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Ramskov,Colin Daniel

Customer Relationship Management, Business Intelligence & The Fundamental Shift Towards Cloud Computing Solutions

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud Computing

        The term cloud computing is a marketable buzzword that gets thrown around a lot these days and from what I can gather there are still a great many people who don't fully understand what exactly "the cloud" is. If you aren't familiar with the term cloud computing well try not to be alarmed, I am 100 percent positive you already know exactly what it does. Cloud computing is a marketable term to refer to remote server access for storing and referencing different types of data and programs. If you have ever used a stand alone web mail client such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo then you have been inside of the cloud! It simply means that the computer you accessed that email from didn't actually have to store any of the data physically to it's hard drive and that it was all accessed via the web from a server that held the information for your email account and messages. Of course now you think to yourself well, duh, isn't that how the internet has functioned since the back when computers were running Windows 95? In many ways yes that's true, the internet is the gateway for computers to access remote information held on servers around the globe and for this purpose it has always functioned as exactly that, a gateway for data.

        The real change and difference today and what companies like Google are attempting to capitalize on is that there is a lot of practicality for businesses to reduce costs not just on computer equipment like servers but also for them to reduce the human resources required to implement and maintain such solutions on site at the physical location of the business. The need for customized business solutions continues to grow along with the complexity of the business environment itself. Cloud computing allows for just such a solution to the current business problem of limited resources and technical knowledge that would be required for a small business to set up and run it's own enterprise servers and support systems. Cloud computing can be likened very closely to the idea of a utility company providing power to its customers. Everyone who has a home and is on the power grid is going to want and need power to support their heating, lighting and electronic devices but more than likely these folks do not posses the resources or technical know-how that would be required to run a power plant or to set up a power grid. Therefore they as members of the geographic area of the grid they live on may opt to purchase power from a company like PG&E which provides that utility and they don't need to understand how the system works. Cloud computing is very much the same in that anyone can access the service of remote storage, data access, and software solutions via the internet. Along with cloud computing comes the concept of shared services in which multiple business or enterprise entities can access services and implement custom solutions via the internet directly into their business without ever having to move a single server onto the premises

The Fundamental Shift

        Ever since the advent of modern computers and business computer solutions in the IBM era there is been a trend in the growing complexity of running a business and especially of organizing and referencing customer data. The necessity for tracking and storing customer data continues to grow more and more as our world moves further forward each day into digital solutions. Bookstores can hardly stay competitive anymore against digital reading devices like tablets and digital media content availability like that of Amazon and ITunes. It's becoming more and more apparent that our world in every aspect is on an upward trajectory of exponential growth towards a world completely dominated and integrated with technology. Now as scary and Orwellian as that may sound, there are many exciting opportunities on the horizon in general for technology growth such as medical advancements and science of course. The point here is that in our fast advancing digital world we are continuing to develop new solutions to old problems. Legacy products may still do their job but can only be practical for so long before becoming completely obsolete as a viable business solution. In the case of business software solutions and the current widespread buzz around the exciting and seemingly endless possibilities and advantages of cloud computing, we may be witnessing the start of that same process and a fundamental shift in the way we interface with information over the internet and especially the way in which firms do business. 

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

        Customer relationship management is a broad term that refers to the overall organizational effort to manage, track and analyze ongoing interactions and needs of current and prospective customers. CRM has become the hallmark of effective client management and customer responsiveness in a business environment which places a premium on customer satisfaction. It has become essential that all functional levels across the organization be able to quickly access customer data and for the interactions with customers to be recorded for later reference. One of the biggest advantages to a well implemented CRM strategy is the overall organization that comes along with the design process. Firms in different industries vary greatly with regard to what customer data is most relevant as well as how that data should be organized. For this reason there is no single mass market CRM tool that is a one-size fits all type of solution. CRM providers like Oracle, SAP and SalesForce center their business around customization and allow their users the ability to mold their own mix of products and applications to best suit the individual needs of their CRM strategy. Traditionally, businesses have relied heavily on in-house hardware and software applications to facilitate running their business and managing customer information. Companies like Oracle and SAP predominate the market for business applications and customized software bundles for enterprise and small to medium size businesses and corporations while for instance, SalesForce.com provides it's services over the internet using "cloud" technology to deliver applications like it's CRM platform. Customers can access the products directly without having to actually purchase hardware or software and paying an entire technical staff to implement and maintain such a system in house.

        Whichever way a business chooses to implement their customer relations management system or whether to use software based CRM or cloud technology really just depends on the needs of the organization and how that solution will fit into the strategy and best interface with their customers. There is no debate amongst firms today that utilizing CRM strategy not only leads to increased profits but to better customer responsiveness and higher customer satisfaction. 
Other benefits of CRM include: quality and efficiency, decrease in overall costs, decision support and enterprise agility. The opportunities for new business development and leads development underscore CRM's importance to the sales and marketing effort of any organization. CRM technologies of course draw their roots from management information systems and could not function without database integration. Queries, forms and reports are just a few integral parts to a CRM solution and allow for the user to access a plethora of desired and categorized customer information at the click of a mouse. Yes it's true, technology is always changing and we will continue to learn new and more expedient ways to store, access and categorize information. However, it is my thought that the core of those technologies and systems will always trace their root and source back to an original starting point like the original database systems it was based on.