The future has never looked rosier for customer relationship management technologies. "CRM has emerged as a key business initiative of the new millennium," says Aaron Zornes, executive vice president of the META Group.
A new report from META, based on interviews with some 300 companies, concludes that rapid growth in CRM will continue unabated this year. Corporations will increase their investment in enterprise-wide CRM strategies by 75 percent in 2001, according to META's findings.
More important for the health of the industry--and certainly more important for those doing the spending--the META report also finds that nearly 80 percent of organizations are now reporting success with their CRM initiatives. That's a dramatic reversal from what we've heard in the past; the high failure rate of CRM initiatives has been legendary for the last few years.
What's responsible for the reversal? Part of it is no doubt due to maturation of CRM technology and more-realistic expectations by users. But META also identifies four key factors for CRM success:
• Creation of an enterprise CRM strategy.
• Implementation of organizational constructs such as a CRM program management office and appointment of a chief customer officer.
• Focus on optimizing customer-centric business processes.
• Adoption of a lifecycle management approach to CRM, using the requisite customer behavior patterns, along with creation of a framework for value measurement.
"While much work still needs to be done, we are beginning to see leading companies evolve their CRM initiatives into customer lifecycle management systems that fully immerse customers in the selling process," says Steve Bonadino, a META Group analyst.
META did identify one major challenge: Less than 25 percent of the companies surveyed have fully integrated their CRM programs into their e-commerce initiatives, such as Web storefronts and Web self-service. This lack of integration is impeding implementation of multichannel, lifecycle-driven CRM strategies.
We at CRM magazine have already made plans to address that issue. We're preparing to launch a new bimonthly supplement called eBusiness strategist. Aimed at CXO-level decision-makers, it will address the challenges of building customer-facing strategies that incorporate the Internet.
Watch for it in our March issue.
Larry Tuck, Editor