This past week I had the privilege of attending CRM Evolution hosted by CRM Magazine. Here are my thoughts on the event as well as key takeaways and vendors that I thought were interesting. I highly recommend that anyone reading this put CRM Evolution on their calendar of events for 2011.

This past week I had the privilege of attending CRM Evolution in NYC which was hosted by CRM Magazine. I should point out that this was my first CRM Evolution event (my background is not in CRM). Overall the event turned out great with a fantastic cast of speakers including the witty Esteban Kolsky, the cool Brian Vellmure, the fabulous Natalie Petouhoff, the suave Brent Leary, the wise Ray Wang, and the warm-hearted Paul Greenberg amongst many others. 

Sure the speakers were great but the caliber of the audience and the attendees contributed just as much to the success of the event. There really is a feeling of community and friendship which you just don't feel at any other conference. The discussions were rich and thought provoking and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people which I am extremely thankful for.

Here are some of my initial thoughts on the event:

The CRM and Social Media Spaces are Merging

The content in the Social CRM sessions while focusing on the strategic principles of CRM, did have a strong emphasis on social aspects/strategies and social channels. It’s quite apparent that “social media” is making a lasting impression on traditional CRM folk. 

Many vendors that were present from the CRM side also made a concentrated effort to integrate social features into their platforms. While many of these integrations are “bolt on”, there are some companies that are getting it right such as Pivotal CRM from CDC Software (see below). 

Some of the content that was presented in the CRM sessions was the same content that I saw in social media conferences two years ago. This isn't good or bad but it just shows me that there is still a bit of a divide between the social world and the CRM world. 

In my opinion the CRM crowd is far more adept at business process and strategy whereas the social crowd is far more adept at tactics, social technologies and "being human" -- social guys get how to build communities and CRM guys get how to integrate those communities into the business. Bottom line -- we need both. 

How else do I know the spaces are merging? Well, for the first time at BlogWorld Expo (the world's largest social media conference) I'm going to be speaking on Social CRM with a soon to be announced panel.

(Social) Business Analytics is Going to be Huge

This is something which several speakers including Michael Fauscette from IDC Software emphasized quite emphatically. In fact Michael talked about the integration of CRM, web analytics and social data. 

This isn’t to say that analytics packages don’t exist, but that integrating traditional business intelligence solutions with the firehouse of social data is going to be a strong initiative for many companies and should help with the elusive ROI problem that so many companies are struggling with. It's safe to say that analytics is bringing sexy back.

Social CRM Doesn’t Matter

The term that is. Most of the vendors and attendees I spoke with all agree that you can call it whatever you want, but at the end of the day what businesses are trying to do is build engagement programs with their customers. 

Vendors and folks such as myself call it “Social CRM” but the buyers don’t, in fact many of them still use the term “social media.”  Social CRM means different things to different people which is why focusing on the name or the definition itself is a bit of a moot point. The focus should be on what you DO and not on what you call it. Does this mean the Social CRM term is going to go away? Absolutely not.

Interesting Vendors

Pega Systems

I really liked what I saw from Pega Systems in their CRM product. It doesn’t have a strong social integration per say but what it does have -- which many do not -- is a strong focus on business rules and process which was lacking from many of the CRM solutions I saw. 

Basically Pega Systems advises users what actions they should be taking based on the type of interaction they have with the customer.

CDC Software (Pivotal CRM)

I actually received a demo from Pivotal before attending the conference (from Ehab, great guy) and was VERY impressed with their solution which really does a fantastic job of integrating social into their CRM platform. 

The drawbacks are that it is on premise and not cloud based which makes sense since a lot of the revenue comes from partners that sell the package. However, expect this to change over the next 12-18 months.

Cloud 9 Analytics

I was told about these guys prior to the event. I stopped by the Cloud 9 Analytics booth and was pleasantly surprised with the product they offered which is billed as on-demand performance management (and is built on top of Salesforce). 

Users have a unique view of how their sales pipeline is changing…in real time. You also have the ability to import data from other systems and get access to a nifty looking dashboard. Currently there is no social integration but again, expect this to change in the near future (perhaps with a new product offering).   

Overall the event was fantastic and I was just as shocked as everyone else in attendance that out of all the CRM vendors in the space, Salesforce was nowhere to be found

Did you attend the event, what did you think?