Enterprise software – namely business intelligence (BI), CRM, ERP and marketing automation – has greatly evolved over the last six years. From moving to the cloud (or offering hybrid solutions), to incorporating social media, to going mobile, enterprise software vendors have continually strived to keep pace with current trends and technological developments, adding new features and functionality to appeal to the modern, mobile, global enterprise.
So what innovations or new features do BI, CRM, ERP and marketing automation vendors have planned for 2017? Following is a short list of what to look for.
More focus on the end user, less on IT. “The modern BI platform is designed for the end user,” says Francois Ajenstat, chief product officer, Tableau Software. “It’s intuitive and enables self-service. This is in contrast to traditional BI platforms that needed a specialist in IT to be able to run.”
“The biggest trend within BI will be that it becomes far easier to use for the average person,” says Murray Ferguson, director, Pro-Sapien Software. “We have already seen this taking shape, for example, in Microsoft’s Power BI software. The ability to ask questions (both spoken and typed) to find the desired results, as opposed to more technical SQL requests, is also coming. [And] anyone [will be able to] run reports and pull data as opposed to someone skilled in running SQL queries. For example, [users will be able to] type or speak ‘show all open tickets’ [and the software] will display the results.”
Real-time intelligence. “Delivering insights with speed has always been essential and is now becoming a reality for BI through automated machine learning algorithms,” says David Drai, cofounder & CEO, Anodot. “This trend means that BI will be able to proactively spot patterns, trends and irregular behavior that will trigger near-instant alerts for users impacting their ability to resolve issues before they become crises.” Similarly, “businesses will now be able to more effectively channel business opportunities by taking advantage of them in real time.”
More solutions for SMBs. In 2017, “lower priced BI tools and applications that offer more or less the same features and functionalities of the larger solutions will emerge, [which will benefit] small and medium-sized businesses,” says Ian Khan, executive leader, Solgenia.
Mobile CRM will continue to gain traction. “We will definitely see a continued migration over to mobile as more and more companies turn to cloud-based [CRM] systems,” says Victor Sanchez, director, inside sales, ForceManager. Mobile CRM “provides reps with access to client data whenever and wherever they need it. With mobile [CRM], reps simply pull out their device, record their sales visit details and slide it back in their pocket. Done.”
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As for sales managers, they get “a real-time glimpse into their team’s activity.”
Voice recognition. “In 2017, CRMs will become more intelligent and automated – think voice recognition (i.e., talking to the CRM to have it automatically do things for you) and the ability to interpret content and create actions based on content,” says Loretta Jones, vice president, marketing, Insightly. This will allow salespeople “to spend more time interacting with their customers. [And] the reduction of tedious manual requirements [will] make an enormous bottom-line difference.”
Predictive analytics and AI. “As an industry, we have been ballyhooing the promise of predictive analytics for quite some time,” says Martin Schneider, head of product evangelism, SugarCRM. “But as more companies eschew old-model SaaS deployments for truly cloud-based CRM and data warehousing, the throughput and storage issues that hindered truly predictive analytics initiatives will start to go away.
“Companies looking to better know their customers, and provide truly proactive service and delivery models, will be the first to take up predictive analytics,” he believes. “While we talked a lot about offer and promotions management, I think that predictive analytics will be best put to work in customer retention and servicing – the ‘give the customer what they need before they realize they need it’ scenario, rather than the ‘offer someone something they might want to buy.’”
In addition, “many CRM vendors are enriching their platforms with AI,” says Chris Matty, CEO, Versium. “CRM vendors are betting that with AI, businesses will be able to deliver more predictive and personalized customer experiences across sales, service, marketing, commerce and more. In 2017, AI will have a substantial impact on the CRM marketplace as a whole,” he predicts. “As customers start to examine each vendor’s specific AI and data analytics capabilities as part of their selection criteria, vendors are likely to win or lose customers and revenue based on their unique implementation of data analytics and machine learning.”
Embedded analytics. “In 2017, ERP applications will provide an embedded analytics engine to address the heavy lifting required to manage operational data,” says Colleen Smith, vice president & general manager, OpenEdge, Progress. “These engines must be able to parse data, present it clearly and include data from a multitude of sources. Many companies will need to add an embedded analytics engine to their existing infrastructure, as the ERP apps they’re using were likely built over a decade ago.”
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Data visualization. “Visualization is becoming a more significant feature, as large ERP providers acquire or develop external hardware-software integrated systems that can visualize team analytics on dashboards,” says Monica Georgieff, head of marketing, Kanbanize.
More mobility.“The modern workplace has staff working remotely and outside of traditional work hours,” says Sheila Lindner, president,Octacom. As a result, “there will be a huge emphasis on implementing mobile capabilities for ERP solutions in 2017, [with] many ERP solutions decreasing in size, without compromising on output or storage capacity, to allow employees easy access to all information and functions through mobile devices.”
One solution to rule them all? “In 2017, through the help of embedded predictive and AI technologies, marketing automation will evolve into the self-driving car of the enterprise, anticipating buyer behaviors, automating outreach, prescribing for the business who to engage, when to engage and what to engage with,” says Andy MacMillan, CEO, Act-On Software.
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Because of that, he predicts that “marketing automation [software] will claim a bigger seat at the table, transforming the way companies communicate and engage all together with stakeholders (from press, analysts and employees, to buyers and prospects, to customers and partners) – and become enterprises’ de facto engagement database of record.”