It’s hard to think that CRM actually started in 1986 with the very first version of Act! (the software that, despite Sage’s best efforts, still thrives thanks to Swiftpage). Over that time, the fundamentals behind the system have remained relatively stable: it’s about managing relationships with customers. Hence the name that has stuck for what feels like forever.
Yet CRM evolves continues to evolve, and in the case of the larger systems, it continues to grow into a one-stop shop encompassing social, sales, marketing and more. But as with any form of evolution, there are things we don’t need — aspects of CRM systems that have simply fallen by the wayside.
So let’s look at the outdated CRM features that are on their way out — simply because we just don’t need them any more — and what the reason is for their demise.
There are some pretty good reasons for investing in an on-premise CRM. Preact’s Warren Butler points out that if you have existing IT infrastructures, it can be cheaper to take advantage of those infrastructures with on-premise, and you are less susceptible to external factors. There are also proprietary data concerns.
That’s valid, but the cloud has reduced in price significantly and continues to do so. What’s more, those concerns over data fade somewhat when you consider that it’s just as easy for data to walk out of the door on a CD as it is for someone to steal log-in information. In fact, with modern security protocols around the cloud, your data is probably more secure when held off-site.
As customers start to migrate away from expensive in-house IT infrastructure and the cost and security arguments start to outweigh the negatives, on-premise CRM will die its death. Cloud CRM will just be the norm, and we’ll even drop the word ‘cloud.’
Take a look at the acquisition strategies of Oracle, Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics over the last 2 years, and you get a pretty good idea of the direction in which CRM is heading – it’s more like CXM (customer anything management).
We still have a huge degree of bespoke integration requirements — we’re looking for specific mail hosts to integrate into our CRMs, we’re looking for integration with other marketing automation systems, and so on. Yet these CRMs have bought up the smaller automation companies and have more or less finished integrating them into the whole package.
Whereas once CRM was part of the software suite internally, it can now be the software suite, bringing together sales, marketing and customer service with no need for integration. As time goes on, there will be less and less need for external software to be integrated into CRM.
Pam Baker had fun with the ‘out of the box’ phrase back in 2008, basically trashing everything that claimed to be ‘out of the box.’ And she had a good point, because it is almost impossible to drop a CRM solution — even a small one — into an organization without a degree of customization.
Indeed, as CRMs become ever more complex and morph into CXMs, the ‘out of the box’ approach feels more dated than ever. How can you, for instance, pre-map out sales processes for any organization? The complexity of different sales cycles alone should be enough to put you off ‘out of the box’ solutions.
I think we’ll see ‘out of the box’ as an expression from the dark ages pretty soon.
It’s cute that we’ve got an acronym for customer anything management, but more than that it’s reflective of the coming together of a significant number of integrated services within one package. Whereas before we’d be talking about integration of a variety of different services from different providers, in the future that will appear as a dated concept.
If we look at how marketing automation companies have been integrated into Dynamics, Salesforce and Oracle (think Radian), and even how small companies such as Parature have been snapped up for their customer service technology, the aim of the larger CRMs is to replace all business software across marketing, sales and customer service.
The implications are the three consequences I’ve listed above — with greater dispersion across functions and locations, on-premise becomes unworkable, bespoke integration with other software is no longer required and ‘out-of-the-box’ just doesn’t work for anyone.
Even the smaller CRMs recognize this shift. The future shape of CRM is bespoke, accessible anywhere, single solution software.
[Photo courtesy of flickr user Lisa Yarost.]