In the last 10 years, CRM has emerged as a powerful business trend across the globe. CRM is here to stay and is about to evolve into a new dimension, focused around one of its key users: the salesperson.
For years, CRM has focused on pulling together and exploiting large quantities of information with powerful tools to analyze customer behavior and support service agents in effective decision-making. To date, CRM systems have taken a regimented approach to the data-gathering process, delivering ever-busier screens to users and demanding mandatory input in numerous fields. User adoption has often been driven by compulsory edicts from senior management, rather than a satisfying user experience.
This data- and process-centric approach can be considered the necessary precursor to what is set to become the next evolutionary step in customer management technology: We now have the opportunity to take advantage of new ways of gathering and distributing customer information and intelligence.
In today's world, consumer-powered Web platforms have become a reality, with the success of sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Wikipedia, and eBay. The new models and experiences that these sites deliver are not only here to stay, but are becoming a de-facto standard by which every other application -- be it within the enterprise or externally -- is beginning to be judged. Developers need to appreciate that the static HTML Web page is no longer acceptable to users and customers of their software -- and, as a result, those developers will have to find more engaging ways of capturing and delivering information.
The extraordinary growth in usage of social networks and media -- whether blogs, wikis, or any other type of two-way, user-driven community tool -- is an emphatic demonstration of how people's expectations of technology have changed. The key to the success of those tools is that people are the contributors and controllers of these information repositories -- and the accumulation of knowledge spreads freely in a viral manner, making social-networking platforms almost certainly the most powerful environment for data capture ever created.
How does this affect business applications and the world of CRM? Software providers are beginning to look at Web 2.0 technologies and the models and experiences they deliver and are envisioning how they could be practically applied in the business space to attain the promise of Enterprise 2.0.
So what's the benefit of these new technologies to the chief information officer and the application users within the company? The usefulness, interest, and excitement that people find with Web 2.0 applications have triggered exponential growth and adoption. And there's little question that this is also becoming a major trend inside companies. For example, wiki platforms and blogs have already begun proliferating inside many businesses, and their ability to foster a new level of information transfer and user satisfaction has now been understood and accepted by the corporate community.
Building on these initial capabilities in the enterprise provides the CIO with the potential to deliver a range of benefits over and above those available from previous business applications. Huge upturns in user adoption, viral distribution of knowledge and information, increased insight into the business, and the ability to combine external and internal information are just a handful of examples of how this new wave of technology could help businesses to perform better.
Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 applications bring with them the opportunity of providing users with new ways to interact with information. A vast array of options exists to deliver information faster -- and in formats that are far easier for the end user to consume. At its very heart, CRM is all about knowing your customer better, which requires the right information, at the right time, delivered in the right way.
It is fair to say that CRM packages of old have not always excelled in this area. The future however is looking extremely exciting for those vendors that grasp the potential of technology's new wave, understand how it can address the challenges of the modern CIO and the enterprise, and have a vision that can deliver.
Applications will be highly customizable and easily configured in a way that does not rely on an information technology expert. New systems will be provided that are able to perform specific key tasks, efficiently, without high levels of needless interaction. Simply put, users will be able to work quickly, intuitively, and efficiently, drawing on information and comments from all appropriate sources and then, using simple links, they'll be able to bring that information into other applications of their choice.
Overengineered complexity will give way to innovation and simplicity, which will be the key to delivering the next phase of business value from CRM.
About the author
At Oracle, Anthony Lye is the senior vice president of CRM, responsible for the Oracle CRM and Siebel CRM On Demand businesses worldwide. Previously, he was the group vice president of CRM products at Oracle, responsible for the company's CRM product strategy and product management in the applications development organization.
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