The Next Chapter of CRM

CRM technology has made it out of a decade-long infancy, and is finally poised to make substantive impact on customer-facing enterprises, according to Siebel Systems Executive Vice President David Schmaier. The industry, he says, is "in Chapter Two of a twenty-chapter book." Schmaier, delivering a keynote address at the DCI CRM Conference & Exposition in New York City on Tuesday, regaled the gathered executives with success stories and statistics to hammer home the point that the efficacy of CRM is no longer in question. "Put simply," he said, "CRM works." According to Schmaier, CRM is only 3 to 5 percent penetrated as a market, but will become the largest segment of enterprise software. The new functionality available to users--especially the new depth and complexity of business analytics, he said--is finally capable of "making CRM smarter." In Schmaier's view most contemporary businesses are still facing "an inside-out problem," trying to move beyond their product-centric view of operations to the customer-centric perspective that is required to fix inconsistent, inefficient business processes. What companies need to do, he said, "is standardize [business processes] across your front office, standardize them across your enterprise." Only then will it be possible to truly streamline the organizational structure of the enterprise. "The company should act as one organization," Schmaier told the audience. "There should be one distribution strategy. There should be one company." The biggest obstacle to date, as Schmaier sees it, has been the difficulty in formulating the single view of any given customer. But as CRM enters its next chapter, he said, "the single-view problem is now a solvable problem." This is thanks to advances in such areas as data quality. Schmaier sees four trends for the coming years, which he said will help usher CRM into its next level of success:
  • growing demand for hosted CRM;
  • heightened focus on total cost of ownership;
  • increased integration to leverage existing IT assets;
  • and the use of real-time business intelligence. The key to the next generation of CRM, in Schmaier's view, is business intelligence and the new wave of data analytics. The availability of both a "single view of the customer" and "forward-looking visibility about the customer," he said, will finally enable users to realize CRM's potential in a way that the technology's first decade had only promised--until now. In the end, Schmaier said, the most promising news of all is "increased optimism" and the generally held belief in an economic recovery. "When the world changes," he says, "you want to get in front of that dynamic--not behind it."
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