• May 2, 2019
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

CRM Still Plagued By Integration Challenges, CRM Evolution Town Hall Concludes

WASHINGTON – With roughly $40 billion spent on CRM technology last year, it is one of the biggest and fastest-growing tech sectors in the world, according to Brent Leary, partner of CRM Essentials. But the same issues that plagued the market in the 1990s still persist today, CRM users and vendors admitted during an afternoon town hall session that closed the CRM Evolution conference Wednesday.

And CRM is only going to get bigger as companies add connected devices to the data mix, warned Rick McCutcheon, president of FCS.

"Companies are doubling down on CRM to track their [Internet of Things] devices," said McCutcheon, who expects the market to grow quickly in the next five years.

But all that data remains a challenge for companies, speakers noted.

"CRM is at an inflection point right now, with companies deciding what to do with all that data," said Jordan Brown, CRM strategist at Nerdery, a digital business consulting firm. "We, as brands, are trying to keep up with consumers. As companies, we are at the point where we have to collect all this data, but we need to balance consumer expectations with our own needs."

Yet, even after decades, the biggest problem for the industry continues to be integration. Though some progress has been made, especially with the introduction of large software suites, the industry has yet to solve this issue.

"Still, having things tie together is the missing piece in CRM," lamented Aaron Cano, senior vice president of analytics and marketing operations at Fresh Direct.

Jeff Dworkin, a partner at Ghostpoint, agreed, but said the fault lies as much with end users as it does with the software itself. "Systems do not work together, but it's because of inertia," he said. "This is the way we've always done things, and we don't want to change. It's not that they don't trust the software. It's just not the way that they've done things before."

Joe Kulak, managing director of FTI Consulting, expanded the notion even further. "Vendors have put in better technologies and workflows, but [companies] are still behind in their implementations," he said. "People still have to navigate different systems and apps, and our data systems are too spread out yet."

Another problem with the technology is its inconsistent use across departments, with sales and marketing often operating at cross purposes, Sangram Vajre, co-founder and chief evangelist at Terminus, said in an earlier session.

Because of this, less than 1 percent of the leads that marketing produces actually result in sales, according to Vajre, who advocated for an account-based approach to both marketing and sales.

For success in these areas, Vajre encouraged companies to implement a four-part strategy that he called the TEAM Framework. That system involves targeting, engagement, activation, and measurement, and has already worked for several firms, including Masergy and Snowflake, he said.

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