The Vendor Roadmap to SCRM – Part 1

Before we begin, two caveats:

1) When I said I would never write another series I was so sure this would not happen — then, this became too long…

2) Social CRM is not a technology, never will be.  This is the vendor complement to The Roadmap to SCRM series I wrote before — you will need technology to deploy your strategy, this is what vendors should offer you.

Sometime ago I wrote this series of posts called “The Roadmap to SCRM“, five parts (plus an extra one added for lack of clarity) that explained how organizations can build their strategy from CRM to Social CRM.  It is based on years of experience and many deployments of CRM, and it is still applicable (by the emails I get about it).  Warning: It must be adapted to your needs, it is not ready to go as is — same as CRM, there is no one size fits all.

I also talked about what vendors need to do to become SCRM-ready when discussing the recent acquisitions (Attensity acquiring Biz 360 and Lithium buying Scout Labs).  Even better, right before releasing this post (which I wrote last week and was trying to make it a complete post, not a series — before I ran out of time) I noticed that fellow deep-thinker, practitioner, and exceptional CRM-meister Filiberto Selvas wrote a similar post to this (now you get to compare, how about that?) which you should read for more perspective.

I have been mulling this post for some time and I want to talk about what different vendors are doing to deliver Social CRM ( that is the next post on this series).  Let’s get into what vendor-driven SCRM should look like…

The attention on SCRM has not been on the strategy side; it has been on the technology.  This is unfortunate, but not unexpected.  I wrestled with the concept of writing this post, I did not want to cement a notion of “what the technology for SCRM should be” in either vendors; or users’ minds, but I feel we are at a point in the evolution into a market (we don’t yet have a SCRM market, here is why) where it is necessary to do so as the direction is starting to become more clear.

First things first, what does the SCRM stack look like?

Vendors venturing into the SCRM world today come from many areas: some of them provide communities, some of them social analytics, others do — well, not exactly sure what they do, but they call it Social CRM — lots of options out there if you are looking.  Remember, though, that we are not talking about technologies — Social CRM will require changes to people, process, and technology to be implemented — and that is where the stack comes in.

You will need technology to deploy SCRM functions, no questions about it.  However, you will need to do most of the heavy work (remember CRM? customization was the hardest part of the implementation) by leveraging a platform or architecture, and building on top of that.  The stack pictured below is the core platform or architecture you will leverage to deploy Social CRM functions.  Let’s examine it a little closer…

First, let’s talk about the essence of what SCRM will bring to your company: people’s perspectives dressed as actionable insights.  The Social Evolution (of Generation C as Paul Greenberg and Mike Fauscette call it) means that people aggregate into communities.  OK, fine – they were aggregating into communities before, the concept is older than — well, older than sliced bread, for sure.  However, the social evolution brought them to use online communities and store the shared knowledge in electronic form.  This is a major, major difference.  That means we now have access to this data and we can use it.

And use it we will, that is where the second layer comes in: analytics.  We can try to dress it up as a new concept also, call it Socialytics, Social Media Analytics, or something similar — and some of the tools we use are fairly new, to correspond with the newness of the social channels — but the truth is that this is still analytics, same as before, same as in the future.  You can leverage your analytics engine, you can add a social analytics engine, or you can do both (probably what I would recommend in most cases for now).  However you do it, make sure you do it — without actionable insights, the outcome of analysing the information, there is no Social CRM.

I have written some articles on how to leverage analytics better in the Social X world, you can find them here, here, and here.

So, here comes the tricky part — this is the layer-to-be-named-later (feel free to drop some naming suggestions in the comments below).  This is where we actually take action — where the company implements the actionable insights and improves the processes, the products, the services — the experiences.  For lack of a better name right now, I will call it the Actionable Layer Unit (ALU – if you know the acronym, you are as geeky as you think — not fair to use google or wikipedia).  And even worse than the name, there is no software that you can buy to do this — this is all elbow grease basically.  You have to take the actionable insights and make something with it — else, why collect the data and analyze it?

