Some Thoughts on Social CRM, Unstructured Data, and the Importance Search Will Play in CRM Solutions

I came across this New York Times’ article outlining Google’s new search tool that actually tracks the spread of the flu virus throughout the U.S. It takes flu search queries, ties them to regions based on the searchee’s location, and then packages the results into charts and tables based on regional data and the number of “flu” searches. In a matter of just seconds, users can see the flu activity in their state and compare that to the rest of the country.

I can’t help but find Google’s latest and greatest contribution to fighting epidemics a great example of the convergence of unstructured data, search capabilities and Web 2.0/social-networking gadgets, and the resulting influence it will have on CRM applications for years to come.

For years, businesses have suffered from a failure to create actionable strategies from unstructured customer data. The next frontier in CRM will be combing through the mass of data from blogs, customer feedback, email, memos, surveys, Web documents, and more. Text mining and unstructured search capabilities can do a lot of this heavy lifting – discovering and extracting selected data from large document collections and pointing our common themes and potential opportunities that you can act on efficiently and with less risk.

A perfect example is SugarCRM’s partnership with InsideView, and the ways in which they’re augmenting CRM processes with Web and internal unstructured data. In that way, vendors like InsideView are giving CRM platforms the ability to support unstructured data searches, and helping to put the “socialprise” concept into CRM by allowing this previously unchecked, unstructured data to be gleamed from every corner of a businesses’ IT infrastructure to augment and extend the sales process.