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2017: CRM in Full Stride

By Denis Pombriant
Dec 23, 2017 11:00 AM PT

There was a lot in customer relationship management to like in 2017. The industry racked up north of US$35 billion and the cloud reigned supreme.

However, future growth presents a challenge. We're going to need to look beyond selling generic seats to grow the CRM market from here.

Oracle's Emergence

It's a whole new ball game now that Oracle has credible cloud CRM. It's been building up for a while, but this year saw the first important financial results.

Oracle is a serious contender, and with more than 425,000 customers needing to upgrade their aging systems of all kinds, other vendors will need to bring their A-games to compete for the business.

Oracle's customers need the constellation of products -- Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service and Software as a Service -- to get the job done, and vendors without that orientation might find the sledding tough.

The Ecosystem

Salesforce's AppExchange recorded its five-millionth download this year -- a clear testament that it's working and delivering value for partners and customers.

A vibrant ecosystem is the greatest indicator of future CRM success. Partners are the laboratories of CRM, bringing novel solutions to the world. No CRM vendor can take them for granted.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is one of the few new technologies that can tell their own stories without needing a lot of sales help. VR in field service, for example, gives technicians the ability to share and receive visual context for what they do.

In the process, VR makes and saves money for users. A no-brainer for the right business, VR had a good year and will have a better one in '18.

Blockchain Technologies

Too bad we can't yet extract blockchain from cryptocurrencies. When these currencies crash, as all Ponzi schemes do, blockchain will be the residue worth hanging on to.

Blockchain already is having a test flight with numerous vendors saying they do something security- or supply chain-oriented with the stuff, but I suspect BC's best years are ahead.

This one's just getting started.

Going Vertical

Vertical market CRM is one of the new areas. Although it's been around for a while, the idea of verticals got a boost from analytics and machine learning.

Since vertical markets often come with an amount of regulation, automation to speed compliance is one of the big advantages they supply. This means we can focus back on the work of the vertical application, which will save hours of person time and drive better revenues.

Internet of Things

At the moment, the Internet of Things is joined at the hip with CRM, but I see an opportunity to split off this baby. CRM deals with people and IoT deals with things. In many ways they have the same functions, but they're processed differently.

Vendors should, in my humble opinion, consider developing separate divisions for each -- thus focusing attention on relative strengths. There's nothing complicated here, but by keeping the divisions under one roof they can ensure cross-functionality.

Artificial Intelligence

I suppose we need to deal with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Although they had good runs in '17 there will be more to do in '18.

AI brings up the unpleasant thought that Moore's Law began going sideways in '17, when Intel lengthened the two-year chip generation to about five years. Articles in MIT's Technology Review suggest the phenomenon of exponential growth is nearing an end right at the time when we'll need extra horses to drive analytics engines.

My spies who seem to know say that your graphics processing unit can handle the load if space gets tight on the central processing unit -- and they'd be right, except the GPU already is pledged to other activities, I believe.

So we're approaching a time when we might need to consider new architectures -- but not yet.

Two Cents

CRM had a great year and is poised for another -- but it's becoming a closed club not very welcoming to newbies.

Entrepreneurs should give up the quest to be the next Salesforce (that happened nearly 20 years ago when Salesforce said it could be the next Siebel). Opportunities abound in verticals and ecosystems, and that's where future CRM-er's should invest time and treasure.

Whatever happens in 2018, I hope you'll continue reading this space. Thanks for your time and attention, and happy holidays!


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.


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Will Facebook be able to fix social media's biggest problems?
Yes, its return to emphasizing close relationships is a good start.
No, its efforts aren't sincere -- it only cares about its bottom line.
Yes, but only through a huge, sustained education effort.
No, people -- not the platform -- are the problem.
Yes, the problems are wildly exaggerated -- there's not much to fix.
No, and it's too big to fail, so the problems will only get worse.