Okay, ladies and gents, it’s time to get down. This is the first of the announcements after having been over let’s just say a large number of questionnaires with lots of pages (ranging from 9 to 56), completely eliminating my holidays – okay, not completely. I managed to get in a party, meal and celebratory libation – or two – or three.
Welcome to the finalists for the CRM Watchlist 2013.
What’s a constant source of delight and amazement to me is how much things change over a year and yet…they don’t really. There are companies that are consistently on the list year over year and make me look really good about what I said because they had an impact. Yet, mixed among those companies are a significant number of companies who emerge as likely players in 2013 due to their combination of top flight products, great management, wise strategies, solid thinking, visionary execution, great cultures, intersection of market trends and a little luck, pure and simple.
Make no mistake about it; even though there is no set number of winners, it is very difficult to win a place on the Watchlist. In 2013, as I will explain below, I made it even harder and you might see a number of companies who you would expect to ordinarily be on the Watchlist not on it. There will be multiple reasons for that. You’ll know all in due time.
What is the Watchlist?
For the novices out there, the CRM Watchlist has been around 5 years as of 2013. It’s an award designed to single out technology companies that will have a significant impact in the coming year in the market with customers, and in the industry they represent. It skews to the larger companies rather than the smaller companies simply because larger more established companies have a better chance to win because they can afford to do those things that have an impact more so than small companies can. However, small companies are definitely in the mix and thus are often among the winners – because they wow me with their stuff and they tend to flow with the trends in the market.
Apparently, companies place some credence in the Watchlist because I had 153 entrants this year (of 173 registrations) and some from incredible companies that I didn’t know.
Just to be clear and to meet whatever regulatory requirements I have to:
- Many of the companies that are finalists and possible winners in 2013 are or were my clients
- Many of the companies that didn’t make the finals but entered are or were my clients.
- Many of the companies who didn’t enter are or were my clients.
- Many of the companies who are finalists and possible winners aren’t or weren’t my clients.
- Many of the companies that didn’t make the finals aren’t or weren’t my clients.
- Many of the companies that didn’t enter aren’t or weren’t my clients.
I will be willing to let you know which winners are or were my clients if you’d like to know. Just pop me a line at my email – firstname.lastname@example.org after they are announced.
To be entirely clear, even though wildly different standards and rules applied, the same deal has always applied. There are no biases either positive or negative based on my being paid for the consulting or thought leadership that I provided to them. Zero. The above six statements stand. As do I, on principle.
There is a sea change in how I’m dealing with the contest this year – and it will be the reason that there are some expected companies not on the list. For the last four years of the contest, I pretty much did all the work. In the beginning of the year I would start by tracking upwards of 200 companies that I was interested in and by the time of the Watchlist, I had a pretty solid picture of what I thought the companies were doing and what they were up to. After reviewing what I had, I would have an open enrollment period where companies who I hadn’t tracked could request a questionnaire that they had to fill out. Typically I would get about 80 or more requests for the questionnaire in the two-week period. Then I would evaluate the 200 plus open enrollments and reduce it by about 70% to about 60-70 finalists. Each of those finalists would be evaluated by a fairly large set of weighted criteria. After evaluation scores were tallied, typically, there were three categories that the finalists fell into. The scores showed me a guaranteed winner, a guaranteed no go and a judgment call. Typically, the largest group fell into the judgment call area. It worked out to a modified version of a bell curve if I have to give it a name. Maybe I’ll turn the Watchlist into The 56 Group Bell Curve for Market Impact. My very own Magic Quadrant or Enterprise Wave. Kidding. Totally kidding.
When it got to a judgment call, a number of things played into it. First, the granular scoring. These were weighted categories. If they scored well in the areas that I cared about the most – that was a good thing. If they were a clearly established company, two things could matter – did I see them as stagnant or did I see them wielding their size in ways that had an impact and an even more likely impact in the upcoming year. Also, I would discuss the company with my friends who also do what I do. Then I would make the call. About 25-30 or more made the winners circle. Each of those got a full bore written review. In fact, if you’re interested, I’ve got an eBook of the 2012 CRM Watchlist, which includes 110 pages of reviews of the Watchlist winners. Again, you want it, request it at email@example.com and it is yours free of charge.
