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Trusting Data Versus Trusting Your Gut

March 30, 2012 6 comments

As if the CIO did not have enough to worry about; Cloud, Social, Mobile, along comes Data  (BigData to be buzzword compliant). OK, I might have it a little backwards, Data has been a concern for a long time, but now, because of Cloud, Mobile and Social, Data is an even bigger challenge. The list of issues surrounding data is a long one; growth of, quality of, management of, storage of, interpretation of, access to and last but not least, analysis. Many of these are technological, but the real issue is when data crashes into a human…

Do You Trust Data or Do You Trust Your Gut?

The stakes are real – the future of your business. Leveraged well, data will provide an edge, properly used it is a difference maker.  Do phrases like: ‘My instincts got us here, and we are doing just fine’ or ‘it feels right’ fly around your office? Hyperbole, maybe, but most of us know the type and have experienced at least a bit of it. There is an argument that suggests that some people actually do know what the data says, and their ‘gut’ is right. As for the rest of us, I am not so sure, the answer is that balance is needed. According to HBR (Full source below), that balancing has a name – an informed skeptic:

At one end of the spectrum are the pure ‘trust your gut’ types on the other, the purists (“In god we trust, everyone else bring data”) types. The basis of the HBR article is: even if the data is good, decisions based on that data should be questioned – ie, be a bit of a skeptic. This is interesting and important.

“The ability to gather, store, access, and analyze data has grown exponentially over the past decade, and companies now spend tens of millions of dollars to manage the information streaming in from suppliers and customers.”

From my perspective, it is all about intelligence; using data, properly, to provide you and your business insights to make decisions. That is what you do, right; the data is there, everyone who needs it has access and the entire organization is leveraging it to its full potential? As the article also suggests, IT should spend more time on I, less on T – while it sounds fun, there is a small point there, not as big as the author makes it seem. To question data, to invite skeptics, everyone needs access

Do People Really Know What to Do with Data?

What are the reasons that data seems to scare people. Few will admit to being scared by data, but very few have the real background to argue on empirical terms when charts and graphs and conclusions are put in front of them. An IBM/MIT study (Source 3)  identified three levels of analytical sophistication: Aspirational, Experienced and Transformed, in a Year-to-year comparisons of these groups (which can be seen in the source report) it shows that Experienced and Transformed organizations are increasing their analytical capabilities, significantly.

(note: The IBM/MIT report did not present the information in the format above, I used the article to create an image similar to the HBR article).

“The number of organizations using analytics to create a competitive advantage has surged 57 percent in just one year, to the point where nearly 6 out of 10 organizations are now differentiating themselves through analytics” IBM/MIT

What is unfortunate is that it sounds better than it really is. If you really start to dig deeper into the data (oh, the irony), the story is a bit more complex. While things are getting better, I am not sure I would characterize them as ‘good’. Out of curiosity, I wanted to look at a topic important to me, Customer Experience. Based on my interpretation of 3 sources of information, many know what to do, but are struggling to do it. By my read of the IBM/MIT report, only 1/2 ( 10%) of the organizations who ‘really get it’ (transformational) are using analytics to make decisions regarding customer experience.  Turning that around, 90% are not, scary, unfortunate, reality.

“Typically, an organization’s highest-spending customers are the ones who take advantage of every channel, whether it’s the web, a mobile device, or a kiosk on a showroom floor.8 Unfortunately, these customers are most at risk for experiencing a disconnect in navigating channels that are not yet integrated. A unified multi-channel “bricks and clicks” approach can allow customers to move between website, smart phone app, or an in-store service counter with a consistent quality of engagement.” (Source 1)

The only way to know and really understand something like this is to have the data to prove it! It is not rocket science, but it does take some work. What steps are you taking to share data, train people and leverage what you have right there in front of you?

Conclusion

  • Something as valuable as Data is not a Problem, it is powerful and valuable Asset,
  • Help people to understand data, encourage them to be an educated skeptics (yes, question that Infographic)
  • Gut Instincts are not bad, just keep things in perspective, right place right time,
  • And for goodness sake, start using Data to better understand your Customers!

There is so much more to this story. In writing this post, I have a whole new level of respect for this topic…I hope you do too.

  1. Analytics in the Boardroom, IBM Institute for Business Value, Fred Balboni and Susan Cook
  2. Good Data Won’t Guarantee Good Decisions, Harvard Business Review, April 2012, Shvetank Shah, Andrew Horne, and Jaime Capellá
  3. Analytics: The Widening Divide How companies are achieving competitive advantage through analytics, MIT Sloan Management Review with IBM Institute for Business Value, David Kiron, Rebecca Shockley, Nina Kruschwitz, Glenn Finch and Dr. Michael Haydock

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Can you Leave Work at the Office?

