CRM Evolution Starting to Rival That of the Cloud

By | May 18, 2012
Topic: CRM/ERP

The lament of the small provider is eternal; enterprise-level firms are always confronted by CEOs and tech managers from such companies looking for a meeting, looking for time, looking for just a chance to show a customer relationship management (CRM) demo, or get in a good word. The simple truth, however, is that rapid CRM evolution means not every start-up that's great at what they do will get heard, or get noticed. But even as established CRM providers like NetSuite build their brand with things like commerce-as-a-service, start-ups are getting their chance as well through the second-annual CRM Idol competition; in other words, there's no excuse for a lack of innovation in the world of CRM.

What the Big Boys Are Doing

Evolution in any industry is always guided by two factors: what the big players are doing and what small start-ups bring to the table. Established providers like NetSuite, for example, have the resources to innovate on their own platform, using what's already in place to go further, while start-ups have the chance to build an entirely new table--if they can get noticed.

An article at the Sunday Morning Herald discusses Netsuite's new foray into CRM, CommerceSuite, which offers machine-to-machine commerce systems and, according to CEO Zach Nelson, products like his mean "the human as a CRM system is going to be a thing of the past." At the product's launch in San Francisco, Nelson was not only engaging but humorous, claiming that SAP (through acquired software company SuccessFactors) had chosen to use Netsuite's services rather than SAP's own, something SAP took issue with later in the day.

Exactly who uses what aside, Nelson's still in a position to be making jokes--his CRM commerce as a service system is on the forefront of this market's evolution. But he's not the only one.

Calling All Idols

The second annual CRM Idol competition is underway, a (hopefully) more engaging way to get small CRM companies noticed by big players in the industry. According to a recent ZDNet article, the candidacy period is almost half over and there is still a steady flow of applicants. Along with public exposure, free software, and PR, small CRM firms that do well in the competition have the chance to be mentored and more importantly closely examined by big providers--something that isn't always easy.

In fact, Paul Greenberg of ZDnet says candidly that CEOs regularly have to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to aspiring providers, no matter how great their efforts at CRM evolution. Greenberg goes on to advise any companies that haven't submitted an application to the Idol competition to do so ASAP or shut up forever about their lack of exposure in the market. Bold words, but if a company isn't willing to at least try to get noticed, he may have a point.

Why Midsize Matters

So, what does all of this mean for midsize business IT admins and their staff? That they're the proving ground for many of these new technologies, even before enterprise gets the chance. IT pros need to keep an ear to the ground for new technology like Netsuite's commerce-as-a-,service so they can stay competitive with big players. They are also in the enviable position of being able to pick and choose from new providers in the market, many of whom want to establish ties with enterprise industry but need a starting point.

Midsize business IT admins should keep an eye on things like CRM Idol to see who's interesting and what might be worth their time, but at the same time, shouldn't ignore other small providers that come knocking. CRM evolution isn't a "point A to point B" process, and whether it's Netsuite, an Idol winner, or a brilliant start-up, someone's going to change the market. Be at the forefront with them, not running to catch up.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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