CRM (customer relationship management) platforms, Automation, & Autonomation scenarios

1. Intro
This paper tries to envision the future of CRM customer relationship management platforms, automation, and “Autonomation” scenarios. This paper does not propose the strategies to build customer relationships nor about the ways that a CRM platform can be utilized to attract more customers or the ways it may help a business to attract more leads. This paper assesses the platforms and features to understand what could be the features of a future CRM software.
The timeframe of this research covers the near future, which is the next three years from the date of writing this paper.

2. CRM
What is CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. Today’s top CRM applications are usually structured in three forms; in the cloud, e.g., Salesforce, Google CRM (G-Suit), a combination of the cloud-based and desktop/mobile applications (e.g., openCRX, Daylite) or custom ones by developments/customizations done by companies; developing in-house CRM apps or by asking for the development of the customized ones.

3. CRM Applications
What can we do with the CRM application?
The activities of CRM applications can be categorized into four, relying on four fundamentals; sales, service, support, and quality. Business entities sell products or offer services to customers. Consequently, the support comes, and after, the entities maintain the procedure to understand if they are doing okay and if the customer is happy doing business with that entity. This is a cycle of convergence and divergence toward betterment and quality increase. That is a way that businesses do maintain their activities. Most of the CRM applications offer the following features or have them integrated in a way; calendar, projects, tasks & to do(s), contacts section, groups, emails management (archiving, extracting, etc.), email marketing, trade/business panel/pipelines, information- center, integration/add-ons, Knowledge-base/tutorial/training, files/documents sections, and followups panel. Each CRM has different features and, of course, different costs or pricing. The cloud infrastructure that the platform is built on and the development time spent on features will mostly affect the pricing. For in-house made CRMs, the pricing is affected more by the development costs rather than the infrastructure costs. Choosing what the user needs and which CRM to choose, on a macro level, depends mostly on the size of the company, whether if it is a small, medium, large-sized enterprise or for a self-employed person.

4. Automation
The second term is Automation; Automation is simply to make anything “automatic.” It is an old-fashioned way of describing and defining the rules, patterns for different systems to make things automated. Merriam-Webster’s defines automation as “the technique of making an apparatus, a process, or a system operate automatically.” In the state of being automatic, the human-beings, the human factor, is very important. Because the human will start to define the patterns for the machine to make them automatic, if there is no human, machines will not do these things on their own. Humans have to tell them what to do, how to do, and when to do to make tasks automated and make progress in a project, setting a path forward.

5. Autonomation
The next term is “Autonomation.” This term was utilized by Toyota. In Japanese, the equivalent word for that is “Jidoka.” So what does it mean? For the first time that I conduct in-depth research about this term (2017), I searched the first pages and indexes utilizing online search engines like Google and other general online dictionaries; there was be no tangible result for this term. Still, if you search on technical dictionaries, mostly it will redirect to results referring to the definition practiced by Toyota. Japanese holds three alphabet systems Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Logographic kanji are adopted Chinese characters and were influenced by the Chinese. Autonomation is defined in Hiragana. From自 (Hiragana: じ, Ji, “auto”) and 退かす (Hiragana: どかす, dokasu, “to remove”). According to this definition, automation and humans are the elements of autonomation. The manufacturing process can be an automated process, producing a product just after another. When we have human supervision in the manufacturing process, then we will have autonomation. It means processes are automatic, but humans will find the issues if this system does not function well in automatic order, so there is a human who finds the possible issues and will fix them. The aforementioned is the old definition by Toyota, but nowadays, with the fourth Industrial Revolution that we faced about three years ago (2017), these things have changed; human supervision is now replaced by the Machine’s cognition to understand and self-detect the issues.

6. Cognition & Soulification
What is the fourth Industrial Revolution?
Today, most of the people in the society and connected to the World Wide Web have heard of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence. The next Industrial Revolution has been started at the co-current of AI (artificial intelligence), cryptocurrencies, and cognitive-science (Kourosh Maheri, 2017). By the end of this cognitive evolution, machines (robots) can think like a human, or they think the way that human wants them to think. For example, if a Human wants a machine to think like him/her, the human would do only the initial programming of the machine, the machine will learn the further steps by herself/himself. To differentiate between cognitive and non-cognitive machines, We call machines with cognition by the pronoun he/she. He or she (the robot) not automatically but autonomously will perform the process. At this point, we use autonomous systems; it means the machines will have the cognition (souls). Autonomation simply can happen by the Soulification of the Machines (giving life). Entities’ cognition, the cognitive processes by the human brain or machine’s hardware as the central processing units, are the sign of their soul (Kourosh Maheri, 2017).