February 15, 2012 Leave a comment

I previously talked about Device Explosion, where I highlighted the need to allow employees to point personalize their experiences just as we are trying to do for our customers.  Friend Mark Tamis commented on the post:

“Getting a new iPad from work is just as exciting as getting a good PC ‘back-in-the-day’. Now it make you more mobile, but these are still only access devices – the question is now what are they accessing and what is presented which helps the employee’s job-to-be-done. The ‘back-end’ is still more important than the ‘shiny new object’ device”

My answer to Mark is an answer he has probably heard me give a hundred times in the past few years: “Yes, but…” Here is my reasoning, there are secondary benefits to the device being owned by the employee. The benefits are that if it is a work device, then IT can control it, for one. Additionally, when I look at the device I think ‘ah, that is work’ and I turn it off. If the device is mine, then I might take it with me on the weekend, or late into the evening. Wait, who gets the benefit here? Maybe some expectation setting is in order.

Where is Work, Who is Personal?

The Mirror Image of bringing my device to work is that I never really leave the office, is this a good experience or bad. The other growing trend is that if I work at home, I really never leave the office. It is not even something the office is asking me to do either. If I use my device at work, there are bound to be work related items on the device, or in my personal cloud (Box, DropBox). Where is the work life balance? For me, I have a decent balance (not optimal, to be fair, but I am working on it), because I enjoy what I do, thus it does not feel like work (except meetings, they feel like work).

If work wants me to be more social at the office, does that mean I need to be less social at home? Yes, my tongue is squarely in my cheek with that comment, but it is something we need to consider. My peers are used to me send notes or publishing content at off hours, because when the mood strikes, I write – On my device. I do have a bit of a rebellious streak, I admit it. My first reaction to being told to do something is not a cheery as it probably should be in most cases.

Fast Company posted an interesting article, regarding work life balance and “keeping the lines of communication open” an interesting phrase to use.

“Decide what you really expect in terms of response and connection. Part of the problem is that leaders are so busy using technology to manage their own work/life balance that they haven’t thought about what they actually expect from their team. The leader who emailed from the bus at 5:00 a.m. told everyone that if he really needed them he’d call their mobile phones. If an email was priority, he’d identify it. Otherwise feel free to respond whenever they can.”

Just because you write an email at 5am, do you want to be expected to respond to an email at 5am? Does your team know your expectations? (As mentioned in the FC article) You might be comfortable with your own work life balance, but is this true for your direct reports or others in the organization? These topics might not immediately seem tightly coupled, but they are. The work life balance, what is work and what is personal is becoming grey at best. As organizations of all sizes work to ‘get more social’ this is going to increasingly be a bigger and bigger concern.

Take the time to turn off, unwind, put the device away – #justsayin

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Device Explosion – Just Deal with It

January 25, 2012 3 comments

<Circa 2000>

  • “DVD Player, Check”
  • “LeapPad, Check”
  • “Discman, Check”
  • “Laptop, Check”
  • “Car Chargers, Check”

“Ok, the kids are ready for the car ride!”

<Circa 2012>

  • “iPhone 4S, Check”
  • “iPad 2, Check”
  • “KindleFire, Check”
  • “Macbook Air, Check”
  • (Batteries last all day)

“Ok, I am ready to go to work now”

The Back Story

For those of you who can remember way back in the day; you know, when your work computer was faster than your personal one and you had a 17″ monitor in the office, but only a 14″ at home. The download speed at the office rocked (work had this thing called a “T1”). The Ink-Jet printer at home did not hold a candle the color laser printer at work, and you were on the list to get a company mobile phone. ‘Cyber Monday’ actually can trace its roots back to different time as well, because we had to go to work to shop online. Then Bubble 1.0 happened and the real benefit to us is that we got buy the better computer at home, pay for the better bandwidth, and buy our own mobile phone – no, wait, this was better? The result: your own devices are better, faster and bit of a status symbol (or fashion statement, as my daughter would suggest) and best of all – The IT guy cannot get his grubby hands on your device!

Fast forward to the current landscape and these personal devices are even more valuable, why? Between Dropbox, Box.net, Gmail, GoogleDocs, Office365; iPads, iPhones, Galaxy and Samsung (Thumb drives are so 2000), all my data is in the cloud and I can get to it from any and all devices. Unfortunately, as a business, you have no idea where all the documents are located, where information is stored and how to cut access if needed (much less avoid copies). The funny thing is that the critical files still go missing while the Christmas party video of the boss has gone viral and will never disappear. This might not be the “Big Data” problem everyone is talking about, but it is a data problem and it is big. It is easy to send files to my Kindle email, synchronize my files across between my Desktop, iPad and iPhone using DropBox, Box.net is plan B (but still good) and when I want to make sure I have a presentation available I upload it to three different clouds and still email it to Gmail simply to make sure it lives on 2 mail servers. My description is not without hyperbole,  as most standard business users do not need to go to such lengths, but how far off am I, really?

Is this a Data Problem or a Device Problem?

Among the most interesting aspects of this entire conversation is that people are more productive, if they are happy. If you told them to do all of the above, there would be a revolt for sure, but since it was their idea, their choice, you are best to just deal with it (Anyone with kids, gets this concept without question). I have recently begun an experiment, where I gave up my laptop, exchanged for an iPad (still have a desktop at home). It has not been without struggles, but so far so good. I am trying out the KindleFire, and I will eventually decide which device I like best and I will stick with it, until I change my mind.

