The Vendor Picture - Customer Relationship Management

Vendors in the enterprise social networking platform space abound,but there are,as always,standouts. I’ve got a Superstah! for this chapter,but there are several that deserve at least a mention. The criteria for selection is how effective they will be in a large enterprise environment. That means an open architecture that eases the path to integration with legacy systems,including existing CRM systems. It also means the security and administrative functionality for managing large customer communities. It means scalability. It means powerful programming and configuration tools. But it doesn’t stop with that. The vendors should be able to offer professional services for installing,administering,and/or managing the communities. Because of the newness of this area,an experienced vendor with a large customer base—like Jive,with 2,500 customers,many of whom are Fortune 1000—would be a real plus. I’m not saying rule out the smaller or newer vendors. Just take experience into account when establishing your criteria for selection of an enterprise social networking platform.

Forrester Research issued a WAVE report on enterprise social networking platform vendors in January 2009 in which they established weighted criteria such as breadth of offering (the most important at 30 percent),data,platform features,
company leadership,financial viability,and so on. Because of the particular concerns of this book,I have some differences. The biggest difference is in the assignment of importance to integration. Where Forrester gives it a weight of 10 percent (meaning that it is one-tenth of the overall consideration),I’d have to up that to around 20 percent. The ability to capture the conversations and then populate CRM databases—and to provide some preconfigured integration APIs or tools that make integration at least less difficult—is particularly important. That said,the two that Forrester chose as their market leaders are Telligent and Jive Software,both of which I also highly recommend.

Integrating with CRM
I’ve prepared a couple of charts that I think are reasonably complete when it comes to how well CRM and enterprise social networking platforms have prebuilt integration. Check it out in Table using the Forrester Top Nine as the study group.

Table:Social Networking Platforms Integrate (Sparingly) with CRM SystemsSocial Networking Platforms Integrate (Sparingly) with CRM Systems

Below table shows the reverse chart: CRM companies that integrate with various social network platforms. Please note I didn’t include the integrations with sources for unstructured or open source data,such as Radian6,InsideView,or Jigsaw. There are loads of those.

Table: CRM Companies Integrate (Sparsely) with Social Networking Platforms
CRM Companies Integrate (Sparsely) with Social Networking Platforms

A couple of quick observations. The scarcity of prebuilt integrations isn’t necessarily a flaw or a bad thing,though it would be nice if there were more. It does indicate two things,though. First,that the idea of integrating CRM with social networking platforms (not social media—a different and more easily attainable breed as you already saw) is new and not that comfortable an option yet. Additionally,with the improvements in the quality-of-service oriented architectures over the last several years,and the growth of cloud computing,SaaS and web services in general,
integration is becoming more and more seamless and,as Martin Schneider,director of product marketing at SugarCRM,puts it,“snap in.” Here’s a description from Martin on the rationale,which certainly makes sense:

(SugarCRM’s) Cloud Connectors also come with (in the admin panel) a Cloud Connector framework,so instead of us picking and choosing,all a user needs to do is point the connector and BAM!—you’re bringing in that data as a view or through a data merge into your CRM records. We don’t want to decide what networks get chosen,rather have every network a potential connector and let the community/user base do it with ease. . . . We open sourced the tools,instead of hoarding the connector as an offering.

So I wouldn’t view this as a bad thing,just as a nascent industry segment. However,you should account for it in planning out your Social CRM strategy.

But there is a social network platform that embraces CRM like a brother,which is one of the reasons they are my Superstah! Chosen from all enterprise social networking platforms. Give a warm welcome to Neighborhood America.

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