A Real-Time CRM Software Capabilities Test

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For the past several years I have frequently spoken and written about the customer relationship management industry's next wave--real-time CRM. In fact, real-time CRM will be the theme of my closing address at the DestinationCRM 2006 Conference (turn to page 29 for more information). This real-time wave has already begun to change the way customer-facing personnel work. It enables more rapid answers to customer questions, instant chat with customer service, immediate access to order status and inventory, and seamless connectivity between the Internet and brick-and-mortar stores, with real-time intelligence. This past May I identified the winners of this year's ISM real-time CRM software awards (please read the CRM magazine daily news story, "ISM Reveals Its Top 15 Award Winners," on destinationCRM.com). To identify the 2006 real-time CRM winners, ISM tested the real-time capabilities of many software applications against five criteria:
  • Real-Time Dashboards (which allow management to make better, more complete decisions in real-time, e.g., creating/modifying sales gauges that show how many deals are at which stage in the pipeline). ISM examines the CRM application's ability to connect to multiple databases simultaneously to secure needed real-time information and reviews the application's seamless integration with middleware and portal tool sets. We also look at how easy one could make changes to the application's real-time dashboard without having to ask a software developer to intervene.
  • Rapid Application Development Tools (e.g., GUI interfaces and workflow building mechanisms, which greatly reduce the time to customize and implement a CRM application). ISM examines how open the vendor's approach is for developing and integrating new business objects into its own CRM application, as well as with other enterprise applications.
  • Workflow Tools (which enable information to easily flow across multiple enterprise applications/technology platforms). ISM reviews the comprehensiveness of each application's workflow tools, and grades the application on ease of setup. We also look at whether the application's workflow capability allows for simple linkages across common enterprise applications, including supply chain, back- and front-office applications, and customer-facing apps.
  • Business Object Configurations (which help drive efficiency within the CRM application). ISM examines how easy it is to configure business objects within the application, and how easily changes to business objects can be applied to the real-time dashboard or desktop.
  • Mobile Device Implementations (which include PDAs, PCs, mobile phones, and iPod-like devices that allow customer-facing personnel to work untethered). ISM examines whether the CRM application integrates seamlessly with wireless services like Verizon, Sprint, or Cingular, and also look at how easily the application facilitates the sending/receiving of real-time data to and from mobile devices. What role should real-time CRM play in your current and planned CRM efforts? With 45 percent of the world's population forecasted to be less than 24 years old by 2015, and with the average American teenager digitally connected to the Internet--and to other teens--a minimum of 6.5 hours a day, the way you will sell and service your customers in the future must and will change significantly. Make sure your organization is ready. Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM real-time enterprise consulting firm in Bethesda, MD. He is the author of CRM Automation and the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation. Contact him at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com
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