What is the relevance here, and how and why do businesses care? In order to move forward, it might be a good idea to think about what IBM thinks on the topic.  (I will give the source in a moment):

“Part of the beauty of pervasive computing is that we will not even realize that it is here, once it has become a necessary part of our lives. In the future it will often be invisible, and the user interface will be intuitive. The other important part of the story is that it will all be networked. Data, once entered, will never have to be entered again, but will be readily available whenever and wherever needed.”

The source: “A look at human interaction with pervasive computers” Ark and Selker, IBM Systems Journal (PDF). What is most interesting to me is the date of the publication, July 29, 1999. Look around and many people are saying/talking/writing about this just now, but it has been top of mine for many years. The paper goes on to share the following:

“Computers will not only be increasingly mobile, but information will be accessible from any mobile position. We should not have to carry around devices containing our information. Rather, devices will recognize who we are and obtain information about us, through “remembrance agents” or adaptive user models, Internet information storage, or other means.

Information appliances have human-computer interfaces. An information appliance should be easy for anyone to use and the interaction with the device should be intuitive. Careful design is critical for an intuitive interaction with the device. Although the desktop computer can do many things, this functionality can be separated into more appropriate devices. Some examples of successful popular devices are cellular phones, pagers, televisions, wristwatches, and toasters. Of course, there can be times when these devices become difficult to use, but in their basic form, they meet the criteria for information appliances.”

I suppose that the question above, in bold, is actually incorrect. It is neither a data, nor a device problem, it is an interface problem. With a focus on jobs to be done; I have a job to do, I know what I need to get it done. Every organization simply needs to facilitate my ability and capability. Gone are the days that we can simply sit someone down at a desk and say: “Here is your PC, there is the printer, here is your password for the domain, have a good day”. In order to be productive, the workforce of today and tomorrow has very specific preferences, and we would be wise to consider those preferences. Will it be as exciting when work gives me an iPad?…

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

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Mirror Images

January 17, 2012 1 comment

For a some time, I have been watching, reading, discussing and doing my best to understand the very broad field of customer service, customer relationships and the supporting strategy, technology and processes which go along with each discipline. Along the way, Social CRM – a complex overlay on all of the above, has become everything from a hot topic to nothing more than part of buzzword bingo and back again. At the same time I have also been trying to keep tabs on Enterprise 2.0, Social Business and Collaboration (not Emergent). Going back and reading my own early thoughts here I can see that in some ways my own thinking has changed, but in many ways it has simply matured. I have been saying for a fairly long time that Social CRM and Entperprise 2.0 are closely linked. In September 2009 I said it here and here. I am not patting myself on the back here, more being self critical. I said this 2.5 years ago and frankly we have not come very far.

This line of thinking have caused the following questions to nag at me a bit:

  • Does better agent (employee) engagement lead to better customer engagement?
  • Does better employee satisfaction lead to better customer satisfaction?
  • Does better user (employee) experience lead to better customer experience?
  • Is the collaborative employee the mirror image of the social customer?

Taking a bit of a leap from where my own thinking was a couple years ago to now considering how many elements need to be, or are essentially mirror images between inside and outside the organization. I am not going to be able to tackle all the questions in a single post. As any good learner does, I asked a few friends for some help.

Does better employee satisfaction lead to better customer satisfaction? Mark Walton-Hayfield of CSC had this to say (BTW – congrats to Mark and all of CSC on the Paul G Watchlist Review!):

“In summary YES! However, you need to make sure that people are empowered and that businesses deliver on their promises to customers too.

People who are encouraged to make decisions by themselves at work and who have the authority to solve problems with the outcome of keeping customers happy are generally more satisfied with their job than employees who need to seek out a manager for approval. Business owners who empower their employees tend to have both a lower staff turnover and higher customer satisfaction levels too.

A core tenant of modern leadership thinking is that you need to make people (at all levels) understand why they are being asked to do something and the part that they play in the bigger picture. By leading people through great communications which encourage motivation and with empowerment designed into the operating model you are creating an environment within which people can be proud and satisfied in the work that they do. For those people who are customer facing (and even those who are not) this will most likely translate and spill over into better relationships with customers. These customers will perceive that the representatives of the company are going the extra mile (and they probably are) and so over time this will improve customer satisfaction.

However, this comes with a warning – ensure that you have delivered upon your original promises to your customers and that you are responding to them in an effective manner on those occasions when you are not”

Mark Walton-Hayfield | Social Business Strategist | CSC | MarkW_H

I happen to agree with Mark’s thoughts, it makes logical sense, but why does it seem so difficult to carry out in practice? For commoditized products and services, where low cost is the differentiator, this might be very difficult to carry out, no? This is not a disagreement with Mark, more of an expansion of his thoughts.
Moving on to some other tough question, I posed the following to Laurence Buchanan of CapGemini (Also a CRM Watchlist winner): “Is the collaborative employee the mirror image of the social customer?” In hindsight, this was a bit of a leading question, isn’t it? In a way it is playing with buzzwords.

