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I guess this is an interesting question. I was at Sapphire last week and I met a great amount of bloggers, influencers, CEO’s and kindred community spirits. I should have asked the question to everyone, but unfortunately did not have the time to do so. Nonetheless I got into a very good conversation with Paul Greenberg : http://the56group.typepad.com/pgreenblog/  and Volker Hilderbrand: /people/volker.hildebrand/blog who is the Veep of CRM thought leadership at SAP.

We discussed the future of CRM and that converging intersection between CRM, the (online) communities with customers, and partners, and the business corporation.

Paul in the past has been very candid about how he perceives SAP, however it seems he is turning around a bit and he just blogged about that SAP FINALLY Gets It. They Really, Really Do…” on his website   http://the56group.typepad.com/pgreenblog/2008/05/its-2008-sap-fi.html

He also just released a blog in which he discusses the evolution of CRM systems as a whole:  “CRM 1.0 has been a series of processes, technologies, and methodologies organized around the operational tasks that were designed to institutionalize a way of managing [ I would say trying in many cases to partially unsuccessfully manage] customer-company interaction.

CRM 2.0, while incorporating what CRM 1.0 does, also incorporates the personalization of those customer-company interactions and the integration of the customer into the planning, strategies and direction of the company through use of tools, products, services, and experiences so that the customer feels that they are participating in the companies that they choose to do business with. CRM 1.0 concerned itself with the customer as the object of a satisfactory sale. CRM 2.0 concerns itself with the customer as the subject of a satisfactory experience.”

Now this is where I believe CRM and Communities are starting to converge and I think companies should take it beyond this CRM2.0 approach. You move from a CRM system to a Network Relationship Management system. The combination of the social graphs with the activities that happen in the network, will become an increasingly important type of knowledge that could be utilized to harnasss that satisfactory experience that Paul describes. In order to understand that graph, every company will have to have an online community component in order to harnass that network effect. If companies do not have an online community strategy and are incorporating that into their strategy, they could loose their future competitive edge and knowledge about their markets fast.

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