This week I attended a meeting of legal knowledge management professionals. The discussion turned to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, focusing on using a CRM to find colleagues who have useful contacts. Managing relationships was not an apparent concern. 

I am not a CRM expert, but my recollection is that this class of software emerged to meet the needs of sales people. The idea was to track all “points of contact.” Eventually the concept expanded to encompass a 360-degree view of the customer, meaning that a single system would monitor the entire relationship. That system would also provide tools to manage and, in some instances, analyze relationships.

Law firms started looking at CRM some years back. My sense is that they wanted to use these systems to manage client relationships more effectively. I was therefore surprised at this meeting when our CRM discussion centered on identifying who within an organization knows someone else. For example, such a system would help lawyer who needs to identify someone in a government agency or a lawyer in a corporation.

While identifying the contacts of colleague’s has much value, so too does managing client relationships. I am not sure if I can generalize from my experience, but perhaps in the legal market, the “R” for relationship is slipping out of the CRM.