“Customers have always been social. For as long as trade and commerce has been around, customers have spoken to each other about good deals and warned each other of rip-off scams. But when we think of a social customer today we use the term to describe a customer who is a) connected to people and information via digital channels and social networks and b) someone who leverages that connectivity and information in their relationships with vendors and other consumers. For example, a customer who is connected to a network like Tripadvisor might use information from that social network to influence their choice of holiday as well to influence others in their network through their own contributions. The motivation of a social customer will vary greatly and may include simply getting a better deal, building up trust and respect from peers, or naming and shaming a poor product or service.

Employees have always been collaborative. Ok, perhaps not as collaborative as they could be (!), but we have always had to work with others to get the job done. The collaborative employee mirrors some of the traits above. Although the networks might be different, the collaborative employee is certainly connected to people (e.g. other employees, suppliers, customers…) and to information. In addition, the collaborative employee leverages that connectivity to help them work more effectively (e.g. breaking down internal silos), to build relationships or to build their profile within the enterprise.

However, the boundaries between the social customer and the collaborative employee are increasingly blurred and increasingly irrelevant. People play multiple roles in their daily lives (consumer, employee, supplier), information (and transparency) now flows much faster inside and outside an organisation and networks are increasingly interlinked. More and more it will be harder to separate the social customer from the collaborative employee.”

Laurence Buchanan | Principal, Digital Transformation | CapGemini | buchanla

Sharing the wealth a bit, I asked Prem Kumar of Cognizant the same question as Laurence, “Is the collaborative employee the mirror image of the social customer?

“If you recollect the concepts in the book reorganizing for a resilient organization, orgs (organizations) need to have people with specializations, areas where they have high efficiencies, areas which could be highly routine and monotonous. There is not much need to take decisions, and even if any, they would happen with in a predefined scope, options. This is what brings the scalability, the industrial scale. Collaboration happens at a minimum in these organizations, especially between people who need to make decisions on non routine issues. These are the people who have been empowered to take decisions.

One of the reasons for this collaboration that Ranjay mentions in his book is innovation, to meet the demands of the evolving customer. I do not remember if he talks about customer support, but here is again an area where you need to take decisions as well as collaborate with various dungeons in the org. ‘Responsiveness’ is the key reason for collaboration I guess. That means responding, at speed.

Now cut to the era of the social customer as he is right now. What he asks is public knowledge, so add the PR angle if there was not enough pressure on being responsive already. No wonder you need to be even more connected, at speed. Collaboration has been clamoring for attention for a few decades now, but now it has become inimitable, unignorable.

Collaboration is no longer a motivating factor to do better, it is now a hygiene factor; you stay healthy if you do it, else you fall sick. It is not doing pilates, it is eating good healthy food. Which means, it’s not about putting extra efforts, it’s about changing our habits, or mind frame for the better.”

Prem Kumar | Strategist | Cognizant | Prem_k

I really like that last point by Prem, collaboration is now a hygiene factor, it is a requirement to doing business. This is actually one difference, where the characteristics are not mirrored. Customers do not need to be social in order to be customers. But, social customers do require the internal organizations to be collaborative. All that is left to tackle are the remaining two simple questions.

Links provided from Mark W-H

Who Leads the Social CRM Market? – An Analysis

April 23, 2011 3 comments

The question was raised on Focus and my answer may have surprised a few people. I started my answer with a disclaimer “I work at Sword Ciboodle” (a technology vendor for those of you who do not know). I then proceeded to state my opinion that no technology vendor currently leads the market, even questioning if there is a “market” for Social CRM, my logic is that technology is only one part of the problem. By the way, the word Social is starting to get in the way:

“The leaders in the market are the consultants and analysts. The reason is simple, I am not convinced that Social CRM is an actual market. Integrating Social Channels into a customer strategy is something that needs to be done, absolutely. Connecting the Social dots is something that does need to be understood and practiced, but a market, not sure yet.

When I was speaking on the topic last year, I was cautious to describe it as ‘CRM in the Age of Social’. Customers have problems to solve, companies need to figure out how to solve those problems – just with a whole lot more channels. My first statement about consultants and analysts was not a knock, it is a recognition of the complexity of the problem, people and process first, not technology.

CRM is often discussed by its 3 core components, Sales, Marketing and Service – when we discuss Social CRM, which one are are talking about? Or are we talking about all 3 and more? Are we talking about Business to Business or Business to Consumer? There are 6 segments at least, where I believe there might be 6 different leaders”

Social CRM does Require Technology, but it is about People

A previous topic also on Focus sheds some light on my answer; “What are the top reasons for integrating Social Media with CRM”. Caty Kobe expands the question/problem statement to facilitate the discussion: “What are the top reasons why an organization should integrate CRM with social media channels” – There is the explanation to my answer, right there, simple. I did not even need to go to the answers (though friend Brian Vellmure has a good one), just the question.

Social CRM, from the technology perspective, is about integration of new channels, Social Media is a channel. Properly, Social Media is dozens of channels, where you need to choose the ones right for your business. The hard part, the real work, is choosing which channels to integrate and then designing the processes around these channels – the people part. Just “being there” because someone told you to is not a reason! Too many industry insiders (Vendors, Analysts and Consultants) are trying to put Social CRM into one simple bucket, it is not simple, and it is not one thing.

