3. CRM Will Be the Place to Pull It All TogetherAs the number of ways in which companies interact with customers continues to grow, CRM systems will play a bigger role in building quality relationships, says Pamela O'Hara, president of Batchbook, a social CRM solution provider. "Businesses that use CRM effectively will benefit from pulling all the loose strings together in one place and developing a stronger bond with each customer," O'Hara says. Furthermore, by centralizing customer data, she argues, "companies will be able to provide better service and more targeted offers to customers." 4. CRM Integrates With Other Critical Business Systems "Buyers will expect CRM to be woven with ERP, ecommerce and professional services automation applications, to get more integrated and efficient business processes," says Paul Turner, senior director of product marketing at NetSuite. "Organizations want integrated lead-to-cash processes, an integrated view of the customer, and more comprehensive cross-functional reporting - and vendors will try and adapt their offerings to meet this demand." But he warns decision makers to beware of applications that grew up separately and are glued together. "Look for systems that are designed from the ground up to work as a single solution to get the maximum benefits," he says.
5. It's All About Flexibility "As users better understand the options in delivery models, interfaces, data practices and other technical aspects of CRM, they are factoring these variables into their buying decisions," notes Clint Oram, co-founder, CTO and vice president of Product Strategy for SugarCRM, an open source CRM vendor. "That will give CRM applications designed for ease of integration and user self-customizability an advantage, and will leave vendors whose products come in a single flavor of SaaS [software as a service] scrambling to expand customer options, often through cumbersome workarounds." To that end, Oram believes open source software, because it allows users to easily make changes and customize the software, will continue to gain on older on-demand CRM models in 2012.