Re:Viewing 2002 - CRM and security

Money for old rope?
Written by Graham Hayday, Contributor

Money for old rope?

Does the mere mention of these subjects depress you? Graham Hayday asks what users learnt in 2002... CRM used to be the hottest buzzword going. Now it's almost a dirty word. Security has always been hot - and it's getting hotter. First up, CRM (customer relationship management). Its image took a bit of a beating in 2002 after the rampant hype of 2001. Some vendors tried to distance themselves from the pack by sticking an 'e' at the beginning of the acronym to create 'e-crm'. But that doesn't really mean anything to anybody and therefore doesn't constitute a new 'trend'. 'E' or no 'e', the fundamental problems remain. CRM is about managing customer relationships. (That may sound obvious but you'd be surprised.) There can be no technology 'solutions', to use one of this industry's most over-used and useless terms, because there's no real problem. Sure, every company wants to improve its dealings with its customers but that has to start with a re-evaluation of business processes. Technology only comes into the equation after that point. Some CRM vendors stand accused of putting the cart before the horse. By buying 'solutions', users think they'll end up with a magic wand bringing quantifiable benefits in double-quick time. But all too often this kind of hype has led to disappointment. Measuring ROI (return on investment) is no easy task either. So there's been less of a kerfuffle about CRM this year than last - but that's not to say nothing significant has happened in this space. Indeed, Microsoft has begun to show a healthy interest in this sector - or an unhealthy one, looking at it from the perspective of its rivals. The software giant's $1.3bn acquisition of Navision was completed in May (http://www.silicon.com/a53155). That will give it access to European SMEs, adding to the same strata of user it picked up in the US from its 2001 Great Plains purchase. There was even talk of a possible buy-out of Siebel - a rumour quashed by Tom Siebel himself (http://www.silicon.com/a56012). The alliance between the two cannot be underestimated, however. We may have to wait until the economy recovers before we see Navision contributing megabucks to the Microsoft coffers but expect to see more CRM activity from the company in 2003 (despite the delay in its product development - see http://www.silicon.com/a56865). There's one key area the CRM vendors are focusing on at the moment: government. Siebel and BT have formed a partnership which will see them target the public sector, which remains relatively recession-proof. Siebel reckons the UK local government sector alone is worth £1.7bn. And given Tony Blair's pledge to get all government services online by 2005, you can see why a lot of companies are paying particular attention to this market. It's going to boom next year. That much is certain. And so to security. This year, our networks have been plagued with viruses (http://www.silicon.com/a56692) and our in-boxes filled with spam (http://www.silicon.com/a56535). The story at the end of 2003 is unlikely to be any different. The virus writers and the peddlers of penis enlarging cream (and the like) will always remain one step ahead of the opposition. Despite this activity, there were no really serious system meltdowns reported this year. It seems as if we're getting better at updating our AV software and installing patches (although Microsoft still needs to improve its role in this process). But forget viruses and even hackers: the biggest security threat remains your staff. Survey after survey finds that too little attention is paid to this (http://www.silicon.com/a52625). Much of the damage caused by employees isn't deliberate - but if they're not trained properly, you can't really blame them for wreaking havoc on your systems (http://www.silicon.com/a56300). Weirdly, we know we're not doing enough (http://www.silicon.com/a55925). But that's not the same as actually doing something about it. Will 2003 see a change in attitudes? Possibly, if only because various governments (http://www.silicon.com/a56594) and analyst houses (http://www.silicon.com/a56783) keep telling us there's a huge cyberterror threat out there. These warning rarely contain any factual evidence but maybe they'll do some good if companies start overhauling their security procedures (of which IT is only one part). Otherwise it's fingers crossed. And that's never a very reliable method of protecting your technology infrastructure. Have a safe 2003...
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