CRM 2007: What’s Ahead?

Here’s another great post by Denis Pombriant making his predictions for CRM in 2007. He first talks about how the economy plays a big role in what’s to come and then goes into how he sees the on-demand CRM market continuing to blossom. Another interesting comment was that these companies need come up with more innovative on-demand ideas otherwise they could be lost in the evolution. Here’s the full article:

When making forecasts for a year ahead, I have
always found the "greater fool" theory comforting. In short, it takes a
fool to make a forecast, and a greater one to believe it.

On balance then, I think it wise to hide these predictions from
children, the gullible, the insane, etc. Some people will look at this
and see doom and gloom because there are some things to be concerned
about, but the concerns are simply the environment we have to deal
with. We can still find some ways to make lemonade out of our lemons,
and that’s what I hope to do here.

First, the Economy

The economy is our environment, and it makes no sense talking about CRM until you get this baseline established.

In general, I think the U.S. economy is in for some rough sledding and I hope I am wrong.  The housing bubble is showing signs
of bursting and interest rates are stable. However, fuel prices are on
the rise again after a pre-election soft landing and the dollar is
pretty weak against the Euro. Consumer confidence has been in negative
territory for a while.

All of these things are indicators that economists routinely
scour to figure out the economy’s direction. As some wag once said
though, they’ve predicted 12 out of the last 9 recessions, so take it
all with a grain of salt.

Despite the weak dollar, our exports are expensive compared
to Asia and we continue to lose high paying jobs. I heard an economist
on public radio the other day say that although we are exporting jobs,
we are creating jobs too. Well, all jobs are not created equally and
some measure of job quality must be applied before we declare victory
or even a truce on that front.

Speaking of fronts, we will be mired in a foreign war for
2007 and that continues to add to our economic woes. I am not here to
make a political statement, but I simply must emphasize that CRM’s
performance will be tethered to that of the economy at large.

One thing to keep in mind is that even if the U.S. economy
hits a rough spot, the rest of the world will not necessarily feel the
pain. The European economy looks stronger than it has in a long time,
and if Asia cooled off a bit it would still be growing at a torrid rate.

To net it out, one strategy for U.S. CRM companies might be
to look to export more, and given the on-demand nature of many software
products today, that strategy has never been easier to implement.

A Bright Spot

If there is a bright spot in all this, it continues to be the
on-demand market. For all of its life so far, the appeal of on-demand,
at least in some measure, has been related to its significantly lower
costs compared to traditional software. Given the economic scenario I
am forecasting, this should be pretty good news for on-demand providers.

To sell their wares, on-demand providers will need to show
powerful cost reduction potential and big, positive ROI. That will get
some companies moving, but others who have more or less paid for their
traditional infrastructures will be tempted to sit on the sidelines
waiting for better conditions.

For CRM vendors, this means that existing customers might
continue to pay their maintenance contracts unless they discover that
maintenance, plus some amount of labor costs, plus a pending hardware
upgrade equals a decision to go with an on-demand solution. Stranger
things have happened.

Beyond conventional CRM, I think there should be many smaller areas where CRM can shine.

We have talked about it before, and in the economic
environment I see ahead, companies will want technology solutions that
can help them do four specific things better and cheaper: enhance
products, extend product lines, target markets, and develop better
processes that drive positive customer experiences.

Bucking Tradition

Much of the CRM world that I see is focused on the more traditional aspects of CRM, and they will be hardest hit.

I think smaller companies with innovative on-demand ideas
will find traction in this environment, especially if they can help
with the big four requirements above. The companies that catch will
grow, be acquired and do some acquiring, and form the nucleus of the
brigade that will stoke the engine of growth again in time for the
elections in 2008.

The CRM areas that I would target include what is called
sales effectiveness, but which is really a market basket of companies
that need better definition. Also, marketing and social networking
companies will, I think, find receptive audiences. Finally, the call
center looks to be ready to make some changes due to the increasing
availability of on-demand infrastructure.

Therefore, the strategy I would pursue in 2007 is to remain
nimble and opportunistic — innovative solutions that help to lower
costs should find a decent reception and opportunistic buyers might be
able to score some deals.

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2 thoughts on “CRM 2007: What’s Ahead?”

  1. My company recently posted a free version of our online CRM application, called Considered Sales CRM Free. I think this new application could be influential to the CRM market this new year.

    The application is based on a goal and progress oriented sales model and allows you to customize your own sales process. An account in the free version is limited in functionality, but is a good introduction to the considered sales process.

    I’d like to get any feedback on the application. Let me know what you think. Perhaps this can spur some further discussion on the types of features people are looking for in a good online CRM application.

    You will find the free version at http://www.consideredsales.com

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