Gartner: Big data will transform customer relationship management technology

CIOs need to start thinking how to integrate big data into their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, says technology analyst

Big data is set to transform the way companies manage their relationships with their customers and CIOs need to start planning now, claims analyst group Gartner.

Kimberly Collins, Gartner Research vice-president told Computer Weekly that big data, will be the next major “disruptive technology” to affect the way businesses interact with customers.

But CIOs will need to start thinking now how to integrate big data into their customer relationship management (CRM) systems, if they are going to reap strategic rather than tactical benefits.

“In many ways there is a huge opportunity," Collins said. 

"But if CIOs and business leaders don’t work together and put their arms around it, they will see a lot of renegade, tactical efforts in their organisation.” 

Disruptive technology 

CRM technology has benefited from a wave of new technologies. Cloud computing has made CRM less expensive, social media has radically changed customer services and marketing and mobile devices have opened up new sales and marketing channels.

In the near future, big data analytics will offer businesses powerful new tools, capable of identifying sales opportunities or analysing customers’ responses to a products, by combining internal data with comments made on social media.

Privacy worries

Exclusive Gartner article on big data and CRM

Click on the link below to download an in-depth article from Kimberly Collins’s on big data and CRM.

But unless its use is carefully managed, companies risk alienating customers by invading their privacy, said Collins.

For example, sending a message to a customer offering them deals on ski equipment, just after they have posted an update on Facebook announcing they are going on a ski-trip is probably a step too far.

“You have got to put some governance mechanisms in place for big data,” she said.

Developing a strategy 

Collins advises CIOs start high-level discussions with the heads of sales, marketing, customer service and e-commerce to develop a future strategy for big data and CRM.

“It's really about trying to get them to realise there is a huge opportunity here, before we spiral out of control and wreak havoc with our customers and create a lot of privacy issues for our organisation,” she said.

One of the biggest challenges is recruiting people who have the right skills to make big data and CRM work together.

Creating expert teams

In practice, companies will need experts who understand the business problem, the psychology of consumers and specialists in data protection and privacy, in addition to technology experts.

No one person is likely to have all the skills companies need, so in practice, business leaders will need to create teams of people to oversee big data and CRM and it may be necessary to recruit externally, said Collins.

“A good place to look is the next generation of marketers coming out of the business world, who have a lot more experience in social and mobile,” she said.

People with strong data and analytical skills who can understand structured and unstructured data will be essential.

“Big data and CRM has the potential to deliver business value for an organisation. It is also high risk,” she said.

“The sooner people get out in front of it, the more successful their organisations will be.”

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The ‘take-aways’ from this article that interest me are are:

1. That according to the world’s biggest analyst group, Big Data is the next major disruptive technology when it comes to customer relationships

2. That CIOs need to start planning now

3. That the world of customer management has experienced a massive shift already; in terms of their expectations, the way we communicate with them, the ways they buy from us and so on

4. That all of this, if handled correctly, presents such a massive business opportunity.

I couldn’t agree more with these sentiments. Customer relationships have evolved to become dynamic, living, breathing things. They expect to be able to consume your service(s) where they want, how they want and when the want it – which is usually pretty instantly.

So, for many organisations this not only means being able to analyse historical data about customers for marketing intelligence, but it also means being able to send and receive data to them in a fraction of a heartbeat.

For customer
relationships that means no millisecond time lags, no out of date pricing or
information, no page refreshes and no technical hurdles because they’re using a
mobile device. In short, the modern customer expects to have no problems at all
to deal with.

For businesses this
means managing a LOT of live data with no bandwidth or network issues, no
prohibitive development or maintenance costs and no impact on service delivery
or SLAs. And, if your CIO isn’t thinking about that already, perhaps they
should be.

Sean Bowen, Push Technology