This morning I was going over a fairly complex Business-to-Consumer customer support implementation of one of the many Cloud CRM providers. About five minutes into the review a catchy tune from long ago appeared. In her amazing 1970 album, Ladies of the Canyon, Joni Mitchell has a song entitle Circle Game with a refrain that goes:
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game
It was pretty clear why that simple, mostly C/G chord arrangement came – it was the similiarity between the integration issues in 2016 and 2000, back in the heyday of complex Client/Server deployments. Back then the architectures were three tiered, but without today’s OpenAPIs and with one of the tiers sitting on each desktop computer. The business rules, screens, and functionality for the best systems, like Siebel Systems, were robust and scalable. The integrations were tricky by their nature.
Today when I read testimonials about how a CRM Cloud deployment lifted the business out of the Stone Age, or helped it do what had seemed impossible, the words should bring you back to that same period, 1999 – 2004, when so many of the complex CRM systems were put in place. Then too there was complexity – bad data, poor process definition, lots of old backend, legacy software. Yet, when the environment was new, and the data clean, implementations were quick and relatively painless. An inside sales system could take four months, end to end.
Where were the real challenges? Well, just like today: complex environments with many, complex business rules, legacy dependencies, complex ACDs and IVRs, routing rules, backend systems with weird synchronization times, and local customizations that were legally binding. Oh: and global, single instance systems. They could take a year or more to deploy. And guess what? They still take a long time. And still the CRM Cloud vendors have almost entirely failed to match the complexity of what a Siebel Systems could do in 2000. Even today most of the world’s telecom and banks and health insurers and airlines have failed to go ‘Cloud’ for complex customer service. This, even though the business process work is much more mature.
Just look at the architectural depictions of complex customer service environments and you will see that they look pretty much as they did back then. And they are largely failing the mobile consumer.
The bottom line: complex is complex, and so far Cloud-based multitenant systems have failed as a replacement for the original customer service desktops in complex environments. And the cost for those who are trying? Hmmmm. You are unlikely to get much of a straight answer about the 5-Year TCO, or 5-10 year budget. Do not expect that the facts will show dramatic drops in cost, or dramatic improvement in results. Do expect platitudes – the final refuge for someone without data.
Please write back to prove us incorrect. Not say we are incorrect – but prove it.
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