Kicking off 2017: IoT, B2C, and CRM Watchlist

Read on, Macduff, for my take on the Internet of Things, Salesforce looking at B2C, and what you can expect from the Watchlist this year.
Written by Paul G., Contributor

Image: iStock

Given the fragmentation of everything, which we all seem to think is occurring, I decided I'd align my thinking with that and give you some fragments of what I'm contemplating and planning for 2017, none of which are particularly connected with each other, but they're all on the biggest stages. In addition will be a couple of announcements that are kind of important -- to me at least.

In no particular order:

Internet of Things -- Still just lots of things, not a matrix.

If we are to believe market forecasts, the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will drive around $450 billion worth of business for vendors by 2020 (Bain). From 2015 to 2020, they will have a total economic impact of between $2.7 trillion and $6.2 trillion (McKinsey). They will have an installed base of 75.4 billion devices by 2025 (IHS), and they will generate 5 trillion gigabytes of data annually (IDC).

(For more data, read the awesome Louis Columbus' aggregation of reports in Forbes.)

So, we have these huge numbers -- and they are numbers beyond the imagination in some cases (e.g. GE Digital forecasts a $60 trillion market for IIoT) and probably ridiculous in actuality. But what is known is that IoT is a tremendous opportunity.

Here's where I get worried. Last November, Daniel Barnes, a product manager at Synapse, wrote in ReadWrite that there were 125 identifiable IoT platforms. IDC claims there are 300 to 400 IoT platforms. Those numbers are dependent on how you define IoT and platform. They also suggest one really big problem.

There is no interoperability between platforms. There are also no standards defining what it means to be part of the IoT universe -- nor how to build technology accordingly. None. And there is no apparent movement in that direction.

Look, I get it's a major competitive opportunity and that each of the platforms wants to be "the standard," but we need interoperability standards for IoT. Otherwise, we will just have one giant mess. I get that it's early stage, but this would be the time to start defining things.

Several years ago, I was in the midst of a UX demo at Oracle when Oracle told me it joined with Microsoft and IBM (I think) years earlier to define UX/UI industry standards. Oracle proudly told me that it succeeded. And it worked.

I am writing this on a plane heading back from the Salesforce Analyst Summit. I heard a great deal about IoT there. I told Salesforce IoT folks they should lead a drive -- or at least start one -- to develop interoperability standards.

To me, and I don't pretend to be a "standards expert," this is a no-brainer. The market opportunity is actually going to be defined by the stuff that is sold and how well that all works, and if there are 300 to 400 platforms, the survivors will need to start working together. So, Salesforce, or any other company that wants to take up the banner, as Larry the Cable guy always says, let's git 'er done.

B2B and now B2C -- Salesforce broadens its scope. Good idea?

At the Salesforce Analyst Summit, we heard a lot about Einstein, artificial intelligence, IoT, and customer engagement. We also saw product roadmaps and heard very straightforward discussions about various clouds Salesforce has, etc. All fascinating. But what interested me the most wasn't discussed in any depth at all. It was a constantly rippling undercurrent: Salesforce has a very high degree of interest in B2C. In the world of techies, that means companies that sell directly to individuals and sometimes groups.

It's been built -- like many technology companies -- on business-to-business (B2B) sales. B2C in comparative companies has been highly vertical or a specialty of a company like Adobe. Now, Salesforce, triggered (I think) by the acquisition of Demandware, the ecommerce company that's focused on retailers, is not only taking an interest in B2C but is actively investing in it.

I like the idea because Salesforce has been very much a right-brained company when it comes to messaging and marketing and thinking. This is a natural, evolutionary step because B2C is driven by messaging that impacts individual consumers. Nonetheless, even with its B2B history, it is one that Salesforce is actually well prepared to take. But it has to be careful about reinventing history. I heard on the stage at one point, when a discussion was going on, among other things, about the evolution of CRM, something along the lines of "now that ecommerce is part of CRM." To be clear, though I understand that is supposed to be a transitional message, in reality, that is not the case at all.

