Look at LinkedIn and learn
All the years I worked on ERP and CRM systems it was very often about data quality and phrases like: 'bullshit in, bullshit out' were talk of the day. Maintaining the quality of data in these systems was one of the big nightmares and a money and time consuming activity. The supposed solutions for the burning issue of data quality was two fold, on one side the software needed to get smarter with more mandatory fields, more validation rules and if possible an improved user interface and on the other side there were stricter process implementations and work instructions. For instance customer facing employees had to follow a check list to verify the customer CRM data.
In most cases all these extra rules didn't solve anything and sort of backfired and resulted in lower employee moral due to strict boring processes and customer dissatisfaction because of the stupid check questions. It turned people into robots and the fun factor was gone, this is why I believed in bringing back the fun in business software. The solution for the problem requires a fresh look, and possibly an 180 degree turn.
Last week working for a customer that wants to transform towards a more social business the issue also surfaced. The remark went along the following lines: Our CRM system doesn't even have proper email addresses of our customers and now we also need to go and track twitter handles and the like. My reaction was simple: Why don't you give the customer data back to the customer and create an incentive for them to maintain and keep it accurate? The reaction was predictable: What giving customers access to our CRM system, the crown jewels of the company? Very understandable, because lots of money had been invested in software, process implementations and training and now someone suggests that this should be opened up to the outside world. Business people and especially business IT people like to keep information within their own walled garden, thinking they can better control the information. Well it might or might not be safer, but is it also more accurate? This illustrates the boxed up way of thinking that is limiting creative and innovative solutions for todays challenges.
The current trend of Social CRM is a joke, it's not about tracking the customers social behavior and capturing the conversation. Real Social CRM means you give ownership and control of the customers information back to the customer and create an incentive for them to maintain it. The customer becomes your social peer.
LinkedIn just did this, it created the first global open, transparent and high quality CRM system. Being an independent entrepreneur I rely on my network and I've always put good effort in maintaining my personal address book, however people change company, change phone numbers and the address information goes out of date quickly and you have no way to figure out anything has changed. I've become much more dependent on LinkedIn for the communication with my network, because I've higher certainty that a message reaches the person it's intended for.
If LinkedIn would just add a little bit of opportunity management and sales force automation it can fullfil all the CRM needs for a small and medium business. Everybody in business is already on it, thus requiring less data entry and maintenance efforts and it's much more accurate than a business wide CRM system.
May be LinkedIn's validations isn't that high at all, they are clearly on to something.