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4 Predictors for CRM and Business Transformation in 2017

Behold 2017: the year where the gap between the most innovative organisations and the laggards will only get larger, as technology disparity becomes more pronounced.

Back in 2014, Gartner estimated that the CRM industry was to be worth USD 36.5bil in 2017[2]. Whilst there are no publically available figures on accurate current CRM market worth, Gartner predicted this figure when the CRM market was worth $23.4bil in 2014 - a 60% increase from those measured in 2014[2]. This gives you a sense of the scale of growth in this market. What will continue to drive revenues far beyond the estimates, is the arrival of an entirely new generation of CRM, featured heavily in this article.

What drivers will promote transformation in our businesses? And, most importantly for us, how will we see the landscape of CRM change over the coming year? Here are 4 predictions we have selected about CRM and Business Transformation.

“CIOs and technology business unit leaders must note that tipping points can become tripping points if they are not prepared to be bold in adopting innovation.”[1]

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Intelligent CRM (referenced in our introduction) is a new generation of CRM, due to it’s ability to develop cognitive reasoning autonomously, hence the name ‘intelligent’. Of course, we could forgive you for thinking your CRM was intelligent beforehand. There is a key difference, however; previously, the CRM was only intelligent through carrying out instructions given to it by a human - think the classic programming logic: if this happens, then do this. This is what the system would read. What is in development now is Artificial Intelligence (AI), also known as ‘machine learning’, which makes it easier to understand. Through initial instructions, ‘machines’ are able to recognise patterns, and extrapolate those, essentially making their own decisions when faced with a scenario.

There is so much noise being made surrounding AI, it’s sometimes hard to hear the vital takeaways over the clamour of buzzwords. One theme that has emerged is the AI-skeptic viewpoint. These skeptics claim that AI will ruin our workforces, seeing a steep downward turn of unemployment as people are being replaced by machines; however, optimists look at past trends, such as the computer, and recognise that although advancements (such as the AI, and even the computer) cause social displacement, in the long term we are advancing and transforming our businesses as part of the evolution, rather than just disrupting. If you take the quote that opened this section, ‘business content’, in reference to reports, brochures, user manuals, etc., if these documents can be compose intelligently, then surely that makes sense?

Back at the end of summer, Benioff (Salesforce CEO & Founder), unveiled Einstein; his first description told us this was going to be transformative, describing it as: “the 1st comprehensive AI platform for CRM”. Einstein was an elusive concept, but the hype about it surrounding Dreamforce was undeniable. For 2017, we have no solid news. Of course, we will continue to hear about its amazing capabilities and see more of AI CRM in action; but unfortunately, Einstein is still part of the development roadmap, unlikely to be in the hands of users until 2018...at least.

Systems Integrations

The topic of systems integration is often met with grimaces, and even panic. Why could this be? Possibly due to a past experience handling the frustrations of an integration project between two ‘poor’ systems. The ability to integrate is certainly a sign of software quality in the modern day, and it could be said that business systems that are tricky to integrate with others will eventually go under.

Really, this dramatic? Yes, we believe so. Integrated systems will be, or even, are essential for business, as data will need to be accessed by numerous systems for data modelling (simply put, a learning process of AI). A prominent trend in 2016 was business data became increasingly real-time, and this enabled businesses to do some remarkable marketing, sales and service stunts that caught our attention as consumers/clients. 2016 may have been the year data was fast, but 2017 will be the year that data is optimised, smart and used cohesively.

The CRM space is ripe for integrations, but you have to remember that you could either pick the low hanging fruit, or get stung. Vendors with large ecosystems are always promising, and as you research deeper, check if the platform has an Open API. More emphasis will continue to be placed on the importance of open APIs, as integrations become their friendlier successors, ‘connector’, also know as ‘plug-ins’. Vendors that have long-standing mentality for strategic partnerships, such as Salesforce, will outrun any collection of siloed business applications, even if they are ‘best-of-breed’.

App Led Engagement

Applications (apps) are taking over. Applications are treasure now by both B2C and B2B vendors, as apps are known for increasing customer engagement. As a scaled down version with precise functionality, apps are mobile friendly with their clear and responsive designs. What is especially impactful, is that customers engagement is heightened when their vendor empowers them to manage their own sales, service and product experience, on-demand through a digitalised channel. One could say that apps are better than websites, and this is certainly a trend Google has caught on to, as they now offer app indexing. What this means is that if you create an app, you can have it appear based on search terms, like a website does presently.

For some years now, CRMs have had ‘portal-like’ solutions on the market, that essentially open up parts of your CRM in a controlled and secure way, to customer, partners, or whoever need to contribute to the data in your CRM. Salesforce’s most recent acquisition was Twinprime, a vendor that allows you to measure and monitor app performance using a machine learning engine. Although this may sound somewhat airy, applications will have adaptive abilities based based on patterns in data and usage that pass through it - the outcome of which will be apps that are more intelligent, personalised and optimised. This is certainly one vendor to keep your eye on this year.

E-Commerce

E-commerce is key to get right in the hyper-digital world we are part of, where consumers’ attention is harder to catch. Even though physical retail isn’t as dwindling as people predicted a decode or so ago, we have to appreciate the changing dynamic of the consumer’s mind. The key moment of decision making no longer happens ‘at the shelf’; research[3] has shown that it happens when people seek out multiple sources of digital information, be it a website, social media, reviews… the list goes on!

Would it surprise you that on average, a prospective customer will look at over 10 different information sources before they make their purchase?[3]

Business leaders are seeking out evermore seamless e-commerce-to-CRM integrations (Point 2), because data needs to arrive to the CRM in real-time in order to execute automated processes in an effective way. This is why Salesforce’s acquisition of Demandware caused a stir back in June last year. Demandware are “the industry’s most agile and scalable e-commerce platform”, and their acquisition filled a vital piece in the Salesforce product offering, now named ‘Commerce Cloud’. Pre-acquisition, with Salesforce, you could do the digital marketing, the sales, the service - but the crucial ‘self-serve’ element was missing.10 different information sources before they make their purchase?[3]

Summary

These are the 4 trends that we, at enxoo, will be keeping our eyes on in the coming year. CRM is going to come on leaps and bounds - let this be your tipping point towards lucrative innovation, and not your tripping point.


About enxoo

enxoo were born in the cloud, and we can fuel your business.

We empower our clients by combining business instinct and technical knowledge deliver exceptional results - but not just limited to information systems. As a Salesforce.com Gold Partner, we offer a full business transformation package from business analysis and consultation, through to Salesforce implementation, as well as offering nearshore development resource for our partners across Europe.

Check out the rest of our website for more information on our completed projects and customer stories.

Sources:

Gartner, “Predicts 2017: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way — A Gartner Trend Insight Report”, 16/12/16

Gartner, “Gartner Reveals Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users for 2016 and Beyond”, 06/10/15

Google/Shopper Sciences, Zero Moment of Truth Macro Study, U.S., April 2011.