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Experience Innovation

March 11, 2013 5 comments

Moore observed, nearly a half century ago, that the power of computational devices would double every 18 months (based on how many components could be squeezed onto an integrated circuit). Therefore, it is not much of a leap to suggest that the functional capabilities and ability to advance productivity based upon these devices would follow suit. For the most part, this has been the case. Now 50 years in, the simple question is: ‘is innovation still about squeezing more components into a device, or capabilities into a piece of software?’ Or, is it time to refocus? Maybe we need to think about making the devices and systems we have work better and more strongly consider the experience of the person using it.

I am completely willing to be wrong here, but I would need some convincing. I am not so bold as to suggest something at the level of Clay Christensen’s disruptive innovation. I am not talking about new markets. What I am suggesting is something more along the lines of rethinking sustainable innovation; the ability to evolve what we have already. To accomplish this, I am of the opinion that it is time to start focusing on experience innovation, and take a step back from the sole focus on product innovation. It is no longer about how much computational power we can squeeze into a device, or how many widgets we can display on a screen. This type of innovation will continue, but there is more.

“The experience space is conceptually distinct from that of the product space, which is the conventional focus of innovation. In the experience space, the individual consumer is central, and an event triggers a co-creation experience. The events have a context in space and time, and the involvement of the individual influences that experience. The personal meaning derived from the co-creation experience is what determines the value to the individual.”

C.K. Prahalad & Venkatram Ramaswamy, MIT Sloan Management Review, SUMMER 2003 VOL.44 NO.4 The New Frontier of Experience Innovation

I am not sure what is more interesting, the content itself or the fact that it was written nearly 10 years ago.  It might suggest that I am on to something, or simply that I found a few bits to support my thinking. The concepts are extremely relevant, even more at this point in time as companies struggle to differentiate themselves on increasingly commoditized products and dare I say services as well. In fairness, differentiation on services still has some legs and is more closely aligned to experience innovation.

The way I see it, is that the objective is to create what Prahalad and Ramaswamy refer to as an experience environment. Though it is still important to differentiate between the digital interaction experiences and the much more vast customer experience. This is especially true in instances where the greater experience contains elements that are far removed from communications, think heli-skiing or windsurfing, versus checking-in via Foursquare.

It is Time to Mature from Just Product Innovation

If one follows the breadcrumbs a bit, there is a fun example that can be found from a 2008 InfoWorld article. It simply highlights that too often software – the front end of the user experience – simply works to leverage hardware advances in a way that is often lazy and unfortunate:

“[Microsoft] Vista and Office 2007 on today’s [2008] state-of-the-art hardware delivers throughput that’s still only 22 percent slower than Windows XP and Office 2003 on the previous generation of state-of-the-art hardware. In other words, the hardware gets faster, the code base gets fatter, and the user experience, as measured in terms of application response times and overall execution throughput, remains relatively intact.”

Many of us have spent time reading, writing or analyzing product roadmaps. These directory type documents or PowerPoint presentations are filled with features and functions. Sometimes, the ones that are well written will include a section on exactly why a feature is included, beyond simply that a Magic Quadrant requires it. For those who have been lucky enough to write these documents, we all know the debates between internal factions of what needs to be built first and why. These debates will continue to happen, but I would ask that the conversation mature a bit.

As Prahalad & Ramaswamy so eloquently state it:

The ability to imagine and combine technological capabilities to facilitate experiences will be a key success factor in experience innovation, regardless of industry.

In order to make progress, what is needed are programs that focus on the customer perspective. We need to consider the user experience as we build devices and design software systems. We need to focus on their experience, not just our profits. We need an environment that includes both organizational capabilities in technology and communications driving the capability to interact collaboratively internally as well as with customers, partners through community. These interactions, in order to be meaningful, need to have proper context.  When we have this in place, then we will better be able to understand what customers want and need and deliver products and experiences that do make a difference.

Your thoughts?

Maybe We are Using the Wrong Words to Describe Collaboration

February 12, 2013 Leave a comment

When we attempt to describe something we are often judge based upon the words we use. Choose certain words and we are considered buzzword compliant or worse, SEO compliant. Choose the wrong words and we are considered out of touch, old school or not ‘cool’. On the other side of the coin, if we try to consider new ideas, or think forward a bit we might be considered too academic or a purist without a strong sense to technological or cultural limitations. What then is the right balance? How do we effectively communicate and at the same time be sure to be heard and found?

Specifically, say or write the words “Social Business”, “Enterprise 2.0” or even “collaboration”, “innovation”, “co-creation” or “design thinking” and many people roll their eyes. “Oh, great another buzzword fest”. I suppose we can still possibly save “innovation”, just a hope. But, aside from that, the rest are too often fodder for power point presentations, executive motivational speeches and fancy conference track titles. That said, the core concepts are very important and we should not allow the hype cycle to get in the way of what we need to get done. The question is, when we write or present these topics, who are we talking to, who is the audience? Are we trying to convince the senior executive or the people in the field, boots on the ground?

