I recently wrote an article in response to Jeremiah Owyang’s talk at the Twitter Conference where he discussed Twitter as a potential CRM solution. If you are interested in my thoughts, and Jeremiah’s response, feel free to read the article on this blog.
I was lucky enough to discuss this topic with many people, and often times the conversation came back to Google Wave. Where does it fit in the grand scheme of things? Many people are discussing Wave as a potential SharePoint killer, which I view as unlikely. In my view Wave is a potentially strong solution in the SMB CRM marketplace. Note that I have not yet received access to the Wave Sandbox, this is based upon what I have read. I will write more about Wave once Google provides access.
Some of you will correctly note that SMB customers can benefit from a “full” CRM solution. You are right. However, many cannot afford to purchase, setup, maintain, or administer a full solution and they are still leveraging solutions like Microsoft Outlook, Excel spreadsheets, etc.. Wave will be a major step up for these users.
Here are some key aspects of a CRM solution and the reasons why Google Wave should eventually be considered by SMB users looking for a CRM solution:
- Secure communication. Communications between users will only be visible to those users (unlike Twitter where you can monitor nearly all conversations).
- CRM systems should maintain all data related to your conversations, this includes e-mail attachments and other files associated with your business. Wave will clearly support file storage and the file sharing capabilities could potentially enable rich social collaboration scenarios.
- The CRM system must maintain detailed customer information such as products purchased, key contacts, etc. Wave should provide rich contact management but I am doubtful that it will provide the ability to store the necessary customer information out of the box. However, if Wave delivers on the promise of extensibility it will be easy to store the missing pieces.
- Detailed reports by customer, by end-user, by region, within given product sets, etc.., must be easy to access so that management can determine support costs, the at risk nature of certain customers, up-sell opportunities, etc.. This is another area where the extensibility of Wave will come into play.
- Various levels of permissions for end-users and support staff.
- This is my one area of concern with Google Wave. While shared accounts could work within the SMB space I am hopeful to see the ability to create additional accounts with basic folder level permissions. If it can meet this low bar, or go further, I will be very impressed.
- The ability to model business processes. Google has promised to open source Wave. If it delivers on this promise then Wave could become infinitely extensible.
- Google Wave will deliver a robust search interface. A CRM system is only useful if you can find the data being put into it. Wave will have no problem meeting this need.
While it is too early to know if Google Wave will meet it’s full potential, I hope this has given you some food for thought. Let me know what you think.