The Three Realities of SCRM Right Now

I spent the past four months talking to as many people as I could about Social CRM.  I talked to thought leaders, analysts, vendors, consultants, C-level executives, corporate managers and directors — anyone who wanted to talk about it.

We discussed definitions, and models, and strategies and plans.  What they are doing, what they want to do, what they would love to do. Ended up with a great view of where the market is now from all different perspectives.  There are three different views of SCRM.

Before, we start — do you want a refresher on what SCRM isHow to make it work?

The Vendor Reality

Vendors are rushing, well walking very fast or running at the very least, to call themselves SCRM vendors.  Are they correct? Yes. And No.  Since there is no defined SCRM market beyond taking on the social channels and integrating them with CRM, they are all right.  What they call SCRM is an integration between Social Media (Channels) and CRM functions (Sales, Marketing, and Service).

Alas, none of them provide more than one single function well enough to earn the label of complete CRM solution.  Actually, I would even go as far as to say that there are any that provide complete functions, they all provide parts of a function (for example, using the customer history via Twitter or Facebook is something I have not yet seen – yet, that is a critical function of service).  I already covered via different interviews and articles how to attack Social SalesSocial Marketing and Social Service and talked about what vendors are doing.  It took us almost 20 years to perfect,  well optimize is a better word, those same functions via old-fashioned channels — why shall it take only 6-18 months to do the same for social media?

Are vendors moving towards bigger targets?  Sure, Helpstream showed they want to do more than simply social support by adding  social marketing to their social service tools, Oracle and SAP unveiled platforms that allow them to tackle any function – even end-to-end processes, and Salesforce showed how to move the social network to the platform and forget about business functions altogether.  There are many other examples of vendors figuring out through integrations and partnerships how to offer more complex SCRM solutions (Radian6 and Lithium come to mind right away as an example).

This reality will start shifting in 2010 as consolidation starts to take over and a market begins to materialize (led by customers spending again, slowly at first), and larger and well-funded vendors begin to look for tools to complete their suites.  We will see a lot of movement in this market as we approach the summer, and very heavy towards the end of the year.  I will be talking about a very different reality in 12 months.

The Provider Reality

Just to be on the safe side, providers are consultants, integrators, analysts, and other people who help organizations adopt and deploy SCRM.

This group tends to be rather skeptical (pragmatical may be a better word) on anything new – at least until proven (which of course never happens since no one installs it as they wait to be proven – just kidding).  Alas, with SCRM without being a defined market yet, and with little to go beyond one-channel, one-function implementation (usually without ROI or strategy), you can expect a lot of negativity in this field.

But that it not entirely the case.  Sure, there is some skepticism on whether SCRM will succeed, on what it is, and failure versus potential success.  Alas, this is all mitigated with a heavy dose of reality this time.

There is a realization that the shift to social will happen – no matter what.  There is a realization that beyond the hype, vendors and organizations are actually beginning to understand that, and starting to see the path.  And the echo chamber (what happens when visions of the future and how to achieve it become common speech among practitioners and no one else) is quieter than usual. We also see more organizations embracing the concepts early on.  Encouraging.

There is one more thing that I am seeing among practitioners that also is encouraging: less hype.

The comments on what is possible are based on the reality of what vendors are delivering today, and what organizations are focused on.  Not really on what could, may, or should happen based on vendor promises and pie-in-the-sky visions.  It is certainly interesting to see more of a reality-based approach to SCRM than what I have seen in past iterations of  CRM.

The Organization Reality

The organizations are going wacko (my wife is a physician, that is a medical term – look it up)  and it is our fault.  On one hand there is a group of people led by those inexperienced in the enterprise applications market that is screaming at the top of their lungs how you have to engage, you must listen, become social or begone.  On the other hand we tell them they must create a strategy, that it is all about a strategy and everything else falls into place, don’t worry about the social aspect yet.

So, what do they do? What they can, namely Twitter and Facebook.  I cannot even count how many meetings and conversations I had in the past four months with executives who wanted to talk about SCRM – only to be asked how to setup Twitter or Facebooks Fan Pages.

