Who's Driving This Car, Anyway?
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A friend of mine-he happened to be a marketing executive at a major electronics company-sent me this joke the other day. The subject line of his message read: "I can relate to this."

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news that there's a car going the wrong way on Highway 280. Please be careful!"

"Hell," said Herman, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them!"
I imagine that most of our "10 Most Influential People in CRM" felt this way at one time or another. It's never easy to be a trendsetter. Yet each of these individuals persevered, and in so doing helped establish the direction of the customer relationship management industry.

That direction has shifted before and is shifting again. That's been quite apparent in recent weeks. At the DCI CRM Conference in Boston, both industry players and users expressed impatience with the rate of change from traditional silos of automation to a holistic view of CRM. Tellingly, software vendors insisted that users aren't ready for the all-embracing solutions that the CRM business would like to provide; at the same time, users say they're hungry for lifecycle customer relationship management, but the industry hasn't shown them workable solutions.

Here's the heart of the misunderstanding. Businesspeople, especially in the business-to-business space, have come to the painful realization that customer relationship management is the realization of a fundamental shift in the way they do business-it is, in fact, the response to a new commercial landscape where customers, to an unprecedented degree, are in the driver's seat. The CRM industry, made up largely of those who a few years ago were selling sales force automation, or in a few cases ERP, for the most part still hasn't figured out how to move beyond that software-centric landscape and embrace something as large and fundamentally transformational as CRM.

Software providers, users, industry associations, consultants, even the press-no one has yet stepped forward to provide a rallying point for CRM. It isn't going to be simple. But somewhere out there, the next generation of leaders is ready to emerge.

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