I was re-reading the announcement about how Google Apps and Salesforce will be working together more closely to make Google Apps and Salesforce work together more closely. As someone who has used a number of CRM products over the years, I welcome this announcement. I continue to believe one of the big things that hampers the overall utility of CRM systems is that it’s generally pretty painful to get data into the system. Even though Salesforce has built some clever hooks into Microsoft Outlook and other email systems, I don’t think this type of application coupling is really what will make CRM more useful.
My greatest frustration with all CRM systems is that they are fundamentally about structure and structured data when most of the data I want to put into the system is unstructured data (email, call notes, free text, etc). If you really want to make my CRM system more useful, don’t focus on integrating with more mail clients and web-based document systems – get better at taking my unstructured inputs and turning them into structured data the CRM system needs to function properly. My biggest complaint about systems like Salesforce is that it takes a lot of time to manually categorize new data (emails, contracts, documents, notes, etc) in order to put it into the system. At some point, this manual system begins to get tedious. I’m willing to do some of the training work required to get the system to the point where I’ve seeded it with some core data (accounts, contacts, opportunities, etc) – at some point, I’d like to see a return on my time investment and have the system get smart enough
to take my raw inputs and “figure out” where they belong. That would be an innovation. And it would make CRM systems a whole lot more usefu.