7. Full Autonomation/Autonomous Chipsets
The fully autonomous devices are still under development. The human is not able to make chipsets/processors programmed for a full cognition of the machine yet. I have done an in- depth deep web search, crawling, and indexing, and different data extraction methods have been utilized through various search engines and news portals, research platforms to extract the list of the currently available and publicly announced autonomous machines which are developed or are under developments. The 15.7 Gigabytes of text has been analyzed. There are pieces of evidence and patterns of military, governmental, and private companies’ usage and development of cognitive chipsets. Still, their general usage is not happening at the time of writing this article. There is no evidence (signal) promising a release of cognitive chipset technology for public usage in the near future (three years), but a gradual implementation in autonomous machines.

8. Minimum Autonomation/Machine’s Cognition
In the near future, in the timeframe of three years, we will have machines with a minimum of the human cognition for full autonomation, which (who) can partially think like humans to get things done autonomously. The signals have been extracted in my (2017) foresight research on Condition and autonomous machines. To make a fresh conclusion and include the recent results, another recent in-depth web search and data extraction, as explained in the previous section, was done. Considering the researches I have conducted, at this point, I define autonomation as a state where a machine or device is capable of making a decision; a robot can make a decision or analyze the data, like any living creature.

9. CRM Features
Until now, the three terms CRM, Automation, and Autonomation have been discussed. At this point, we are going to see what could be near-future scenarios of future CRM systems in terms of automation. The essential features of every CRM are about contacts, projects, and tasks. There are some additional features like opportunity management, quote management account management, finances, integration with 3rd part platforms, and reports. Every CRM system has a few basics and most useful features as below:

10. Contact/account management and subscriptions
One of the features of every CRM is the contact section. Contact management is simply about the information of the customers and the connections to them. Account management is when businesses deal with suppliers. Businesses usually have their own partners. The account management section of a CRM application is covering the partners. Contact management, account management, subscriptions can be autonomated, but they will be less likely to be autonomated. The reason is that in near future machines will not have enough cognition to decide about each individual contact. As for example, the cognition of the machine can not think and find a plausible customer and decide if a person is a promising customer to add it automatically to its database (autonomous circle of processes). Still, machines are able to find patterns as for example, patters of which contact can be a customer.

11. Time/Task/Calendar/Projects
The next important part of the CRM is about time; it is about the tasks, project, calendar, events, almost anything which is related to time and scheduling. Considering a near-future timeframe, the only element among those mentioned above, which can be autonomated, is recurring events. Predictable things, then they can be autonomated. An autonomation initially can happen in a “predictable scenario.” For example, when the machine can predict a scenario and make a decision relying on the machine’s cognition; consequently, a machine can schedule the tasks (set the jobs) as ABCD; make it autonomated. Above is plausible when a machine can think about what can be predicted.

12-Sales Process
The next part to discuss is the “sales process,” which can be automated but not fully autonomated. A good example is Amazon’s sales processes and approaches in its warehouses, which are automated but not fully autonomated, relying on the information extracted by me in Data-Crawling and extraction process explained before.

13. Invoicing
Invoicing can be fully autonomated. Machines have enough condition to process the autonomous invoice generating. The format, context, and patterns of the invoices make them highly predictable.

14. Reports
Although the context of the reports is usually prepared as templates by the developer and the content may have been according to the patters, but the reports requests and generation cannot be autonomated. The processes on reports may need manual actions or confirmation. The C-level and the people in charge may need to decide on the type of report and the actions related to them. The machines may recognize the patterns of the previous request but can’t process these and decide to request or generate a specific kind of report. As an example, a CEO at a point of time may need a specific type of report because maybe she/he may need a specific term that the robots can’t decide for her/him.

15. Support
The next part is about support. Suppose that, when a customer visits a website, she/he faces a popup message asks how the support person, which is a bot, can help her/him; people may think of it as another automated reply by a bot. This scenario of an automatic chatbot is widely used in companies to decrease their staff costs. It is not convenient, helpful, pleasant for some people. Customers ask for human attention; it even can be a reply by ones who think like humans, entities who are responsible and attentive; attention, care, the human connection are the main three necessitated qualities that customers expect from the support team. General autonomous assistants machines are among the rare machines which may bring the feeling of human connection, interaction, and the human touch, but it would not be extensive, and it’s not plausible for public usage within the near-future timeframe.

