April 12, 2001, 3:58 PM — A recent report, "Customer Relationship Management: Year 2000 Edition," by Boston-based Aberdeen Group, indicates that the total customer relationship management software and services market will expand from just over $8 billion in 1999 to more than $24 billion in 2003.
That growth will come in part as a result of CRM moving from being a tool used primarily by early adopting technology, finance and telecommunications companies to becoming a standard piece of corporate customer support, says Christopher Fletcher, one of the report's authors and Aberdeen's vice president and managing director for customer relationship management.
The report notes that the CRM space is far from stabilized. Traditional ERP companies have made slow progress in the market, and new competitors with innovative approaches regularly appear (Aberdeen provides abstracts of more than 75 CRM suppliers in the report). That situation can result in confusion for buyers -- but it also creates opportunities. The key, Fletcher says, is making sure the CRM buyers have quantifiable goals in mind for the software as well as high-level executive backing. Companies may also consider point solutions and later integrate them into enterprise systems as necessary, rather than taking the soup-to-nuts, large-scale integrated approach some bigger vendors promote. Regardless of how organizations approach it, Fletcher says that while CRM today is primarily a tool to differentiate a business from its competitors, the products will become mandatory for most companies in a couple of years.