Time (and CRM 2.0) Marches On: CRM Integration w/social platforms expands

The buzz around social CRM and CRM 2.0 is picking up.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

The buzz around social CRM and CRM 2.0 is picking up.   The strategists are getting out there and throwing fastballs down the heart of the plate (ahhh, spring training. Go Yankees!) and pushing recognition that CRM has always been a strategy, as Gartner CRM Eurodemigod Ed Thompson points out at ZDNET UK in his great 10 year CRM retrospective.   CRM 2.0 follows in that fine tradition - strategy first, vendor second.  What's interesting is the steam emerging - its hot and high volume, wide area. Several long time CRM influencers and analysts (I've run across about a dozen key folks) who have stayed away from the CRM 2.0/social CRM debate for a long while are now coming back into it full bore and some of the social gurus are stepping into the discussion on social CRM too.  Welcome back and welcome to everyone who wants to take off the gloves and extend the discussion.  I'm going to throw my generic two cents in here since I've read everything that the CRMers and social-ers have to say on the subject to date.

To the Re-Entering CRM Influencers and Analysts

To the CRM folks upon entry into the debate  - pay more attention to the evolutionary quality of the vendor activity and to the platform side of the social software vendors. Don't assume that since CRM is changing, the entire past history has been all bad. This is an evolution in CRM, not a revolution going on - especially when it comes to vendors. The revolution that has occurred is in the way that individuals communicate with each other and institutions. It has little or nothing to do with software.  The software merely serves the revolution. For example, its why you see the field of unified communications becoming so important to businesses and a new desktop emerging that combines social interactions and personal productivity. Its going to take some time for software vendors to get to the point that they can truly develop the features and functions that customers are looking for.  That will be a byproduct in fact of the pressures that vendor relationship management puts on them as it continues to pick up steam and a matter of business pressures to meet the requirements of an increasingly enabled, engaged, and empowered customer base.  CRM vendors are not stupid - and not the same as they were three years ago either. They are genuinely making an effort to try and meet the new requirements. They screw up royally sometimes and I point it out when it has to be pointed out - not just because they are vendors. So, recognize that even their world has changed and they are doing what they have to do to try to meet that change and thrive with it.  But, this isn't the same old world redux.

To the Social Gurus

To the social guys, don't limit your thinking about social CRM/CRM 2.0 to the integration of SaaS based CRM like salesforce.com and external social networks like Facebook. There's a lot more to it than that.  That's a small facet of what it means. Take it this way: It could mean the integration of CRM and social networking platforms like Neighborhood America and Microsoft Dynamics CRM (see below) or RightNow and Lithium; or the integration of community based customer service and business rules/workflow like Helpstream or media monitoring that tracks both traditional and social sources and then integrates the information into CRM platforms like InsideView does with salesforce.com or SugarCRM or Oracle CRM onDemand. It could also mean the integration of a wiki tool like Atlassian Confluence with salesforce.com or Siebel.  It could be the integration of social tools such as Lotus Connections 2 with iEnterprise's CRM offering among others.  But most important to the social gurus who are considering this - consider CRM as a strategy first and software second. CRM 2.0 or social CRM if you're more comfortable with that is a strategy for customer engagement. Not a series of software tools. The software and the platforms merely enable the strategies and the processes needed to execute the strategy - and support the business operations of the companies involved.

Vendors Step Forward

But most interesting is that the vendors are starting to strut their actual stuff with a series of announcements in the last few days  - involving social and collaborative software's integration with CRM and the evolution of the offerings in the space.

Most important, and covered REALLY badly in both what was published and what wasn't, was the announcement of Microsoft and Neighborhood America at Convergence of the integration of the Neighborhood America social networking platform and Microsoft Dynamics CRM around the public sector.   This one, for those of us who think that CRM actually doesn't need to be thrown out with the bathwater just because someone new and cool is out there, is among the more important moves forward in recent months for Social CRM, for several reasons, though not as NA declared "the beginning of Social CRM."  But take a look at it.

What makes this important is that it integrates the classic transactional CRM data and ties profile info so that you not only know what someone has done and is doing but who they are and what their interests are. It adds the capabilities that are de rigueur for user generated content today -  the ability to generate ideas that can then be commented on and rated.   This unto itself is not unusual - MyStarbucks Idea does it as did the Citizen's Briefing Book that President Obama set up before he took office.  But what makes this valuable is that it is a tight and apparently seamless integration with external social networks and tools like Twitter, Facebook, Typepad and Wordpress in addition to its own community capabilities. What makes this interesting is that there is going to be a Microsoft Public Sector Idea Bank launched on March 27 as a place for public sector professionals and officials to share ideas and network. This will be the proof of concept because not only will it provide a place to share ideas - and comment on them - and rank them - and post them to external social networks - but will also capture the discussions and interactions to the "constituent record" that Dynamics CRM provides.  A big step indeed.

This isn't the only integration out there. RightNow and Lithium have been integrated around help desks and service communities for about a year or so.  But this is a significant one that has a good deal of meaning as CRM 2.0 takes another step forward.  Now we see how well it can work.  My eye on this one because its an important step for Microsoft in particular because they are making a move - albeit only in the public sector so far - that for them might just be a giant leap.  For that alone, Neighborhood America deserves some kudos.

My concern is how little coverage it got. Microsoft needs to ratchet this important integration up about ten notches and keep it on the radar.  This could be a big deal.   They should make sure it is.

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