There is an interesting and growing movement among organizations to control the “rogue” deployments within their organizations.  They may see a potential for them to flourish, or maybe started to see results – but now they want them to conform to the rules and guidelines they have for the organization.  Social Media guidelines are sprouting like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Is this good?

Some of the emerging programs have been curtailed severely, while others have benefited from this control and the resource allocation that comes with it.  It is all down to what was the intended purpose and goal, how structured it was, and whether there was an alignment with the organization’s overall strategy for that specific function.  In other words, if they can stamp the seal of approval on top of a good program, it will grow — most others, not so much.  It is indeed, all about the strategy.

Where to now, captain?

That is the reality from my side of the world.  The common thread? well, no one really agrees on where we are – but most agree on the future being full of possibilities.

So, where does this takes us in 2010 and beyond?

I see three trends that will impact SCRM in the near future, and one pattern for the long term:

Trend #1 – Market Consolidation.  What? This early? Really?  The market is not even defined yet, but we are already going through consolidation? Yep.  We have too many vendors defining SCRM in too many different ways and we need to consolidate.  A wave of vendors beginning to offer truly competitive solutions (as opposed to the disfunctional setup we have today) will emerge half-way through the year and bring some interesting offers to compare to each other.  I twitted earlier today than predicting a consolidation in a market of several hundred different vendors is not a prediction, it’s an overdue reality.  So, it is a trend that will continue and y’all can see that – right?

Trend #2 – Organizational Control.  Control was made to be the evil word of 2008-2009.  Guess what? organizations won’t simply empower an employee or group to become their social voice without some degree of control.  Rogue programs are becoming corporate programs, people-as-brands are becoming workers-for-brands, clear guidelines and rules are becoming more common, and roles for social networks are becoming a reality.  This is good, very good actually for corporate adoption of SCRM and the social channels.  This trend will result in a large number of formal SCRM strategies created and implemented in the second and third quarters of next year.

Trends #3 – I Now Know What to Do.  We are (finally) beginning to get away from ComcastCares, Ford, Dell, Coca Cola, etc. as being the only citable case studies in the world of SCRM.  We are seeing some real results from real companies that are going beyond PR and marketing their brand (why, even Comcast is going beyond Twitter now) to extending CRM to work for the social customer.  This will translate into best practices, clear case studies, and how-to-guidelines becoming commonplace.

These trends probably will hang around longer than 12 months.  How about longer term?  What is going to happen to SCRM in three or five years?  There is one pattern beginning to emerge:

Pattern #1 – Loud and Proud.  CRM is not going away.  Nor is SCRM going to replace CRM.  Neither is Social Business going to make CRM and SCRM irrelevant.

CRM is loud, in your face, with good results (now), and going to stick around for a while.  Did it fail in the past? You bet!  Up to 70% of implementations failed.  Then they recovered and did wonderful things — case studies in most cases.

I dare you to find one single failure from the early years that has sworn off CRM forever.  You won’t.  CRM  failures were part of the early days of moving one million miles an hour and shooting from the hip at the same time.  That is behind us, the bubble exploded and collapsed and we don’t need to support gazillion dollar implementations anymore.  Now we do what we need, pick the tools and technologies that work, and make it happen according to our strategy.

Do some people still fail? Yep, and they will continue to do so.  Why? Because, such is life, because we don’t define success and failure before starting, and because enteprise-class applications are very, very hard to do.  And, more importantly, because someone out there still believes that CRM is simply technology.

I now want to hear from you, with one caveat.  I am not going to engage in a SCRM is dead or alive debate here, but would love to hear why I am wrong, where I may be right, and overall what is your sense of SCRM’s reality today.


20 Replies to “The Three Realities of SCRM Right Now”

  1. Great post Esteban! Again. 🙂

    I do not know if what you have predicted for the vendor space will come to happen in the time frame you have mentioned. I have no knowledge in this area & have not talked to many vendors, only a few.

