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Is Social CRM a house of cards?

April 7, 2010 9 comments

I am not simply going for shock value, I am asking a tough question where one of the possible answers is ‘yes’, and that scares me a bit. If we choose to ignore 20 years of knowledge, experience and best implementation practices, then we are setting ourselves to repeat the same mistakes that gave CRM a bad name. This pushes the answer towards ‘yes’, how can we push it towards ‘no’? Is this post an about face for me personally? No, I do not think so, call it a prequel – something I knew, felt and should have said a long time ago.

There are some great ideas, even some really awesome technology components that can make up the pieces of a solid Social CRM strategy. However, at the core, there needs to be a well architected, flexible CRM application that will serve as the foundation for the Social CRM strategy. There are certain things ‘the basic blocking and tackling’ if you will of CRM which cannot be ignored.

You cannot jump to Social CRM if you do not understand CRM

Without a proper foundation, adding more layers and more cards simply adds to the instability. Recent posts (and some not so recent) are well suited to help me describe my concerns. (They are listed at the bottom, to avoid hyperlink hypnosis). If we first look at Paul’s definition of CRM and then Social CRM it should be clear that Social CRM is an extension – by process, culture and/or technology– of CRM. The change was and is required due to the changing needs of the customer.

Since the customer changed, the companies also need to change. But, If you change the focus (who and how), it is very easy to forget the battle scars of CRM 1.0 implementations. As Esteban points out in his recent post, the ownership of the concepts of CRM have moved from one part of the organization to another. Because of this change, the institutional knowledge regarding what it means to build a holistic customer strategy may not be all there. Some is lost, or worse, some is being ignored.

Social CRM is not simply a set of CRM bolt-on modules

Getting past definitions and focusing on what it is, Michael Fauscette says it quite well: “CRM is a customer strategy and many companies have chosen to use SW [software] and technology as a part of that strategy. SCRM [Social CRM] just extends that customer strategy in a few ways.”

Again, I am not talking about definitions, I am talking about practice. Is technology a part of the extension? Yes, it probably is, but it will not work if you do not make people and process changes first (think attitude!). If you use technology as a part of your CRM strategy, then you will likely need technology to extend it to a Social CRM strategy. If you do not have a well organized technology strategy for CRM (meaning it is not simply email and spreadsheets) then adding new technology for Social CRM will NOT be effective.

The Process of Social CRM is dynamic

It is dynamic because where and how the conversations happen will change. Brian and others speak a bit about ‘changes in centricity’ – I am summarizing, but the sentiment should not be lost. Customer centric versus management centric; Conversation centric versus Process Centric – Centricity, Focus whatever the best name for it is, needs to evolve and meet your business need – what do your customers want. Regardless of what you call it, both sets of data are still important. Can anyone tell me that what I purchased, when I purchased it and my buying patterns have stopped being important? I know Brian was not going there, I am illustrating a point. Please read his post, it is important.

Jacob posted the Social CRM process, is it right I am not sure, actually it is probably wrong – hold on, I am not coming down on anyone! I applaud Jacob because anyone should be able to take his diagram and use it as a baseline model (not a best practice) and move the arrows, fill-in the boxes and make it work for your business. People, Process and all that… Jacob is spot on for highlighting process – look at what you have, and where ‘Social’ should fit into the company. Do not force Social in, just because it is cool.

Ok, maybe a little bit of shock value

If at least made you stop and think, I feel a bit better. I really like Social CRM. I enjoy thinking about, writing about, talking about and even well debating a bit. Here is my mea culpa, I have a CRM application, I use it everyday. To me, thinking of Social CRM as an evolutionary step, not revolutionary as assumed. My apologies. If this seems like a change of course, well the Blog does not have a title for a reason…

This list is not just a WordPress – blogs you might also like to read! These specific people, posts and comments on the posts influenced my own thoughts – what are yours?

