Where Are We Heading with SCRM?

This is a reaction to a Twitter “conversation” that needed more space to be understood.

Last Thursday (July 29th) in the morning (the twitter timeline is not displayed in the pictures below), Prem Kumar  Aparanji (@prem_k on twitter, and one of the early and most prolific pioneers in the Social CRM movement by way of always thinking ahead of the rest of us), twitted the following:

I thought it was an interesting question (autopoiesis refers to his post here, the definition is on wikipedia here, and Ouroboros has a definition  here — the basic concept he is tweeting about is that we stopped innovating, stopped growing the concept of SCRM) considering the heated battles for definitions and positioning we recently experimented.  He is right – we stopped moving forward with the concept.  We never did agree completely on a term and a definition, but we had some very good ones come out of it (I am going to refer to the curation that Prem has done for a list of links that are useful to compare and contrast definitions).  I think we have reached a a curious level on the way to defining a market, and said so in my tweet.

It is fairly typical for any cycle, and a market evolution is just another cycle, to reach this stage.  It is almost as if gathering steam to continue growing.  It happens when you start a new exercise regimen, a diet, even wars reach this impasse.  What is important is not that we reached this level – but how we get out of it.  As usual, friend and fellow CRMer Paul Greenberg reached a similar conclusion ahead of most of us and wrote so in this blog here.

Bottom line, where are we now? And, more important even, where are we going?  This is the critical step in the market; this is where we define the long-term success, or the flash-in-the-pan, one-hit-wonder status.

We reached the stage of Applied SCRM versus Definitional SCRM.  The conversations on what is SCRM are done; the battle for definitions are over; the “winners” and “losers” are all continuing (well, in most cases anyways).  This is no longer about what it means to be Social CRM, but what it means to do Social CRM.

I was having a great conversation with one the most grounded people I know in this market this morning, Mr. Brent Leary, who has been writing about Social CRM a little over four years (yes, I promise you that the concept of Social CRM is at least that old).  He  confirmed something I have noticed more and more lately:  It is no longer the role of the vendors to try to define what Social CRM means, nor the role of the pundits to take on that battle (if you want a great effort at summarizing where we are, Brian Vellmure collected a great resource guide right here).  It is now the time for the users to start doing and showing us what can be done, and the time for the small startups to create amazing new things for those same companies to try.

In other words, we turned the market from Social CRM (with emphasis on Social) into CRM doing Social (with emphasis on CRM).

It is the time for strategizing, deploying, implementing, failing, and succeeding in taking the first steps into Social CRM.  This is what you have to do:

Vendors – If you have a product that you want to introduce, continue to sell, or use to lead the world of Social CRM now is the time for you to differentiate your product.  The excuse we had before that there was no real market created yet does no longer work (even though we still don’t have a market).  Your customers are coming up with more detailed and complex scenarios and problems daily and they want your help to solve them.  Sure, you can resort to the old tried-and-trued model of deploying professional services to “customize” solutions — but that is not a long-term strategy.  Defining your product in terms of what it does, how it does it, and (even more important) what are the limitations is critical.  Even more important? define your Partner and Alliance Strategy so you can offer your clients and prospects more options that are known to work.

Pundits – (I am not keen on the word influencer, and analysts seems too limited of a group) – This is where the value we provide our clients is proven: it is not about selecting and rating vendors, although that is valuable as a start, but it is about collecting the stories, best practices, and pitfalls of each vendor and publish them.  It is time to work with vendors to help them create a better message, to explain better their differentiators, to highlight better what they can do.  It is time to help end-users understand the frameworks and the “stacks”, the strategic options they have to make, and how to proceed.  Stop hyping the “maybe, could be, would be” and start leveraging the “been there, done that” to help everyone.

Organizations – If you are considering jumping into Social CRM, this is a good time.  True, we don’t have as many “proven implementations” as we would like, but we already know what we are aiming for, what the tools can deliver, what the strategies and goals should be, and how to get there — and we are getting better at all that everyday.  Most aggressive adopters have already jumped in and best practices and case studies are beginning to appear.  There is sufficient information to generate a solid strategy on how to take the first steps into Social CRM.  Leverage that information, spread it around your organization, reach out for help (see pundits above, before vendors, for hype-less information), and craft your first strategy.  Whether you can deploy it or not, succeed or not, the first step is the hardest — and since this work is reiterative, you always gain experience that will help you improve next time.

Press – OK, I admit that controversy sells (or attracts eyeballs, or generates publicity – or whatever metrics you are using to measure success), but to grow Social CRM we need to forgo the controversies over what to call it, who is more right or  more wrong; forget the silly battles, focus on expanding the good that is being done and written.  Leave your enemities aside and focus on what works.  This Google blog-post is an example of a good curated article that even though it calls out the differences, takes some steps towards solving them.  And the application of those solutions (including the results – good or bad) is what the Press should cover at this time.  Maybe it is time to take a lesson from true practitioners who celebrate each other’s success as oppose to compete for a place under the spotlight.

And what are the rewards you say?

There is no Billion dollars or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  I do believe that Gartner drew a line in the sand with their postulate that there will be a Billion dollar invested, but that is not what anyone stands to gain on this.  What we all stand to gain is a set of good case studies on how to implement Social CRM (from the practitioner’s perspective – even better!), some collective best practices to continue moving forward and doing more (and better) implementations, and a whole bunch of companies ready to take the next step: convergence with Enteprise 2.0 and build towards a Collaborative Enterprise.

Sounds like Fun! Right? What do you think? Can we just move this to the next level and start doing?

note: If you are an end-user or practitioner already doing Social CRM (planning, strategizing, or  getting started), I would love to talk to you. Please contact me.