Mitch Lieberman, a VP at SugarCRM is a living proof of concept - vendors can contribute serious thinking to the ongoing discussion around how to create and apply business strategies to customers. Despite the cynical thinking of many out there. He recently did a presentation using the Prezi online cool tool (for some things) to describe his thinking on how Social CRM is perhaps the most significant pathway to the accomplishment of Social Business. Its well worth checking out and, thinking about. But, that's not what I want to address. There was a comment by someone with the handle munishgand on Mitch's post which reminded me of something that I not only have been mulling over for a long time but meaning to write about. Munish and Mitch inspired me to pen this thing. Here's the part of Munish's comment that I want address:
"To me, the picture “Old Organization + New Technology = Expensive Old Organization” (http://grab.by/grabs/f614c734bb56ed20df7f93b81fc5f74e.png) says it all. There is a big shift in culture required for a social business to thrive in the new environment. Else, why pave the cow paths? What I am wondering is the following. Changes in culture are notoriously difficult to accomplish. Should a company stop trying to get the tools in if it cannot make the cultural shift? Sometimes, an exposure to the technology provokes the cultural shifts needed."Thanks for that, Munish. Its a good insight and, when it comes to the relationship of Social CRM and the more traditional forms of CRM, a very important question - because there is a distinct difference between how technology needs to be treated a.k.a. thought about in Social CRM then it was in traditional CRM.
Sometimes Mantras are Made to Be InterruptedProbably the most irritating though significant discussion that's gone on in CRM since day one was "is CRM a technology or a strategy?" or its corollary "is CRM a technology or a strategy - first?" Those in the same camp as me have argued that CRM is a strategy and program that uses technology as an enabler. My original definition of CRM from CRM Magazine 2003 reflects that thinking.
"CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a system and a technology, designed to improve human interactions in a business environment."What this reflects is that CRM has always been the program for development and execution of customer strategy - what are the things that you actually do to see that customers relationships to companies are always meeting the expectations (if not exceeding the expectations) of those customers. Traditional CRM was more about managing the relationships - which practically translated meant providing more automated processes and interpreting more data so that the company both understood the customer in a way that was useful to them - and at the same time, the customers received at least the minimum of what they needed to handle their relationship to the company. Accomplishing this would be a traditional CRM success, but traditional CRM was embedded in a business ecosystem that was still owned by the company. From almost the first day of CRM (which is mythic at this point), there was a fight to overcome the popular perception - among the practitioner companies that CRM was a technology that you bought. Despite the best efforts of the "CRM is a strategy first" camp, the technology persists as the "prime mover" of CRM to this day. That meant that when you were developing a CRM strategy you were implementing a CRM system not developing a CRM program. I was among the folks that pushed the idea that CRM was a strategy and program first and technology choice was the last facet of developing that program - as an enabler - not the primary focus nor the driver of a CRM strategy at a company. Regardless of what I or anyone else thought, the popular view of CRM was and still is that it is a technology and system first. That has been adopted at many many organizations as just that. The practical implications for this particular approach have been almost staggering in consequence. As a result of the technology system, not program outlook, hundreds or even thousands of organizations implemented CRM systems from multiple vendors without a clear vision of what they wanted to do at the company when it came to their customers or what it meant to have a customer-centric culture. The implementation was the thing. The sequence was:
"We want to be customer centric. Let's go out and buy a CRM system and put it in. We want the CRM system to have this feature A, and do this function B and we in the future could use this feature/function C. That will make us customer-centric."Keep in mind, we're not talking about stupid companies with no plan. But their plan was geared toward what they wanted from the technology, given what they thought they needed to do with their customers. It wasn't what they wanted from their company given what they needed to do with their company. It was a system, not a program. While that's better than thinking that they don't have to be customer-centric, its still a real problem, because of two things:
- it doesn't take into account the impact of being customer centric on the culture of a company - especially given that the likelihood of the company having been customer-centric is about zero so there is no cultural precedence for that customer-centric perspective or program;
- the technology's success or failure became the foundation of the company's success or failure in CRM rather than merely an aspect of it.