CRM Watchlist 2014 winners:
CRM Watchlist 2014: Winner of Lifetime Achievement - Amazon
CRM Watchlist 2014: For the 1st time ever: The Watchlist Elite, Part I
CRM Watchlist 2014: For the 1st time ever: The Watchlist Elite, Part II
CRM Watchlist 2014: For the 1st time ever: The Watchlist Elite, Part III
As Matthew Mcconaughey said when he won the Golden Globe last night (and always says) “Alright, alright, alright.” Once again, y’all, it’s time for the CRM Watchlist to make its appearance among all the award shows. There are the Golden Globes, Oscars, Emmys, Grammys, Tonys and the Watchlist…ys.
Before we get down to the winners, I kinda need to make some things really clear, because this year it was much harder to win than in the past and at the same time, I made some decisions to recognize a few who were exceptional even in the midst of winning. The character of the award, an impact award, remains the same. The effort at winning it was magnitudes harder.
First and foremost, let’s start with what I mean when I say, “it’s an impact award.” What do I mean by impact?
Okay. For a company to ultimately succeed in the marketplace, they need to provide products, services, tools and consumable experiences that a customer wants (and preferably, needs) in a fashion that is both valuable to the customer and provides the business with what it is looking for. That is one part of the equation. Good ecosystem of offerings. But they also have to make the potential customers aware that they have this ecosystem of offerings and that they can provide it successfully to the customer in a manner that the customer requires – and do that over time.
This is far more than just providing a kickass product. The company has to be competent in what they produce and make potential buyers aware of that, and, when required to produce do it well over a length of time – and at the same time, in return, get the value that they need to support the company’s future development and the stakeholders current requirements.
To do that requires a LOT of moving parts that go way beyond great development teams producing surreally good products. The company has to be responsive to the needs of their customers, they have to have a clear idea of where they are and where they are going; they have to be financially stable enough to both actually keep going and inspire confidence in their existing customers that they are there for as long as the customer is; they have to have messaging that resonates to the population they are trying to impress and in the markets that they think they play in; they have to be known to that population and be known as a good company that does what it must for the benefit of the customer – both overtly and in subtle and subliminal ways.
They have to have those great products, services et. al. to show the market place. They have to have a culture that can sustain the excellence required. They have to understand the nature of the contemporary customer and keep understanding what that means even as often as it changes. They have to be willing and able to cooperate with partners to understand the overarching needs of the customer that have to be met – and acknowledge that perhaps they can’t meet all of them – but with the help of partners (and know what the term “partner” means – and it isn’t “suborned to the interest of the single company” – not as self-evident as it sounds judging from what I see).
In other words there are a lot of moving parts. There are also a lot of those parts out of the control of the company itself. To have an impact on a market so that the company is top of mind to the prospects and to the conveyer belts that talk to the prospects (e.g. analysts, other customers, journalists etc.) and to inspire confidence in the existing customer base is a very difficult thing – especially in highly competitive markets.
An impact award takes all this into account. This is NOT a product award, it is an award that goes to companies who are standing out in a marketplace that is highly competitive and littered with thousands of companies who are trying to get ahead in the same place. There are dozens of criteria that are taken into account that cover the company and make some judgments on what the market that the company chooses to participate in is going to be like. You win an impact award because all those moving parts move in a cohesive sustainable way.
So what goes into the CRM Watchlist 2014 award – in general and as opposed to 2013? First and foremost, it not only takes into account all the moving parts, but several unmoving ones as well.
What I mean when I say that is that, for those of you who submitted this year, you KNOW that there are 9 questions that you are required to answer in order to be considered. Those 9 questions cover:
These are demanding questions and the submitters are required to answer them completely (see results of this year below). Part of the purpose of this form of questionnaire is that in the way I designed it, it was to be not only what needs to be submitted, but a useful exercise for the company to look at and assess itself, and I’m gratified to say, it seems to be seen that way. I understand the number of man-hours that go into producing the answers and I truly am both honored and respect those who do submit. That’s one of the reasons, I never EVER do or will charge for this competition as many similar seem to. I’m humbled by the fact that companies want to put in the time to do this at all – and the amount of work is very time-consuming and involves multiple people. That’s “price” enough for me.
What isn’t known is that there are 20 plus other factors that I’m assessing that range from how I look at the market they are in, to how they perceive certain things, to their customers that I may or may not talk to, to and this might seem crazy, whether or not they answered the questions I asked. The latter is pretty important. For example, I asked all companies for what kind of influencer outreach they do and how they view that program and who they are in touch with so if needed I could corroborate. There were an inordinate number of companies who claimed programs but didn’t mention with whom they are involved and they suffered a score loss (a small one) – in the case of one company – it was literally the difference between winning and losing. Small but it tipped them backwards from the edge.
Additionally, if the company was acquired post submission, this had an impact. There were three companies like that – see below for what I decided to do.
