Coaxing Users to CRM Cotillions

Two major CRM events took place this week, with Gartner and Siebel coaxing CRM users out of their cubicles to warm West Coast locations.

Gartner’s Customer Relationship Management Summit took place in Scottsdale, Arizona, while Siebel hosted its annual User Week in Los Angeles. Both tried to add a veneer of business process and analytics to CRM.

Michael Smith, a Gartner vice president, delivered a compelling talk on CRM metrics and ROI analysis, while Jeff Comport, another Gartner VP, spoke just as cogently about CRM vendor architectures.

At Siebel’s User Week, David Schmaier, an executive vice president, said that Siebel is now well into the second chapter of its history, which is focused on making applications more process-centric with an even stronger vertical focus.

Sweeping Users Off Their Feet

Both events, however, were more like attending a cotillion with my tom-boy sister, who preferred playing defense in a powder-puff game — and leading the team in tackles! — to being the picture of gentility at a dance lesson.

And just as my sister diligently studied dance steps for her cotillion — after football practice, of course — both the Gartner analysts and Siebel employees have gotten the business process management and analytics side of CRM so well rehearsed that it’s rare for them to miss a step.

Certainly business process has to be at the heart of any research firm’s or vendor’s approach to defining the future of CRM. As Siebel’s own sales history shows, analytics has found a permanent place in the CRM landscape.


Attempts to get users to buy into this vision, however, sometimes fell short at the Gartner conference. One group of users from a consumer packaged goods company said that all the acronyms were too confusing and that she wanted to talk more about how the people in her company could learn to sell more to direct accounts without alienating their channel partners. “That’s PRM!” I said.

She looked over her sunglasses and said, “Whatever. I just want to get something accomplished.” She could not have cared less for the CRM analyst-speak; she just wanted to know how to make her company more competitive.

Her company had sent three people to the Gartner conference and one to Siebel User Week in L.A. I asked her how they decided who attended which, and she said they drew straws and the loser went to User Week. I am not making this up.

Debutantes and Defensive Tackles

As at a cotillion, the agenda was packed at both CRM events and the level of synchronization was impeccable. But one couldn’t help but think of the users and their expectations.

CRM’s latest generation of advancements was trotted out like a debutante at both events. Of the debutantes I’ve known, however, one turned out to be a great defensive tackle: my sister.

Which leads to the question: how many CRM buyers think they’re getting a choreographed experience when, in fact, the applications they purchase turn out to be defensive tackles?

At these events the challenges of CRM were discussed only slightly. But the toughest of all questions remains: How can users achieve their CRM goals without having their business goals sidelined in the process?

Louis Columbus, a CRM Buyer columnist, is a former senior analyst with AMR Research. He currently works in the software industry.

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