The enterprise software market seems to have no memory. If you have been in it for more than a handful of years, you may have seen the repetitive patterns emerging. One of these patterns is the move from diverse, niche solutions in the early days of a new domain to suites that integrate different parts of a process together.
A classic example of this is SAP. Until the ex-IBM engineers arrived on the scene, the ‘back office’ operations (procurement, production, financials etc.) were handled by multiple mainframe applications. Each of these apps was not even aware that the others existed, let alone talk to them.
Fast forward a few years and the same thing happened with ‘traditional’ CRM. We had the Sales Force Automation (SFA), Call Center and Email vendors. Then, along came Siebel – they too began with a focus on SFA but quickly realized the value of an integrated cross-channel approach and rode to their success on that vision.
Fast forward to today. The Social Business market still resembles the Wild West. There are gazillion different vendors providing tools in various niches. The broad categories are: Social Monitoring/Analytics and Social Engagement. Related cousins are the private Communities and Marketing Automation tools. Of course, the granddaddy ‘traditional’ CRM still sits large within most enterprises.
In the last couple of years, these niche tools served the early adopters of Social Business within medium to large enterprises. However, as the use of Social matures within these organizations and more users need to embrace it, there is a backlash amongst them to the idea of using one tool to do the listening, another to do the analytics and a third to do the engagement. And oh, by the way, how do they integrate their Social interactions with CRM systems (on which their companies have spent countless hours and millions of dollars on over the past 5-15 years)?
As a result of the above frustration, a number of users (whom we talk to on a daily basis) are beginning to embrace the idea of an integrated platform that delivers everything from listening to analytics to engagement.
Will such a platform ever be able to compete head to head in each of these areas to the niche vendors? Probably not. But, as we have seen in the past, through our experience in the ERP and CRM markets, most business users would prefer to forsake the last 10% of esoteric functionality to the convenience and transparency that an integrated solution brings to the table.
Today, we at NextPrinciples have launched what we have termed as a Next Generation Platform for Social Analytics and Engagement. With time to “go live” of less than an hour, it offers users a single integrated suite from analytic to engagement with seamless integration to Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and SugarCRM. We believe that an easy to use integrated suite is key to social democratization – especially if you want social to move beyond the realms of a few social media managers into the very fabric of the organization. This is the only way organizations can become truly customer centric and leverage the full value of social.
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