One of the phenomena that repeated itself last week in London was to hear business and IT leaders complain about the lack of choice for their CRM applications. One bank related how they had started 12 years ago with a large Vantive Call Center of 3,000 agents, and then needed to upgrade to Peoplesoft. No sooner had they done the upgrade, the company is absorbed by yet another enterprise, and now, in 2009, they are told that platform may not be the best for them, and they should go to yet a fourth product and technology.
The vast consolidation of products over the past decade, though a natural occurence in the software world for the past 25 years, has made it difficult for businesses to judge the efficacy of their CRM technologies. Creating an ROI, when the software that was the “I” investment disappears, is difficult. Upgades are one thing, but repeated migrations are another.
At the end, most of us have very little real choice in packaged applications for most purposes. In the world of customer service and support, once you factor geography, scale, business rule complexity, industry specificity, business consulting connections, functionality and vendor viability, you are usually down to one or two products at the most.
I don’t think this situation will improve anytime soon. Vendors look for their unique source of competitive advantage, just like you do. They tacitly avoid each others garden patch. There are some bold exceptions like Salesforce.com that just jump in and raid the comfortable encumbent’s base, but they are one of a few exceptions.
Finding that one, best solution is not easy, and the answer doesn’t always pop out on a Magic Quadrant. And the expansion of requirements to embrace the web-customer will complicate the issue. We are going to see a lot more business settling on one core platform vendor, and then wrapping around that vendor offering the best of breed components that fit into a service-orientated ecosystem. Much of that ecosystem will be Cloud-based, and many of the participants will be short-lived companies and applications, but they might just be your shortcut to market advantage.
End-to-end from one vendor is likely unachievable, just as is five choices for each functional area, but somewhere in the middle strong complementary sets of applications are evolving.
What are you seeing?
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