What Social CRM means for the IT Department

If he’s not careful, Anthony Nemelka may become the Paul Lynde of guest bloggers. This is his second guest blog post this week and surely not his last.  Anthony is a long-time veteran of the CRM industry, having previously served as a senior executive at both Epiphany and Peoplesoft and most recently co-founder and CEO at Helpstream.

You may have noticed that Esteban’s Social CRM discussion panel scheduled for later today is targeted primarily at CIOs and other IT department professionals. This is the first time I recall seeing an SCRM discussion panel focused primarily on IT professionals.  The Social CRM community has thus far primarily (and rightly) focused on the needs of the customer first and customer-facing business functions second.  But the IT department—particularly in large organizations—continues to be the function primarily responsible for designing, implementing, and managing the business systems required to make things like Social CRM a reality.  Like it or not (and I know that many practitioners in our community do not) appropriately addressing the needs of the IT department is critical to this process.

Though the theme of today’s meeting is “Is Social CRM for Real?”, I suspect that many of the people at today’s meeting will actually be thinking “What exactly is Social CRM and what does it mean to me?”  Of course this question has been asked and answered in a number of blog posts by various members of the SCRM community, but the perspective of the IT department has been largely ignored.  So in preparation for today’s meeting I thought I’d take a pass at trying to explain what Social CRM means from an IT department perspective.

#1  Social CRM represents part of the general trend toward socially-driven business.

From a business systems point of view, becoming a socially-driven business requires that you re-think and re-engineer your business systems and processes in order to take advantage of Web-based social tools, technologies, and concepts.

The general approach is similar to what you’ve done in the past. With each wave of new technology comes a wave of business process innovation. What’s new this time is that getting rid of people is not the goal.  Leveraging people and Web-enabled connectedness is the goal. The people part of the equation is the most critical component now.

#2  Social CRM is different from Enterprise 2.0 in that it’s primarily focused on improving customer engagement.

With Enterprise 2.0 tools the asset being leveraged is employees. With Social CRM the asset being leveraged is the customer.  Done right, Social CRM allows you to do much more than just serve your customers better.  It helps you unlock the power of your customer base to serve the broader needs of your business. Whether that’s helping you identify more sales leads, solve problems for other customers, prioritize product features, identify competitive threats, and so on, it’s about taking an under-utilized asset called the customer and transforming it into an active asset to improve business execution.

The Social CRM toolset broadly enables a) rapid, asynchronous, real-time communication and collaboration, b) social profiles and permission-based access to people and information, c) real-time data solicitation, aggregation, and analysis, and d) assignment and tracking of the activities required to appropriately respond to customers. ROI is measurable and compelling, driven by better and faster decision making and more efficient and effective business operations.

#3  Social CRM is not social media.

Social CRM leverages social media but it’s not a replacement for a social media strategy. Social media are the many-to-many communication vehicles enabled by the Web.  Social CRM, on the other hand, is focused on how you run your business.  Or as explained by Paul Greenberg, the godfather of Social CRM, it is “”the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation.”

For most companies, that response today is completely reactive.  A customer has a bad experience, a video about it is posted YouTube, the company feels pain, and people inside the company try to figure out how to respond.

But Social CRM done right enables a response to be delivered in a more automated, predictive, and even anticipatory way. SCRM accelerates the process of communicating, learning, determining appropriate actions, and carrying out those actions. Ultimately, the ability to anticipate—not just react—to customer-related opportunities, needs, and concerns is the disruptive competitive advantage enabled by Social CRM.

#4  Social CRM will definitely impact your IT infrastructure and resources.  The time to plan is now.

New tools are always built on the latest technology platforms. For Social CRM that means the Web. Whether you call it SaaS, On Demand, vendor-managed appliances, or Cloud Computing, you should expect that the tools and technologies for enabling SCRM will be available exclusively on these deployment platforms. If your company has already embraced SaaS and its cousins, you’re in good shape from an infrastructure point of view.

But the biggest impact to your resources will likely be driven by the business process re-engineering efforts required to optimize Social CRM for your business. Each company will have somewhat different requirements and IT infrastructure issues to work through to move from the old way of doing things to the new way. Skill and resource requirements will vary accordingly. Think big, start small, and expand as you experience success. That approach has proven effective time and time again in this type of situation.

So what do you think?  What would you add or subtract from this list?  What else do you think it important for the IT department to know about Social CRM?

3 thoughts on “What Social CRM means for the IT Department”

  1. Hi Anthony & Esteban – a fantastic post and all really great points that the CIO and CTO need to hear. A few additional points that I would like to add from my experience on this subject are around 3 key areas:

    1. Security – this is kind of mentioned in the comments about permission based access to people and
    information but is a much bigger play than this. SCRM and all things social and cloud based will bring a host of challenges from a security, governance and policy perspective which need to be managed, more often than not this will probably be from a non IT perspective (i.e. is your corporate Twitter, Amazon, Google Apps password guessable). However, it should also strive to take advantages of security improvements in social/cloud platforms as they become available (OpenID, SAML etc) and should focus on all areas of security from a people, process and technology perspective – not forgetting of course legal et al.

    2. Integration – CIOs need to understand that we are not necessarily talking about a rip and replace of existing CRM systems, essentially we are integrating existing systems (assuming they are fit for purpose) with social platforms and technologies that will add additional benefit to the CRM system that is already implemented. Obviously this will not always be the case especially where the current CRM system is not up to the job and is too expensive and can be replaced with a cloud hosted SaaS solution like salesforce.com and their Service Cloud 2 for example. However, the tools for integration will be needed whether that be using existing SOA implementations if you have a mature SOA stack or using Enterprise Mashup platforms like Corizon, JackBe, and Cordys or simply using the APIs that are available if you are not.

    3. Time to Market – If your business wants to go after SCRM then support them in their direction of travel. Do not throw obstacles in their way. Indeed if the business is not pursuing this already be proactive and find out why not. SCRM has been borne out of a collision of political, economical, and technology factors that are driving the way that consumers behave today. The buying model and process has changed and systems/IT need to support the business in adapting to that change. If they don’t then there is a real risk that the business will just go and do it anyway (without involving the IT department) and then where will we all be and what opportunities for the IT department to have added value will have been wasted?
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