We need to find a balance among the new terms, big words and fluffy buzzwords. It is not all new – parts are new, the combinations are new, but in the end, Social Media is just a channel. If you are trying to figure out the Social CRM puzzle and you are doing your research, you might find definitions and descriptions; something like ‘The company’s response to the customers’ control of the conversation’ (@pgreenbe). If you are not comfortable with that one, I am sure you have found one you like. There is only one correct answer to the question of what is Social CRM, yours. Not OK with that, how about focusing on the strategy, not a definition? Looking back to a great post by friend Wim Rampen, who outlined a concise Social CRM Strategy:

“A Social CRM Strategy is all about understanding Who the customer is, through Listening to Engaging with and Collaboration between Customers, Employees and Partners and aimed at Developing Innovations that allow Customers to do What Jobs they need to do, by means of a Personalized Design that empowers Customers, Employees and Partners to influence How well Customers and Companies can meet their Desired Outcomes.”

Wim outlines some great actions, I encourage you to go back and read the original post and the conversation which followed. Notice that Wim only touches upon the technology components. Recognizing that they are there, but not focusing on them first. Some may find this strategy to constraining, some may find it to broad. The beauty of sharing it is that people can take from it and see how it fits within their own organization. It is not only about building new strategies and new frameworks – honestly I think some of the new stuff, without even a hint at looking at the old is pure rubbish. You will need to take this strategy and apply it to your programs of work. If we all spent a little bit more time understanding where we have been, we might be better at figuring out where we need to go.

So, Who is in the Lead?

Finishing off with the Social CRM Market question, which I do not want to leave hanging. There is not ‘a‘ Market, there are many different Markets, including both technology and consultative, there are data questions and process questions. From integrating social channels into your Customer Service operations (where Ciboodle excels) to Socialytics (which Ciboodle does not do, but we have friends who do) – and all the bits in between. For now, it is about how to integrate; technology and process, Social into the programs of work for the foundational components of CRM; Sales Service and Marketing. In the future, we will be able to get rid of the ‘Social’ descriptor and go back to focusing on doing business. The organization or person in the lead is the one who solves the problem you need fixed – not the one with the best marketing department.

A Conversation with a Friend

February 26, 2011 2 comments

Earlier this week, I was able to catch-up with friend Graham Hill via Skype.  Before you get too far, this is not an interview style post. This is an extension of the sharing of ideas to a broader audience. I first met Graham, in person, about two years ago, his insights into CRM, Design Thinking, Innovation, Co-Creation and a broad variety of both business and technical topics is simply awesome. We touched on many different topics, and true to form, after the call, Graham shared links and resources, which I thought would be worthwhile to share beyond just our conversation. I do have a lot of reading to do, that is for sure! We did spend a fair bit of time talking about SMS as well, in relation to some research I am currently working on – post forthcoming.

First a new approach / framework for requirements gathering with a focus on the agent/user call the i* Framework. The framework takes a new approach to designing systems based on how work is done and how value flows through work systems. Graham was passionate about this particular framework and it sounds very interesting and valuable to designing systems.

The i* framework conceives of software-based information systems as being situated in environments in which social actors relate to each other in terms of goals to be achieved, tasks to be performed, and resources to be furnished. The i* Framework proposes an agent-oriented approach to requirements engineering centering on the intentional characteristics of the agent.  Agents attribute intentional properties (such as goals, beliefs, abilities, commitments) to each other and reason about strategic relationships.  Dependencies between agents give rise to opportunities as well as vulnerabilities.  Networks of dependencies are analyzed using a qualitative reasoning approach.  Agents consider alternative configurations of dependencies to assess their strategic positioning in a social context. The framework is used in contexts in which there are multiple parties (or autonomous units) with strategic interests which may be reinforcing or conflicting in relation to each other.  Examples of such contexts include: business process redesign, business redesign, information systems requirements engineering, analyzing the social embedding of information technology, and the design of agent-based software systems.

The Second link which references the part of our conversation which touched on Value Networks and Collaboration. A new approach to modeling collaboration within an organization.

Work life is completely changing as social networking and collaboration platforms allow a more human-centric way of organizing work. Yet work design tools, structures, processes, and systems are not evolving as rapidly, and in many cases are simply inadequate to support the new flexible and networked ways of working.

Value Networks and the true nature of collaboration meets this challenge head on with a systemic, human-network approach to managing business operations and ecosystems. Value network modeling and analytics provide better support for collaborative, emergent work and complex activities.

Third – We both get a bit passionate when relationships within the business world end-up being unequal. The following talks about companies are managing customers for value over their whole lifecycle, not just at sales touchpoints. This topic is particularly important to me at the moment in my new role. Here is the link (It is an HBR article and is a PDF)

Companies have powerful technologies for understanding and interacting with customers, yet most still depend on mass media marketing to drive impersonal transactions. To compete, companies must shift from pushing individual products to building long-term customer relationships.

The marketing department must be reinvented as a “customer department” that replaces the CMO with a chief customer officer, makes product and brand managers subservient to customer managers, and oversees customer-focused functions including R&D, customer service, market research, and CRM.

