Despite its reputation as an IT hotspot, the customer relationship management (CRM) software market is not living up to the hype surrounding it, according to a Meta Group analyst. And that's creating a plethora of opportunities for the channel.
"The CRM market is wide open from a solutions provider standpoint," Tim Harmon, Meta Group's international senior program director, application delivery strategies, told ARN. "It is the glamour term in IT at the moment and whenever a situation like this occurs, so many vendors come out of the woodwork.
"At the moment there are two classes - those with process-centric products and those with knowledge-centric - but none are getting the balance."
By Harmon's definition, process-centric CRM products are those that automate business processes across different functioning constituencies along the supply chain, while knowledge-centric solutions utilise data warehousing infrastructures and data mining technologies to proactively meet customer needs.
Harmon claims the majority of CRM solutions have a heritage in sales force automation or call centre technologies and are therefore primarily concerned with the supplier's requirements, rather than their customers.
"Most companies approach the CRM problem from the perspective of trying to automate their processes, which is an inside-out approach, instead of looking from the outside-in - or, in other words, looking at the company from a customer perspective," Harmon said.
That's where the channel stands to benefit. With major vendors failing to provide a CRM solution balancing both process-centric and knowledge-centric methodologies, it is system integrators and value-added resellers who have the opportunity to fill in the gaps.
"It is the call of the channel to marry those two together in a comprehensive CRM framework for companies," Harmon said. "The market is so new that anyone can get in on the ground floor if they are prepared to invest."
But they will have to be flexible in delivering solutions.
"To be successful in the future, systems integrators will have to focus on implementing solutions spanning two or more companies along the supply chain."