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Dear Mr CTO - How to avoid Social CRM nightmares?!

 It has, by now, been clearly established that Social networks / tools add wonderful capabilities to the functions currently served by the current breed of CRM solutions. The concept of Social CRM - which in my opinion is enhancing an organization's customer-targeted activities by way of interactions, insights and access provided by Social media- is very much necessary for today's organizations and achievable as well! The market is flush with a number of Social CRM tools which help achieve various objectives - Social Analytics, Customer 'Social' Profiling, Social Marketing etc. Organizations, on the other hand, are at various stages of 'Social' adoption - with the early birds already using a significant portfolio of 'Social' tools to the late comers who are extending their presence to Social networks such as Facebook. As exciting as this new 'Social' revolution is and the way it's transforming CRM, It's a situation which presents a whole lot of challenges for today's CTO. And here's how.

Who is the decision maker on Social tools?

In a traditional organization which has a comprehensive IT landscape, it's usually the IT department, led by CTO, which is responsible for identifying IT solutions / tools / applications that best meet the organizations business transformation needs. Business users play more of an 'advisory' role by providing the details on business process functionalities that need to be delivered by these IT tools, which aids the IT teams in their decision making process (Product Fitment / Fit Gap Analysis etc.). When one looks at the Social CRM space today, the choice of Social tools (E.g. usage of Facebook, choice of Social Listening / Analytics tools) in many cases is being made by the customer-facing departments (E.g. Marketing, Sales) to meet their relevant information and decision making needs. It is driven by the fact these departments are closer to an organization's customers, are more knowledgeable on the Social media usage trends of their customers and hence are keen on deciding what Social tools the organization should use. However, what is being missed out is an opportunity to choose Social tools that fit seamlessly into the organization's existing IT landscape, both functionally and technically, and hence enable creation of a comprehensive 'Social CRM landscape'. In the end, the CTO is being left with either a) having to forcefully integrate various Social tools, based on different platforms, with their existing CRM solutions or b) select a different set of Social tools that sit well on existing CRM solution. This whole exercise only leads to additional time and costs, which hit the very benefit of faster and cheaper market insights that Social CRM is supposed to deliver.

Which solution to pick?

The other key challenge facing the CTO is building the necessary decision making capabilities within his IT team to be able to make the right decisions on the Social tools to be chosen. It is a question of whether a) there are experts with comprehensive knowledge of Social tools within his / her team and b) suitable, comprehensive criteria have been identified to help make the decisions on Social tools. It is not a simple case of hiring the right people as Social CRM is still in nascent stages and there aren't many experts around with knowledge of the end-to-end Social CRM landscape, nor are there tried and tested checklists that organizations can easily follow to choose Social tools suitable for them.

 While it's difficult to chart out a standard approach to handle these challenges, I believe a CTO can make the right start by doing the following -

·   Take proactive steps to encourage IT teams to familiarize themselves with Social tools relevant to their areas of work

·   Establishment, implementation and oversight of Social media usage policies across the organization, including KPIs that help regularly measure the level of Social media awareness amongst the employees

·   Drive the evolution of assessment criteria that help pick the most relevant Social tools for the organization

·   Enable regular engagement with business teams to create awareness of Social media / tools and provide recommendations on which would meet organization needs from both functional and technology perspectives

·   Sponsor the setup of a Social CRM Centre of Excellence (CoE) which can work on identifying the most suitable Social CRM solutions for the organization and build confidence organization-wide using working Proof of Concepts (PoCs)

·   Ensure identification and implementation of Data Security, Privacy and Legal restrictions / guidelines that are applicable to the usage of social media / tools.


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