CRM solution vendors – and their customers – live and die by how well, or how poorly, their systems, business processes and workflows handle data integration. It is a never-ending challenge, primarily because the sources and types of data important to an enterprise are in nonstop proliferation mode. The current industry discussion on the role and value and use cases for Big Data is just one illustration —and will hardly be the last word on data integration.
Some areas that companies need to keep an eye on include:
Some companies are already prepping for the integration of machine data into CRM solutions and other enterprise systems. General Electric, for example, strongly believes that the industrial internet – or the Internet of Things, as some in the industry call it – will be an important trend in the coming years. It is investing $1 billion in a research center in Silicon Valley to work on technologies that marry the physical world – equipment, buildings and so on – with digital intelligence.
Integration of M2M (machine-to-machine) data with ERP/CRM systems is a top priority for connected enterprises, according to a study released last November from Axeda Corp. It found that 67 percent of M2M adopters are interested, planning or scheduled to integrate M2M data with back-end systems, allowing the data to be accessed by many functions across the enterprise. Axeda calls machine data a source of “valuable business insight” that can drive product innovation and enhance customer relationships.
Social Media Conversation
Some might find it surprising to find social media on a list of next-gen data points to watch (Facebook is so last-decade, right?). However, for all the popularity of Facebook and Twitter et al, surprisingly few companies have fully mastered the art of integrating this data into their mainstream CRM solutions.
In this case, vendors are pushing ahead, developing updates and upgrades to existing applications, and building entirely new ones, with a focus on social media-CRM integration. Applications, for example, are starting to provide call center agents with access to all channels of customer inquiries, including Twitter. Their desktop apps also allow them to move these inquiries easily into the customer record. Other apps provide the same link in sales and marketing. A brand might see a conversation on Twitter about a competitor and chime in with its own product. That prospect is then easily incorporated into the sales pipeline.
Existing Data, Better Context
CRM, to date, has done an excellent job of compiling and cataloging customer data. A company can slice and dice and display customer records in any number of permutations. What it hasn’t mastered, though, is the art of placing this data in context. That is, understanding events at a company or trends that might be having an impact on a client.
“We can get so fixated on collecting and controlling data, and paying attention to the data as an aggregated whole,” CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz wrote recently on his blog, “that it becomes easy to miss a key element that explains why customers are doing things, and which should determine what the company’s response should be.”
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