Any conversation between two passionate people within the CRM domain, which did not spend just a few minutes talking about loyalty, would be a missed opportunity. Thus, true to form we spent a few minutes talking on the topic, with more reading for me on the topic! The following is an excerpt from another PDF, this time from the Economist, shared by Adobe and of course, part II (also a PDF).

Most companies today face a two-fold dilemma. In many product and service categories, competition based on both price and quality is increasing. Customers, faced with so many good choices, are making decisions based on a variety of complex factors. Even in business-to-business sales a similar dynamic is evident, as loyalty and relationships play less and less of a role in many contracts.

In this environment, the enterprise interested in winning, retaining and deepening customer relationships can no longer do so simply by creating a better product or even by holding down costs. For many companies, both strategies are essential simply to stay in the game. Increasingly, executives are finding that the winning differentiator is no longer the product or the price, but the level of engagement—the degree to which a company succeeds in creating an intimate long-term relationship with the customer or external stakeholder.

Sharing thoughts, information and resources is how we all learn and get smarter. Graham has a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience. In a social world where too many people are trying to replace experience with book knowledge, Graham strikes a great balance (with more of both, than most) – and most important, he is willing to share. As you can probably gather, we touched on lots of different topics and and the discussion was quite enjoyable. I am looking forward to our next conversation, and getting together with Graham in NYC this summer – Enjoy!

A Social Business Power Nap

August 13, 2010 1 comment

I could not help myself, apologies to Dion and the rest of the folks at Dachis, you do great work, the title just sort of came to me. The driver for the title, and for this post, is Dion’s post The 2010 Social Business Landscape. I do want to thank Dion and the rest of his team, you came really close to getting it right (I am not going to be so bold as to call it wrong).  I am not really a purist, but I am sticking to Paul Greenberg’s definition for Social CRM and Andrew McAfee’s definition for Enterprise 2.0. For Social Media itself, I am sticking to “Social Media is a set of technologies and channels targeted at forming and enabling a potentially massive community of participants to productively collaborate”.

In the post, Dion references his previous thoughts to help redefine Enterprise 2.0 (just a little). Here, he shares with the readers, that Enterprise 2.0 as the freeform social tools in the workplace, with a concentration on developing solutions to achieve specific business objectives. Great, I am all about achieving business objectives. Wait, what freeform tools are we talking about? Dion also warns the readers, suggesting that we focus way too much on the tools, organizational change and new collaborative approaches, instead of focusing on the business problems.

Close but no Cigar #1: How can Enterprise 2.0 be the furthest element to the right, if none of the supporting technical elements (along the Enterprise axis) are close to the same level of adoption?

Looking at the charts is interesting, it might even valuable to some. But how does understanding this chart help ‘Me’? Not me, as in Mitch, me as in a business. We all have jobs to do, how does understanding this chart, even with the description help me to get my job done? As I was writing this post, at this spot, Jon Ferrara referenced, via twitter, this post on Forbes

“Just developing tools doesn’t mean everyone will use them, and certainly not always for the intended purpose. When Edison invented the magnetic recording disk he thought the main use would be for business dictation rather than music recording.”

The point it makes to me is that in order for customers to make sense of how we plan to put these tools to use, we better tell them the value of the tool. It matters to some that others have adopted them, but why and how are much more important.

Close but no Cigar #2: Putting concepts like Crowdsourcing, Social Location and Social ECM on a picture without really (sorry the ‘blurbs’ do not cut it)  describing the business problem each is solving adds confusion, not clarity.

Just a quick note before I hit my last topic – I just do not understand the Cloud/SaaS v On-Premise Overlay at all. I will post that particular one on the base post. Seems artificial and unnecessary, IMHO.

The Social CRM Afterthought

Saving the best for last, the miss here gets the rest of the box (of Cigars). As I noted above, I am sticking to Paul’s definition of Social CRM. If we can get past the slight of Social CRM being the only topic on the image without a ‘blurb’ in the post, then we can really dive into the topic.

Social Media Monitoring, Social Media Marketing, Customer Communities, Crowdsourcing, Mobile Social, Crisis Management are all extensions of standard CRM – why, because the help businesses go from inside-out to outside-in and focus on the needs of their customers. We need to listen, learn and engage our customers, we are not just managing them anymore (as if we ever did). I would agree that many of these disciplines are well into the adoption phase, as they have matured enough to actually solve business problems. If the companies actually have a business use for all of these technologies, then they in essence have begun to adopt Social CRM.

Further, as Paul mentions in another great post today, it does not matter what I call it, what matters is that I can help my customers solve a problem. We could (and should) take every core point of his post and exchange Social CRM with Social Business and re-post the entire article (yes, some of the facts and figures might just need some tweaking). I find it difficult to believe that the level of adoption of Enterprise 2.0 is as high as the picture suggests.

Customer Enablement Technology

If we really want to help people to figure this out, then we should pay attention to this recent post by Mark Tamis – Customer Enablement Technology. Here is my favorite part of the post:

“Although these approaches give us new ways to get to the Voice of Customer, In the age of scarcity we need to find new ways of creating value that go beyond creating value for the company alone, as Wim Rampen states here. The issue with VoC is that you are still looking through the lens of your company that has a particular colour. Rather than nurturing a collaborative relationship with customers, employees, and partners that feeds on itself and leads to the closest approximation of the desired outcome for all parties involved, there is a fair chance that idea&s and insights just get bounced around the walls of the company to either get lost in its meanders or come out looking quite different from what was actually needed.”

