CRM gets smarter

It's no news that business intelligence is being tied into CRM processes, but BI is now being tied into CRM technology as well. Find out what else is new in CRM in this Q&A.

IT channel takeaway: If you're building CRM solutions and services, this Q&A may help you identify what's "new and hot." You'll notice that that CRM trends tend not to be flashes in the pan, but rather ongoing developments.

With Martin Schneider, senior analyst for enterprise software at the 451 Group.

Question: What are the key trends in CRM? What's new and hot?

Schneider: You have to understand that trends tend to last a very long time [in CRM] because the most expensive and drawn out-deployments in the biggest companies are the first place things are done that will become trends. They're done in the Fortune 50 and then in the Fortune 500. They're done by trial and error, and when you get successes these things get replicated and packaged. It's kind of a trickle-down effect.

What we're seeing is the tying of business intelligence to CRM. It's almost a redefinition of business intelligence across all CRM. That's been going on for a while, but it's continuing. And it's not only tying in every CRM process, whether it's sales, marketing or service, but also adding technology like Attensity, Inxight, SPSS and SAS that handles more than the structured data, that gets intelligence out of the unstructured data that's in the enterprise, [like] the notes from call centers. There's a lot of value in that information. There are also search-based approaches, like FAST.

Question: There has been some buzz in the press recently about real-time CRM. What's the status of real-time CRM?

Schneider: We're getting smarter, so to speak, in what kind of data we can handle, so you're getting a more inclusive view of your customer, and with predictive analytics tools you get more information about that customer — I don't want to say in real time, but at the right time. So you're able to make more informed decisions when they need to be made. I don't really think that anything is done in real time. It's kind of impossible. But are you going to be able to run reports on an hourly basis that are pretty inclusive? Yes. You can do that now. Do most people need that sort of thing? No. You probably do it in a week, or even a month. When it comes to CRM in sales and marketing, you can run the analysis on an ad-hoc basis, so you're doing it instantaneously. But this isn't something that you want these engines to run all the time underneath your IT structure, sucking out processing power that could be used elsewhere.

Question: CRM was supposed to give us the 360-degree view of the customer. Now there's what's being called master data management. The question is, why isn't CRM adequate?

Schneider: A lot of times we think of CRM as a technology issue, but it's really a business issue. What's involved in CRM isn't just your Siebel case management system or your; it's actually those plus your Avaya telephony infrastructure in your call center, and your SAS or your Cognos or your Business Objects reporting. So there are a lot of technology components that go into an enterprise-wide CRM initiative. Master data management is more of a virtual concept that includes your CRM system, but also your ERP system.

This 3 Questions originally appeared in a weekly report from IT Business Edge.

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