Once upon a time when people wanted something built they went to their local builder. At some point in history though, people found this wasn’t working so well. Builders might be great at building, but they weren’t so great at designing buildings and the role of the independent architect was created.
Today, if you want to a new office built, you find a suitable independent architect and they will interpret your needs, create a set of plans which prospective builders can accurately quote against, help you select the right builder, and oversee the project to check your vision is realized on time and on budget. This seems to work well and is the accepted way of running a successful construction project.
I think there’s a close parallel between how the construction industry changed and how the CRM industry will evolve. If we look at the CRM market today it’s apparent we’re still in the pre-architect era. If you want a CRM system, in the main you go to a CRM vendor. This is fine if the approach worked well, but I think realization is setting in that vendors may be pretty good with their technology, but applying it in a way that adds value just isn’t their forte. In tougher markets this situation seems unsustainable.
Independent CRM consultancies like ourselves have been performing the ‘independent architect’ intermediary role for some time, but this approach has been the exception not the rule. I think things are changing though, and that independents specializing in implementation and operational best practices will increasingly sit between the client and the CRM vendor as a means of maximising value from technology. Whether we’re still known as CRM consultants I don’t know. If it weren’t for the fact it’s a rather hackneyed IT term, perhaps CRM architects might be a better description, but, whatever the nomenclature ends up being, I think it’s the key to the power of CRM technology getting realized.