    From a provider perspectives, I am not sure what kind of hype was created in the earlier waves of eCRM et al. since I was just beginning in this industry back then. I try not to hype stuff. In fact I want my clients to see through the hype. So am glad am confirming to the trend you have noticed. 😉

    As for the organizations themselves, well I believe the various organizations are at various levels of awareness & capabilities maturity wrt SCRM. I have been talking to quite a few IT heads, business managers (marketing predominantly, some brand mgrs/PR types too) & C level executives in 2009 and have done some due diligence of their initiatives (if any) in the social space.

    I found that some people are absolutely unaware of how the whole social things is more important than the intern driven/rogue initiative and how it can fit into their overall organizational strategies. Some others were looking at the social media & social networking sites as mere another channel to be integrated to their existing CRM systems. Some even look at building communities and integrating them with their enterprise systems.

    And yet, some where looking at a whole new LOB powered by “social”! And that is when I knew that now I was transgressing Social CRM as people mostly refer to & moving into the realm of Social Business. This was a new service for the customers – not merely few business functions around sales, marketing, service, but a complete line of business involving legal, vendor management, partnerships, platforms, etc.!

    So yes, I do see “control” coming into the picture. Employees’ Woodstock is for another day, but next year we can look forward to some stock taking of the one off social media programs & building of more holistic strategies for social in the enterprises.
    .-= A. Prem Kumar´s last blog ..Context is queen, especially for Social CRM =-.


    1. Prem,

      The vendor prediction is not a prediction (as i said in the post, it is an overdue fact), but we will see brisk movements. At the end of the year I am either going to be right or wrong, but it will be fun to watch in between.

      As for the provider’s hype – I had you in mind when I was writing that, but talked to many others. Tried to focus on the enterprise applications space, as opposed to Social Media PR and Advertising worlds, but the sentiment is unanimous – there is not much to hype here since the reality helps sell it better than most hype.

      Interesting you bring up the people who are unaware of the social changes, or at least unaware of what their response has been or should be. I did not find many of those people even though I was fully expecting to have a good 20-30% of people give me the blank look. I may have been biased in choosing my conversations, but in summary I don’t think I found much unawareness (new word alert). I did find tons of people that think it is just more channels — that was my tune from the beginning (still is, just extended it a little bit more with more things than just integrating a new channel).

      I fully expect to be writing about social business instead of social crm around mid- to late-2010. To me it has never been a naming game, just what to call it so we can communicate. If the biz does not become social, SCRM will fail anyways as another isolated island in the middle of the enterprise ocean.

      Thanks for the great comment, and for the inspiration…


      1. Ummm … I think I did not put it out properly in my previous comment … I will raise my I-am-not-a-native-English-language-person clause here. 😉

        I found that some people are absolutely unaware of how the whole social things is more important than the intern driven/rogue initiative and how it can fit into their overall organizational strategies.

        What I meant in that above statement is that I found some people who were exposed to social media/networks only as much as their “rogue” initiatives allowed them. They are not sure how much sense it makes at an organizational level. Many were aware of the social web because of their kids’ involvement & the huge brouhaha in the media. But then not aware of how it affects their business.

        Thank you for the post & the discussions. 🙂
        .-= Prem Kumar Aparanji´s last blog ..Context is queen, especially for Social CRM =-.


  2. Hi Esteban,

    This is a truly great post. Spot on trends and topics and I love the “feeling” of it. I’m fully with you that the reality of business and life will lead to the things you say..

    And I could argue here that strategies do not consolidate, so your #1 trend cannot be true. But that would be stupid. Consolidation in the SCRM vendor place will happen. And you know what? I even think that strategies will consolidate..

    We have CEM, CRM, SCRM, SRM, SBS etc etc.. I think (wishful maybe 😉 that in 2010 we will begin to see an awareness that all thise strategies do not bite each-other. It is never one solution/strategy that makes a company successful.