I am not going to start throwing around generational monikers (X, Y, Z, C) in an attempt to further confuse. If the goal is to be creative and build something new (as in product, service or concept) and we are trying to describe the value of doing that to people of many ages, backgrounds and job roles, maybe we need a new way to communicate the message. Everyone understands the ideas of teamwork, creativity, working together. When we enter the corporate world is it required to change the names and labels? The following may  not work for everyone, but I believe there is a crowd who might just appreciate the effort.

Remix and Mashup

Say the word Remix to most people under 40 (even some older, but not as many) and the mental image – or mental sound bite –  is clear. A remix is a song that has been edited to sound different from the original. The remixed version might have changed the tempo or pitch, made the song shorter or longer. There is more to it than that, but that is the basic idea. A Mashup is similar in concept, but includes more than one song or instrumental from one song overlaying on the vocals from another. In the digital word, a mashup is a combination of different media, pre-existing creative, all put together. The ideas are similar and well understood, add creativity and originality to someone else’s original work.

(One area I am not going to cover is the legal parts. One, because I am not qualified and Two because I am talking specifically to internal collaborative efforts, ie, one company owns the original works, so it is all kosher.)

Now that I just stated that I am going to ignore the legal issues, the example I am going to use and the basis for the use of Remix is HitRecord. This is a public place to do this and illustrated the example very well. Again, for the sake of discussion, all creative are assigned to HitRecord, thus, no legal issues. The whole idea of working with anyone else internally at your company is to meet a business goal. It might be a new product, a project, a problem or something else – all towards a common goal. We could take a manufacturing / assembly line approach; you do your part, taken from someone who did theirs and hand it off to someone else. Yes, but thinking linear will only get you so far.

We need to Help Everyone to be…

Adaptable, resourceful and make it easy to change. In the world where many grew up (parents and grandparents) people went to work for big companies and stayed there 30 or 40 years. Those days are gone, but nor forgotten. The way I believe that Remix and Mashup can fit into the modern work culture is to allow creativity and fresh ideas to permeate the atmosphere of an organization. In the future, a person’s career will involve many employers, as well as periods of self-employment as part of an ecosystem. Of the modern company is going to survive, it will need to become more like an ecosystem. This approach will give people the opportunity to follow their interests, even as they change over time. The person working for you yesterday, with you tomorrow may be your boss tomorrow. You might one day call this a career Remix, or Mashup, I am not sure. You will take what you know, change the speed, tempo, add a new song or two and dance another day.

Helping means communicating in a language that is understandable, in and on channels where everyone is comfortable – or least willing to learn to adapt. Give permission to others to take your ideas and run with them – Remix them and add their own creativity. When someone helps someone else to learn something or to see it from a new perspective, this may be referred to as mentoring. Mentoring is age independent, anyone can teach, anyone can learn (ie, there is no such thing as ‘reverse’ mentoring). The goal, as a mentor, teacher, friend, peer, co-worker is to help others and help help yourself –

Enjoy the Remix

Enterprise Customer Experience, A Convergence

January 22, 2013 5 comments

Customer Experience is the superset of sensations, emotions and perceptions felt by your customers before, during and after product or service use. Enterprise Customer Experience represents the people, internal processes and technology required to listen, guide and engage your customers in the digital world; all towards creating better and enhanced experiences. Designing positive experiences begins with understanding needs and wants. Seems logical right? How else can you understand what your customer’s wants and needs, if you do not listen first?

The very next part is to prove that you are listening, if actions do not result, then it is not really listening at all. Yes, in this day and age, you do need to provide proof. For, example, if you do not plan to take any actions based on what you hear, are you really listening? That said, there are many ways to show that you are listening. The first is transparency, allowing people to see inside the organization where they can witness what you are doing, often at their bequest. The second, more interesting way is to specifically give people what they are looking for, as in information, service or a product enhancement.

To customers, being open means more than simply looking through the window, but being able to walk through the front door and participate. An engaging conversation is one where all voices are heard and respected and no one is simply listening, waiting to talk. In order to improve customer experience, you, your team and the whole organization needs to convert the listening to information that can be used to collaborate, co-create and engage at a personal level with your customers. This will take analyzing the data, providing relevant, consistent content, where and when your customers want it, need it and are expecting it.

