Extending the capabilities of CRM systems by integrating a content management system (CMS) is no longer a "nice to have," it's a requirement. But are simple file management or integrated traditional CMS capabilities enough?
The industry has responded by linking customer relationship management systems with content and knowledge management tools. More recently, some CRM vendors have acquired CMS companies to better fuse these capabilities together, creating enhanced CRM systems with more integrated access to content.
Traditional CMS approaches have limitations in the variety of content that can be managed and the ease in which this content can be accessed and shared. In fact, most are designed to handle static information, creating yet another information silo that needs to be managed. They are not meant to aggregate, organize, and share large volumes of diverse content in a single place. As a result, they don't allow for the rich categorization, user access and collaboration that a truly optimized CRM system requires.
The alternative is now coming into focus; next-generation CMS and knowledge management systems that integrate social networking capabilities to extend the value of content through the "wisdom of the community" promise to fundamentally change the content management landscape and deliver unparalleled improvements in collaboration and productivity. For CRM, this means business relationships are enhanced and sales and support have the resources to be more productive. Call it CMS 2.0.
CMS 2.0 applications integrate blogs, content ratings, wikis, social networks, RSS feeds, and podcasts with the rich content of this new generation of content management. The result is a CRM platform which allows organizations to become more competitive, innovative, and responsive. Customer relationships improve as typical one-to-one relationships turn into relationship communities where richer, more diverse, and more "socialized" content can extend the operational benefits of CRM.
But getting from here to there might not be easy. Some companies are overhauling the content management capabilities in their CRM systems. Others are rebuilding from the ground up. Still others are bolting on a mix of established social networking tools, such as Facebook and Blogger, to their existing CRM platforms.
There is a better way: the social knowledge network. These are socially managed central knowledge repositories that let organizations store, organize, manage, and share information needed to support sales and improve the customer experience. This provides users with a 360-degree view of content, which can be readily accessed, edited, and enhanced.
Better still, social knowledge networks are designed to work with all manner of enterprise applications, including CRM systems. All the benefits of CMS 2.0 can be achieved today, without having to reinvent, re-engineer, or reinvest in the organization's core CRM software.
Top down, bottom up
Social knowledge networks are built on the proven model of CMS. They collect data from most any system, including CRM platforms. Then they organize, manage, and integrate it with an ecosystem of related data that's updated and vetted by the user community.
Traditional approaches to CMS augment core CRM data, such as contact information and company information repositories, can be augmented with sales and marketing presentations, proposals, contracts, client case studies, tech guides, FAQs, data sheets, demos, and so on-all of which relates directly to the sales or customer interaction at hand.
The CMS industry calls this "top-down" or "vetted" information, and it forms the basis of an organization's knowledge base. Social knowledge networks take this one step further by integrating Web 2.0 technologies to socialize the knowledge base with "bottom-up" information.
Bottom-up perspectives gained through experience usually remain trapped inside the heads of an organization's people. Social knowledge networks weave tools, such as blogs, wikis, online ratings, discussions, and social tags, into the core CMS to unleash this bottom-up information.
The result is collective wisdom that organizations can capitalize on: a balanced and current knowledge base that's enhanced, updated, refined, and vetted by the wisdom of the corporate community.
Combining vetted and social content also promotes collaboration, enhancing the relationship being fostered in the CRM. It creates a dynamic, living knowledge base, where professionals have access to only the most relevant information. Information about customers, prospects, products, and services is critical and must be shared between sales, marketing, and other customer-facing professionals through the CRM system.
All of this must exist with a layer of security that enables rich access and permission management. Companies need fine, granular control over who has rights to blog, post ratings, create and edit wikis, etc., in a social knowledge network.
This capability is inherently part of a social knowledge network platform. It allows CRM environments to unlock the benefits of CMS and social technologies, without having users freely posting and editing content. This ensures the integrity of the knowledge base is not only extended, but also preserved and protected.
About the Author
Mike Cassettari is the vice president of marketing and business development at Inmagic, a vendor of knowledge management solutions. For more information, visit www.Inmagic.com.
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