(hint: if you would’ve followed the recommendations I made way early in the roadmap to SCRM for companies, you would already know what to do — the picture below is a reminder and I also talked about it at my Collaborative Enterprise post in TheSocialCustomer)

Finally, the missing piece-de-resistance — the cherry on top of the sundae of sorts.  The integration layer.  Yeah, no more silos, no more standalone solutions, no more — well, whatever you want to call it.  Social CRM must be integrated.  Let’s say you collect the data, and you analyze it, and you decide to take some action on it — what do you with it then? Easy, put it in the system-of-record — the good old CRM (or SCM, or ERP if you are talking Social Business or Collaborative Enterprise) system.  You need some way to integrate the Social CRM platform or architecture to them, some way to send the insights, resulting actions, and data to store with the corporate information.  If we were to leave in an ideal cloud world, that would be simply a question of doing some PaaS to PaaS calls and voila!  We don’t live in that world — so we need connectors, API calls, or whatchamacallits to do the job.

So, what do you think?  Too simple? Will this put the argument of Strategy versus Technology to rest once and for all? Can that argument ever be put to rest?  Would love to hear what you have to say…

(remember, there are other parts to this series, so don’t overexert yourself by commenting on this one only)

23 Replies to “The Vendor Roadmap to SCRM – Part 1”

  1. Great slides Esteban – We’re in alignment and agreement – as a vendor focusing on Cloud and Enterprise integration, those platforms that we are are connecting – such as Get Satisfaction – are then linked with backend systems to provide business value and data for real decisions to be made. Not just social feel-good (which is important, but not everything).


    1. Robert,

      Thanks for the read and comments!

      Somehow I don’t expect a lot of resistance to the idea — but more crazy things have happened in the world. It is an evolution from social feel-good to social-business, for sure, and one that passes through lots of customization and hard-work. I am hoping that people will see if that way and come along, it should be fun.

      The value brought about by communities and unstructured feedback cannot be leveraged without better platforms, plain and simple.

      Thanks for the stopping by…


  2. Esteban, looking forward to the rest of your posts on this. I think, even if it’s simple now (but I’m sure you have more goodies for us), it seems like a great launch pad.

    I’m interested in seeing where this “ALU” goes. It looks like you’re taking it from a larger whole-experience perspective, but because I’m thinking in terms of CIM (surprise, surprise), I think this layer is already being realized on the agent-to-customer interaction level. I won’t beat you over the head with the details that I’m sure you’re already familiar with, but to jog your memory, nGenera CIM’s new social media component taps into the community using the listening platform, grades and categorizes the chatter using sentiment analysis, and routes it to the agent for immediate action–the agent’s response inside the platform.

    What if we use the term ‘response’ in the name of this later? Does ‘Response Layer’ encompass all aspects you listed?


    1. Lauren,

      thanks for the read and the comment, much appreciated.

      First, yes – nGenera has the ability to monitor the community, as does Genesys, Rightnow, Attensity, among customer service vendors, the social media monitoring products can deliver something similar.

      I might’ve been a little too simplistic in going through the layer-to-be-named-later, but there is so much more than just acting on the specific interaction. It has to be able to act on the interaction, but also learn from that and take it to the next level – aggregate the information to find areas for potential fixes, bring the issues to communities of experts to see how it can be improved or changed, if necessary, etc. I will cover this in more detail in a later post, but there is a lot of work that must happen in this layer, and most of it cannot be delivered by vendors — it is about end-users creating communities and leveraging this data to improve how the organization delivers to the jobs customers must do.

      hoping to cover this in more detail soon… a large part of the collaborative enterprise model.


  3. Esteban,

    You truly flatter me by referencing my post in yours; what you wrote is great! To make the coincidence in timing a little more amazing I should say I had also been mulling about this topic for a while; though clearly I didn’t devote as much time to it as you did.

    Couple bullets to highlight about your post:

    > Indeed Social CRM (just like CRM) is not about technology only; however (again just like it happened to CRM) in many ways it will be defined by what vendors can or can’t support; which is why I thought important to write about it.

    > You call out the hard work that will imply deploying Social CRM business strategies; however I want to stress (I am certain you agree) that, while platform customization will be hard, the real hard part will be changing the way the groups that constitutes a company operate with each other and with the customer; in the Social Era organizations that behave as a collection of isolated islands will not thrive.

    Filiberto Selvas
    .-= Filiberto Selvas´s last blog ..Components of a Social CRM platform =-.