Paul Greenberg’s – Traditional CRM v Social CRM: Is There a Difference
Esteban Kolsky’s – Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right
Brian Vellmure’s – Traditional CRM vs Social CRM: Expanded
Michael Fauscette – What makes “CRM” Social
Bob Thompson – Can you do “Social CRM” w/out Social Media/Networks
Jacob Morgan – The Social CRM Process

MindTouch CEO Aaron Fulkerson, on Collaborative CRM

April 2, 2010 1 comment

This is a Guest post and a cross post (with permission) by Martin Schneider

CRM takes on many faces, and encompasses a lot of different technologies.  We would be ridiculously arrogant, and wrong, to assume that our solution was the only way to manage a CRM initiative.  When at the optimal stage, CRM systems are hitting on all cylinders by not being one piece of technology but rather many tools working together to support the people and processes that make your human interactions unique.

In that vein, a major trend we are seeing among users and in general is the need for more fluid tools to support the highly versatile forms of collaboration going on around sales, marketing and supporting customers. Gone are the days of information silos – where a sales rep or manager reigns supreme over most of the interaction data surrounding an account; nor is it sufficient to only arm support agents with the data and tools to solve customer issues.

MindTouch is a company with an interesting take on collaboration and data sharing (and what’s even greater is that Mindtouch is a commercial open source company). I caught up with CEO Aaron Fulkerson recently to discuss his SugarCon presentation around Collaborative CRM, and the conversation quickly opened up to include concepts like the convergence of enterprise 2.0 and social CRM, as well as how cloud computing is affecting modern CRM deployments…

Aaron, your SugarCon session is around “collaborative CRM.”  Can you give a quick definition of collaborative CRM vs. traditional CRM?

Terms like “social CRM” and “Collaborative CRM” are being used a lot these days and it seems as if the products in this space grown daily.  MindTouch has a very specific view of what Collaborative CRM needs to be.

I can boil down the biggest difference in two words: Information Asymmetry.  Let’s take a common CRM use case – managing a specific transaction.   This transaction has a lead account manager, perhaps a sales rep who helped qualify the deal, a pre-sales engineer, and possibly a services manager engaged.  All of these team members have various contact points inside the prospect.   These multiple contact points can quickly create an information asymmetry situation where data that might be held in the form of emails, documents, phone call notes, etc., isn’t as accessible as it could be, and that could be to the detriment of the transaction.

Our vision of Collaborative CRM is to create an information advantage for all of the team members involved.  I’m excited to share this vision at SugarCon.

So, where exactly does “Enterprise 2.0” meet with CRM? Are they two separate things?

To realize the ‘information advantage’ I mentioned before, the CRM system must embody Enterprise 2.0-type attributes – that is to say, to openly and easily interface with other information-rich systems, to support the collaboration amongst team members, including those who wouldn’t traditionally interact with a CRM system.

A lot of CRM systems are great with structured data, but how can users better leverage unstructured data like emails and PDFs etc. in their CRM initiative?

Great question.  Unstructured data cannot be overlooked, as they are vital pieces of the activity stream.  All too often, aggregating the data in those activity streams is overlooked, this is especially true for purely ‘social crm’ solutions.  These emails and PDF’s are typically relegated to your desktop or your inbox.   Emailing these documents back and forth has to be the single most inefficient way to share documents, and everyone does it.   MindTouch ensures these types of data points are not overlooked, by integrating them directly into the activity stream, making them collaborative – easy to find, share and act upon.

How does it benefit a user organization to have open collaboration tools versus proprietary alternatives?

No two organizations are the same. You can definitely provide customers with purpose-built and feature rich solutions – but there will always be the desire on the customer side to perform their own customization.  Most often, this occurs with a custom application they’ve developed in-house.   With rigid, proprietary offerings, this might not even be possible.

Finally, how are you seeing “the cloud” change the way businesses collaborate with each other, and their customers?

MindTouch is web-based, so we’ve always had the benefit of providing our customers a solution that could cross boundaries – enabling internal teams to collaborate with partners, vendors and customers.  The big benefit we see in the cloud is that it becomes a great equalizer.   No matter how easy you make your product to download, install and deploy, there will always be that slice of the market that doesn’t have the IT wherewithal to make it a reality.  With the cloud, any size organization can simply sign up and be up and running in minutes.    This means a company of any size can now leverage the same enterprise collaboration solution that companies like Mozilla, RightScale, Intel and the WashingtonPost rely on.

Wow, that deserves a standing ovation!!

