Anthony Nemelka, today’s guest blogger, 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.
When the CRM community first started talking about the potential for using social technologies to improve customer relationship management, the biggest debate was over what we should call it. Kudos to Paul Greenberg for putting that debate to rest and declaring it “Social CRM”. Since then, the Social CRM community has done a great job defining and legitimizing SCRM as a valid business concept–building a robust community of customers, experts, and practitioners along the way.
The debate within our community has since shifted to issues of execution. One of the more interesting debates is whether or not SCRM tools and technologies represent an extension of existing systems and processes or a completely new approach to doing business—a.k.a. a paradigm shift.
Paradigm shifts are tricky things because, by definition, most people don’t see them coming and only recognize them in hindsight. But this question of whether or not SCRM represents a paradigm shift is a critical one, both for the companies developing SCRM related products and solutions and for the companies attempting to deploy them. The wrong bet can mean the difference between dramatic success and complete and total failure.
Software vendors and solution consultants are aligning themselves on both sides of this debate, along fairly predictable lines. Those who have been around for a while tend to see SCRM as an extension to CRM. Those who haven’t been around as long tend to see it as an opportunity to redefine what we mean by CRM. And some of us simply like change and will vote for anything that causes the greatest disruption—you know who you are!
As the co-founder and former CEO of Helpstream, it should come as no surprise that I am a strong advocate for disruptive innovation. Just as the ubiquity of WANs and distributed computing presented a whole new paradigm for business process innovation in the 1990s, the integration of people-process-technology enabled by the Web increasingly requires that companies re-invent how they operate. Those companies that merely extend and modify what they do will be defeated by those that figure out a new and better way. Think Southwest vs. United.
Though customer-facing processes are a great place to start figuring out how to leverage social technologies, I think it’s important to consider what being social means to a much broader set of business challenges. Will there ever be Social ERP, Social HCM, Social SCM, Social BI, etc.? I continue to be amazed at how many high tech entrepreneurs are figuring out how to leverage Web-based social collaboration and data aggregation to improve just about everything a business does. Will these innovations simply extend and improve existing processes or do they represent a new paradigm that requires a complete re-thinking of how a business should operate? I suspect it’s the latter.
So what do you think? Will Social CRM eventually be viewed as an extension of existing CRM or as just one critical component in adapting to the realities of a Web-connected world? Will companies deploy SCRM as a result of thinking “how can we improve customer relationship management?” or will they deploy SCRM as a result of thinking “how can we transform ourselves into a socially-driven business?” The only thing I know for certain is that it will be a very fun ride.
Join Anthony Nemelka, Lyle Fong, Anthony Lye, and Christopher Carfi in a panel discussion moderated by me, Esteban Kolsky, to discuss the future of Social CRM. Details can be found here: http://www.meetup.com/CIO-IT-Executives/calendar/11218780/