As I said before (when the acquisition of Demandware happened), there is no "fourth pillar" of CRM -- nor does there have to be in order to make a strong case that Salesforce is equipped for a B2C market. CRM pillars are sales, customer service, and marketing. I'll have a lot more to say about this in the coming months, but I wanted to get it out now, because while B2C was an undercurrent at the summit, if I know Salesforce, it'll work to transform it into a big surfer-thrilling wave. To do that, it should be super careful about reinvention, because it will only confuse the market rather than clarify its new stance.


I have a few announcements. I don't know if you care to hear them, but if you do, here they are:

The CRM Watchlist 2017

The deadline for the CRM Watchlist 2017 has passed. There were roughly 140 submissions this year (down a bit, but not much, from last year). The largest one I've seen so far (though I have a lot to go) has 126 pages. The smallest has 13 pages. The median so far has about 55 pages or so.

A few things are different this year. First, once and for all, I've eliminated the honorable mentions. Technically, they aren't winning anything, so the winning categories are now Elite, With Distinction, and Winner.

However, I am going to add something back that I haven't done for a couple years: companies that didn't win but bear watching -- one or two at the most. They don't get a full review, but they will be mentioned as tech companies to keep your eyes on over the next few years.

The other thing I'm bringing back is the Lifetime Achievement award. That has always been something I've chosen, with no submission necessary. Past winners were Peppers and Rogers, CRM Magazine, Amazon, etc. I already chose this year's winner and will announce it with the others soon.

Again, the Watchlist is an impact award. It's not a technology award. It looks at the total company, the impact it had in the previous year (Watchlist 2017 is based on 2016's activity), and the impact it can have over the next few years, and it makes determinations based on that. So, a really good company that is young or changing still might not win.

At the same time, a company that has a particular impact in a vertical or a specific geography might win. It depends on their strategy. This gets complicated sometimes, but in the end, if a company is having a noticeable impact in a market -- and I can see that as well as two or three years out -- it will be a Watchlist Winner.

Oh, and once again, the ability to win this year is far tougher than last year. That happens most years, but this year, unlike previous years, I adjusted the thresholds. Trust me, it's much tougher. So, be proud if you do win. I haven't adjusted the thresholds in five years.

Finally, I'm on a concerted reading drive to get the Watchlist winners out sooner than later. Last year, it was mid-February. This year, even with the several weeks' extension for submission time, I'm going to try to have the winners out in the third week of January. "Try" is the operant word here. Feel free to send me a direct message or tweet at @pgreenbe if you want to check in.

The Commonwealth of Self Interest -- the book not the movie

As lots of you know, though I haven't said much about it, I'm writing a (long overdue) book for Harvard Business Press on customer engagement. I am going to finish it with a super heads down, nonstop effort by June 30, 2017. There, I've said it.

If you have a case study you are interested in submitting for inclusion, please contact me at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com and make sure "case study" is in the subject line. Again, a customer engagement-related case study. I'm looking for a select few. If you are a tech vendor with a customer who has a great story, that's fine. Let me know.

The Long Goodbye -- again, not the movie

The other announcement is a bit more personal, but it's still industry related. I decided last year I am no longer going to be associated with the CRM world by 2020 -- not because of any animus or adversity or any loss of interest or passion, but because it's time to move on to other things.

So, starting Jan. 1, 2017, I am on a four-year countdown. My friends will always be my friends regardless of whether they or I are in CRM. That is a given. But I won't be professionally involved in this particular industry. I am 67 years old. I have enough of a legacy to look back and be proud. I now have to figure out how to cement enough time ahead of me to do some of the other things I've always wanted to do with my life.

I just wanted to let you know.

That's it folks. Happy 2017. The next post you see from me is going to be the winners announcement -- though that doesn't mean there won't be a guest post or two.

See y'all soon.

Watch: Why building IoT solutions remains a challenge for developers

Editorial standards