    It is, as it’s always been (#realitycheck), multiple strategies and tactics that, in the right combination, for that specific company in that specific market place and with (most importantly) that specific group of Customers with that specific set of desired outcomes, will make the difference, for that specific company.

    All strategies, known by their acronyms, will not merge into one big Social Customer Experience Business Relationship Strategy or what have you. In 2010 we will discover companies that have or are combining elements of all these strategies into their own unique mix, their Customized Strategy, with a small or capital “S”.

    I think in 2010 it is our job to seek, describe and help these best practices get real. Not for others to copy, but to serve as inspiration to create their unique mix of strategies, to find their own unique voices in this already crowded marketplace of commonalities (and acronyms ;-).

    I’m looking forward to 2010. Are you?
    .-= Wim Rampen´s last blog ..Service Logic and the implications for a new Social Customer Relationships Marketing Logic =-.


    1. Thank a lot for the nice comments. I try.

      I would so love to see consolidated strategies. We tried, as i remember, this back in September / October to shift the conversation from SCRM to Social Business Strategy. There were no takers…

      I think you are correct in saying that multiple strategies and multiple tactics are still the norm – but, and here is where my research comes in, this is due to a lack of a overarching customer strategy. Anyone who paid attention since April-May heard me say that the reason I am setting up shop as an independent analyst is to pursue research towards a single Customer Strategy that encompasses all programs, initiatives, and behaviors for an enterprise and its customers. This includes not only direct contact but also indirect contact via data flows and cause-effect relationships between certain processes and functions and customers (e.g. shipping policies and logistics affect customers, but they are not covered under any customer-driven strategy).

      I am fully focused on how to make this happen. Will see examples, write up the methods and best practices, and encourage vendors to adopt the model and push it forward. Will I continue to call it SCRM? that is just one component of my vision — but also the starting point. So, yeah — a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step — in this case is called SCRM (also the reason it will not die, btw).

      I am sooooo looking forward to 2010, I am giggling almost 🙂

      Thanks for the read and the comment.


  3. SCRM is dead. Just Kidding 🙂

    2010 will show so-called SCRM value for the sales organization. An un intended consequence of this category of technologies is that it finally shrinks the distance between sales and the prospect/customer. And its going to do so at the expense of many marketing gatekeepers. Whether you look at formal customer community innitiatives or simple outlook plugins that enrichen your prospect intelligence by folding in social constructs(e.g. gist), sales can ascertain the value and qualification of a lead better than ever before. And without any brokerage by marketing. As a consequence, marketing as a role, evolves.
    .-= Sameer Patel´s last blog ..MindTouch + SnapLogic: Bringing Data and Social together =-.


    1. Sameer,

      Other than being funny, you are also very astute in noticing something that escapes most people: sales is the only one that has not jumped up-and-down with Joy when it comes to SCRM.

      The old 1:1 sales model is bound to change sooner rather than later, but I don’t think that SCRM is going to be driving that change. Until that happens, Social Sales will only have unintended consequences — the shift of functions and operations to marketing and sales. Why, just yesterday I was having this conversation about how Sales just wants to “press the flesh and collect the check”, and they are essentially passing lead scoring, prospecting, and other functions over to social sales and social marketing functions gladly.

      Sure, it is an oversimplification that will irate most sales people – probably. But I think that selling to the community, as opposed to the individual, is the way we are going — and you don’t need sales people for that (at least not the same as today). I will not go there yet, as i don’t want to start that debate (yes, I know I am wrong — before we go down that road).

      I would love to hear more about the evolving role of marketing, since in my vision is not very clear where they go (although it seems that they are moving into prospect and lead management more and more).

      Thanks for the read!


  4. Esteban,

    Most excellent post…call it the 2009 roundup and the springboard for what’s coming in 2010.

    My comment focuses on Trend #2 – Organizational Control.

    Part of what you’re describing is all about control…how the executive team wants the company to interact with their customers and public. Another part of what you describe is really about building a cohesive social media program that incorporates a multi-functional impact.