February 28, 2010 14 comments

Huh?! What?! – Certainly not my last run down the moguls this past week, that is for certain. I was lucky enough to enjoy some time on the slopes, time with family as well as some time to read from actual books, not even an e-reader. I stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast, in Waitsfield, Vermont (near Sugarbush) with my family (minus one).  Somehow, a book on Complex Adaptive Systems ( John H. Miller and Scott E. Page) made it into my overnight bag, and I began to read.  Before long there was a particular area which I wanted to dive a bit deeper into, an interesting phenomenon called ; The Standing Ovation Problem (SOP). Creative Commons

Staying true to my electronic hiatus of sorts, I decided to do a bit more research when I got home. The SOP, at a qualitative level, is straightforward, easy to understand and has relevance in modern business. Specifically, the SOP can be used as a real world metaphor of outcomes often generated by the tools and technologies which are used by modern businesses, who are trying to be ‘Social’. A better understanding of the ‘why’ or ‘how’ could help  to explain some of the issues encountered by a Social Business, both externally (Marketing, Support, Communities) and internally (Enterprise 2.0 tools). I am not saying I will be able to accomplish all of that here, but it is a start, and I so welcome your opinion.

What exactly is the Standing Ovation Problem?

To help me to understand the problem at a deeper level I found a 2004 research paper, The Standing Ovation Problem, by the same authors. The timing of the research and paper is interesting, as it predates the explosive time line of the Social Networks we know of today. The paper takes a very mathematical approach to the problem. However, a dissection of the problem, approach and theories makes extending the metaphor quite interesting. As the paper states:”The SOP has much to offer as it (1) is easily explained and part of everyone’s common experience; (2) simultaneously emphasizes some of the key themes that arise in social systems, such as learning, heterogeneity, incentives, and networks; and (3) is amenable to research efforts across a variety of fields. These features make it an ideal platform from which to explore the power, promise, and pitfalls of complexity modeling in the social sciences.”

Stated simply, a standing ovation is at the end of a lecture, presentation or performance (stage or athletic) certain members of the audience stand up and clap for a long(er) duration, which leads to other audience members doing the same. While a 10 year old might be able to explain what it is (mine did); why it happens, is another issue altogether.  The reason this phenomenon is intriguing in the context of Social Business, is because there is a Social Media equivalent to the phenomenon . Actually, there might be more than one. Via Facebook, Twitter and Buzz, we make public proclamations of likes and dislikes. Whether is a good or bad experience with a company which we make make public or an article or YouTube video which we Retweet. Within an organization, this type of ‘public’ opinion are certainly commonplace, now more than ever.

What are the components, and who are the Actors?

From a systems perspective, Use Case modeling may not work all that well, but I could not pass on giving it a shot. Though trying to ascribe mathematics to SOP, modeling is required: “In modeling the SOP, one must explicitly account for many aspects of social interaction. Here, we shall discuss just three: the spread of information, the timing of events, and the behavior of the agents.” (to simplify, I will treat an agent as a person in the SOP). Is the author talking about SOP, or could it be Twitter, Google Buzz or Facebook?  I believe that there are definitely social media equivalents, therefore understanding why these events occur is worthwhile.

I am not a marketer by trade, nor a social scientist, but the picture in my mind of the audience, is very similar to how Twitter is organized, maybe Facebook or Buzz, not sure. In the real world, we are all there to watch something, our interests are close enough that we came to the same event. We may or may not be ‘friends’ with the people in the audience. We might be very much in alignment with some members of the audience, though not sitting next to them. How does this relate to articles we read, videos watched or experiences we have, which are then forwarded or shared?

While I might actually know some of the others in the audience, for the most part I would suggest that I am not heavily influenced by them, with one exception. In a pure social sense, if everyone begins to stand and I do not, then I it might be ‘awkward’. Social Media has its equivalents as well. I might be trying to both impress (a Retweet), influence others AND there is less of an ‘awkwardness’ if I do nothing. This is referred to as simply conformity, however, this is not too interesting, but does occur. There is also an interesting difference between the people at the front of the theater, and those at the back. Those at the front are not influenced by others (they cannot see them), while those at the back can see everyone else. The analogy to Twitter would be people with lots of followers and those with fewer. This simple concept could be a whole post in and of itself.

