Customer relationship management software in high demand
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Customer relationship management software in high demand

For businesses to stay competitive in today's enterprise environment, leaders need to have access to a wide range of actionable information about their customers. Advances in technology have enabled companies to use the data they gather from payments and other interactions to shape their budgets, advertising efforts and promotions, and it's no surprise that these solutions continue to rise in popularity.

Research firm Gartner recently found that 2012 was a strong year for customer relationship management (CRM) software. Worldwide revenue from these technologies totaled $18 billion, a 12.5 percent improvement over 2011. Software as a service (SaaS) options made up 40 percent of the market last year, which Gartner said was driven by business' growing need to implement easier-to-deploy solutions to replace their legacy systems and achieve greater agility.

The research firm noted that the top five CRM vendors, including IT industry leaders Microsoft and IBM, made close to 50 percent of the total revenue in this area.

"Competition among CRM software vendors really heated up in 2012, as major players continued to vie for broader market penetration internationally and more widespread adoption within midsize to large enterprises," said Joanne Correia, vice president at Gartner. "Market growth in 2012 was three times the average for all enterprise software, highlighting how CRM is at the eye of the Nexus of Forces storm."

The Nexus of Forces refers to the convergence of a variety of trends, including social, mobile and cloud, that act as driving forces for today's businesses, Gartner explained. And CRM certainly deserves to be mentioned as an IT industry powerhouse – according to a separate study by Gartner, these solutions are likely to be the most popular in 2013 and 2014.

The firm discovered in a survey of North American and Western European companies that CRM has surpassed enterprise resource planning (ERP) as the top application software spending priority. This shift, Gartner pointed out, is indicative of changing attitudes in the business world, as more organizations today opt to focus on enhancing customer experience as a way to unlock potential improvements to bottom lines. 

CIO Magazine has also emphasized the importance of CRM solutions. The source suggested that these tools can be assets when it comes to getting ahead – in fact, if enterprise leaders see their customers defecting to competitors, it is a good sign that a disconnect exists between themselves and consumers. In order to succeed, organizations need to understand what customers want and need. By deploying CRM technologies, insight can be gained by making sense of data that already exists in the business' systems.

While achieving excellent results in the enterprise is certainly more complicated than launching a software system, doing so helps. As more companies opt to invest in CRM to drive better-quality customer experience, organizations can't afford to fall behind.