I have been reading a lot of Esteban Kolsky’s writing these days. And not just because he is going to be participating in the social media track at SugarCon this year.

Esteban makes a lot of great points about how concepts like Enterprise 2.0 bleed into a total Social CRM – or really any “customer-centric” company philosophy. I would like to think that all companies place the customer at the hearty of operations, but in a more complex, fast moving, technology ridden world, this becomes a much more convoluted process to manage.

Early CRM was about “customer data” and “customer-facing processes” in areas such as sales, marketing and support/call center. However, these older systems were silos of customer data (even if they centralize data and promote collaboration) that kept a lot of information out of the hands of other teams. Restrictive team access and other limitations of earlier software tools made it difficult for other parts of the organization to deliver on the service principles of “customer-facing” stakeholders.

For example, say a customer calls into a contact center with a problem. Usually, a service rep can provide a resolution and most of the time the situation is solved in a “self contained” manner inside that transaction (even if it takes a few calls). But in some industries or scenarios, the resolution of an issue (even if the solution is easily identified in the call center) has to take place outside the call center. Say, a mortgage payment dispute needs to be scrutinized and approved by a senior team member before a credit can be issued. Now, it is difficult to track (without some major process customizations and creative team/user management) the resolution of this task as it leaves the purview of traditional CRM.

In short – it is sometimes difficult to make “non-CRM” workers accountable for what are considered customer service practices. Making accountants and other personnel that never actually talk to customers start thinking of themselves as part of a customer-centric overarching process can sometimes be difficult.

And that is where Enterprise 2.0 and social CRM overlap. Just as social CRM is fluid, unstructured at times (or seems to be) and all about a collaborative engagement, the next generation enterprise needs to be as well. The walls between customer and company have fallen; so must the walls between departments. All are equally accountable for brand identity, and overall success. The mantra of “it’s not my job” is fading (well, at least I hope so).

Esteban makes a nice continuum graph to illustrate this point (thanks to Jacob at the CustomerThink blog for posting it):

Of course, I am simplifying and probably distorting Esteban’s points here. But the important thing to consider is, “how connected are your front and back office processes?” No longer can we consider some parts of the business to be locked away from customer view. This takes a greater openness, but also a lot of work insuring the right kind of collaborative attitude both internal and externally.

On the plus side here, a lot of traditional CRM systems have become more modern interaction platforms – so that users, data and processes are more easy to model and change. This is a big deal considering a lot of the barriers to this type of automated end-to-end process were technology based.