Get with the flow, audiences exist within the enterprise as well.

The paper has a nice section on mathematical theories. The suggestion is that by using the SOP as a “backdrop” many different agendas can be addressed. These might include information aggregation, conformity and information cascades (I think of information flows). As practitioners, vendors, consultants and influencers expanding horizons and pushing back on businesses who claim “we are unique” just a little, is important to help them grow. A deeper understanding of why people – peers – act or react in certain way when new ideas are presented. As businesses work hard to become social, what are the impacts to other groups and departments as the silos are broken down?

Will you be the first to stand, sending a strong signal, when an idea is presented? Are you at the back of the theater, or the front (Leader or Follower)? The comment about being awkward is interesting as well, as one can be awkward in the beginning, by being the first to ’stand’, while it may be equally awkward at the other end to be the only one sitting. In an enterprise, if you are the first to stand then you are taking a risk, no? If you are the last to stand, then you might be taking a different kind of risk, yes?

Without diving into the mathematics, it is a little tough to do justice to the sections regarding information cascades. My reasoning for even addressing them at all, is that an understanding of the social dynamics within the company/enterprise are important. Within a theater, a person can send a limited number of signals, stand, sit and applause. Within a company, you can send these as well as many others. Even in the public timeline, you are able to send extra signals. Studies show that words such as “Great”, “Read” and “Loved” enhance the Retweeting of something, most often pointing at some form of content.

Where does that leave us, is there a conclusion?

The model and this discussion would certainly need to be extended, but the social aspects of an enterprise cannot be ignored. Words such as ‘transparency’ and ‘open’ mean that more and more people are making their opinions known in a very public way. This will change the culture within an organization. My sharing this blog, and the research behind it is a way of suggesting that the foundational research may already be there, if we look around a bit.

Here are a few of the conclusions reached by the authors. The fun question is how do these relate to a Social Business?

  • Most people might be standing, even though they do not necessarily agree with the extra praise offered by a standing ovation;
  • There is a greater pressure to conform, which leads less “efficient of information”. Could this be considered group think problems?;
  • People in the front may “have a large impact”. Is this the follower count issue? Just because you are in front, are you smarter?

There are lots of interesting places to take this type of conversation. I am inclined to ask some friends very specific topics, but will wait to see if people find this line of thinking interesting. Are there other areas we can all learn from this type of application of research to the ‘Social’ world? I am a firm believer that we all need to reach out and learn from other disciplines. Basic, sound research can be applied so many ways.  What do you think. Have I gone astray….?

Final part of the Social Business Engine series – People

February 15, 2010 6 comments

People are the fuel that makes the Social Engine run

Remember, that the Social Engine is my own metaphor for what drives Social Business. My objective is not to cram the word “Social” into the first paragraph as many times as possible, it just looks that way. Social is top of mind, and many people are simply trying to put it all together. So, how about this – I have my networks, my media, I talk about CRM, and I do business with people (left that overused word out). Whether you are talking about Collaboration, Relationships, Knowledge Flows, Engagement, Expectations…It all comes down to people. At the core, Social simply means sharing with other people, in the digital sense, it is done in the open.

“People are the platform”

I wish I could take credit for that statement. Proper attribution goes to Michael Fauscette from IDC. We both attended the #scrmsummit last week in Washington, DC. The statement is not some esoteric, bigger than life hyperbole. It is quite simple really.  You cannot have any of these things without people. A Social Business employs people, just as a Social Customer is reliant upon people. A Social Business is one that recognizes the amplification effect – the amplification of value by continuously meeting (or exceeding)  the dynamic expectations of the social customer. If you do a good job, other people will hear it. As we are all well aware the converse is certainly true as well.

Co-Creation takes people

Co-creation is another one of those terms which seems overly complex, people throw it around, seem to be scared by it. Paul Greenberg reminded everyone that is does NOT have to be complicated. Friend Wim Rampen writes about it often. I will be honest, it is a term that has scared me. I will give a simplistic example, surely to be corrected (but write and learn right?). Say you are at the local Pizza joint and you select a few cool toppings from the ‘make your own’ section. You also suggest a new topping, say Pineapple. The restaurant does not have Pinneapple, but makes note of it. As it turns out, when talking to other patrons, Pinneapple is an ingredient that is more popular than they thought. Within a week, the restaurant not only adds the ingredient to the menu, but offer a special rate of a pre-made pizza that has Pinneapple as a topping.

