Interview with Michael Fauscette: ‘Businesses Have to Look First for the Solution that Solves the Business Problem Most Effectively’

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Interview with Michael Fauscette: ‘Businesses Have to Look First for the Solution that Solves the Business Problem Most Effectively’

Editor’s note: CRM. This abbreviation is interpreted in different ways depending on industry, business strategy and size. However, there are across-the-board aspects that can be applied to the effective business running in general. Vivid description of these shared issues you will find in our interview with Michael Fauscette, a software analyst/executive at IDC and professional speaker, blogger and writer interested in business development. In this interview Michael shares his personal background, considerations concerning CRM system for various businesses and gives some tips for managing sales processes and customer relationships.

1. Michael, almost 20 years you work with software and business development. Currently, you are a group vice president of IDC and consultant on software services strategies. Moreover, you are a blogger, public speaker, and photographer. Do these multiple aspects of your personality help you in work? How?

Well actually it’s more like 30 years in tech, I originally got involved with software and technology as an Officer in the US Navy. My time working there and with several software companies including several startups, PeopleSoft in the 1990’s and Autodesk in the early 2000’s provided a great backdrop for my current role leading the WW software applications research team at tech market research firm IDC. In this role I spend a lot of time consulting with software companies and end users on the use of software for business modernization and what some people are calling "Digital Transformation". In particular I get to spend part of my time focused on the future of enterprise software technologies, which is fun. I also write regularly, blog and speak at conferences on software and the future of tech in business. I also enjoy creative activities and in addition to the writing I grew up involved in music, art and photography. I originally majored in music in college but eventually ended up with a degree in sociology and history, but with a minor in voice. Photography has ended up as my creative activity of choice and I am active as a street, travel and fine art photographer and maintain a photography blog as well. I feel like the combination of creativity and technology support my roles as analyst, manager, consultant and photographer. Being able to look at things from a different angle or think about how business and technology are evolving and changing help me provide relevant insight.

2. Any CRM initiative will fail without a business strategy. Some businesses say that it should include marketing and sales goals, others emphasize the importance of service objectives focused on a customer. How to find a happy medium in such a situation? Can single solution suit SMBs and large organizations?

CRM is a term that’s been around for quite a while but business still don’t agree on the common and complete definition and scope. It was always important to link CRM to overall business strategies but today, there are several trends that are having a serious impact on businesses and the way they interact with customers. The Internet and trends like consumerization, the growth of social networks and social collaborative tools, the proliferation of smart mobile devices and a change in attitudes and expectations in customers and employee are putting a lot of pressure on businesses to do “things” differently. To resolve these issues and stay competitive businesses need an overall customer experience focus and strategy. Some people also refer to this as customer engagement but I prefer to think of it as designing a business strategy that leverages people, data, technology and processes to create a business experience for customers that could lead to engagement and higher satisfaction. That involves way more than just the traditional sales, marketing and service. It means that companies need to break down organizational and system silos so that they can execute a coordinated strategy of interacting effectively with the prospect or customer. It means that things like system integration and the elimination of data silos are critical to building and executing a coordinated customer strategy. Technology, software in particular, has to support the overall customer experience strategy and reaches beyond traditional CRM. That doesn’t change the need for complete CRM solutions though, they form the core of coordinating and connecting with the customer. I don’t think there’s one solution or approach that will work for every business. Size or scale is one issue of course, but that’s not the only one. Integration with existing systems, inherent social collaborative capabilities and a host of other business individual criteria must be taken into account.

3. There is a lot of buzz about the extreme effectiveness of the cloud CRM for small business. Does this type of CRM have only positive aspects?

Cloud software, or software as a service (SaaS) is a very effective way to deploy and manage the necessary systems for a business. It takes out the cost of operating data centers and infrastructure from the direct business budget and lowers the overall implementation effort to deploy it. The investment is shifted from capital budget to operating budget and for some/many businesses this is an easier model for getting the right solutions in place. It is the most popular way to purchase and implement new systems today. In particular this is attractive to smaller businesses that have limited resources and really need to focus more on their core business and not on IT operations. For small businesses in particular I think that the positives far outweigh the negatives. In every case though, businesses have to look first for the solution that solves the business problem most effectively and then look at the other aspects like budget, security, resources, legacy integration, etc. SaaS is often the most advantageous approach to CRM systems but each business has to evaluate their needs and the available solutions in that context.

