CRM Confusion: The Double Definition of CRM

DoubleCRMThe acronym “CRM” is increasingly becoming a household name or at the very least a common business term.

But what exactly is CRM these days?

To most, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management – the ability to track leads, prospects, customers, opportunities, sales, marketing, and customer service. This is a fairly straight-forward definition of CRM.

CRM really has a double definition.

There is the common sales oriented definition and then there is a newer additional definition for CRM referring to CRM “as a platform” or “xRM“. In the past few years, this alternative definition of CRM has gained so much momentum; it often overshadows the traditional CRM definition.

Hence, there tends to be some confusion when trying to compare a wide variety of solutions that include the term “CRM”.

Some businesses simply want the sales features of a CRM while other organizations don’t want any sales features at all – they want CRM to meet a unique need like tracking meeting registrations. Both refer to their system as “CRM”.

In addition, there are CRM systems that can only provide the traditional CRM sales features. But most modern commercial CRM solutions (such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM), provide both – the traditional CRM features and the increasingly popular and powerful platform features that help extend CRM as well as leverage the latest technology such as:

  • Outlook integration
  • Skype integration
  • Mobility
  • Social media monitoring
  • Easy analytics and dashboards
  • Intuitive user experiences
  • Collaboration
  • Automated workflows

There are also industry specific applications (ex: accounting software) that may include CRM as part of a cloud package or as a “CRM add-on”. This type of “CRM” which is added to an existing application may only provide basic sales features and not have the latest technology/platform capabilities that an organization is looking to leverage. Nonetheless, the general term “CRM” is thrown around so businesses selecting a new CRM need to be careful.

Here is an example from the association industry. There are specific solutions to help associations called AMS systems (association management software). These solutions manage membership, meetings, certifications, committees, and a lot more.

Some of these AMS systems are built upon modern commercial CRM systems (like Microsoft CRM) so an association can leverage the latest technology, extend the platform to meet specific needs, as well as utilize the inherent traditional CRM sales features if needed.

Older traditional AMS solutions have to compete with these modern CRM-based AMS solutions. These vendors have started to offer a “CRM add-on” which will handle sales and service (the traditional CRM definition). I guess in an effort to say, “Hey, we have CRM too”.

It is not the same “CRM”. If an association executive is looking for modern commercial CRM features, they should take care when selecting a new AMS system with a “CRM”.

In conclusion, CRM has become a rather common (dare I say trendy) business term for many businesses and organizations. Just remember the double definition of the modern CRM.


Feel free to contact me with questions or suggestions.


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About crmBright

Bright and innovative solutions based on Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online.
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