I don’t know about you, but I will be happy to write “The End” on the chapter we call 2008. Normally, at the end of a year I look back at some of my predictions from a year earlier and look for some indication that I was on track at least some of the time. This year is different. Who cares, really — the big story in the economy was on no one’s radar that I know of.
Aside from the big meltdown that I didn’t predict, there were some things that came pretty close. For example, I suggested that the business cycle was getting a little long in the tooth and that 2008 will “… be a good time to be a software company specializing in marketing so long as your customers have some budget.” True enough, marketing is becoming more important to sales than ever as companies grapple with finding efficient ways to capture customer needs.
I also suggested that GRC — governance, risk and compliance — would continue to grow in importance. After the debacle on Wall Street fed by too little governance, I think we’ll see a great uptick in GRC’s attractiveness.
Keeping It Real
Authenticity is the issue, along with the economy, that didn’t capture many imaginations, partly because it was overwhelmed by other matters. However, I think that the idea of “making it real” for your customer might become a hot idea as everyone tries to sell into a frozen market. Unfortunately, the idea of customer experience as opposed to Customer Experience still holds sway. Little C and E is still something that vendors try for meaning, trying to ensure that an experience is not bad as opposed to attempting to customize a real experience. Big C & E is the secret of authenticity and a key to survival in a demand destruction world. Stay tuned on this one.
The closest I got to pay dirt was the platform. It has been a good year for platform and there will be more to come. I had expected more competition for the definition, but that appears to be a future. Few vendors put a lot of effort into claiming platform status, and those that did — Amazon, Google and Facebook — don’t fit the typical CRM mold. The one exception was Salesforce.com, which continued to blaze a new trail in platform, inventing the next stage of enterprise computing in the process. We will definitely hear more about platform from them in the new year.
In addition to the meltdown, I think 2008 might be remembered in CRM circles as the year that competition started to heat up in the SaaS (Software as a Service) world. For the prior few years, Salesforce.com had the idea more or less to itself, and they did a lot with it. I expect that the company will continue its pace too. However, we saw Oracle make new inroads in SaaS, and I expect them to continue the trend along with SAP and Microsoft. Each of these companies is trying to redefine SaaS to mean something that is easier for them to deliver than multi-tenant SaaS, straight, no chaser. Maybe they’ll succeed to a degree. The fact that there are so many hybrid approaches provides great testimony to the importance of SaaS and leads one to think it will be with us for a long time.
The most intriguing thing to me about 2008 is what the economic meltdown and the new president will cause to happen in CRM next year. If the President Obama is as serious about an economic stimulus as candidate Obama, then a lot of cast will be infused into the economy with many impacts unforeseen. As I have been writing lately, it seems like a good time to disintermediate the credit industry with something more responsible and less centralized, like vendor financing.
Decentralizing the provision of credit would make the economy more resilient to ripples in the financial economy. On the flip side, though, this is a big change that won’t happen overnight. What makes me wonder about the possibility of changing the credit structure though is the lackluster effort the whole credit industry has made to date to get the wheels of commerce moving again, despite repeated government assistance. It’s like the credit industry is abdicating and leaving a vacuum.
Well, there it is: 2008 practically in the record books and 2009 a big question mark. Next week I will attempt to make sense of the year ahead. Meanwhile, it has been a pleasure having you along for this ride. I appreciate knowing that there are people reading this column every week (some of whom edit it to make it read like English), and it inspires me to find something interesting to talk about every week. Best wishes to you this holiday season, and thanks.
Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant’s research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at [email protected].