    The good news some of the rogue departments you described is they’ve shown execs at least part of the benefits of social media. The bad news is siloeing.

    So the benefit of Organizational Control you describe to build strategies are are cohesive and coordinated to untangle the silo effect. The beauty of them is they will also contribute to the corporate adoption of social business strategies (SCRM strategies if you prefer). And oh yeah, make for a much more positive value and ROI on social initiatives.
    .-= Kathy Herrmann´s last blog ..Talking Around the Town — =-.


    1. Thanks Kathy!

      This is not my predictions post, or the roundup – those are coming in the next few days, but this is one of three posts I am doing with the State of the… post (experience and customer service are the other two, don’t have enough on communities yet to make it – that will be next year).

      As for Organizational control – it was a surprise (almost) to find that it was as present. I truly expected to find more rogue deployments and lesser executive involvement (Prem mentioned some executives who did not get it, that i was expecting mostly). It was a pleasant surprise…

      As for the ” … untangle the silo effect …” if that is to happen then I can retire in peace. I have been advocating for that way before we got to Social, and even more so now. Why the whole premise of my EFM model was to be able to leverage cross-channel feedback into a single system…

      I hope you are right, and that we are in that track.

      Thanks for the great comment!


  5. Esteban,

    You are a better man than I, willing to open yourself up to what will certainly be a fun conversation a year from now; “Was Esteban correct”? We will certainly start with: “Yes, in some areas, but he got the acronym wrong” 🙂

    I offer some counter points, the discussion may be interesting (or I will be shot down and sent home with my tail between my legs). While I offer some opposing views below, I believe that what you state are objectives which many should strive for…

    Trend #1 Consolidation:

    Because the area of pure ‘Social’ is so young, in relative #e20 terms, I think that the consolidation will be a bit different from what you describe. I believe that some of the vendors might get picked up, but upstarts will appear to take their place. Net net, numbers will look the same. Sort of like restaurants in a city, the number is constant (or nearly so, but tastes change and there are new ones each year).

    Trend #2 Control

    I also have different thought on what are popping up like mushrooms after a spring rain (great metaphor though I like, so I am stealing it for myself) – Social Media Gurus. To that I say, take out the lawnmower, enough said. But, organizations will attempt to put some controls in place, but they will fail. They will fail at either being Social because engagement does not scale, or fail at putting the controls in place.

    Trend #3 – I think I know what to do, but I might be wrong…

    1 – Best practices across companies is a challenge for even the most standard of technology and business process implementations.

    2 – Social is (close your eyes and ears those that know me) – not a one size fits all problem. Matrix this with Industry and Geography and the numbers simply do not add up. Not enough people to go around, implement and codify the methods – though try we will!

    3 – As the Social Channel becomes more crowded, the dynamics will change. Expectations will be even higher and the customer will further evolve. We will trend towards this, it is in our sights, just not sure 2010 is the year it is realized.

    We can certainly agree on the point that CRM is not going away – It is here to stay and as important as ever. One trend I would like to throw out to the audience is that i believe that CRM, specifically Social CRM will begin to play a larger role in the innovation process within organizations of all sizes – just throwing that out there.
    .-= mitch lieberman´s last blog ..mjayliebs: @SameerPatel The first line in your comment on @ekolsky post had me laughing outloud – thx for that =-.


    1. Mitch,

      So, I replied to everyone here before I got to this since I wanted to think what to say.

      1) you know me… acronyms and definitions are so not me

      2) It is interesting that you mention some of the new companies that will be taking place of the acquired ones. It is certainly a fact that as (if) we grow out of the recession the more money invested into these young-ums will translate into more market presence, better products, and replacement of the “stalwarts”. I sense that is already beginning to happen (I have some preferred companies I picked for what they are doing, off-the-beaten-path but cool stuff I am highlighting in a soon-to-be-produced post). I agree with you –but, even if that happens what is going to shape the market more is going to be the acquisitions, not the replacements. Agree?

