Is It Better To Be Big, Or Agile? The Analysts Disagree.

A number of analysts have weighed in this week with divergent opinions on where the CRM market is going. Computerwire stakes their opinion on “survival of the biggest” and feels that the spoils are going to go to the one-stop-shops like SAP.

Denis Pombriant, on the other hand, is on record “believing that the current state of the market in enterprise software is at a high point of complexity and that the next move is not greater consolidation but greater flexibility through modularity and improved integration facilities.”

I’m going to line up with Denis on this one. The all-in-one solution game is zero-sum, and eventually will lead to price-cutting and unnatural acts between the big players, as they eventually resort to squabbling over an ever-shrinking number of large customers.

Flexibility and ease are going to be the keys — and that goes for flexibility and ease in understanding the solutions, selling the need internally, getting purchasing approvals, performing rollouts, and education of customers and internal users alike.

The Changing Face of “CRM”

To date, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has been almost exclusively focused from the seller’s point of view. The three main areas of focus have been:

  • Sales Force Automation
  • Customer Service and Call Center Automation
  • Marketing Automation

In all of these cases, the point of view is seller-centric. The selling organization is in charge of managing all aspects of the relationship, including gathering information about the customer.  This information has then been used by the selling organization to achieve the following goals:

  • Provide management a better view into the pipeline, and give sales force access to more complete information about their prospects (Sales Force Automation)
  • Provide customer service a better view into past customer inquiries and current customer information. This information is then used to resolve the inquiry and/or, cross-sell and upsell existing customers at the point of contact (Customer Service and Call Center Automation)
  • Enable an organization to cross-sell and upsell existing customers, and for brand building (marketing automation)

However, a number of emerging IT areas are starting to challenge this model of seller-centricity.  CRM systems are evolving to take the customer into account more aggressively, and there are an increasing number of discussions around how enterprise social networking can be used to bring individuals within organizations closer together.

So…what do you think?  Will emerging IT capabilities in the areas of CRM, enterprise social networking, (and even…gasp…blogging) bring about a change in the way individuals do business together, leading to more democratization and a greater voice of the customer?  Or, will these capabilities be just a blip on the radar, when viewed five years from now?

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