Friend and colleague Paul Sweeney commented on Mark’s post, which adds something that the Social Business folks really should focus on:

“What I really like is that customers need tools-methods-processes by which they can define how they wish to interact with your organisation. We are some way down that line, but its still very enterprise centric isn’t it? (In our company we refer to this approach as generating “edge processes” i.e. processes that don’t want to “look into the enterprise data/ systems” but which can enable / empower the customer by placing the processing, tools, and methodologies into the hands of the customer AND the enterprise user”.

I will leave with the final thought. The entire goal here are for business to create sustainable organizations. Ones where people like to work and customers like, value and appreciate the products and services offered. I will suggest that we spend more time helping companies to isolate the tools and components they need to accomplish their goals and less on definitions and generalities. If we focus on what our customers need to get done, and efficient methods to accomplish that, we will be good!

I am off now to take a nap, enjoy your day.

Why do so Many People think Social Media is only about Marketing?

I do not get it, I just don’t!! Please pardon the outward expression of frustration, my apologies, sort of. Apology made, I do want to know the answer: why is it that so many people believe that Social Media will live or die based on Marketing. I am not making this up, here, read for yourself:

“Social Media is business can go one of two ways, it will either skyrocket or cave in.  The next few months will be crucial in determining the direction the social side of online marketing goes.”

The author further goes on to state:

“We all must be extremely open to sharing and this is the only way in my opinion social media marketing and business will work together. Business owners need to share and share often.” and asks “Can social media and business co-exist?”

There is a link to the whole article further down, but I am still wondering about the question posed by the author. Of course they will co-exist. The real question is will your business be able to co-exist with Social Media. If all you do is Market to, Share with and Talk to, “NO” they will not coexist. If you use Social Media for what it was intended and begin to leverage is as an engagement platform, a place online to connect with your customers, well, then now we are on to something.

If you are able to focus, as a company, to  build and offer better products, while developing better, more engaging and longer lasting relationships, how could anyone wonder if they will co-exist? Social Media is an available channel and a powerful tool, if you screw up, by losing trust and using it as just another bullhorn, sure, you are hosed. The collaborative Enterprise, or E20 looks inwards which also leverage Social Media tools, and technology.

Let’s not forget, it is about the Customer

Friend Wim Rampen recently wrote:

“..marketers continue to focus on explaining to (potential) Customers what value they are providing or adding. Firms seem not to understand that the other side of the table is not deriving value FROM the product. The other side is trying to get a job done and your product or service is a means to that end, thus they are creating value WITH the product. And – this is really important – they can’t do that job without themselves.”

Wim’s article is quite good, and you should take a look, (after you finish here:-). But putting another part of the article together to further make my point:

“Actionable insights are not only derived from good analytics, you need to understand what it is you want your Customers to talk about too, and then see if you can get them to do so.. Don’t wait for the feedback to come to you, but actively seek the feedback you need.”

You cannot even get to this point if all your doing is using Social Media to broadcast messages, there is so much more you can learn from your customers, if you start listening and engaging, then acting. I apologize again for the rant, but it just seems so obvious, am I missing something?

Here is the article I am referencing. I usually suggest that people read it, but today, I am not so sure – your choice.

Can the Value of Social CRM be realized in the absence of a Collaborative Organization?

In short, no, it cannot – that simple. Disagree?

The essence of Social CRM is about inviting your customers into your organization, like you invite an old friend in for dinner. But, in order to invite them in, you must be prepared. The preparation will require change, both cultural and technological. From a technological perspective, tools (yes, tools) that support social networks are going to be key. The support, or the backbone, will need to enable, and even foster collaboration between and within companies and increasingly, with customers. This doesn’t mean a technology-first approach. But it does mean selecting the right technologies (and only the right ones) to enable a natural collaborative ecosystem. “Natural” is a fun concept, here, it means, hang out with your customers where they are, not where you want them to be. If they invite you to dinner, that will work as well, just mind your manners.

It is about the best use of technology, leveraging what is present, or expanding what you have as needed. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform.  If tools and technology can be used to leverage the knowledge within and across your organization, then make sure people understand the tools. If you are a small agile organization and this is not about technology, but experience, then make sure your team gain experience at every possible opportunity.  If your teams are able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then  meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; then, and only then can SocialCRM can be realized. Wait, is the objective to realize Social CRM or the value, independent of the name? And does technology need to be involved at all? No, asking the the right questions, at the right time, in a caring and sincere tone is Social (we have been living with that for the past 1000 years).

Friend and sparring partner Esteban Kolsky wrote a post “What comes after Social Business” recently where he shares a concern with trying to match internal transactional data with collaboration data. (no he is not really a sparing partner, I actually learn a lot from Esteban)

“The idea behind social business of bringing internal collaboration together with external interactions has one major flaw – it attempts to integrate an action (collaboration) with information (data) as if they were equal.”