In other words there were well over 20 other factors, not public that could garner positive or negative scores that would impact the unweighted score.
Yeah, there was a final weighted score too. Each year, what the main questions are worth is weighted according to the conditions that I feel are required to have an impact. So for example, in one year, there will be different weight for market impact than another, or financials. A lot of that has to do with market conditions, size of the competitive landscape etc. I’m not going to detail it any more than that.
There are also intangibles that the company has no control over. One clear cut example of that would be the market that they choose to be in. In one case, there was one market that much as many of us love it, has been a non-starter for more than a decade no matter how many companies attempt to enter or revive it. That had a negative impact on the company that submitted for it (the only one who did) and yet, they did decently well (didn’t win though) because their approach was at least refreshing and their chance for some success, though not impact, was pretty damned good.
Another thing, just to be entirely candid and perfectly clear, this is geared to established companies and the larger ones have a better chance (though no guarantee) of winning the award. They have the resources that a lot of smaller companies don’t have to execute on the things they need to do to have an effect on a market. They have a longer standing history typically, they have a lot more money. They have a much greater reach and market recognition. They are mature and can invest not just the money, but the manpower in the specialized activities that can be required to impact a market. In smaller companies, the resources just often aren’t there but that by no means negates smaller companies from having an impact. There were a few smaller companies, though, that submitted and probably would have been better candidates for CRM Idol than the CRM Watchlist and I will send them a note suggesting that. But this is geared to larger more mature companies, while Idol of course is geared to emerging technology companies – often a better fit.
You can see how complex this can get. So now let me take you through the 2014 process and what it was, and the changes that I’m making and the 2015 thinking and we’ll get onto what I’m sure you wish I had skipped to from the beginning – the winners.
I had 162 submissions out of 181 registrations this year. I read what was roughly 2200 pages in the month of December and the early part of January. I had no life more or less. J But then again, I chose to do that. Of the 181 registrations, 19 chose not to submit and about 5 of them told me they weren’t going to be. Thank you for telling me. To the 14 who didn’t after I requested it, well…..
I spent all of December and until this immediate past Friday, reading, reviewing, taking notes and scoring all the companies that had submitted. Several interesting trends suggested themselves – which you will hear of as we move along during the reviews of the companies. I realized in the course of this, that there was no reason to have finalists anymore since the scores suggested who was going to win and those that were at the level of judgment could be treated in multiple and different ways depending on the relative results. So I made the command decision, which since I am the sole person doing this, I can, and revamped the difficulty levels and the award structure.
There was one particular problem though that I had to deal with. Three of the submissions were acquired between the November 30 submission date and prior to the date I was announcing the winners. They were Parature (by Microsoft), KANA (by Verint) and Responsys (by Oracle). How should I deal with them? I knew that they were going to be considered separate entities initially by the companies that that scarfed them up. But I also knew that 2014 for each of them had an element of uncertainty added to the mix that had to be accounted for. The level of uncertainty varied with Parature’s being quite low but nonetheless that uncertainty had to be taken into account. It could impact everything from messaging to culture to product development to who was management. So I decided, somewhat painfully to remove the three companies from consideration even though one of them was likely to win and the other two possible – given the preliminary scores. But I have little to no way of knowing how they are each going to be impacted by their new parents. So they are regretfully removed from consideration.
Okay now to the final part before the buildup and the winners.
As those of you who have submitted know, there is a Google+ Group for the submitters to get access to me (if that matters at all). It will go live right after the final review is written and it will be a place that as a company you can reach me and I’ll respond to you as quickly as reason allows. Over the summer most likely, I will be launching a website and the Google+ group will become a private community where access to me will be available. If you registered, but didn’t submit the completed questionnaire you are not eligible to be in this Watchlist community, which will get a name eventually. Just an FYI for those of you wondering.
First, let me make something really clear. There are NO categorical winners. There never have been. So if you win, PLEASE don’t claim you were number 1 in say, the marketing category. No such thing. You are alphabetically #1 in a grouping that made sense with this year’s results. That’s it.
However, I do recognize that there is a difference and a significant one, between the winners who made it to the winning score AND the winners, who, more or less killed it. I’m thus, this year setting up two categories of winners and one for honorable mention. The categories are Watchlist Elite, Watchlist and Watchlist Honorable Mention. I’m also eliminating the “they are a year or two away” categories, though. Completely. The curve for scoring is much, much harder than it was last year and there are more entries but fewer winners. From here on out, these three categories (and of course, Lifetime Achievement) will be how I handle the Watchlist.
One last thing, I will continue to break out consulting/systems integrator firms from software technology firms. Additionally, I will create ad hoc groups that make sense so I can write the reviews around similar market entries though the Elite will be given some separate treatment.
Okay, I hope that you get it now and have some context to work from. The winners list here is just a list. The reviews will follow over the next several weeks.
Without further pontification….
The Winners of the 2014 CRM Watchlist!!
SOFTWARE TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES
None this year