The Approaching Death of the 360-Degree View

November 5, 2014 John Gorup

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Consulting firms and CRM vendors have made a lot of money promising to deliver a 360-degree view of the customer. But for a lot of reasons, we may finally be seeing the end of this metaphor for CRM functionality. Yes, the dream of the 360-degree view is dying. Good riddance, I say.

The basic use cases for the 360-degree view are obvious. For example, a Sales Rep calling on a current customer should know what this customer has purchased from them. Taking it a step further, a Sales Rep would want to know whether the customer they are calling on has had any problems they had to deal with in the form of support cases. Eventually, the 360-degree view grew to include data normally stored outside the CRM system, like invoices.

But now we may be seeing the beginning of the end of the 360-degree view. There are four main reasons the end is near for the 360-degree view:

First of all, it’s a bad metaphor. The best predators in the animal world have narrow, but powerful vision. It’s said that hawks and eagles can see eight times better than the human eye. This allows a hawk to discern a tiny mouse in a large field. It’s the focus of information, not the abundance of it, that leads the Sales Rep to a close a deal, the Customer Service Rep to resolve an issue, or a hawk to a procure a nice lunch

Secondly, it’s a poor measure of success. One of Appirio’s best architects asks customers to finish the sentence: “This project will be successful when _____.”  The stock answer, “we have a 360-degree view of the customer,“ now falls a little flat. A CRM system is not about just pulling data together, but about helping companies serve their customers. Salesforce.com is used most effectively by companies to facilitate and manage transactional data: leads, opportunities, and cases.

Also, we now have, or soon will have, too much data. If you see a demo of a 360-degree view, you’ll usually see an account, with a few opportunities, service cases, and a handful of contacts. If this ever was what reality looks like, it soon will not be. The data from social media and connected devices can come in massive quantities, and is often unstructured. The firms that are able to turn this data into actionable insight will be the most successful.  IT Professors Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson proved statistically that companies that inject big data and analytics into their operations have productivity rates and profitability that are 5% to 6% higher than those of their peers — astounding results.
Along with too much data, the tide of user needs and shifts in technology are pushing CRM systems to a new vision. As Forrester writes in their October 2014 report, The Top Emerging Technologies To Watch: Now Through 2020:

“Technology innovations in advanced analytics are reducing by orders of magnitude the time it takes to run analytic models and the number of data attributes that can be considered.”

Putting analytics in the hands of users who are not data analysts is one of the most exciting promises of Salesforce’s Wave product. As McKinsey puts it, “sophisticated analytics solutions . . . must be embedded in frontline tools so simple and engaging that managers and frontline employees will be eager to use them daily.” These users also expect a good mobile experience. Employees will increasingly want business applications that are on par with the consumer apps they use in their personal life. Having gobs of superfluous data on a mobile device is not a good mobile experience. The companies that best incorporate mobile-ready analytics into their CRM decision making will win market share.

Before we say the eulogy to the 360-degree view, let’s praise what it has brought to the enterprise. Companies have benefited from knocking down data silos. Great middleware products like Informatica, Mulesoft, Dell Boomi, and Jitterbit have allowed data to flow between cloud systems and on-premise systems. Systems live or die on clean, dependable, and available data. But soon, that data will need to be more than clean, dependable, and available: it will have to be actionable.

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