Relationships with people generate value

Wim Rampen wrote a great post on this topic a few weeks ago, along with some great dialog and conversation after the post. My favorite theme is that Customers (People) do not value a relationship with a company, rather the outcomes that can be generated by such a relationship. The one addition I make here is that it may be not only customers, but potential customers, influencers, partners and communities (groups of people). Strong, value driven relationships are crucial components for the fuel that drives a Social Business.

Communities are a critical component

So, if I say that people are the fuel, then communities are increasing the Octane content. This is very well stated by friend Michael Krigsman, in his post Social CRM and enterprise business:

“Social CRM recognizes that current technologies enable customers spontaneously to form large, ad hoc interest groups at remarkable, sometimes even viral, speed”.

Esteban Kolsky commented here that these “impromptu communities” are going to help “advance social CRM faster by not  worrying about the channels (Facebook, Twitter,  Forums) and focus on the behaviors and data.” I will extend Esteban’s comments and say this is beyond Social CRM, but will help fuel the value derived by all members of the ecosystem for any particular Social Business.

People have experiences, and they matter

There are many factors which drive experience. I am not going to call it customer experience, as the Social Business it needs to go beyond the customer. Customer Experience Management is nearly an entire discipline, one that I try to be well read, but tepid to weigh in strongly on. I will speak more from a logical viewpoint, people enjoy (or not) an experience on a relative scale. The scale is based upon their expectations. Esteban recently wrote a post, where we did not comment enough, so we did not meet his expectations. I am not a customer of Esteban, but we work in the same ecosystem. I am using this to simply illustrate the point that experience within a Social Business happens many many ways, beyond just product and service. By the way, he wrote a second post, just about expectations (I took the bait there).  ‘Meeting’ or ‘Exceeding’ is an interesting conversation, for my purposes here, there is a bar, you need to get over it. Where the bar is placed changes, and ‘it depends’.

Are people a new kind of fuel?

No, of course not, just one we have not been leveraging very well. Why, because people are passionate, if they are not, they want to be, and we want them to be passionate.  John Hagel wrote a nice post “Shifting Identities – From Consumer to Network Creator“. It is a post worth reading for sure. Again, the title sounds a bit complex, but it is not really. The post talks about many things, the last part focuses on the mounting pressures at work. Unfortunately, not many employees are passionate, this will become a problem for Social Businesses. As a business, you will need to encourage employees to find passion, otherwise people will struggle to cope with the pressures.. By the integration of personal and professional lives people will be able to become passionate and passion shines through.

We are Social, we are people and when we all truly recognize that, we will be able to realize a Social Business. Is this a change in business culture, probably…your thoughts?

The Social Business Engine (part 3 of n) – Sales

February 2, 2010 Leave a comment

“If you see a fork in the road, take it” Yogi Berra made this statement many years ago. What is  great about this quote is that he was simply giving directions to his house. His house (at the time) was located on a loop at the end of the road leading to it. It did not really matter which way you turned, you ended up at the right place. Many people have joked about the quote, as it can be interpreted many different ways. Here is the relevance in the statement:

Yogi had a destination in mind!

I know that I am preaching to the choir, but when you are faced with a decision – the fork in the road – be sure that you understand the ultimate destination (not just the tactical one). Evolving your current business into a Social business will involve many decisions. Good friend and colleague Esteban Kolsky posted what I jokingly said to him could have been my third post in this series. Please take a look, his words are worth reading. I do not think that I will take as firm of a stance as he did, but as you design your own Social Business and the Engine that drives it, the function of sales needs serious evaluation.

The Destination remains the same – creating buyers and adding value

Notice, I did not say “sales force” or “sales person” I am speaking to the function, not the person. If the destination is to create buyers, and add value does it matter who ‘sold the deal’. It is mostly about ‘Trust’. There is the trust in the person who advises the buyer and there is the trust by association when that buyer is introduced to the company with whom they would like to do business with, the exchange of value.

