The Eight Questions To Ask Before You Buy A CRM Solution

During the last five years, the customer relationship management (CRM) solutions market has experienced considerable growth and turmoil. Quickly evolving technologies like multichannel digital customer engagement, real-time decisioning, social computing, business process management (BPM), and mobility are creating new ways for organizations to deliver differentiated customer experiences. There has been a rapid rise in the popularity of solutions deployed through the cloud, and vendors have acquired direct competitors or snapped up companies in adjacent spaces to broaden their customer management offerings. As a result, business and IT leaders are often confused about which solution to choose.

I have just finished Forrester’s Wave™ evaluation of the leading CRM solutions. We evaluated 18 solutions against 411 criteria and will publish our findings in June. While every CRM solution has its strengths and weaknesses, here are the key questions you need to ask to pin down the right solution:

1. Will the solution help us deliver great customer experiences? More organizations are moving beyond empty goals like “becoming customer-obsessed” to define clear and actionable customer experience strategies. Look for solutions that will help you to break down organizational silos and support the full customer journey that traces how buyers interact with your organization.

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Contextual Personal Data: Mobile Changes Another Landscape

Mobile computing and the apps that run on our smartphones and tablets are changing our lives every day. This goes without saying. What excites me is the pace at which this continues and the fact that we're just starting to scratch the surface of what's to come. For application development and delivery professionals, the challenge is how to remain relevant and compelling in this ever-changing landscape. An area that will immediately provide game-changing value-add is what I term Contextual Personal Data (CPD).

What Is Contextual Personal Data?

To level-set, we are all familiar with personal data. This is the information that drives advertising and marketing today, such as email/calendar/contacts, browsing and online purchase history, and everything that you divulge to social networks and allow them to harvest. CPD is the next evolution of this, enabled by mobile computing. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices can now generate a new meta layer of information about an individual that is far more valuable because it is contextually relevant and dynamic. This is data such as "what time do I generally leave the house for work?" and "when I have coffee on the way to work, how much more productive am I that morning?” The next generation of compelling and successful mobile apps driven by CPD will interact with my life without requiring me to interact with them directly. This is the new landscape of contextual mobile computing.

Next Generation Success Stories

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What's Your Big Data Score?

If you think the term "Big Data" is wishy washy waste, then you are not alone. Many struggle to find a definition of Big Data that is anything more than awe-inspiring hugeness. But Big Data is real if you have an actionable definition that you can use to answer the question: "Does my organization have Big Data?" Proposed is a definition that takes into account both the measure of data and the activities performed with the data. Be sure to scroll down to calculate your Big Data Score.

Big Data Can Be Measured

Big Data exhibits extremity across one or many of these three alliterate measures:

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BI Adoption Trends In Asia Pacific: High Priority, Poor Execution

Demand for business intelligence (BI) tools, technologies, and approaches is increasing across Asia Pacific (AP). Competitive pressures are driving investments in reporting and decision support to improve operational insights and efficiency. Widespread adoption of mobile technology and social computing has driven interest in visualization capabilities and real-time analytics. Finally, rapidly changing data privacy laws and regulations have forced organizations to implement more stringent information governance capabilities and processes.

Despite growing demand, BI strategies and execution remain immature — poorly implemented and poorly managed — across most of AP. This extends well beyond BI projects to include broader analytics-related investments in areas like information management, data warehousing (DW), and decision support. But while the ROI of BI is consistently underwhelming and the technology often delivers less value to the business than expected, BI-related spending is still set to increase across the region.

 Specific BI drivers vary by country, vertical, and organization size in AP, but some drivers are consistent across the region. Users are increasingly demanding the ability to make informed decisions, and there’s a growing understanding across AP that companies need to measure and value assets, processes, and decisions analytically and infuse business processes with added insight, often in real time. With clear, consistent demand, why do most organizations still struggle to deliver value from BI-related investments?

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Open Source: An Emerging Driver For "Mobile First" Strategy

Yesterday the folks from Black Duck published some interesting information on the use and growth of open source projects in the mobile space. Their data confirms that open source mobile projects are alive and well, even in the age of the Splinternet/App Internet. In fact, there are now over 10,000 open source projects focused on popular mobile platforms (see Figure 1). What’s more interesting is the rate of growth – the number of new mobile projects with open source licenses has doubled in each of the past three years. It’s hard to believe that this rate of growth will continue into 2012, but betting against hyper-growth in the mobile space seems to be a good way for analysts to end up eating crow.

Figure 1: There Are More Than 10,000 Mobile OSS Projects

Here's why you need to care about open source as part of your "Mobile First" strategy:

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Agile Adoption Is A Trip Down The Cone Of Uncertainty

One of the core priniciples of Agile is a realistic attitude about the unknown. We might have a rough idea of how much work it will take to complete a project, but we cannot state with the certainty of a papal bull how we're going to get to that destination. Therefore, Agile teams have to embrace Agile principles like loving plans, but abandoning any fetishistic relationship with specific, immutable plans.

