CRM in 2012: Big Changes in the Wind

The CRM landscape is shifting gears — and it looks as though 2012 will be the year that will see investments in technologies to cash in on a veritable explosion of social media, mobile and integration opportunities.

CRM Buyer talked to some players to get their take on what enterprises are planning — or should be planning — in the months to come. Here’s what they had to say.

Avaya: Excellence Getting Social

The winners in 2012 will be those that can figure out new ways to distinguish themselves on the customer service front, Ajay Kapoor, vice president of customer service for Avaya, told CRM Buyer. “What it did in 2011 is accelerate the maturity of a few things that will explode in 2012.”

His top predictions for 2012 include an increasing role of social media in the contact center.

“It began in 2010, grew up in 2011, and is now no longer a side project,” Kapoor said. “It will be blended into the way people do business because it not only offers cost benefits, but the chance to turn problems into opportunities. But you can’t fake it. Do it wrong, and you expose any flaws to millions.”

The pervasiveness of mobility will also change the contact center experience dramatically in 2012. “Enterprises now have an opportunity to provide more dynamic services and integration with applications in real time, from IM to chat to video,” he said.

Unified communications will proliferate even more, Kapoor added. “Waves of new technology, such as contextual click to communicate, are coming to users, which is generating unprecedented viral demand in the workplace.”

Microsoft: Market Intelligence on Tap

With enterprises on the convergence trail, analytics will become a must-have in 2012, observed David Pennington, director of Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

“Convergence between Web, CRM and ERP systems will move enterprises beyond monolithic systems and more into truly understanding people; streamlining, adapting or eliminating entire business processes; and defining a new world of business analytics that includes social/viral (influence) and transactional (business impact) intelligence,” Pennington told CRM Buyer.

The ability to leverage company and employee networks, along with Web data, will be top of mind as a means to enrich customer relationships, contact records and customer engagements in the months to come.

To that end, businesses will increasingly seek out best practices to practically implement social tools that drive business results, Pennington added. “Organizations will continue to identify ways to leverage social technologies to deliver improved business results and customer satisfaction.”

NexJ: Integrated Desktop Front and Center

CRM has moved long beyond a standalone application to become a mainstay in integrated desktop strategies, said Paul DeVriendt, senior vice president of products at NexJ Systems. “All RFPs today focus on what’s needed technology-wise to deliver those strategies.”

The push is on for flexible platforms that can seamlessly integrate with legacy applications to drive comprehensive customer views — aka an intelligent service model.

“CRM as a standalone became just another address book,” DeVriendt said. “Early integration got complicated and expensive because it involved moving massive amounts of data. Now it’s about how you integrate without moving that data and leaving it at source.”

Expect to see increasing interest in more flexible technologies to get at existing assets at source quicker, faster and cheaper. Service delivery demands will also drive seamless integration efforts with mobile devices and self-service customer portals.

SugarCRM: Open Source in the Enterprise

Open source has settled in quite nicely in the enterprise space after having met with great success in the mid-market corner of the world, according to Clint Oram, cofounder of SugarCRM. “It’s an interesting place to be right now. People get it now and are OK with it.”

Another growth area for 2012 will be private cloud services, he noted, because they alleviate any shared tenancy concerns enterprises may have.

New product development is now centered on integration with social media and mobile, Oram added. “Social will drive explosive growth in CRM technologies. Everyone is still trying to figure out the means and what to do with it. People are also getting that social media monitoring and brand management over social channels is important.”

As for mobile, the adoption curve has been a game changer. “Social is what is getting people in the door. Mobile is what’s closing the deals.” The New Age of CRM

The CRM world is entering a new age of visibility and discoverability of information, said Peter Coffee, vice president and head of platform research for

“The ease with which customers can find one another to find opinions of products or research competitive pricing has been squared and cubed over the last few years,” he said. “The old bases of competition, such as price, are not sustainable as the [social] community grows. In almost every context, people are influenced by their communities and can take action within seconds. The stakes will be high, and the time cycles tight.”

Enterprises will need the technology to develop relationships with customers in real time, in the moment — and mobile will be at the forefront.

“Businesses will need to redesign and re-engineer their electronic presence to get to those conversations,” Coffee said. “That will require a profound understanding of the nature of mobility and the role of the social network.”

Cloud is a vital enabler to achieving CRM goals, he added. “Capabilities will be amplified as cloud models continue to increase in sophistication and scalability.”

Denise J. Deveau is a seasoned freelance writer based in Toronto, Ontario. She has more than two decades of experience in business- and technology-related subjects.

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