16. Knowledge-base
As we understood earlier, a full Autonomation may not happen in regard to decisions on mechanical activities; The next section that can be totally autonomous is decision-making, which is according to the patterns on the predefined data; the knowledge-base in CRM platforms. The database that a user can search for her/his questions. The reason for that is the database interactions are mostly about inputs and outputs, patterns, whether by typing or by voice or any means of searching for a keyword. The user fills a field, and it will give her/him the data, the outputs. For the near future timeframe, the human can reach a fully autonomated knowledge-base receiving and sending the information based on the user inputs and needs.

17. Training
The next section of this article is about training. Following installing a CRM, the user falls in a learning curve. Like any other application, it takes some time to get used to that CRM software. The CRM applications’ first launch usually comes with a notification/popup window describing the application and platform features, tips, tricks, and channels to contact the support team. The first issue is that it lacks the human interaction; very automatic, no human touch and care is involved. It is not that helpful to many people if they get it automatic. A user may need to call a consultant or support team to ask for help. They may prefer to pay for the support to get a task process done. Usually, the top-level people of the companies do not have enough time to search in the directory or archives to find the solution but prefer a direct method to reach a solution. Some of the training procedures are customized and designed to help the users; they are by contacting the user by email, phone, or else. The development team may contact the users asking how they feel about the platform and what features do they need to be added to future releases. It worthy of mentioning that the more customized the training process, the more intervention in the development process would be possible. When we talk of Customization and human-designed applications, the autonomation by machines is less likely to happen, especially talking a near-future time frame.

18. Marketing
Marketing needs C-level decision making. The C level (the CEO and the top level of people in the company) need to make a decision and confirm what should be the content of a marketing campaign. Machines currently cannot create creative content for a marketing campaign, although they can recognize the patters and send the relevant ads. But the cognition of the machines in a near-future time frame is less likely to be capable of producing creative content, Beside it is less likely that the top-level people in a company give the machines a full authorization to send the content that machines created based on their machines schedule, decisions and confirmations. However, the more the science develops, content creation by machines is gaining its more human-like quality, as for example, the music created by machines, although this is also more based on patterns rather than a creative output of a cognitive process.

19. Creative content
Customers are less interested in receiving an automatically generated advertisement email based on their previous shopping patterns; there will be more rate of unsubscription. However, customized and human-made content is more appealing to customers. Quality content is the output of Human cognition and soul, and it will receive more attention even if it is short in two or three sentences; This could be something meaningful in the eyes of the customer, so it is more likely to receive a reply. The machines can’t perform a creative thinking process to create some campaigns and send them to people and lists. It may need a C-level decision and confirmation. The near future Autonomation is not plausible to happen.

20. Design, extensibility, integration with 3rd parties, add-on (s), plugins
Other elements of a CRM, such as the UI design (user interface), adding features, development, cannot be autonomated. UI designing needs creativity; the above, just like support, cannot be fully autonomated in the near-future timeframe. A manual action can be done by humans and relying on human’s creativity, which in the near future, it is less plausible to be entirely in the hands of machines. Development and extensibility are based on human decisions, whether when an entity, user, the team C-level, or else asks for a feature or decides to add remove, change.

21. Maintenance and Quality
Quality control, maintenance, and assessment are processes that need humans to decide and are relying on human logic and reasoning. They need a minimum of human cognition.

22. Inventory and Product Management
The product and inventory management in any CRM software can be automated by categorization and reports, but the management and decisios on the product or service cannot be autonomated. Data can be processed by machines, but which data and the means of the process need to be defined by a human.

23. Files & Documents
Documents and office files should be handled analyses and comprehended by humans as humans are the ones who rely on the information and need them most. Although Machines make automated decisions based on the data analyses and data extraction processes, Still the majority of cognition process is by humans, and the needs and requests will be from the human in the near future. The decision on access level also needs human thought.

24. Security
A top field of the future carriers is security; conglomerates top jobs cover the term “security.” Human factor holds its importance in security-related jobs as management and administration or specializations. There will be human decisions on access and human definitions of the access-levels. This field relies more on human cognition than machines for top-level decision makings. Security is about human intelligence, so machines again cannot have that job in their hand autonomously. The autonomous machines will be utilized to detect the data breaches and do the automated tasks to protect systems. The human will not rely on their cognition to give them control of the security systems for the next three years. Despite heavy usage of automation, the top-level decisions and operations and system-level security (system of Systems) will be in the hand of a human and will not be autonomated in the near-future.

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