    1. Filiberto,

      You’re most welcome, but your post was very well done — i think your functional chart adds great dimension to what i was trying to say.

      i think that social crm is not going to be totally defined by vendors, but they will have a great impact. the main difference with crm is that the external entities (customers, communities, social networks, etc.) will continue to exist and influence behavior whether companies care about it or not. you can even use a simple browser and a spreadsheet to keep track of mentions and ideas, you dont’ really need vendors (scalability is the name of the game though — unless outsourcing minial tasks to some 3rd world country with no ability to act on them is the way those organizations intend to keep up the charade of “being social”).

      Of course, we agree that collaboration (not only internal, but hybrid models where customers and employees collaborate in a collaborative enterprise model like the one I linked to above) is the key to success. it also is the key to the ALU being useful and implementable. could not agree with you more there.

      Thanks for making me think i am not crazy, and validating what i wrote…


  4. Great and promising post, Esteban. Thanks!

    I always appreciate posts that combine strategic thinking with practical ways to discuss and implement ideas, insights and strategies. Your framework is powerful in that it enables us to focus on the details of the four layers in isolation, while not losing track of the interdependencies between the different layers. Also, I like your definition of the layers. No doubt you can combine or divide any of the four layers, but your proposed architecture seems an adequate means to further discuss the practical implementation of SCRM.

    I consider this a great achievement since in my opinion, the third and fourth layers deserve more attention than they usually get. Whether it is SCRM or any other strategy to improve the communication and collaboration between organizations and their customers, the ALU is where actual benefits are realized through the combination of existing and new data and insights. These benefits may never be realized without dedicated middleware though, a small but pivotal detail which is often overlooked.

    Excellent thinking. I look forward to the other parts of this series, and to your ideas on the third and fourth layers in particular.



    1. Christophe,

      First, sorry — for some reason i missed your comment on first pass.

      Second, thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated.

      Thanks for the kind words, and I totally agree with you — the last two components deserve much more focus than the first two (and they are the ones that are overlooked by vendors, for the most part, today — yet, they are going to be the defining elements of being able to do Social CRM — or just become Social.

      I am sensing many different versions of what the ALU may have, so I am going to spend most of the time there (then again, each time I make such a commitment turns into a nightmare where I don’t realize how weak the other areas are — but I totally agree that the ALU is where things will happen and make a difference… I am already working on some better definitions and expansion on the cocept).

      Thanks for the great comment!


  5. Esteban,

    As you know, I’d like to see more tie-in to the customer-centric/strategic roots of the complete CRM concept. Lest we forget that a generation of users believe it’s software. There really is nothing silo busting about Social Media/SCRM (note the last three letters) because the tools being offered can certainly be used in isolation and for the wrong purpose. At best they are intelligence tools for those that *are* online with a quality factor equivalent to our individual tolerance for putting data out there (we’re all different – see Facebook privacy blowback).

    Yes, there is data out there. Is it deep enough and focused enough on the real problem (the jobs people do) to be valuable for innovative product and experience design? I look at much of this type of data (sentiment) as a symptom of a problem that could be identified much earlier using more traditional customer-centric strategies. The ones where you have real relationships and decide before the fact that you are delivering the most value (#) you can. If you’re waiting for bad sentiment, it’s simply too late. Strategic efforts don’t start at the end of the process, which is where sentiment lives.

    I think the companies that really get it will always have strategic customer-centric secrets (people DO write about it though). The ones that want to sit behind a computer screen and run algorithms against sentiment will have a better band-aid then the next guy, maybe – but is that the root of customer-centric strategy design?

    If we can ever really engage all of the customers that we need to engage in an online social fashion, then certainly this can begin to be a “market” because it will replace everything we inherently understand about personal relationships today. They made a movie about that called WALL-E. I’m not ready to strap into my “life” couch.

    In closing, I think it’s important that we make a distinction between CRM / SCRM and the tools the software vendors promote with these labels. I use tools every single day to support the work that I do. The tools (and the people) are critical to my work, and the social tools will become critical too in specific scenarios. However…

    The effort to dislodge the software focused approach to business “strategy” is what keeps me fit and trim. Applying the term SCRM to a software product, in my opinion, is misleading at best. We don’t even have it right with CRM yet.

