Customer relationship management systems now add more value to a business than ever before. Sales software systems in the early 90s started the evolution of contact management software towards salesforce automation.

SFA took many of the features of database marketing, automated them, and combined them with contact management. This provided businesses with much more useful customer information. It also automated business tasks like inventory control, and sales tasks like customer interaction tracking.

In 1993, Tom Siebel left Oracle to create Siebel Systems. While at Oracle, Siebel tried unsuccessfully to convince CEO Larry Ellison to package and sell their internal sales application as a standalone product. Siebel Systems quickly became the leading SFA provider on the market.

By 1995, SFA and contact management had evolved to closely resemble modern CRM software. However, this emerging product still didn’t have a proper name. A number of terms like enterprise customer management (ECM) and customer information system (CIS) were in use. By the end of 1995, CRM won out. Some attribute this to the technology research company Gartner, while Tom Siebel is also named as a possible source. Either way, the CRM industry finally had a name.

The last half of the decade brought huge changes to the CRM industry. Enterprise resource management (ERP) vendors like Oracle and Baan entered the CRM market, hoping to use their size and ERP in-roads to dominate the industry. Unlike other software companies that were transitioning to CRM, SAP entered the market with the sole purpose of capitalizing on emerging applications. All of this competition pushed CRM vendors to provide a broader suite of services. More marketing, sales, and service applications were added to CRM on a near-constant basis.

1999 was a busy year for the CRM industry. A number of notable, high-value acquisitions consolidated the overall market, while emerging e-CRM vendors provided fierce competition. Using intranet, extranet, and internet, e-CRM vendors offered a level of intra-organizational collaboration that hadn’t previously been available in the CRM industry. CRM also made its first foray into the mobile market, with the introduction of Siebel Handheld.

The 90s came to an end with the debut of the first major Software as a Service (SaaS) vendor. Geared toward smaller businesses, Salesforce was initially ignored by larger vendors. Under the leadership of Mark Benioff, Salesforce eventually grew to rival CRM industry giants like Siebel Systems.

The 2000s: From Near death to Floating on Clouds

Like most software industries, the CRM industry was hit hard by the bursting of the dot-com bubble. The entire industry retracted, with giants like Oracle reporting license losses of more than twenty-five percent. Due to a reluctance to use “dot-com” technologies, e-CRM vendors were hit the hardest.

In the early years of the 00’s, Paul Greenberg’s book “CRM at the Speed of Light” suggested a more comprehensive CRM system that manages all business relationships. By the end of the decade, this became the common thinking across the CRM industry.

Through the middle of the decade, interoperability with legacy software became more important. Software giant Microsoft entered the CRM market with Dynamics CRM, and Oracle acquired Siebel and numerous other enterprise application vendors.

In 2007, Salesforce created the next big change in the CRM industry. introduced the world to cloud-based CRM. addressed the criticism that cloud-based applications weren’t customizable.

Social CRM exploded onto the market with the introduction of ComcastCares—an application that focused more on interaction than transaction. Most large corporations quickly followed Comcast’s example, solidifying the place of social CRM.

Through the end of the first decade, and up to the present day, cloud-based and SaaS CRM solutions continue to integrate more features like customer service and social CRM. Cloud-based and SaaS CRM solutions continue to gain popularity, largely due to their lower initial cost and easy integration with mobile devices.

started as segmented contacts  lists of prospect data and organized them into predefined segments for follow-up.  Conversion processes were undefined. When an employee left the company important information was often lost.  In today’s digital world, CRM has evolved, and software is available to improve every aspect of the process.

CRM Evolution

Effective customer interaction is now a combination of practices and technologies that organizations use to build and enhance commercial relationships. Included are tools that track customer interactions and automate the business functions of the sales cycle. Inbound and outbound sales prospecting, segmentation, lead qualification, conversion, quoting, order creation, and the automated tasks that follow. All conversion and transaction data stay with the record enabling lead tracking, conversion analysis and revenue forecasting.

The development and utilization of new channels of communication, including Social Media channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and others have increased the complexity of business communication. These channels provide unique ways to connect and create new relationships. What was once a private, one-to-one conversation between a sales or service person and customer is now, a multi-channel highly visible, one-to-many conversation.

The primary goals of CRM are to efficiently target profitable customers, improve sales productivity, streamline marketing channels, improve customer service, increase customer retention and profitability.

What to look for in a CRM

  • Simplicity and integration: Integration is a must have and an intuitive easy to learn business system will assist the user in saving time and being more productive.
  • Flexibility and customization: Every business is unique therefore It needs to be flexible enough to configure it to your business model.
  • List management:Multiple list and segmentation capability for quick and efficient data management.
  • Lead generation, conversion and follow-up tracking: A configurable, predefined sales and conversion process with automated customer follow-up, progress milestones, and revenue forecasts.
  • Inbound marketing and sales platform: Automate publishing, and measure lead generation activity on websites and Social Media.
  • Configurable Dashboards: Real-time views of lead generation activities, opportunities and pipeline status.
  • Remote access: A CRM solution that can only be used in the office is really no solution at all. All functionality needs to be available from anywhere and anytime.
  • BYOD friendly: Accessing information from handheld devices is critical, especially for field sales & operational personnel, who may need access to customer data, images, forms or drawings, and organizational schedule


CRM can be acquired as a standalone software package but is often more effective, and much less expensive, when included with an integrated ERP system. This approach reduces dual entry and errors, enhances reporting capabilities, and provides access to data across the enterprise. It also captures the proposal and quote generation that can automatically be converted into an order that simultaneously checks inventory, creates POs, and notifies the shop floor of incoming activity. Automation that reduces many costs! As well, the implementation of an integrated CRM suite encourages internal collaboration and faster adoption of the system and the practices required to achieve the greatest returns.

How an Integrated CRM saves Time & Money

  • Reduces expenditures for additional software applications.
  • Eliminates multiple entry into different applications.
  • Provides a centralized location accessible to all employees with user rights to the data
  • Provides a single source database that is automatically updated across the enterprise
  • Provides traceability for past customers and contact issues and requests
  • Provides the ability to schedule and plan communications in one application
  • Provides scheduling and analytics for marketing activities
  • Provides easy integration to digital marketing platforms
  • Decreases response time to customer needs
  • Creates increased customer confidence and better customer retention

In response to options requested by the FocusERP community, CRM has been developed and included as core functionality tp FocusERP Software and includes integration to the Hubspot Marketing platform. These methodologies bring Marketing and Sales, and Service together and provide metrics and feedback from interaction for Website visits, Social media activity and Email Marketing Campaigns.

For more information contact Neil MacLean, [email protected]