What Will Be the Death of CRM?

When companies talk about the death of a technology, they're almost never correct.

CRM is dead. "Its not there," said Tom Siebel. This is a shocking statement coming from a person who built a multibillion-dollar organization on the customer relationship framework. Its moderately shocking that it came at the DCI Customer Relationship Management Conference, held recently in New York.

The future, Siebel said, is in vertical business processes and Web services.

Step over to Boston, to last months XML Web Services One conference, where Don Box, co-inventor of SOAP and a Microsoft architect, said that Web services are simply a means to an end. "Two years from now, we wont have this conference," Box said.

The fact is, the future of CRM is fine, as is the future of XML Web services. When companies talk about the death of a technology, theyre almost never correct. Microsofts Box equates Web services with plumbing: Once the plumbing is sorted out, Web services will fail to be interesting, he implied. Its a good analogy, but it appears to me that the plumbing industry still makes out pretty well.

On the CRM front, from Siebels point of view, the category died precisely on the date that Microsoft announced its CRM platform (acquired via Great Plains and Navision). Once something that was enormously complicated and high-priced is commoditized, its really hard for developers to get interested. The net result is that those developers get pushed up-market, create a new jargon, try to alienate their customer base by saying theyre inadequate and continue charging millions of dollars for the privilege.

The CRM market is still wide open, however. There are so many organizations that need basic sales force automation and customer relationship management that its crazy to think that the market is drying up. What is going away are the multimillion-dollar generic implementations. Those will indeed be replaced by XML-based integration projects.

Meanwhile, there is one company that was truly prescient: PeopleSoft. At an eWeek meeting last year, PeopleSoft officials plotted out exactly what was happening with integration, Web services and CRM. The company, meanwhile, ramped up production of vertical packages. Many of them were released two weeks ago at the PeopleSoft Connect conference.

Which will die first, CRM or XML Web services? Write to me at john_taschek@ziffdavis.com.