13/03/2015

By Greg Bohlen, Appirio

Today, ‘always on’ business users demand more of a consumer-centric experience with digital applications, particularly on mobile devices. This is due to the nature of the work people are doing on mobile. Businesses need to realise that transformation via cloud services needn’t take several years to achieve: here are three ways of understanding the potential of digital business today.

1. The nature of business is changing

Since employees are now working anywhere, anytime, transactions are more frequent, but shorter, on mobile devices. Therefore, CRM apps need to be simple and intuitive to allow rapid access and update of client data and activities.

Businesses need to start simple with CRM and bring things “back to basics”, since many organisations are currently over-burdening sales staff with additional requests for information that isn’t easily retrievable. At the moment processes are too complicated, there are too many forms for sales and marketing teams to process and, as a result, information isn’t being used effectively.

There is higher demand for faster and palpably effective return on time and money spent. As a result, businesses are becoming a lot more focussed on measurement. There is an element of maturity now as businesses and consumers are more discerning than ever before and less seduced by brand image. What’s wanted now is actual proof points – results of why the chosen route was the best one and how it connects to business growth.

IT departments and the C-Suite want to know what the value is for using cloud-based tools. In an economy emerging from a recession, gone are the days where businesses will invest blindly. What we’re seeing now, is IT investments becoming more robust in terms of proving results. Real-time analytics are therefore crucial in helping businesses decide where to invest money, as they need to see what they’ll be getting back.

2. Clarifying CRM benefits; analytics and tools

This expectation precipitates why analytics are so important: linking front end CRM to back end systems to prove whether the promised CRM pipeline revenue is actually being delivered. This enables teams to understand the work they’re asking people to do, and why they’re doing it. It’s all about connecting the dots and making sure everyone is clear on the ‘why’. For instance, CRM provides client-specific results so that organisations can connect the investment to the subsequent return, so it’s important for businesses to be using this in the best way.

CRM has always been problematic in enterprise; sales pipelines are frequently over-exaggerated and it’s not easy to pin-point actual figures and results. Only when CRM is connected with the backend infrastructure is it possible to fully understand status and context. But few organisations have fully leveraged CRM and the wealth of enterprise data. Reports from fragmented systems reside off-line and are often incomplete or out-of-date by the time they’ve been constructed. Management in particular have a ready-made excuse not to use CRM as the data they need to run their territories is not totally contained in the tool.

3. Talent enablement: crowdsourcing

Companies previously found it difficult to react to CRM insights. They may have a rich history of client transactions, but the ability to change the way they go to market is harder since the client journey became more digital. Recent research by the Corporate Executive Board highlights that almost 60 per cent of client journeys are now done online before the first sales interaction. Teams can be slow to respond to that for a number of reasons, perhaps there is a lack of IT budget or recent cut backs, or resources have to be outsourced.

The benefit of using crowdsourcing in these instances is organisations avoid the costly and time-consuming task of recruiting and the subsequent on-boarding processes for specialist digital experience roles. Turning the challenge to the wider community can be beneficial for a number of reasons. We have the world’s largest crowd organisation – The Appirio Crowdsourcing Community – which connects a pool of over 700,000 developers, designers, and data scientists together to work on interesting and challenging problems for skills practice, plus reputational and financial reward.

Whilst sceptics might not agree with crowdsourcing, it can offer a chance to build confidence and realise abilities of your in-house teams, as they see how crowdsourcing can support getting projects up and running quickly and effectively for the desired results. It can be revelatory in seeing what does and doesn’t work on a testing base approach. Using a crowdsourcing community means organisations needn’t be constrained by cost issues and manpower; the community offers a low-cost model bringing in multiple designers. This will become increasingly crucial in years to come given the shorter and shorter timelines set by customers in a competitive market.

Ultimately, organisations need to adapt and utilise tools that will enable the best use of information and talent – bringing in external experts to build a powerful campaign that might be more successful than using traditional models. If results and methods cannot be quantifiably reported back to customers, this will need to be addressed if companies are to remain competitive. Businesses think and act like consumers, with higher digital expectations that are being applied to CRM databases and an expectation that if they’re using cloud, it has to be for the right, and results driven, reasons.

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