4. Social media is a new mode of communication the route of customer relationships building. Apart from benefits of multi-channel sales and marketing, companies receive silos of data hard to analyze. Can we improve the quality of the data with CRM? What types of records should be tracked for effective performance?

I look at two distinct areas in online social. The first is social networks. They are the platform (or at least one of them) that enables this new style of interaction between employees and customers/prospects. The output of a social network (or other social platform like blogging software) is social media, or social content. Social networks are one of the channels for customer interaction and need to be integrated into companies CRM solution in customer service, marketing, sales, customer community, innovation management system, etc. Social networks and social media are good sources of customer data or intelligence as well. This data is most often collected by a social listening tool, or in a more complete context a social monitoring and management platform. That social data needs to be mashed up with other data to provide context and make it usable by the business for all sorts of activities including sales intelligence (identifying potential prospects/leads), marketing program refinement and targeting, customer service, customer satisfaction, building better products and services, and many others. Social networks can be used by marketing as another channel for advertising and for conducting direct social marketing activities. Social media, particularly blogs are also useful as an outlet for relevant company content that can be used by prospects as education material and by customers to provide support and problem resolution, among other things.

5. The number of software for business is vast and growing, and companies compare their existing solution to a more practical or affordable. Many businesses decide to move from their CRM and often fail the initiative. How to prepare for this process? Is it possible to switch without advancements of business strategy?

Any IT project can be challenging if the company isn’t prepared to fully support the implementation. Just because a solution is cloud based/SaaS doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require process and cultural change along with the new technology. Employees still require training and the company still must use the software as a core to existing and new business processes. CRM implementations need to be couched in the context of the broader customer experience strategy. The technology is part of the underpinning of that strategy so the two just be aligned.

6. Some businesses have a long customer journey due to inaccurate and irrelevant analytics. Michael, in your opinion, how can we reduce the sales cycle with CRM?

CRM, and particularly sales force automation and sales intelligence solutions are about helping manage the sales process and about (hopefully anyway) making the sales person more effective. It may also be about shortening the sales cycle, but that depends on the business and its particular strategy. There’s a bigger disruption happening in the sales process for most (maybe all eventually) companies. The new connected customer (B2C) in both business to consumer and business to business (B2B) is forcing companies to reevaluate how they connect with prospects and how they interact with them. In a recent survey I did for a client,, I found that B2B buyers indicated that 65% of the time they had already made a decision on what they would purchase before contacting the vendor. In other words prospects are using their own social networks, peers, online reviews, etc. as sources for educating themselves on companies products and services before talking to a vendor. This means that the vendor often has no way of influencing the sale and in fact may be missing huge amounts to sales to competitors that they don’t even know about at all.

The solution of course is related to the what I referred to in #4, that the company needs a CRM solution that includes the capability to collect and act on intelligence generated by prospects online. The new process is more of an interaction model and much less about a “journey”…buyers don’t make decisions in a linear fashion and if you are building processes that assume that, you are missing out.

7. CRM puts the customer in the middle of all business processes. Generally, companies lead data-driven or content-driven marketing. Which type is more influential? Why?

I don’t think it’s that easy, it’s not one or the other at all. Data driven marketing is an essential part of targeting and learning how to (and about what to) interact with customers and prospects. The data identifies the opportunity or need and the content is used to help educate the prospect. They work together, like in #4 and #6 above. Data driven marketing is an approach that all marketers need to be applying across all marketing operations. Content marketing is one tool in a series of potential influencers on the prospect.

8. Michael, as a seasoned expert in business software, could you suggest several books or sources about strategy establishment with CRM?

There are a lot of good blogs and books around on CRM and customer experience. A good place to start is with a book written by Paul Greenberg called CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th edition. He is also working on a new book about customer engagement that I believe is coming out early next year. Paul also writes 2 blogs on CRM. A few other bloggers that you could check out are Esteban Kolsky (ThinkJar), Brian Vellmure (Value Creator), and Jesus Hoyos (CRM in Latin America)…and of course you can check out my blog at

We’d like to thank Michael for such an in-depth interview with a valuable insights into CRM technology in practical usage.

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