I think Esteban gives more credit to businesses than is deserved, no one is there yet – thus we are not ready to figure out what comes next.  We need to think about what the customer wants to do, and enable it. You know the royal “We” this is going to take some work to figure out. These are important aspects of your business, no one, nor a tool can direct you to nirvana. It might take some long hours, and lots of thinking (and data analysis) to get there – think about your customers, put yourself in their shoes. Even better ask other parts of the organization to do it, it is worth the time!

If a customer wants to collaborate, cool, let’s work together. If we are focusing on transactions and information, then that is good too, just another type of good. If I am a small company, with a unique clientele, then there is the possibility that we can achieve both at the same time. In other words, let’s do business together and work towards increasing the value of the business for each of us. I cannot do it alone though, other members of you team, organization or enterprise need to be involved.

In short, I stick by my first statement, if you cannot help, allow or enable your organization  – large or small – to be collaborative, work together, then the value of trying to be Social within the context of CRM will be lost. How are you going to get this done?

Does Control of the Conversation Equal Control of the Relationship?

April 19, 2010 3 comments

Starting with the basics; If Social CRM is about the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation, I suppose we should first ask: Does it matter that the customer is controlling the conversation?  Of course it matters! However, your response to the conversation matters more.

Keep the ordinary, ordinary

As Paul Greenberg reminded us last week during his keynote at SugarCon. “Keep the ordinary, ordinary”. When conversations happen, there is a time to jump in and time to leave it alone. Listening in for while is important, to gauge trends and build up experience. If someone (Prospect, Customer, Partner) asks a question or makes a request in  a public channel, answer appropriately. My point is simply that controlling the conversation is not the same as controlling the relationship and that sometimes letting the conversations happen without you is ok, really (please do not interpret this as ignore).

Are customers like your kids?

Before I get lambasted for suggesting such a thing, work with me for a minute. This is more about communications than anything else, I have a ton of respect for my customers (as well as my kids). I have 3 awesome kids, really! – I am a lucky man. Are they perfect? No. Do they complain about me and/or their mother (my equally awesome wife) to their friends or to each other? Yes. Why, because we are not perfect parents either (or, we are being parents and saying “no”). Now, when they are talking among themselves or their friends, should I jump in and try to make sure things are ok? Sometimes, I suppose, more often than not, ‘no’, actually, but it depends. Sometimes an immediate reaction is necessary, sometimes it is not.

(Yes, I am a bit of a geek, but no, I do not have neither a KRM  or a Social KRM system – you can figure it out)

Taking a bit of leap, this begs the question ‘do you need tools to practice Social CRM’? My answer is the following: No, they are not required, but they will certainly help. The consultative answer is ‘it depends’. I would suggest that sometimes the tools are not new tools though. I can share with you the need to engage on the channels where you customers are talking. This is a lesson learned from my kids as well – My 15yo son shares a whole lot more with me (especially when I am traveling) via text messaging than voice (btw – email, NO WAY). Talk to your customers where they are comfortable!

Social does not demand a public conversation.

At SugarCRM, where I hang my hat, if someone writes something on our forums (4+ years of Forums BTW), answering there, or changing channels is fine. In other words, our forums are still quite active (we are thinking of making some changes though). If your customers are not on the new fancy channels, Twitter Facebook, yeah I am talking about you – then you may not need to be there either. This is a slight word of caution to companies – if the marketing group decides to jump onto a new channel, then you will need to listen appropriately on that channel as well.

A good practice would be for the whole company to agree on the social channel strategy. According to Denis Pombriant (someone who I have great respect for), the proper balance of talking to listening is around 25/75; plus/minus. As he states “The ratio of outbound to inbound need not be 50/50, in fact, most of us don’t want to provide input to our vendors most of the time, and vendors don’t want all of that input. ” Kira Wampler, of Intuit, shared the example that the most important Social Channel for Intuit is Amazon – where customer reviews happen. That channel has been around for a long time, it is where their customers are, makes sense to me.

In further reading Denis’s post; The Relationship Entity he also makes a great reference to the old CRM 1.0 world, and offers some sage advice: “When CRM was a new idea companies — large, respectable companies — ran out and bought Siebel for no other reason than it was what other large, respectable companies were doing.  I know because I asked them.” Skipping ahead, I love this line from the post, so I needed to include it “I just reading the labels looking for nutrition” – As a vendor, the message to me is ‘I better be part of a balanced diet’

I do believe there is a difference though, this time around the customer is driving the change. Companies are put in a position of needing to change, exactly how is not 100% defined yet. The change is both cultural, internal processes as well as technology. Does this change mean Social CRM for everyone? No, probably not. Friends have said to me “If you are a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” – point taken. From a Social CRM perspective, there is buzz and hype – I am on record as stating we need to get past that, but companies are already doing ‘it’. Sometimes the effort is organized, sometimes, not so much. The key question is, who is doing the organizing?

By the way, I most certainly did not answer the question – but control is a very strong word. I suppose you could say it was a bit of trick question, as I do not think there is a right answer because independent of the first clause, no one really controls the relationship, because ultimate control is ending a relationship, and either side can do that.