It is time to move beyond what needs to be done and why it needs to be done.  Some parts of your organization are more advanced than others, some are ready and some are not.  The starting point should be clear. What is less clear is exactly HOW to progress in a uniform fashion from understanding what needs to be done, to actually doing it.  It is time to progress from departmental Social Media initiatives to organizational digital communication programs. These programs should have defined and coordinated objectives. As the team and understanding of the technology mature, Social CRM is next logical step, with both business and technical integration and a digitally aware customer data model.  Internally, CRM will have certain objectives, but it is time to add customer centricity, directed individual engagement and customer collaboration to those objectives. Finally, the end-game, Enterprise Customer Experience. Just my name for it, I suppose, but it seems to fit.

I put together a few slides where I tried to visualize some of my thoughts. The copy is taken from a white paper we just released as well. If you would like a copy of the white paper, please just send me an email mitch.lieberman – at – dri-global.com and I am happy to forward it along.

Social Media Initiatives are too often:

  • Departmental and Uncoordinated,
  • Loosely defined and with soft qualitative objectives,
  • Lacking strong guidance that aligns with corporate vision
  • Have little or no Governance or Oversight
  • Driven by metrics with unproven value (like, follow, +)

Now to progress from disjointed efforts to coordinated and structured efforts,

Social Communication Programs that are characterized by:

  • Multiple, linked digital initiatives,
  • Defined and Coordinated goals (across departments),
  • Agreed to processes for Content,
  • Modestly Mature Governance,
  • Data Capture and Burgeoning Analytics,
  • Tighter agility to act upon lessons learned.

It takes maturation of the organization to make this progression. It is important to not that up until now the discussion is much less about technology than it is about people and process.  Once the organization has matured, it is then possible to reach enhanced customer experience through Social CRM by further integrating more baseline technology, carefully and methodically.

Social CRM sets the course for creating better Customer Experiences, through:

  • Coordinated Customer Facing Communication Programs,
  • Both Technical and Business Level Integration,
  • Advanced Analytics that Improve Customer Insights,
  • Mature, Modern, Customer Data Model,
  • Personal, Customer level Interactions and Engagement.

Now things start to get very interesting. Just when everyone was comfortable with the buzzwords, we are now ready to dump the term ‘Social’. The team realizes that social is a characteristic of people. The term is dispensed with and for the purposes of Customer Experience, the CRM platform is now in charge of the digital data and used for specific purposes.

It is time to execute CRM, across the Enterprise:

  • Data, information and knowledge is universally accessible,
  • Content and digital assets are consistent and shared,
  • Back-office to front-office Collaboration creates efficiency,
  • Customer facing processes are repeatable and embedded,
  • Community and Customer Collaboration are part of the platform.

Finally, it is time to complete the

Enterprise Customer Experience vision:

  • Customer centricity is a reality,
  • Directed engagement at the level of the individual
  • Analytics are predictive,
  • Customer expectations are understood and met,
  • Communications are conversational and collaborative,
  • The organization is highly collaborative,
  • Organizational culture is mature and ready.

Who is the Clutch Player on your Team?

January 17, 2013 1 comment

In sports, a “clutch” athlete is one who performs well in pivotal or in a high-pressure situation. This includes many instances where a good performance means the difference between a win and a loss. There is a bit of debate as to whether the player is acting above what they can normally achieve, but we can skip that for the moment. Whether it is a penalty kick, a three pointer, the winning putt or a diving save, the situation presents itself.

JW

In the business world, this is the master presenter, the sales person you bring in to close the deal, the cool, calm and collected, person who does not sweat and is able to withstand the most hostile beat-down and walk away with the the deal and their pride intact. The common thread is that given the chance, does an individual seize upon the opportunity of a pressure situation and ‘kill it’.

Now, here is where I take a little poetic license and change gears, literally. The mechanical use of a clutch is to match the transmission and power or motion needs between a power source and something spinning. Most of us know this as the 3rd foot pedal in a car (which if you are in the US, your parents or your younger self, drive). The key here is that there are two things moving at different that need some help to match speeds. If done properly,  the car does not feel like a bucking Bronco.

You need a Person who can do both

The pace of change in technology is moving faster than the pace of change of your teams ability to manage or adapt to it. Technology is moving so fast that Enterprises are struggling, culturally, to keep up. Often, it is a rough ride.  Your customers are also moving fast, their expectations are outpacing your ability to deliver. ClutchWho can bridge the gap?

This person will understand both the technology and your customers, they can make the diving save (think customer service and disaster avoidance).  This person can also help to match the speed between the technology and the culture, soften the blow. In the corporate world, matching speed is not easy, it takes a lot of patience. The gears will grind every once in a while, but we all need this person, and it may not always be the person you expect.

No one like to ride a bucking Bronco – well almost no one.

(First Image: http://www.nba.com/history/legends/jerry-west/index.html)
(Second Image: http://wannaspeed.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=83_97)

Complexity is a bit Complicated

July 18, 2012 2 comments

Complexity is not the same as complicated. To some, it might be semantics, but I do not think so. The difference might just explain:

  1. Why organizational silos still exist and will continue to exist,
  2. Why customer journey’s (and experiences) are fragmented

The  difference is this: Complicated speaks to the number of elements within a system, Complex speaks to the dependence, more specifically, the interdependence between two elements or among many elements of a system.

