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CRM's next step

CRM has evolved from "big bang" deployments to smaller, tactical ones. Now organizations are starting to think both near- and long-term when it comes to CRM.

The days of "big bang" CRM implementations of rolling out sales, service and marketing are over. So too, are the days of small, tactical deployments with no view of the long term. What's emerging is a new way of thinking about CRM, according to industry analysts and leading vendors.

Five to seven years ago, companies were buying full CRM suites with complete sales, service and marketing functionality, oftentimes to #62;disastrous results/a>. That led to a backlash of sorts, with organizations taking more of a tactical, piecemeal approach. For example, a company may have looked to a small module or best-of-breed tool to get a handle on a sales division or automate an email marketing campaign. Now companies are still thinking tactically, but with an eye to the long-term strategic goals.

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The shift from tactical to strategic deployments is one the San Francisco-based Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor has also observed, and one it claims on-demand can address. Recently, has expanded its emphasis from

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Organizations making strategic moves and trying to transform into a "customer-centric organization" also need to worry about legacy applications and non-CRM systems that still impact customer interactions, like billing and other back-office operations.

"The CRM aspect of it is it's not myopically focused on CRM, it's how do we improve the customer experience," said Ed Abbo, Oracle's vice president of CRM products. "If you think about that, we still focus on how to treat and interact with customers and create a better value. Now we talk about how we can bring it through to the back office. We have conversations with CXO, the CSO. It's a different conversation. There are multiple buyers in every company. There are buyers trying to solve strategic problems like the CIO, COO, CEO, then there's a VP of sales or a VP of support."

A battle looms

There has been a growing realization that as products increasingly become more and more commoditized, serving the customer can become a key differentiator, according to AMR's Bois. That's ultimately going to lead to some conflict within an organization as users who have become comfortable with the application they spearheaded with a tactical deployment are reluctant to change in the interest of long-term strategic goals.

"CIOs are leading the comprehensive approach," Bois said. "A lot of times there's a mismatch between the line of business and CIO. A lot of users are using something else. IT has to rationalize how they work in this big purchase. With applications like ACT and you're going to have to pry that out of the sales people. I think we're getting close to some internal battles."

It's ultimately a conflict that IT will probably win, but there remains the danger of internal users reverting back to their old, comfortable applications.

"That's one of the reasons Excel is still the No. 1 CRM application," Bois said. "We urge deploying modularly, identify the low hanging fruit, achieve the early tangible results and roll from there. But do it within the context of bigger picture."

While the days of "big bang" deployments where a company brings in sales, service and marketing all at once may be over, there are instances of companies buying everything and waiting to deploy. Often the deal on licenses is just too good to pass up, Bois said. It's one reason SAP is seeing the shift in the approach to CRM as well, and sometimes helping companies discover it.

"We'll walk into a company and talk about CRM and find all these divisions are looking for a portion of it," said Michael de la Cruz, senior vice president of CRM products with SAP. "It's less a matter of whole companies thinking holistically. We're in a lot of situations where we think it's [strategic or tactical] but it's really both."

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