    Suggestion to vendors, please talk about the existing customer job you’re trying to improve by dealing with gaps, roadblocks, inefficiencies or frustrations people have with the job (not software). In many cases it looks like new jobs are needed to work with the tools. It looks like we’re designing a “concept” and trying to fit reality into it. This is not where innovation comes from. I really don’t even hope that I’m wrong, if I’m being honest. #FieldOfDreams
    .-= Mike Boysen´s last blog ..What Does a Growing Company Look Like and Do You Want To Be One? =-.


  6. Hi Esteban,

    Yeah, it sound about. I like the sound of Lauren’s nG example above, maybe she might market it as “conversation sourcing”. The rules architecture for “what to do, in what context” is obviously the “company specific” engagement-response routine. Shoot me, but I think that Cisco’s Pulse initiative is a neat “future orientated” product. What I like is that it is “automated”. Yes. I said that. Automated, learning, gets better the more people use it, etc. etc. Dan Miller of Opus Research does a nice job of describing it here . There are other areas that may be able to step into filling this layer, and one of them is Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP). The nGenera example above might be an excellent example of a pull-cebp-scrm. Just an idea.

    So maybe the question is “What does the dominant logic of an alu layer look like: Facebook or Google?”
    .-= Paul Sweeney´s last blog ..What I Think I Learned About Ashcloud =-.


    1. Paul,

      Excellent comment, and I agree with your statements (I think that Cisco is being underestimated when it comes to collaboration tools and what they are aiming to do, but that is another post). If automation would not work, why would more and more companies seek it? I digress…

      Interesting question — definitely not like Facebook (so limited value to just creating the platform), but also not entire like google — think of a community augmented by google power, and then we are getting closer. Got a problem? let me check the vastness of the resources available in the community, powered by the immense power of aggregating and classifying data that google has and find the best resource to solve your problem, document it, move it to “committee” to create solution, fix it, and move on.

      I will check out CEBP in more detail, I know the name and the concept but cannot recall details… maybe that becomes the name of the layer… who knows.

      thanks for stopping by!


  7. Esteban,

    Thank you for an insightful post. Quick question. the world of market research existed for decades. some estimates this market to reach $40 billion a year. if organziations faild to listen, analyze and act on customer insights for so long, how likely are they to start now? It is not the absance of data or analytics. there is a cultural issue asscoiated with accepting custoemrs view as equal to those presented internally by the company. as much as i would like to accept the people, process, technology mantra experience shows that even in the presence of all of the above, there was a lack of willingness to do it.


    1. Lior,

      thanks for stopping by. I know Market Research very well, been exposed to it for a very long time (my numbers are different, it used to be around 15-18B when i tracked it not that long ago — regardless, a humongous number — right?)

      There are two main differences with traditional market research that make this a more viable, feasible alternative: time and cost. Market research is not as used as necessary (even when it is, it has to be done in a group form, to justify the complexity of the model) due to the time it takes to create, collect data, analyze, create report, etc. Of course, that involves certain costs (I don’t think that anyone going into MR does it for charity or their love of a good insight — they do it for money, lots of it).

      If you have to spend $50,000-100,000 and wait two months to get an insight, from a group, which you then need to adapt to a specific user or community – how much would you use that?

      The new tools and models allow any organization to obtain in minutes (yes, minutes) what used to take months and for a small portion of the costs. Not only that, but the results are going to be in electronic form, positioned in a community made out of business users or business users and end-users, where it can be used as input into creating better processes, better experiences, etc.

      Market Research has some life left, of course. But I have spoken with several users of very large brands that are learning more and more about how to leverage the social tools and the insights, and spending less and less in MR — with far better results. There is a change afoot.

      As for the willingness, the people in the organization, as well as the customers, are changing — 10 years ago we could not have even attempted something of this magnitude, virtually all users and customers were not interested in the “new social” model. Five years ago, we would have been at the forefront — as more and more Generation C people come into the workforce and the marketplace, we will see a wide shift from the traditional model (and its associated problems) to a better, more social model.

      Time will tell, but my money is in change driven by people, leveraging tools, to improve processes.

      Thanks for the read!


