The prediction business is a tricky business. It is a challenge to separate the signal from
the noise when you are looking at the trends that are shaping the market. For
me, this challenge is compounded by the rapid pace of innovation in both the
core Customer Relationship Management (CRM) space and the adjacent technologies
that influence the core.
If we quickly look back to 2016, the continued investments
in mobility and social integration have created a wealth of new, rich data and opened
the floodgates with regards to interaction channels that are available to
customers. There has also been continued investment in analytics with a real
focus on turning insights into actions. The evolution of these areas has
created a springboard effect in the trends for 2017.
The first trend that I see shaping the CRM landscape in 2017
is personalization. Our workforce is
continuing to evolve into an incredibly diverse, multi-generational,
multi-cultural body. The way that people interact with CRM solutions varies wildly
depending on background, experience, and expectations. The concept of “off the
shelf” or “out of the box” has been fully obviated. The coming year will see a
demand for CRM solutions to enable deep personalization across four key levels:
The Organization requires the ability to define
their set of standards
The Department requires the ability to define
their unique processes
The Team requires the ability to define their
specific data views, reports and dashboards
The Individual requires the ability to define
their unique CRM user experience
Effective personalization drives a sense of ownership at all
levels, and that ownership translates to adoption, utilization and achievement
of the true CRM value proposition.
The second trend that will dominate CRM in 2017 is simplification. CRM solutions have become part of a standard
technology ecosystem over the past several years. Over time, the solution is
modified, extended, and enhanced based upon the changes required by evolving business
needs. However, these modifications tend to be additive in nature. The
continual cycle of additive changes creates overly complex data models,
confusing screens, and complicated processes.
Organizations with CRM implementations that are over 3 years old should
take the time to do a deep review of all aspects of their system with a focus
on the following questions:
How do we use the data we are collecting?
Is the process that we have built still
applicable to our business today?
Does the CRM user experience drive the right
focus for our users?
There are two very specific benefits that a simplification
project will provide. First, simplification leads to higher adoption and lower
costs of ownership. Simpler solutions are more approachable and easier to embed
in a user’s day to day life. In addition, simpler solutions reduce overall
training (and retraining) demands as well as reduction in overall user support
Second, and perhaps more importantly, a simplification
project paves the way to both predictive and prescriptive analytics. The effectiveness of machine learning and
advanced analytics is fully predicated on the quality and consistency of the
data that is provided to the algorithms. The adage of “garbage in, garbage out”
is fully realized in the world of advanced analytics. Organizations that focus on simplicity will
create cleaner, more focused data sets to teach the modeling algorithms, thus
deriving better output. Over time, additional data can and should be added to
the models, but it is best to start simpler.
The final trend in 2017 that bears some focus is delivering
CRM though alternative user experiences.
By now, mobility is a given. It is incredibly common to walk into any coffee
shop in the world and see people on their smartphones, their tablets, or their laptops
interacting with CRM solutions. The
innovation that will come to the forefront in 2017 is leveraging voice and chat
driven interactions with CRM tools. The recent evolution of natural language
interaction in the consumer space through tools like Alexa, Siri, and OK,
Google, has created an opportunity for users to interact with CRM solutions in
the same manner. From simple use cases, like searching and retrieving
information, to more sophisticated scenarios, such as dictating meeting notes
or updating records, voice based interactions will change the way people
interact with CRM technology.
Similarly, there has been rapid innovation in artificial
conversational entities, more commonly known as ChatBots. These bots allow for
deep interactions with CRM systems through non-traditional interfaces like
Skype from Microsoft. Like voice based use cases, ChatBots enable both simple
search and retrieval functions, as well as deeper navigational and data
The value proposition for these alternative user experience
models is that there is absolutely no learning curve for a user to be efficient
and effective while interactive with a CRM system. The ability to frame
questions and drive actions using speech or plain text prompts will drive
significant reductions in total cost of ownership. Additionally, these new
modes will decrease the informational time lag that is inherent in most CRM
systems today. Access to real time user updates will allow organizations to
react more quickly to opportunities and challenges in the market.
In conclusion, 2017 will be a transformative year for the
CRM space. Advanced technologies like machine learning and natural language
processing are opening the door for an explosion of new capabilities for the
CRM market. However, organizations need to take the time to thoughtfully
prepare for the adoption of these technologies.
This year, companies need to take the time to re-think their overall CRM
goals and drive simplification efforts through their solutions. Once the
solution has been rationalized and simplified, the road forward to enable
personalization and alternative user experiences will be much clearer.