      3) Very interesting observation in that organizations will fail to put controls in place – or fail at social. I must admit i am not the biggest cumbaya, let’s all be social together guy out there — but i definitely see the value for organizations imposing some MVOG (mission, vision, objectives, and goals) as well as resources behind these efforts. Maybe we are differing on how we use the word control — but even then, if they cannot control it even Gen-Xers won’t be interested in taking on that, that — experiment to an enterprise scale — a least not for some industries (we can assume B2C in massive customer-base like hi-tech, electronics, retail, etc. won’t be affected — but financial services, insurance, healthcare, etc. will due to the heavy regulations). I do see that these industries that tend to spend the most into innovation in any new enterprise will lead the way in exercising more control and seeing some results. As you said, I may be wrong or not… will see.

      4) you have the answer in your comment — try we will. I think this is going to be the case for 2010 — although i don’t expect to write the book on best way to do scrm in that year… or the one after. it will probably take some time to get there (and this is where the loud and proud part comes in). We will see lots of try-and-fail, try-and-almost-get-there, and try-and-succeed implementations that are not born out of luck or timing like now, but out of the beginning of best practices in 2010 — that I am willing to bet on (maybe i will even make it a prediction for 2010).

      Thanks for a great comment, and the read!


      1. A quick note, since you did ask a questions – “what is going to shape the market more is going to be the acquisitions, not the replacements. Agree?”

        Yes, I agree that the market will be determined by the acquisitions. The only caveat is that this whole space moves so incredibly fast, that who ever tries to pull IP into their fold will have a very short window to execute.

        I love cheering for the little guy! In the middle of the consolidation, one of the little independents will make their presence known and may alter the course slightly…or better. Like the US Soccer team this summer – victory is not expected or predicted but will be fun to watch!

        (Did I just call the US “the little guy”? – wow time for more caffeine)
        .-= Mitch Lieberman´s last blog ..Do the pundits practice what they preach? =-.


  6. As usual, great insight on the state of sCRM Esteban. 2010 is indeed going to be a great year for innovation and adoption. Thank you for summarizing your viewpoints after months of intense travel and conferences.



  7. Esteban, good post. like always… I am only going to comment on this statement:

    “I cannot even count how many meetings and conversations I had in the past four months with executives who wanted to talk about SCRM – only to be asked how to setup Twitter or Facebooks Fan Pages”.

    I have seen something different in Latin America. Executives or agencies are sort of looking into analyzing conversations first from the PR perspective, but are realizing that they need a way to engage with the conversations in Facebook and Twitter. When they start engaging the customers with conversations they quickly come to the realization that they need processes, work-flow… and a away to convert the conversations into transactions – i.e. integration with CRM systems.

    Yes… there are many companies that see Social CRM only as Facebook or Twitter. But in the last 6 months I have seen many companies looking for community platforms and CRM integration with Social Media… But the problem now is who is going to have ownership of the social channels in the organization… this is still up in the air in Latin America. Many companies still do not want to let go of their information… and do not really want collaborate or engage with customers 100%. Organizations have the Web 2.0 tools but still have Web 1.0 mentality.
    .-= Jesus Hoyos´s last blog ..Nubes de Conversaciones durante el 2009 =-.


  8. The fact is social networks give an insight into customers and potential customers which cannot be easily obtained any other way. Traditional CRM systems tell you about your existing customers. Twitter will tell you about everyone who likes Toyotas, strawberry ice cream and pretty much anything else you’re interested in.

    It is inevitable that the information in social networks be brought into traditional CRM applications just as it was inevitable that a marketing and support function was added to sales force automation systems.

    Leon Tribe
    .-= Leon Tribe´s last blog ..Dynamics CRM-GP Adapter is looking to be a Scribe-killer =-.


    1. Leon,

      It is very interesting that you mentioned two of the biggest changes brought on by the use of Social Channels in CRM: better feedback / insights, and a change to business execution (my contention soon to be put into a blog is that sales is changing dramatically, and marketing and CS are picking up most of the pieces that used to be sales).

      thanks for the read, and a very interesting comment


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