I wrote previously, something Esteban referenced as well:

“As a buyer, people are more likely to trust someone who they feel is an ‘expert’ – oh and someone they know. In the eyes of the buyer, the seller must display professionalism, an understanding of the need, empathy.”

So, who is this person and do they need to be directly associated with the company? That I believe to be at the heart of the issue. Trust now appears to be about two things – trusting an intermediary, who is compensated as well as establishing trust with the company who the buyer would like to transact with. Since the compensation is based solely on the transaction, is a 3rd party really a value add?

Esteban also states the following:

“In this new model, a sales person is the one who brings the right customer to the right transaction, not by secretive manipulation to extract the maximum value possible — but to ensure that both sides receive and even value exchange for the transaction.

They become trusted advisors to the client and to the organization, brokering the relationship.  They change their roles from distrusted information gatekeepers to trusted brokers.”

I do not have strong arguments to counter what Esteban is writing. However, I do not believe that in order to transition from the “information gatekeepers” to active participants in the Social Business the sales function is required to live outside of the company four walls. That said, it might be better for them to be there – the decision is yours, make sure you have the data to help make that decision.

It is possible that sales people could simply change their behavior. The qualifications to meet the needs of the role are the same, if they exist outside, right? This will be an industry, cultural and business size decision. What Esteban describes sounds a lot like partners in the ecosystem. If we solve the convergence of  Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM (and/or Social Business) this is less of a problem as well. They can be either place – it does not matter.

The exact path is not as important as the destination, I cannot prescribe. I believe that Esteban and I are in agreement that what the buyer really wants is to get past the barriers and walls and directly to the people and information with whom they can understand the true value proposition of whatever it is they are trying to buy.

Bringing this home a bit, regarding the Social Business Engine. As your business becomes more social, it is now more than a simple alignment of sales and marketing. It is an alignment of People and Processes who support these functions, whether they are inside your four walls or not.

To end with another great Yogi Berra quote: “If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up someplace else.

Is it all just too easy?

November 9, 2009 6 comments

I was fortunate this past week to be able to attend a Cloud conference put on by the 451 Group, down in Boston. While I have fine tuned my focus during the past year, less on the infrastructure side, and more on the business application side, this was time well spent. I believe that from a maturation – ability to offer measurable business value – perspective, Cloud, Open Source, Social and Enterprise 2.0 are growing up together.  Sometimes they act more like siblings during a long car ride, suffering from “Are we there yet” and “Look at me, look at me”.

Even given my slightly different focus, I do try to stay true to the brief description I have on Twitter, “I am passionate about the intersection of people, process and technology”. Luckily, SugarCRM, where I currently hang my hat, sits right in the middle of that that triple witching point:

  • People/Ecosystem – Customers, Employees and Partners,
  • Process – Who speaks, When they say,  How to engage, What channel,
  • Technology – Open Source, Clouds, SaaS, Social (Yes, Social is technology)

Just because you can, does it mean you should?

Ok, now to the point – my theory is that the technology has made it is just too easy to do make bad choices – a crazy, maybe, silly statement, but tell me I am wrong – I dare you. There is a place and a time for the Nike moment – “Just do it” and then there is the ‘take time and think about what you are about to do’. What is the correct balance? Just because you can, does it mean you should? Some are probably saying that about this blog at the moment.

Back in the day (sorry, I love that phrase, my 18yo pulls it on me all the time), when you wanted to get something done, you had to do the ole ‘budget justification’, think through it, present to senior team members – Yes, ask for money, too! Part of this was also a required “Check with IT, I am not sure what you want to do is part of the standard”. This last one was especially hard for the Open Source applications.  Combine a pent up demand, economic pressures, getting tired of the perception of IT blocking progress with SaaS, Cloud and Online Social Media channels – and it is a perfect storm and excuse to just IGNORE the IT dept.

So, before anyone beats me up too much, this is not what I am suggesting, just saying what happens, what I have seen happen and the end result. I have seen many companies take the route of using SaaS – Take a Look at Phil Wainewright’s Blog He talks to Conformity – An interesting company who has the business model to help clean up this mess, but I am not going to deep here, just a reference to justify this post.