  8. I think the contact center platform vendors will play a large part in what you describe as the Actionable Layer Unit. Consider the fact that in many enterprises contact center platforms are already distributing work to large populations of sales and service staff. Today, that actionable work is in large part telephone calls but it also includes email and text chat in many multichannel contact center deployments. Many of customers I deal with have 10,000+ employees that talk to customers all day long…and they sit in the contact center. It is from these ranks where I think companies will find the staff to engage in SCRM collaboration with their customers.

    With communities driving participation and analytics emerging to help enterprises identify the “right” conversations to engage in with customers; I see significantly increasing volume in this customer collaboration activity. Contact center platforms are right technology to route, queue, and track this work.

    Thoughts are my own,
    Tod Famous
    Product Line Manager
    Cisco Systems, contact center business


    1. Tod,

      I think you and I spoke before when I was at Gartner, and I agreed with you back then. If not, we should talk soon —i like your approach.

      In either way, I agree that the contact center will play a significant role in this model, most of the B2C world relies on contact centers for up to 90% of interactions with customers. As I told Lauren above, there are several vendors (mentioned above) that can do that today and do a decent job. Of course, not yet at the level of scale that would make sense, but we will continue to grow this so we can get there.

      I think that the contact center is one of the components, as you say, that will be present in the ALU — but would like to see more than that, more enterprise collaboration outside of the contact center, more business units other than customer service involved, more collaborative enterprise (you know the term, you guys are involved in it :)).

      I am looking forward to chatting more with you on this, I think there is a lot of value in what you are working on collaboration and contact center to the model I am working on.

      Looking forward to it…


  9. Regarding “ALU – if you know the acronym, you are as geeky as you think” Yes, I know I am geeky (I celebrated Geek Pride Day) but I was forced to change my definition from “Actionable Layer Unit” to “Alcatel Lucent” when I came to work here. :-p


  10. Hello Mr. Kolsky,
    Thanks for pulling this together. I hope it continues to make folks think about what an integrated approach to morphing these capabilities might (and should) look like. One of the ingredients that can help organizations use information to improve their dialog with customers is knowledge management. Intelligently integrated with social media, web self service, contact center support, and sales/marketing, it can also capture and manage information that otherwise is lost to the ether.
    I can’t think of a single vendor out there that can say they provide this, let alone articulate what it looks like, how it works, and what it provides (and hence why a customer might buy it0. But the work that you and others are doing is helping to push the envelope. Stay the course.


  11. Very thorough post, Mr. Kolsky (meant to write this a number of days ago, but got buried under 50 open tabs – speaking of pain points, I will pay someone to design a better open tab management system – perhaps the best system is periodic restart 🙂

    Re: will this put the tension between tools and strategy to rest? Doubtful. Organizations have a natural propensity to favor tools over strategy work, because it’s easier to have something to “show for it”. There’s also the fascination with shiny new objects. As you pointed out the “elbow grease” is hard and unsexy – love the ALU concept BTW. To further augment ALU, I think it should include internal as well as external collaboration processes (within enterprise and enterprise with customers).

    Finally, somewhere between the analytics layer and the ALU sits a process automation layer. I bring this up, as I’m thinking through this a lot lately (see latest blogpost on Attensity blog), and we are making that part of the product. Automation is not necessary for everyone, and its importance varies with the relative scale of social media information. But the idea is that you set up processes in ALU, then set up some business rules after you pass social media data through the semantic analytics layer – to facilitate the data flowing through the processes that you establish in ALU. So it’s a kind of a bi-directional relationship of: actionable insights > semantic extraction > automation of process < business rules < process establishment. If that makes sense..

    – Maria
    .-= Maria Ogneva´s last blog ..Webcast Interview with Ted Rubin: A Case Study of How to Succeed in Social Media =-.


  12. Mr. Kolsky, I really appreciated your post.
    I think it’s time to put the guidelines for a complete overview about SCRM from strategy to enabling technology – or better tech features – necessary to implement the first one. I think, like you, that the great challange will be on the ALU and IMHO I believe that realtime event-driven XXX (read it as marketing, sales, promotion, customer service as you want) will be an important part of it connecting sentiment analysis with predictive analytics. I’ll wait for your next posts on this topic.
    .-= ANDREA INCALZA´s last blog ..Il Social CRM e il Social Relationship Management non sono la stessa cosa. =-.


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