Agilists learn to live with uncertainty, but they're far from fatalistic about it. In fact, the opposite is true: the truly good Agile teams assume a very aggressive posture about the management of uncertainty. In this respect, Agile software teams behave a lot like military professionals. First, they accept the inherent unpredictability that they'll face, either on the battlefield or in the backlog. They adopt maxims like, "No plan survives contact with the enemy," or concepts like friction, to describe the nature, sources, and effects of uncertainty. Next, they develop strategies, like the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide, and act), to navigate through the minefields of unexpected outcomes. And finally, they adopt a great deal of rigor and discipline, plus no small amount of self-criticism, to the application of these uncertainty-management practices.

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Customer Service Agent Collaboration Helps Move The Needle On FCR and Customer Satisfaction

In customer service organizations, collaboration should take place around cases and content, and should involve not only collaboration between customers and customer service agents, but internal collaboration within the enterprise. Internal collaboration has quantifiable benefits as measured by increased organizational productivity and efficiency. For cases, collaboration helps increase first contact resolution, decrease handle times and increase customer satisfaction. For content, collaboration helps evolve content to be more relevant, accurate, complete, and in line with customer demand. Some of the technologies that help foster collaboration around cases and content include:

For cases:

  • Presence indicators, instant messaging, and video chat. These allow customer service agents to connect in real time with subject-matter experts, supervisors, managers, or other agents having the necessary skills to help resolve a question.
  • Collaborative workspaces. These allow agents and subject-matter experts to share documents and logs about the customer issue, the troubleshooting process, and the results in real time.
  • Activity streams. These allow agents and subject-matter experts to subscribe to a case and receive notifications of all changes and additions to a case.
  •  Remote support. This allows customer service agents to invite subject-matter experts and specialty agents to troubleshoot software or hardware with a customer.
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Looking Through The Cloud

SaaS vendors must collect customer insights for innovation and compliance.

As of the end of last year, about 30% of companies from our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011, were using some software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution; that number will grow to 45% by the end of 2012 and 60% by the end of 2013. The public cloud market for SaaS is the biggest and fastest-growing of all of the cloud markets ($33 billion in 2012, growing to $78 billion by the end of 2015).

However, most of this growth is based on the cannibalization of the on-premises software market; software companies need to build their cloud strategy or risk getting stuck in the much slower-growing traditional application market and falling behind the competition. This is no easy task, however. Implementing a cloud strategy involves a lot of changes for a software company in terms of products, processes, and people.

A successful SaaS strategy requires an open architecture (note: multitenancy is not a prerequisite for a SaaS solution from a definition point of view but is highly recommended for vendors for better scale) and a flexible business model that includes the appropriate sales incentive structure that will bring the momentum to the street. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight the challenge that software vendors need to solve for sustainable growth in the SaaS market: maintaining and increasing customer insights.

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Forrester’s First Digital Asset Management (DAM) Wave Uncovers A Market In Transition

Guest post by Anjali Yakkundi

DAM has long been stuck in the shadow of its more mature enterprise content management (ECM) and web content management (WCM) counterparts. But if our inquiry numbers are anything to go by, it’s slowly and steadily emerging from the shadows. This renewed interested in the DAM space led us to conduct our first-ever Wave evaluation of the DAM market. In this Wave report, we evaluated twelve vendors: ADAM Software, Adobe, Autonomy, Canto, celum EMC, Extensis, MediaBeacon, North Plains, OpenText, Widen Enterprises, and Xinet. Since we completed the evaluations, North Plains acquired Xinet (see my take on that deal here). This report revealed some interesting takeaways:

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The Future Is Sweet For SugarCRM

SugarCRM was kind enough to invite me to its analyst day and conference — a three-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The firm’s focus was clearly on its momentum into the enterprise. Here are my thoughts:

  • The CRM market still has room to grow. Sugar used IDC’s numbers to project CRM market growth: $18.74 billion for 2012, $19.97 billion for 2013, and $21.37 billion for 2014. Even though CRM vendor solutions are mature, the CRM market has not stagnated.
  • The SugarCRM 6.5 product. Today, SugarCRM has 1 million users, has seen 11 million downloads, is used by 80,000 organizations, and has 350 partners on five continents supporting the product. Its newest release focuses on usability and performance enhancements. It offers simplified navigation, an enhanced UI design, a new search framework with integrated full-text search, new calendaring and scheduling capabilities, IBM platform support, and deeper integration with third-party apps. Although the product lacks advanced social features and robust analytics, it does provide solid, well-rounded CRM capabilities.
  • The open source focus. Open source is more than a movement. It provides results by allowing its 30,000-large developer ecosystem to evolve the product in line with customer demand. “Open” is also part of Sugar’s culture — for example, pricing is readily available on its website, and you can try the product for free.
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