When we surveyed experts about CRM trends, cloud, integration with analytics and speed of deployment are among the biggest trends we heard about for 2015. This indicates a solidification of ongoing trends rather than a year dominated by new fads or hype cycles.
More Customized CRM Cloud
"The cloud remains top of mind," said Mike Ehrenberg, Microsoft Technical Fellow and chief technology officer, Microsoft Business Solutions.
For Microsoft, that’s good news as it expands its Azure cloud platform with greater CRM capabilities. According to Ehrenberg, that means progressing beyond the model of a single public cloud for everyone. For example, the company has come out with Microsoft Cloud for Government.
"Looking forward, the cloud conversation will increasingly mature to incorporate customers with complex requirements for isolation, data sovereignty and global deployment," he said.
Eric Berridge, CEO of Bluewolf, concurs.
"The need for CRM verticalization and going deeper with those verticals will increase," he said. "CRM solutions aren’t a one-stop-shop to solve every industry’s challenges, and industry expertise is no longer just a go-to-market differentiator; it’s becoming the standard to satisfying enterprise-wide deployments across key sectors."
In-house CRM on Decline
Regardless of whether a company deploys an industry vertical package or a more general off-the-shelf CRM product, Greg Arnette, CTO and founder of Sonian, predicted that the cloud will continue to grow as the default platform to launch any new project, whether a hot new social iPhone app or rebuilding a legacy enterprise internal system. While in-house CRM won’t disappear, it certainly looks like its star is fading.
Integrating CRM, Analytics
Once upon a time, electronic locking systems were a differentiating feature in automobiles. Now, they are rarely mentioned, as just about every car comes with them. Perhaps by next year, all CRM apps will include sophisticated analytics as a standard feature. But for now, vendors and analysts continue to talk about the addition of analytics into more and more CRM applications.
"Predictive applications that harness ambient data together with data in the business application, identifying insights which make individual users more productive and enhance the execution of critical business processes will drive the next wave of business application innovation," said Microsoft's Ehrenberg.
Andy Byrne, CEO and founder, Clari, declared that sales productivity tools will die unless they become easier to use.
"Sales mobile productivity tools will have to offer more analytics, and analytics tools will have to include features to make them more usable," said Byrne. "Those that don’t offer both won’t make it to 2016.
Big Data Gets More Specific
Big Data has been something of a generality over the last few years. While there ha been lots of hype about the joys of Big Data, it’s been a trend that lacked focus. That changes this year, said Gartner analyst Alexander Linden, who believes the biggest driver for implementing Big Data is to enhance the customer experience. Organizations need to direct their Big Data resources to discover opportunities for enhanced business performance and customer-focused competitive advantage, he said.
Faster CRM Deployment
"The new normal for business is small agile teams building the thing they need fast, not waiting for IT, not waiting for big transactional systems to catch up or commercial software vendors," Seligman said. "CIOs need to move from 10-year cycles of old transactional systems to the 10-day cycles mobile app users expect.”
Arnette of Sonian predicted the appearance of internal app stores that offer employees self-service access to a wide array of IT services, including CRM applications.
Cell phone providers talk a lot about churn – the rate at which users switch from one cell phone vendor to another. Berridge of Bluewolf believes that reality is coming to the world of CRM.
"You will win or lose customers based on their digital experience," he said. "Innovation is empowering customers with more choices, information and expectations for high quality experiences that are relevant, personal, and frictionless."
That is forcing businesses to pay more attention to every channel in which customers interact with the brand. His advice is to go undercover and pinpoint areas where customer engagement can be enhanced.
Expanding CRM Authority
All roads used to lead to Rome – during the height of the Roman Empire, during the days of Mussolini’s reign in Italy in the first half of the 20th century and within many bastions of corporate America. That has to change due to the speed that is available today in terms of application development and rollout.
"If companies are going to react quickly to changes in the marketplace, they have to put more and more accountability, authority and information into the hands of the people who are closest to the products and the customers," Berridge said.
Customer Experience and Internet of Things
Despite media hype to the contrary, it’s probably a little too early to call 2015 the Year of the Internet of Things (IoT). It will likely take another year or two before IoT really bites. But that doesn’t mean enterprises should ignore it.
James Allworth, director of Strategy at Medallia, said that IoT means businesses have to get ready to receive feedback from more new channels such as wearables and smart TVs. The ways in which they utilize this data could begin to impact how customer experiences are designed and customized, he added.
CRM in Context
While examples of wrong context on Google Now and Siri can be hilarious (my wife asked Siri to call me and was directed to the nearest dog kennel), these systems get it right much of the time. Result: Users want CRM systems that understand context rather than static software that simply presents data.
"Understanding the life of a sales rep versus a sales manager is critical to providing the right information each needs to do their jobs," said Kurt Leafstrand, vice President of Products at Clari. "In 2015 we will use context far more to give them what they need."
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in Florida, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).