2002 has been declared by International Data Corporation (IDC) as the worse the IT industry has ever seen. This is unlikely to come as a particular surprise to most of the vendors out there which have seen profits collapse to all time lows as spending ground almost to a halt in some cases.
But the cloud of decline also had the beneficial silver lining of shoving the concept of return on investment (ROI) back up the corporate agenda. During those heady days of dot com madness - and doesn't it seem like a lifetime ago rather than a couple of years? - money was cheerfully thrown at any project with an e in front of it with little or no thought given to when any cost-benefit was likely to be seen from the investment.
Those days are long gone and now customers talk of little else but ROI. But Meta Group's report on CRM strategies at UK companies suggests that it is just that: talk, and little else. While an encouraging 80 per cent of UK firms declare that they're doing something CRM-ish, precious few of them can quantify what they expect to see back from this investment or when.
We've heard a lot this year about how companies are unwilling to commit to multi-year contracts with vendors, opting instead for smaller, modular deployments over a shorter time period. All good and sensible, but they still need to have a long term strategy in place. But what the Meta survey suggests is that companies are making tactical decisions rather than strategic ones when it comes to their CRM investments.
All this is likely to result in is fire-fighting of particular business problems rather than creating the enterprise application infrastructure that is needed to maximise ROI. It's no wonder then that most companies in the UK can't quantify their ROI expectations in more than the vaguest and loosest of terms.
It's encouraging that so many CRM projects now appear to have senior level business sponsorship within organisations, but that will count for little if the end result is not joined-up CRM but rather, tactical deployments of islands of CRM. We still seem to have some way to go in making ROI a fully fledged part of CRM thinking in the UK.