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Editor's forecast: Consolidation, verticalization on tap

The catalyst behind most of the activity of the CRM industry is e-business. As e-business becomes more widely accepted as the favorable way to conduct business transactions, CRM will follow suit and become an integrated part of everyday life. Eventually, CRM will be more than just a buzzword for an all-encompassing customer service ideology. Indeed, CRM will become a necessity for those companies that want to survive and prosper because all signs lead to a customer-oriented economy. As this evolution takes place, there will be some trends and hot topics to watch for:

Industry Consolidation - The scramble to be the best of the best shall continue. The biggest growth will likely be in the middle-market as medium-sized companies continue to shift their processes to the Web. There will likely be no shortage of mergers and acquisitions.

Verticalization - A trend that we saw in the ERP market several years ago, verticalization has been predicted by some analysts as the next logical step in CRM. Every industry presents a different set of demands and requires a unique business model, and this vertical individuality may lead to customized CRM solutions for each industry.

Security and Privacy - These are going to be two very important CRM issues as Internet activity increases. Many customers want to be sure their personal information remains confidential and protected. Furthermore, the increased number of hacker attacks in recent months has generated a growing concern in network security - a critical topic to both companies and their customers.

Wireless - When it comes to Web-based CRM applications for mobile folks, convenience is the key. The wireless industry is poised for explosion next year, and CRM will ride the resulting waves.

Some offshoots of CRM have already popped up, such as PRM (Partner Relationship Management) and SRM (Strategic Relationship Management), e-CRM, etc. These will also be trends to look out for, as more and more companies begin to take inventory of those business relationships that qualify as critical success factors.

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