William Band [Posted by William Band]

Hello, my name is Bill Band and I am Principal Analyst here at Forrester serving Business Process & Applications Professionals. The focus of my research is on the underlying technologies that support customer-facing business processes (a.k.a. "CRM"). To make the savvy investment decisions, customer intelligence professionals, need to know which solutions have the strongest track record for delivering results. I just surveyed 286 companies to understand which customer management processes and supporting technologies are most critical to success.

Here’s a sneak peek of my findings:

  • Customer analytics and data management solutions are seen as critical, but risky. Customer intelligence professionals work daily with the customer analytics and data management solutions. We found that customer analytics applications are considered "critical’ for success by the companies that we surveyed, and this category has a good market reputation for business value. But, these solutions are also considered difficult to implement and use. Similarly, customer data management technologies are also rated as critical to success, but the market reputation and ease of deployment is questionable. It is evident that customer intelligence professionals have responsibility for very important business processes, but that the toolsets they have to work with can be problematic.
  • Selling, ordering, and servicing solutions deliver the most certain business value. Customer intelligence professionals should have a working knowledge of other technologies that support their companies’ customer management processes.For example, eCommerce, sales force automation, order management, customer service and support, and call center infrastructure applications were rated by respondents as highly critical to success and they have a good market reputation for delivering business value.
  • Marketing and partner channel management solutions offer less assured value. Interestingly, two long-standing categories of customer management applications – enterprise marketing management and partner channel management – are not viewed as "critical" for business success by the respondents that we surveyed, and their market reputation for value is mixed. This was true for both BtoB and BtoC companies.
  • The business value of social solutions is yet to be proven. Although social computing solutions such as enterprise feedback management, customer community platforms, and customer forums were viewed positively by the respondents in our survey, none of these three were considered as crucial to success the compared to the "core" solutions that support the activities of soliciting and taking customer orders, and servicing the resulting business. Mainstream companies are watching for evidence of the business value being achieved by early adopters of Social Computing-based solutions. We do expect that "Social CRM" solutions will play increasingly important role in future as organizations are forced to cope with rapidly customer behaviors spurred by on-line social activity.

To find out more about the findings from the research, check out my teleconference next week.

And, read my TechRadar report about the Extended CRM Ecosystem for a detailed rundown on all 19 customer management technologies that we evaluated.