The History of CRM Systems - A Brief Overview of the Origin & Development until Today

Jacinto M.
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How the First CRM System Was Built

The Day-Timer is considered to be the first prototype of the present-day CRM systems. Day-Timer was a structured notepad designed by an attorney named Morris Perkin who had his first prints done by Dorney Printing in 1952 and then went into mass production with them by 1956. This notepad helped professionals structure their contacts, working day and track tasks.

The Day-Timer was originally created for lawyers but quickly became popular among all kinds of professionals such as accountants, doctors, and executives worldwide, and known as Manager’s Calendar. Day-Timer Inc is still working these days and produces various means for managing and planning activities on sheets of paper.

A few years later, Arnold Neustadter and his chief engineer Hildaur Neilsen then created the first client base called Rolodex, a 360-degree rotating card file system, which turned out to be the most popular tool for client base management in the world up to the 70s.

Computerization Epoch

Computer equipment was extensively exploited in the 60-70s. This should have urged humanity to develop CRM systems. However, it didn’t happen. Computers of large corporations stored the most crucial data concerning clients’ transactions. At that time, computers were too costly for managing sales. The majority of companies preferred Day-Timer, Rolodex, and other similar tools.

Sullivan Breakthrough

The software called Act!, designed by Pat Sullivan in the middle of the 80s, was the breakthrough in computerizing relations with clients. His product had quite modern features at the time and helped managers structure and quickly track client relations with a personal computer rather than manually. Intense development and use of computer equipment made Act! a real breakthrough.

The popularity of the software triggered a widespread use of the name CRM - Customer Relationship Management. This term now refers to the modern understanding of similar products, such as the systems for computer-based client-centered sales technologies.

The Internet Era

The internet became accessible for private business activities, and this triggered the development of CRM systems. The World Wide Web gave birth to a new trading industry: online stores. E-business made CRM systems more popular for maintaining closer relations with clients, and client-server computing further pushed this stage in the pivotal development. It allowed access to data from any place in the world.

Today, the world knows thousands of these products that belong to the CRM system category. The development has moved to the point where we are now mainly talking about cloud-based SaaS (software as a service) solutions that enable companies of all sizes to use a CRM effectively and scale it flexibly.

The introduction of Salesforce's cloud-based CRM software in 1999 started a new trend and spurred interest in cloud computing solutions for enterprise applications. However, the 2000s were characterized more by the foundational growth and establishment of cloud computing as a viable solution. During this decade, there were early adopters and pioneers, but not necessarily a broad, diversified market of offerings.

The 2010s, on the other hand, saw an explosion in the number and variety of cloud-based solutions across all sectors, including CRMs. It was the decade when cloud computing became deeply integrated into business operations worldwide. This run led to many companies, both new and established, launching their cloud-based CRM solutions to tap into the growing market demand and thus made CRM software accessible to everyone.

Historical Milestones of CRM Systems Infographic
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Sales is what I did, CRMs are what I chose to master. I enjoy testing out scenarios and new approaches to maximize efficiency. In my free time, I play chess and go on hiking adventures with my family.