Publishing is one industry where it is immediately apparent to everyone just how well your business is doing. When times are good, magazines are chock-full of advertising pages and the total size and heft of the publication gets nice and plump. If business is lean, the size of the magazine gets skinner, which is not a pretty sight for publishers. For some unlucky magazines in 2001, the transformation from thick to thin also included a third stage, oblivion, which I am very glad not to have experienced.
For those of you who have followed our evolution from Sales and Field Force Automation in 1997 to CRM magazine today, you've been able to track our progress from the strong, steady growth of the late 1990s, to the explosive growth in 2000, to the slow growth in 2001. To paraphrase the words of Tom Siebel, a good manager has to know how to manage in all of those environments. I certainly feel like I've learned some valuable lessons these past few years, as I'm sure many of you have.
That said, as publisher of CRM magazine I've had a front-row seat watching CRM as a business process evolve through the eyes of the end users, media, analysts, vendors and financial communities. Yes, I am aware that there is still a great deal of work to be done to get implementations to the point where they meet the business objectives and expectations of those who are implementing these projects. But I can uncategorically say that tremendous progress has been made in a short period of time.
In the past five years I've witnessed data mining evolve into actual customer insight, call centers into efficient and fully functional customer contact centers, and personalized marketing into something that really provides the "customer" a value that is at least as great as the value the seller gets.
As readers of CRM magazine, your expectations are certainly more realistic today than they were during the days of hype churned out by the venture-capital backed, cash-rich start-ups that burst on to the scene in 2000. The general comfort level of technology savvy also has improved among your employees and customers to a large degree. Your implementations are better planned, more focused and more realistic.
So what's on the horizon in 2002? I believe the general state of CRM is moving from the early adopter phase to the early majority phase as the industry grows up. There will continue to be consolidation as the larger players gobble up relatively inexpensive smaller ones to complement their own offerings. As we move through 2002, new companies focusing on solutions for specific niches will start to emerge again as capital becomes available to fund these new ventures.
There is a difference, however, between what will happen this year and what has happened to date: Baseline fundamentals have improved, the foundation has been laid, and CRM technology is catching up with the age-old dilemma of integrating sales, marketing and service successfully.
And what about the future of CRM magazine? We'll continue to strive to be at the forefront of customer relationship management thought leadership, but we will focus more heavily on the people and projects that have brought the technology more in-line with their business objectives. After all, the success or failure of your customer relationship management initiatives is where the rubber meets the road.