As we often do this time of year, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on CRM’s past and philosophize on its future. About this time in 2012, my company published a report called “CRM’s Next 5 in 5.” Taking a page from IBM’s playbook, we interviewed top analysts in the space to devise a list of technological advances that would change CRM during the next five years.

This month, we revisited that article to see whether any of predictions came true, or if there were other technologies seen as having a bigger impact. We contacted five leading analysts including:

  • Denis Pombriant, CEO of Beagle Research Group LLC
  • Brent Leary, owner of CRM Essentials
  • Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of ThinkJar
  • Brian Vellmure, CEO and founder of Initium LLC / Innovantage
  • Paul Greenberg, owner of 56 Group LLC

The group agreed that the overarching themes are the same – mobile, social and data – but the way each is applied to CRM has evolved since 2012. Below are a few of the key differences they see in the future.

Context Data for a Specific Purpose
Last year, our group talked a lot about context services; or technologies that take data from social, mobile and other sources to provide a clearer picture of the customer. Our experts forecasted at the time an explosion in services that provide such information to CRMs.

This year, the discussion was still about data services that add context to customer interactions. The group went one step further, however, to say context is now being applied to increasingly granular business goals.

For example, let’s take lead qualification. One data service might help businesses instantly qualify leads from a website visitor based on ‘curated data’ from IP addresses, Dun and Bradstreet, social data and other data providers. A sales person might receive an alert in their CRM to call a site visitor if, for example, the service detects a Fortune 500 company in their marketing sweet spot.

Stable Social APIs will Empower Real-Time Intelligence
The previous example also hit on another trend discussed in last year’s report – real-time intelligence. This means processing data in an instant to propel action at the moment it matters most. Processing and data warehousing limitations was one obstacle the group talked a lot about last year. Developers definitely made headway on that front in 2012, but there’s yet another road block in this becoming a reality as it relates to social media.

Social data is disseminated primarily through open APIs that allow developers to access each platform. These are developing so quickly that the resulting data is often incomplete and unreliable. Software developers are currently spending the most energy compensating for these imperfections. But once these APIs improve, innovators can focus more on ways to use that data in real time. Generating leads from social media at the moment someone is talking about your business or a competitor, for example.

Gamification and Crowdsourcing Become a Perfect Pair
Gamification was a huge buzzword in 2011. Companies providing these technologies promised increased community engagement, productivity and other improvements by layering in game-like tools such as leader boards, badges and virtual scoreboards. While popular, there was varying opinions about success of these platforms at the time.

In 2012, our group foresaw gamification moving from buzzword to business strategy. These programs proved real results increasing customer loyalty, brand advocacy and engagement. We touched on that topic again this year, but through the lens of crowdsourcing.

Because customers are increasingly disenchanted by traditional brand-producing messaging, companies rely more and more on word of mouth and social advocates. Technologies are beginning to emerge that focus on crowdsourcing promotion to contacts identified as being social influencers and brand advocates. This is done through empowering these customers with tools for promoting the brand, then driving them into action with gamification elements.

These were just a few of the technology trends our group discussed this year and last. You can read the full reports here (2012) and here (2013).