There was also a 6 month review list – a list of companies that I felt were short on a few things that they needed to do to have an impact. I gave them 6 months to take care of those things and would see if they should be put on the list. Problem is of course, I am not so stupid to think that these companies – or any of the winners either – read the reviews – 6 months or otherwise, and said, “hey, whoa, we need to drop what we’re doing and get onto Paul’s stuff right away. To hell with everything else! Move it, everyone! You read what Paul said!!” Uh. Huh. So, needless to say, for example, none of the companies on the 2012 6 months review list managed to make the winners circle after the reviews were done – 8 months later. Okay, so I’m not so prompt. Sue me.
Changes for 2013
While I’m thrilled that the Watchlist has actually become meaningful to many of the companies that are participants, I also know how much of my time it actually takes. It’s not a metaphorical statement or a funny one when I say it takes up my entire end of year and well into the beginning of the New Year. That’s in addition to the fact I monitor and assess around 200 companies throughout the year as part of my normal work. So I decided to make some changes and there is one big rule change for this year.
For the first time, in order to qualify for the Watchlist at all, a company had to request and fill out a questionnaire. There were no exceptions to this.
That means, even if I normally track you and even if you are a huge company who will obviously have an impact in the coming year and even if you’ve won the award in the past, if your company doesn’t submit the questionnaire by the due date, you can’t even qualify.
There are two exceptions, neither of whom have to fill out the questionnaire.
One exception to the rule is the Lifetime Achievement Award, which was instituted in 2012 with the first winner ever, Peppers and Rogers Group. This year’s will be announced next week as the opening of the CRM Watchlist 2013 awards. Right now my lips are sealed.
The second exceptions is the winners of CRM Idol are guaranteed a winning place on the Watchlist. You win CRM Idol, you win the Watchlist. You’ll see the names of the CRM Idol 2012 winners in the finalist list below but trust me, they won.
Beginning in February 2012, I put out the call for the Watchlist 2013. Get a registration form which gave me contact information, when it was submitted, you get the Watchlist 2012 yearbook and the appropriate questionnaire – either the vendor questionnaire or the consulting/systems integrator questionnaire. Those are the two categories that are judged. There is no and will never be a cost for this competition so the only thing I required was that if you submitted the registration it was with the intent to submit the questionnaire because as soon as you registered I began to track you for the Watchlist. The response was surprising. I had 173 requests for the questionnaire. Far more than expected. The other thing that I felt warm and fuzzy about was that all the winners from last year except one requested it. Needless to say, that one won’t win this year. I will also let you know who probably would have won but didn’t because they didn’t submit the questionnaire. Yeah, I’ll out them unless I have a change of heart.
So, I have all the questionnaires now. Evaluations for the finalists are now done.
There will be a new set of Watchlist posts that will be somewhat different than last year. It will go like this:
- The Rules, Criteria and the Finalists List – That would be this post. See below for the criteria and the finalists.
- The CRM Watchlist Lifetime Achievement Award – This is an institution that is related to the technology industry that has done exemplary work and has had continuous impact for a long, long time.
- The CRM Watchlist Winners List -This is just a winner’s list not the reviews or analysis. Weirdly, this post was my highest viewed post of 2012. Not sure why but it was.
- The CRM Watchlist broken down by categories – This is several posts that will roughly organize the winners into the categories that they approximately fit. This is a fluid group because the winners are tied to the trends in the market as well as their own independent impact “index.”
Some New Categories
In addition to the elimination of the 6 months review I’m adding two new categories to the winners. A very small handful of companies who didn’t win (1-2 in each category) will be named either Ready to Leap or One To Watch.
Ready to Leap
This is a company that is a year or so away from being a real impact player in the market. There are usually just one or two things that prevent it this time. But they are definitely close. These qualified as finalists but typically at the very low end of the scale because they are a year away. They are awesome companies and well worth knowing now because you get in before they become too good for you (Uh, LOL here. Kidding.)
One to Watch
I don’t think I could have been a whole lot clearer about this contest being skewed to larger and more mature companies. The winners will tend to be companies that have invested the time, effort and have the product and management chops to really whack the market, even with shortcomings. But there are a few entries that are babes in the woods that have a thing about them that stands out no matter how completely new they are. I’ll give them, (and the Ready to Leapers) a badge for display because they are worth tracking over time. They just need to mature.
