Welcome to xRM: CRM that goes beyond sales, service, and marketing

Microsoft Dynamics' customization opens new possibilities for software-assistent relationship management in all sorts of areas

Can you remember the first type of CRM tool you used years back (before computers)? Maybe you worked with a Rolodex, invented in 1954. Maybe a simple black book of names and information. Today, most people use the contacts facility in Outlook or the built-in contacts application in Windows. But for ultimate contacts management, there's CRM software.

The following comment from Lauren Carlson, a CRM market analyst at the application-promotion website Software Advice, really stuck with me: "When most industry observers hear CRM, they think of applications for sales, service, and marketing." What caught my attention in that statement is how narrow it sounded -- but when I tried to think about other uses for CRM, nothing came to mind. Surely it must be useful for other disciplines, I thought, so I jumped over to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM website and found that it too focused the same three areas.

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But digging a little deeper, I realized that Dynamics was in fact more widely useful. Because Dynamics CRM is customizable, people are creating solutions that go beyond sales, service, and marketing. It's not CRM but xRM, where the "x" means anything. xRM goes beyond traditional CRM in that it can be used by any team, can manage any relationship, and can automate any business process. (To be fair, other CRM tools feature such extensibility as well to varying degrees, and Salesforce.com also boasts hundreds of customization in its online marketplace for specialty needs.)

The diversity of this xRM world is amazing. Consider just two examples. One is from Atrio Systems, which has an xRM tool for livestock management: herd management tracking, reproduction tracking, and veterinary records. That certainly goes beyond the traditional sales/services/marketing CRM offering, doesn't it?

Another example is from Quorum, whose Xsellerator is a management system for auto dealerships. It includes customer/vehicle database management, sales performance tracking, and cross-departmental communication. It's true this example fits the pattern of sales/services/marketing, but it is so tailored to one environment that it clearly goes way beyond the simple Rolodex software offerings for contact management and typical out-of-the-box CRM products.

Do you use CRM in your environment? What industry and/or personal requirements would you need for a customized xRM application?

This article, "Welcome to xRM: CRM that goes beyond sales, service, and marketing," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in business software and Windows at InfoWorld.com.