My key point is that it all just to dam easy. The ease of spending $20 to get a server in the cloud – yes, I said $20, standing up a system, setting up a blog, putting together a YouTube account, FaceBook group, Newsletter, Forums, Chat, Twitter. Awesome, let’s hope all the choices are successful, lots of people, lots of prospects, lots of eyeballs – Maybe some customers too. That would be great, right? Way too many times, I have heard the statement – “Hey that would be a great problem to have” – Really? Unless of course it is your problem to solve. Remember, once you are on a channel it is much harder to leave.

I do have to ‘tip-toe’ a bit, after all I do work for SugarCRM. A company that does make it very easy to get started, and take advantage of a structured CRM application. I am all for making things easy, but job one is success!  I also believe this is much more prevalent with respect to Social Media applications – too many people saying “Just do it”.  Is anything really free, no, as people and time are the most expensive part of running a business.

I am suggesting that a little bit of planning – just a little – is time well spent – Just sayin’

The Long Tail of Knowledge

October 14, 2009 19 comments

This might be one of my more esoteric posts, but it has been bugging me for a couple weeks.  Putting my thoughts down may help me get past it. Possibly, a couple of my online friends have some advice.  It started with this Tweet

@rotkapchen: RT @business_design: the more you know the less you understand -I then added “Long tail of knowledge? Is trendy though”

and sent it back into the ether that is Twitter. As an aside, apparently this phrase was also stated last night at OOW09.

Most who might come along this blog likely understand what the Long Tail theory espouses, but I will not assume.  You can check Wikipedia for details, but the summary version is a businesses strategy that works to sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. If you think about this, it goes against the mass production model, and it is not easy to accomplish.

What is bothering me is a concern that as a culture, especially with the likes of Twitter, we seem to be ‘skin deep’ on too many topics. What does the Long Tail principle do to knowledge systems? Is that a good thing or not? Do you agree with the statement, “The more you know, the less you understand” ?  Do we get caught up in proving what we know (ie Blogs) and not spending enough time really digging in and making sure that we think through that which we are saying? It is possible that this is really two issues;  the first what we know, the second what we are willing to state that we know.

This does play into the topics we are all discussing, the leap is not too big. There may be a difference between speaking or writing beyond what we truly understand and thinking out loud, but that difference is subtle. I am personally cautious as are many of us…sorry if this was a bit of a ramble, but I do feel better now 🙂

Anyone willing to offer some advice? Give an opinion even…

In Order to realize Social CRM, get your Enterprise 2.0 in Order

September 29, 2009 9 comments

We have all pushed; each other, as much the world around us, to try and wrap our head around the changing nature of a customer’s relationship with a company.  We discuss what they want, changing expectations, immediacy, co-creation, loyalty….there are many opinions, not what I would call agreement. The one topic where there is some level of consensus, is that CRM in its current form is simply not equipped to handle the change. With respect, I am personally, not ready to throw in the towel on what we have called Social CRM.

The Best Defense, is a Good Offense

As I suggested a few weeks ago, Enabling Social CRM is a convergence of Enterprise 2.0 and CRM, Prem also made some compelling arguments in his post – SocialCRM v Enterprise 2.0 Fight or Tango – While the arguments made do have validity, we need to go one level deeper. We need to lay of the foundation that supports the premise of my thinking:  Social CRM within an organization can not be fully realized until the core principles of Enterprise 2.0 are realized. Yes, I am hedging a bit because not all businesses are large enough to fully realize ‘true’ Enterprise 2.0. In smaller organizations, I believe it is acceptable to ‘get it done’ however it needs to get done. Many small businesses are in fact MORE social, with respect to their relationships.

Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

In the context of Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 meets the specific technology needs which not only enable a company, but mobilize the workforce and facilitate information sharing (ie no more silos) required to support Social CRM. In my previous post, Social CRM is a Journey, as well as Esteban Kolsky’s the Slow Path to SocialCRM, we both suggest that this is not an overnight occurrence, and companies must take baby steps in order to get there. Many tried to extend the metaphor, and asked what vehicle – I am not sure, but maybe paving the road is the first step?

I will repeat my rallying cry “It is not about technology, but about the best use of technology. 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 the Enterprise, if the Enterprise is able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then  meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; Then SocialCRM can be realized.

I believe that we need to figure this out, from the inside out.  Therefore,  In order to realize Social CRM, get your Enterprise 2.0 in order.

