CRM: A Dying Buzzword?

A former colleague of mine forwarded me this post, in which author Geoffrey James argues that CRM is a dying buzzword. After reading the post I was horrified, primarily because it represents a horrific misunderstanding of what CRM is, and also because it’s commentary like this why some businesses continue to wallow amongst the old-school thoughts that CRM implementations are like visiting the dentist’s office.

To start, the term CRM didn’t replace SFA thanks to the bad rap the latter received due to installation flameouts in the early 1990s. It changed because CRM expanded past the latter’s boundaries to include marketing and customer service, and now e-commerce and Web 2.0 functionality. Case in point: James says that “half the Web sites selling some kind of sales technology already avoid the ‘CRM’ moniker. Instead, they sport a variety of terms like ‘Sales 2.0’ or ‘Sales Enhancement Technology’ or ‘Sales Productivity Improvement Tools.’ That’s because they’re sales tools, not CRM solutions. If it doesn’t say CRM, it’s probably because it doesn’t entail all of CRM’s jobs. For as much as CRM has become the predominant acroynm that describes sales, marketing, and customer serivce, there are still plenty of best-of-breed providers that sell specific solutions tailored for a specific task, and thank God, because they’re the ones helping to drive innovation.

CRM received its proverbial egg on the face thanks to the unwieldy, monolithic solutions of years past, which were focused strictly on bell and whistle functionality and not enough on end-user buy-in and usability. Vendors have long since learned their lessons, with a renewed focus on flexibility, customization, and usability. SaaS, Web-based platforms, cloud computing, open source business applications, and AJAX functionality are perfect examples of this. Simply put, failure breeds innovation, and innovation breeds superior products and services. It’s reasons like this that the CRM market is experiencing strong growth, and with the power pendulum swinging back in favor of the consumer, there has never been a stronger commitment by corporate America to upholding the customer experience.

Nor does the term CRM have a bad reputation across the board. While it’s true that some have suggested changing the name, that’s because CRM has expanded beyond its own boundaries to include a whole new realm of functions, such as Web 2.0 and back-office functionality…again driven by expectations that today’s 24/7 consumers have placed on businesses. Its reasons such as these that terms like customer experience management (CEM) and CRM 2.0 were born.

In closing, Mr. James might be right if he were to say that I won’t be working for a vendor that has the term CRM in it. But that will be because SugarCRM will have expanded past its heritage to include all the aforementioned characteristics, not because we’ll have made the same mistakes that CRM vendors made decades ago. It’s for reasons such as these that SugarCRM was founded to begin with.

One thought on “CRM: A Dying Buzzword?

  1. SugarCRM is a good product. But like all CRM products it is subject to massive abuse. Check out some of the comments from real sales reps about CRM in the other blog posts on Sales Machine. They don’t like it. They see it as a way for management to spy on them and steal their contact information. I hear this constantly.

    Both SFA and CRM are umbrella acronyms, which are inherently ambiguous. When an acronym is “hot,” companies will flock to it and try to get whatever they’re offering included under the umbrella, thereby expanding the umbrella. Conversely, when an acronym is in decline or getting a bad rap, companies do the opposite.

    That’s what’s happening with CRM. In the past month I have had two top software executives from two different companies selling software to sales groups say “Don’t even *mention* CRM when you write about our product.” And they made it clear they didn’t want to be associated with the technology. In the past they would have positioned their products as “a CRM extension.”

    Don’t be too discouraged though. You and I both know that there are some well-loved CRM installations — usually in companies with well-loved managers who have figured out how to provide it as a service with cool rewards for using it. Barton Goldenberg writes a lot about that. And SugarCRM is a strong product that’s got the benefit of being commercial open source.

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