Next Stop: The Criteria
As you would imagine, a lot factors in to the choices of a winner when it comes to the Watchlist. So I’m going to give you what criteria are considered, though I won’t tell you how I weigh them – and that has a significant impact on the scoring and the judgment calls.
As stated for the 8th time, being a large established company that has substantial market presence already improves your chances for victory. But it doesn’t guarantee it. If you are a smaller company, you really have to wow me. Every year, several companies do. For example, last year, Blackbaud, which isn’t a small company, but was not often on the radar screens in the CRM world then, had the highest scores of any contestant. Nexj who are focused on the insurance industry and health services was a “walk on” – a company that filled out the questionnaire who I had never heard of. They were a winner too. Check out the finalist list. You’ll see now familiar names.
So here are the criteria and an explanation of each.
- Financial Performance -. How well has the company done in the last 12 months? Part of this is for understanding how the candidate companies think about their top and bottom lines. How well have you done year over year? Why? Because I need to be able to gauge the success you’re having as a business and the stability you have relative to your financial performance. How important is that relative to the other criteria? If you know me, you’ll have a good guess. If you don’t, try to find out. But not from me
- Management - This is a look at who the candidate companies’ top and CRM/SCRM management are. Remember this is a CRM Watchlist so there are two things that I’m looking at. First, the management that is directly involved in CRM or the component technologies that are relevant to this. So it might be a VP of Product Development or Product Marketing for example. Second the C-suite commitment to the CRM or, again, component technologies relative to the rest of the portfolio of products and services.
- State of Technology Products/Services - Since I’m looking at both technology companies and the consulting services providers, the product portfolios that are appropriate to the Watchlist from the vendors and the services provided by the SI/Consulting firms in the CRM(ish) domains are obviously something that I have to look at thoroughly. The way I look at them – quality of the existing portfolios; the road maps; appropriateness to the market; customer perceptions of the value-in-use of the products. How well they support the jobs customers want them for – not the feature function list.
- Partnerships/Alliances - who do these companies, hang out with- at least the tech vendors and the SI/consulting institutions? Is their partner mix a wise one? Are they getting results with their channel/ecosystem? Are they fair to their partners? How do they think of the partner channels? What do their partners think of them? What kind of programs do they have for the partners? How successful are those programs?
- Mission/Vision - What is the CRM related mission and vision for the company? Do they even have one? If they don’t, how is CRM thought of in the context of the universal corporate mission and vision?
- Market Presence/Impact - What kind of impact and presence does the company have in the market? That means how they are perceived, how they participate, what their messaging is and how it coheres with their actions in the market. How does the company run their external operations – outreach to customers? What are customers’ perceptions of them?
- Thought Leadership - This is different than market presence. For example, there is one major company who has a strong to dominant market presence and only a weak to modest hand in thought leadership. This means how you move the needle forward when it comes to thinking about ideas – which could be in your domain – say, analytics” – but it also looks at how you relate to analysts, bloggers etc. and how much you participate in the idea marketplace in the community – independent industry conferences etc. and what materials you are putting out there be it a white paper, an event, a video, a conference of your own. It also means how much you support your vision and mission or your messaging with a body of knowledge.
- Corporate Culture - Finally, how does your mission/vision and belief structure affect your company and how it supports its employees and its customers? How well do you treat your employees? What do your customers think of working with you – not just of you? Are you flexible enough a culture to be able to change when need be. How imperious is management or how empowered are the staff etc.? Plus many other “touchpoints.” This is all part of the equation.
A Few Other Changes
In addition to the change in how to get into the contest in the first place, there are several other under the hood changes for 2013. Each year as far as the criteria goes, I take into account the market trends and what it takes to penetrate and show well in those markets. For example, if this were the first year of the CRM Watchlist a company that applied that was a social media monitoring company, who were few and far between had a far better chance of winning because there was still a chance to be a market maker (not a market creator) and the market was nascent and hot. That clearly isn’t the case now, though that doesn’t mean that they can’t win now. It’s just that what it takes to win for a company like that is more substantial than it might have been in the “distant” past.
