‘C’ Is for Collaboration

Last week’s CRM blog safari takes note of one blogger’s critique of tie-up. This week, we’re giving some attention to the bloggers who are excited about the concept and what it means for CRM.

The message for the larger industry is that CRM has to make room for collaboration in its suite set, Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of Nucleus Research, told CRM Buyer. “It is no longer just about the workflow — it is about getting the right people together to solve a problem or address an issue.”

Consider the contact center, she said. It is now widely recognized that giving reps the ability to pull in the right person to answer a customer query results in better service.

Indeed, a contact center app may be on the horizon, says Alex, a Cisco employee and author ofEuropean Contact Centre Blog, in his post “The future of contact centre — Google, Salesforce, Skype & Microsoft.”

“The Google communication applications are an interesting collection of functions,” he notes. “There’s Google Talk for instant messaging and voice, and Google Mail for e-mail. Helpfully, if peer-to-peer voice isn’t quite enough for you, then Google Pack for your computer includes the option to have Skype. In other words the raw functionality to build a web based contact centre is there in Google and if the idea’s occurred to me, then you can bet it has occurred to Google.”

Whither Microsoft?

In one respect, Microsoft may — just may — be ahead of the juggernaut, in that it has begun tofocus on the contact center. However, it is a company whose market share is increasingly threatened by and Google.

In “ v. Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online/Office Live? Whew. More Than That,” Paul Greenberg writes that“despite the flaws in the mashup — the functionality of Google apps is nowhere near the functionality of Microsoft Office, and Google apps terms of service aren’t conducive to corporate living, for starters — “there is something on a bigger stage that is being done here that might be even more meaningful in the long run.”

“In fact, if you think about today’s announcement on the face of it, let me ask you this. If Microsoft announced that they were integrating Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online with Office 2007 today, how excited would you be? Not that excited since it already is — and this move is aimed squarely at Microsoft I would say, wouldn’t you?”

Greenberg doesn’t offer details about exactly where he sees the tie-up going. Just, “suffice to say, the battle to take Microsoft’s space is not for the title of Lord of the Personal Productivity Universe.”

What’s next for Microsoft has also been on the mind of Denis Pombriant of Beagle Research.

“So what to make of the Google-Salesforce chumminess on exhibit at the Four Seasons Hotel (San Francisco) last Monday? CEOs Eric Schmidt of Google and Marc Benioff of focused attention on their similar technology architectures but also on their corporate cultures and even their philanthropy models.

“The ostensible purpose of the event was to showcase a teaming up of on-demand applications that would enhance the productivity of front office workers who could now use all of their essential office software from the cloud rather than using installed versions from Microsoft or whoever else is still in that game.

“It could not have been great news for Microsoft, the dominant force in the current (last?) software era which still gets a significant portion of its revenue from selling boxes full of manuals and CDs that contain software for installation.”

Microsoft is hardly out of the game, he continues, especially with its Microsoft Live product line, which offers some of the same functionality as “But at some fundamental level, Microsoft is looking more and more like a dowager than a dominator, [more] like General Motors than Toyota, like a company focused more on finance than on product. Much the same can be said of Oracle which looks more dysfunctional by the day.”

Is an ad-based model for a free or low-cost offering next? wonders Mike Moran, IBM distinguished engineer for OmniFind search software.

Or possibly “another big partner, such as Intuit, who has been signing up so many small businesses to QuickBooks Online?” he writes inBiznology Blog. “Whatever it is, SaaS (and other forms of cloud computing) will continue to make headlines, and Google will make as many of them as Microsoft.”

Selecting a Hosted Contact Center

With all the possibilities unfolding in the space, a back-to-the-basics look at how to pick an application is welcome.

The global market for managed and hosted contact center services will have more than doubled, reaching a value of more than US$5 billion, according to Shiraz Datta, who heads up Cincom Systems’ marketing division for the India Region, in“What to Look for When Selecting a Hosted Contact Center Solution.”“So the odds are good that if you haven’t already implemented a hosted solution in your contact center, that you will soon.”

Areas to investigate, he says, are 1) a vendor’s experience and capabilities; 2) the application’s functionality and security; 3) the architecture of the application; 4) its scalability and flexibility; 5) processing speed and availability; and 6) analytical functionality.

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