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The top CRM stories of 2010

From Fusion Applications to database vendors entering the CRM market, plenty happened in CRM in 2010, but was it the year of the CRM buyer?

The past year was an important one for the CRM market. Yes, there were a few high-profile acquisitions, though not the market-changing moves we've seen in the past. While things like collaboration tools working their way into applications, the social customer playing an ever more important role and new functional enhancements helped shape the past year, 2010 may have been the year of the CRM buyer. At the very least, it was a beginning. staff looked back on the past year's developments and identified these top trends and stories in the CRM market in 2010.


Database players get into CRM ... and vice versa

While Oracle has been in the CRM market for years, long ago building its own software and ultimately acquiring Siebel and PeopleSoft, some other database players set their sights on the market in 2010. IBM, which has been actively engaged in the analytics end of CRM, having acquired Cognos, Coremetrics for website analytics and predictive analytics capabilities from SPSS, took a more direct approach to CRM in August, snapping up Unica and its marketing automation platform.

Not to be outdone, Teradata got into the game ponying up $525 million for Aprimo and its marketing suite last month.Meanwhile,, seeing traditional database vendors enter the CRM market, did them one better and announced its plans for, its cloud-based database. However, the CRM stalwart has a ways to go to prove itself in the database market, according to many.

Oracle shows off Fusion apps … finally

Nearly five years after Oracle acquired Siebel and six years since it acquired PeopleSoft, Oracle shows off Project Fusion (now Fusion Applications), its efforts to bring together the functionality of all its applications under one suite.

CRM seems to be taking the lead with Fusion Applications, which will be generally available this quarter. got an early look at the design of Fusion Applications, which will embed analytics, be available on-demand and provide role-based user experiences across modules. Customers can at least start thinking of how (or if) they want to prepare for Fusion Apps.


CRM price wars

As Microsoft readies its new cloud-based CRM offering, Dynamics Online, it's coming to market like a car or furniture salesman -- promising low prices. It targeted and Siebel On Demand with its introductory offer and plans to keep the pressure on. Just how much does CRM price matter to software buyers? That depends, but clearly any type of competition is good for buyers.


Buyers now drivers of licenses

If pricing for software licenses has shifted in favor of CRM buyers, licensing is undergoing a similar change. No doubt the recession helped push it in that direction.

Software as a Service (SaaS) changed the way software is purchased, and with a decade of experience, buyers are taking a closer look at what those service-level agreements (SLAs) really mean. RightNow helped push the cause for simpler, fairer licensing forward in March with its Cloud Challenge, promising three-year fixed-price commitment and a three-year price-renewal cap, flexibility in user licenses and pools of capacity, similar to rollover minutes.

Meanwhile, on-premises licensing buyers got a little leverage as well, as third-party software maintenance provider Rimini Street revealed plans to add Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) to its support package, joining JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Siebel and SAP. The future of third-party maintenance remains opaque in the wake of Oracle's $1.3 billion verdict against SAP in an intellectual property lawsuit over TomorrowNow and its pending case against Rimini Street. Unlike SAP, Rimini Street is fighting back, filing a countersuit of its own.


The cloud gets cloudier

The cloud is nothing new, certainly not in the CRM market, but 2010 saw an interesting evolution.

No longer is the cloud just a matter of SaaS versus hosting. Where Amazon was once a place to save on infrastructure and put up testing and developments, it's increasingly become a place where companies can host applications on their own.

In September, Amazon made room for Oracle customers in its cloud. Oracle certified its EBS, PeopleSoft Enterprise, Siebel and Fusion Middleware to run in Amazon's EC2. Consona and Sage added their own flavor of cloud computing last year, offering up their software on Amazon, hosted by them, with a la carte licensing options.

Meanwhile, Gartner debunked some of the myths about SaaS, and SaaS buyers took a closer look at their SLAs when it came time for license renewal.

The cloud also affected some change in the CRM market of its own. SaaS makes customized demos easier and software selection more informed.

And on-demand software, which long ago transformed sales and service software and processes, is now changing marketing.


Mobile CRM makes it … for real this time

Prognosticating the arrival of mobile CRM has become a New Year's tradition up there with resolutions, expert predictions and top CRM stories of (insert year here) lists. Yet 2010 was a little different, and not just because of the iPad (though some companies have already started using the iPad for field service).

Some CRM vendors made a big investment in mobile in 2010, none bigger than SAP and its $5.8 billion acquisition of Sybase. The Sybase deal requires customers to update their mobile CRM strategy and some wonder what a united SAP-Sybase means for Oracle.

RightNow joined SAP in its mobile push, bringing online customer service to mobile devices as SAP added CRM to the iPhone and Windows Mobile (the old version).

Meanwhile, as mobile CRM came to mean more than just mobile sales force automation, we wondered what CRM's mobile past can teach us about the future of mobile enterprise applications.


Social CRM in action

Social CRM moved beyond academic discussions about its definition, place in history and paradigm-shifting presence in 2010 to some real, honest-to-goodness use cases.

For example, Rosetta Stone launched a Facebook social CRM initiative and found itself confronted with issues around training and the right tools to buy. Columnist Allen Bonde offered up three separate use cases for providing customer service via Twitter. No stranger to social networks itself, MySpace showed it was still learning about customer communities.

The vendor community, eager to capitalize on "the next thing," began pushing social media analytics, though some began to worry about the readiness of social media analytics technology. In fact, there's already been some backlash over social CRM customer service, leading some to refocus on strategy.

Social CRM remains strategic

Despite the handful of social CRM initiatives, there are plenty of organizations with no program and few plans other than proceeding cautiously. Social CRM remains more hype than action.

Companies are thinking seriously about building a social CRM strategy first.

For more on the top CRM stories

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