers don’t get what they want from a vendor, they pick up stakes and go elsewhere. You can’t do that with your government. Without that safety valve, frustration and resentment build up, and you get Brexit or worse.
So my bet is that CRM’s next big frontier is not the Internet of Things (IoT) but government. Don’t get me wrong: Over the next 10 years the IoT will happen—it’s happening now, it’s on a rail. But CRM in government might be more of a challenge because a lot of government people might not want it. If knowledge is power and information is what drives knowledge, people whose welfare depends on controlling knowledge will be reluctant to take on the transparency that CRM affords.
Nevertheless, government CRM is going to happen because government is not monolithic. There will be snags here and there, and then the barriers to it will fall almost without warning. But it will take 10 years.
Denis Pombriant is founder and managing principal of Beagle Research Group and the Bullpen Group. He is a widely published CRM analyst in the United States and Europe, and his latest research spans all areas of social CRM, cloud, and mobile computing. His latest book,
Solve for the Customer, is available at Amazon.com.