Every now and then, Customer Relationship Management finds itself proclaimed dead, usually by vendors of competing technologies. More tellingly, such declarations occasionally come from providers of complementary technology – or in one notable case, from one of the founding vendors in this space.
But here’s the bottom line: CRM solutions are not dead, and they never have been. The field does, however, continually reinvent itself.
Years ago, one of the founding fathers of CRM, Tom Siebel, famously gave up on the concept in a speech at an industry trade show. But, as has been written, the problem was that Siebel’s company had defined and marketed CRM too rigidly to start. Then it realized it was coming up against those pre-defined limitations and needed an “out.”
Fast forward 10 or more years: CRM has gone through many iterations, from the enterprise versus best-of-breed wars to the client-server versus software-as-a-service delivery model.
It is now approaching another turning point and most likely the cries of “CRM is dead!” – or words to that effect – will be heard again.
The Era of Mobile CRM
CRM is, increasingly, shifting to the mobile realm. Of course, mobile has been a part of CRM for five or more years, with many vendors offering mobile extensions of their desktop software. Mobile sales, in particular, is a robust space given the roving nature of the job.
But this activity pales in comparison to what is coming. According to Gartner, mobile CRM apps available for download on app stores will grow to more than 1,200 by 2014, from more than 200 in 2012.
The driver is obvious: Both consumers and business people increasingly live and die by smartphone accessibility. Also, work has become less tethered to a desktop and more characterized by workers available 24-7 or some close approximation to that.
How to Make that Jump
The hitch for some CRM solutions will be in making the jump from mobile as an add-on to seeing mobile as the main course. For some vendors, Gartner believes, the leap will be less than graceful.
As Johan Jacobs, research director at Gartner, says, “the reality is that not all good applications make a good mobile application.”
To navigate this transition, CRM vendors – and users for that matter – will have to think seriously and deeply about what matters the most to clients and how those features can best be translated in the mobile environment. New form factors must also be taken into account.
The expected era of phablets – a device that marries the cell phone and the tablet – will make a more sophisticated user interface possible. Until then, though, companies need to think small – as in small screen. And, remember, CRM is not dead – it is just being rendered via a streamlined user interface, delivered by wireless Internet and displayed on a smaller screen. In other words, it has reinvented itself. Again.