The practical implications to the “system” I have, if you can call it that is that the weights are applied to the criteria shift. This year I refined even the score levels because I need a more granular look at the contestants. In addition, I no longer have a guaranteed winner threshold but instead a guaranteed finalist threshold, though as last year, I still have a guaranteed loser threshold, and a judgment call area that I’m working with. That means that if you are a finalist, you made either the guaranteed level or the judgment call level. But not only are the weights are different and the scoring system different than last year, but I will rescore the finalists based on a separate set of external criteria which requires some additional research on my part.
What this means is that there will be fewer finalists and even fewer winners than last year. That said, keep in mind there is no set amount of winners. Theoretically a finalist – who is a company that made the top two thresholds of the scoring, could win. Theoretically all finalists could win. That’s never happened but it could. The reason that any company makes the finals is that I think that they have a half decent shot at making a real impact in 2013.
Okay, now for the plum in the pudding as they said in the 1830s. Your finalists are now being announced.
The Finalist List
This list bears explanation because it’s a little more complicated than in the past.
First, to be absolutely crystalline.
This is just a list of the finalists, not the winners. That will be soon enough. Be patient, grasshoppers. These lists are in alphabetical order. There are several categories. The two major categories (both of which are weighted differently) are Vendors and Consulting Companies/Systems Integrators.
Second, you’ll note that we have finalists’ names in the Company to Watch category but not the Ready to Leap. To reiterate – Ready to Leap is a company that made the finals but is not a likely winner but still just a year away from being a winner. Companies to Watch are companies that are at least two years away from being considered serious Watchlist contenders but have something worth paying attention to. The finalists for Companies to Watch didn’t make the cut for the general finalist list – they typically weren’t mature enough but there is something intriguing and noteworthy about each one of them. As I said earlier, this list is skewed to larger companies since it’s an impact award, but these are companies that have that potential. The finalists for Company to Watch are listed here. I’ll choose two winners in each category when we announce. The winners of Ready to Leap are among the finalists in general. You’ll have to wait for the two winners in that category.
Third and finally, you’ll note that there are some companies that you would expect on the list that aren’t there. For example in the vendor category companies like IBM, Zoho, and Exact Target and among the consulting/SIs, Deloitte, Cognizant, PwC, Infosys, Dachis Group and others. The dealio there is that they didn’t submit the questionnaire so they didn’t qualify. Too bad. While there are a couple of disappointments, all in all, no skin off my nose. Apparently, none off theirs either. So we all come out with unscraped honkers.
The ones who are listed here are among those who went to the effort of filling out what is a lengthy questionnaire and for that, I thank them for taking the time and making the effort. I know that there are a lot that didn’t make it to the finals but there is always next year, and in many cases, I now know who you are as will others. Not making the finalists list doesn’t make you bad, just not a finalist.
But those that came through and preliminarily scored well are on this finalist list. Again, this is just a list presented with the name of the company and a link to their website. This is no more than that. The meat of the Watchlist comes with the winners.
Roughly one third of the vendor entries qualified as finalists in CRM Idol:
- Artesian Solutions – CRM Idol 2012 Europe/Asia/Australia Winner
- BPM Online
- Crowdtap – CRM Idol 2012 Americas Winner
- Genesys Labs
- Get Satisfaction
- Iko Systems
- Lattice Engines
- Pitney Bowes
- Teradata Aprimo
- Vertical Solutions Inc.
Roughly a little less than half of the consulting/systems integrator entries qualified as finalists.
- DRI Consulting
- Ernst & Young Advisory
- ITC Infotech
- Solvis Consulting
- The Pedowitz Group
Ready to Leap
These are companies that are just about there but not quite enough to be real impact players. But oh so close. They were able to qualify as finalists and thus, will be drawn from the finalists. Two of them will win this award. Not quite the same as the winner but well on the way. Vendors and Consulting/Systems Integrators are treated as the same for this category.
Ones to Watch
These are the vendors that are still at least couple of years away from having a big impact but they have some real promise. It means that their current offering is purchase worthy but they are missing some of the other pieces that they need to be an impact player. Only two will be chosen from this list as winners.
So congratulations to all the different finalists. And apres moi, le deluge. The winners and reviews are next. Watch for it at a theatre near you. Rated PG-13.
(Cross-posted @ Social CRM: The Conversation | ZDNet)