In the weeks to come, I look forward to exploring just how to accomplish this large task? What are your thoughts?

Enabling Social CRM is a convergence of Enterprise 2.0 and CRM

September 9, 2009 15 comments

Before my peers from the Accidental Community slap me silly because of the technology focus of this post, I completely get that any Enterprise initiative, especially CRM, is People, Process, then technology. The focal point here is that the people and process do need a supporting infrastructure in order to truly provide Social CRM. For the purposes herein, Social CRM will use the Paul Greenberg definition:

CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.

A friend and collaborator Prem Kumar Aparanji (@prem_k) has put together a initial take (with good explanation), from an architectural footing, and my objective is to take that one step further. Even as I write, Esteban Kolsky, someone whom I have the utmost respect, has written the history of the world (CRM world), which is an important read. What is important to note, is that as time passes, we are all diving in a little deeper. It is too easy to “wax poetic” at the 50,000 foot level, but we need to help figure out exactly how to do the things we are talking about. Prem even did a little crystal gazing and wrote the prequel to this post Enterprise 2.0 v SocialCRM – Fight or Tango (thanks Prem) – the answer is… down a few paragraphs….

The core of my suggestion:

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel and as technology advances we (business leaders in the CRM arena) should absolutely take advantage of it. There is also no reason, therefore, to ignore the great work being done in the Enterprise 2.0 arena. I am a huge fan of Dion Hinchcliffe – not just one of his posts, a great many of them (cool graphics too). Especially interesting to me are a few recent posts: the August 18, 2009 (Using social software to reinvent the customer relationship)

The elimination of decades of inadequate communication channels will suddenly unleash a tide of many opportunities, as well as challenges, for most organizations.

and September 2, 2009 (Enterprise 2.0 Finding success on the frontiers of social business).

….there is something fundamentally unique and powerful about social computing. Though not all uses of social tools result in rapid adoption or instant results, those that establish an early network effect can and do push existing IT systems

Finally, Dion also spoke of a crucial component of making it all work, citing him one last time (today) the Data obviously a crucial element;  August 5, 2009 (The future of enterprise data in a radically open and Web-based world)

Exposing data — whether it is internally within an organization or outside to partners, or even the whole world — is a way of thinking about the very nature of the business, more than it is about achieving a one-off end goal. This is because open data seems to create immediate, close, and powerful relationships between the publisher and the consumer of the data, and leads to a series of unexpected outcomes.

(I thought about posting his great artwork here, but that would not be proper and would not do the articles justice, so take a look when you have a few minutes.)

Here is my line of thinking – Enterprise 2.0, by definition is “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.Andrew McAfee,  May 2006 and given the definition of Social CRM above, should it be such a leap to suggest that in order to truly engage the customer, we should invite them into our Enterprise? What better tool set to do this than Enterprise 2.0 tools?

There are lots of very smart people who can solve the technical challenges which will certainly arise – security, access control – just two of I am sure a dozen more. The larger challenges will certainly be on the people and process side – you know, that 80% of the real effort. If we are truly going to be ‘Transparent‘, and foster ‘Trust‘, in addition to one of my friend Graham’s favorite topics  Co-Create then we need to treat the customers and partners like family, and invite them into our home.

Graham’s article is certainly worth reading in its entirety, here is one of the key points:

Use just enough collaborative social technologies – Technologies, particularly those that support ‘social networks’, provide the backbone for collaboration between a 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 effortless collaboration. (0ne of 11 bulleted points which are part of the article, seemed fitting for inclusion here)

In order to accomplish these goals, we really need to think of the customer as an extension of the Enterprise

As we invite the customers into the Enterprise, into our home, it is no longer an ‘us’ and ‘them’ – Customers are no longer managed, rather data is managed, analyzed to and for the benefit of the customer, the company and greater good – Customers are embraced.

It is not about technology, but about the best use of technology. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform (how web 2.0 of me). It is not about one vendor either (I work for a vendor, full disclosure), it is about a solution that can provide the ROI and validation that Enterprise 2.0 is looking for – let’s call it Social CRM.

I do like how Esteban ends his blogs – “OK, I am done now.  Let’s open the floodgates of criticism and praise.”

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