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Simple, simple, simple. In my travels around the world, I often find myself repeating the SAP “Run Simple” mantra with our customers and prospects.

And the truth is, most people get it. They understand that complexity is costly. And they recognize the need to find ways to simplify business processes and digitally transform their organizations so they can get ahead of the competition. Simply put-you cant be a digital company with complex processes and infrastructure.

It’s always a surprise, then, when I acknowledge what everyone in the room is already thinking: Sometimes simple is really hard.

There, I said it.

Moving beyond CRM

Most people seem relieved they aren’t the only ones that feel this way. They know the goals they want to achieve, but getting there seems difficult. And so the conversation quickly turns to the “what next?” questions. Where do I start-how do I get simple?

Decision makers are clear on the opportunities simplicity offers as well as the risk for those who take no action. Nowhere is this more obvious…and painful…and mission critical…than dealing with customers. Businesses understand that the customer agenda-and their own customer strategies-are driving the need to go digital. Complex systems of engagement, based on outdated infrastructure supporting “yesterday’s CRM systems” need to change.

But they don’t know how to make simplicity a reality. What is the path to achieve this goal? Where do they begin? And what kind of customer engagement model is appropriate?

Companies need the ability to move beyond CRM – with a confident plan to forge the kinds of deeper relationships and simpler experiences that their customers are requesting. These interactions must be personal, catered to each potential customer. There’s no value in a vanilla engagement that meets the needs of everyone (or maybe no one). Customers want a consistent, contextual experience – across every function, channel, and touchpoint – that links to their unique industry or line of business-specific business processes.

This applies to all industries. In public sector, for example, constituents need CRM solutions that address public safety, case management, and investigations. For a pharmaceutical firm, CRM might focus on new product introduction and adverse experience reporting. For banking, it should include a variety of online channels where people can research and buy products. The new CRM is about getting the enterprise, or the extended business network of the enterprise, focused on delivering the experience expected from the customer.

Who’s in charge?

By moving beyond CRM, companies can enable traditional sales and marketing functions to work together. Using the same rich, accurate data to personalize communications, these teams can create engaging experiences on Web and mobile commerce channels and provide customer service using social media. Supported by agile core digital landscapes, the extended enterprise can now move at the speed of the customer. In other words, companies can put their customers firmly at the center of their operations.

Creating a customer-centric experience requires a corresponding real time extended enterprise. Customers will drive business strategy across all industries. Re-imagining business models and new customer centric business processes are table stakes. Current CRM tools, running in complex IT environment with high latency response rates can’t support then new customer paradigm. That’s where cloud-based solutions, leveraging contextually aware applications, driven by real time customer insight can help. Reducing complexity allows companies to update the customer experience with speed and agility.

And for me, that’s the core goal of going beyond CRM – to take full ownership of the customer experience. We can’t control our customers or their requirements, but we can control the pace at which we anticipate and respond to their needs. It needs to be fast and personal, and that can only happen when we reduce complexity.

So, ok – we agree that simplicity is not always easy. But for companies serious about digital transformation, it’s essential. Are you ready to embrace simplicity?

Go Beyond CRM

Pat Bakey is President of Industry Cloud at SAP

Follow Pat on Twitter: @PBakey

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