Taken from “Complex Adaptive Systems” by John H. Miller and Scott E. Page:

“Complexity is a deep property of a system, whereas complication is not. A complex system dies when an element is removed, but complicated ones continue to live on, albeit slightly compromised.”

So What, you might say. I am creating a nuance where one does not exist, making the whole topic, well, more complex…  Let me try and explain. There is child’s game that we used to play (there are few of them that fit this description actually) where in each turn the player needs to take out one block hoping that the tower does not collapse. If it collapses, you lose. In the beginning, the blocks represent a complicated system, the removal of one element does not alter the integrity of the whole. As the game progresses however, the dependence between the elements increases until the removal of an element causes the whole thing to fall down. The system progressed from complicated to complex.

So What?

Well, let’s think this from a customer journeys and customer experiences perspective. Organizations provide dozens of touch-points for their customers; in-person, phone, email, Web, Social (Facebook, Twitter, Community…) and many more. The customer experience correlates to their journey with each touch-point adding some facet to the overall experience. This could be deemed a complicated ecosystem of touch-points, take one away and the system keeps working, though not as well as it did before. Here is the problem, if you create dependencies between and among the touch-points there is a risk of the whole thing collapsing if one falls down. For example, if you use a link shortener (say bit.ly) embedded in an email newsletter that points to a YouTube video, how many failure points exist and which are in your direct control after you hit ‘send’?

What about the next generation of business, a Social Business. I myself have written and talked about breaking down the silos, collaborate with others within your organization, different departments and all that good stuff. But wait, did we just alter the risk factor? Did it get better or worse. Once the silos are broken down, and their is a dependence created, there is risk, right? A manager from another department could reassign a resource or customer service is now dependent on engineering to answer a question. As organizations become less complicated, do they become more complex? What do the dependencies now created do to the greater organization, the goals and the strategy. This is not a rhetorical question, I would like some help. I have written about both collaboration and coordination, with the later more important in this context.

What does it mean

It means simply that the interconnection points (the lines on most diagrams) are the complex things and the ones that are most important. If one of the lines is workflow, that needs careful planning and attention. If one of the lines is communication between two people, two departments or two pieces of technology make sure you understand exactly what dependencies have been created between the two elements. On the one hand, you might tightened a gap, made things more efficient, on the other hand, you might have created a risk, a single point of failure. From my vantage point, businesses have always been complicated, now they are really complex.

Please share your thoughts, thanks!

Is Social Process really Digital Interaction Process?

You can run, hide, duck, turn, cover your eyes, plug your ears, maybe then you will have successfully avoided hearing, seeing or otherwise experiencing the Facebook IPO. I sometimes; no, quite often, wonder what the fascination is all about. What exactly has changed? What is really different? Is it that Everything simply happens faster. Yes that is one part, I suppose. I am not sure that is always good though. When presented with the opportunity to put our foot in our mouth, we see it as an opportunity not to be missed and take full advantage.  We share (Tweet, Post, Email) without thinking, only now it is more permanent (Google never forgets). This raises the question, what role are these ‘social’ channels in customer service?

The words we grew up with, now mean different things; Social, Engagement and Mobile, new context, new meaning. Think about it, when we were young(er) a ‘Social Engagement’ that was ‘Mobile’ could have easily meant a dinner party on a boat. A set of recent articles also suggests highlighting the importance of human social interactions to our well-being (HBR). Things do happen faster and some of it is social, some is just not – how can a company understand what is social, where does customer service really fit in, what is not and respond accordingly…at scale?

Introducing my Version of the Digital Interaction Process

I had the opportunity to co-present with Steven Thurlow, (our very smart CTO) to a small and engaged audience on Thursday. The topic was Social Customer Service. It was largely based on recent research done with thinkJar we shared the findings and went a little beyond as well. We took the opportunity to poll the audience, always wanting to learn. Guess what, the phone and email are still still ranked as the most important customer service channels. Surprised? I was not to be frank.

Near the end of the presentation, I shared the diagram below and talked people through it.

First, before I discuss it, I need to give credit where credit is due. My own thinking was (and is) influenced by conversations with Brian Vellmure and Esteban Kolsky. In my opinion social is a way of being and acting. According to many current discussions, one cannot be social be without digital (yeah, I know, not quite true). If I send a DM (Direct Message) on Twitter, is that social? If I message you on Facebook, is that social? Any more than an email, phone call or heaven forbid knocking on your door? Getting to the diagram; on the left is ‘Social’ and public, on the right is ‘Engaged’ and private (1 to 1, you and me).

The influence that Brian had on this was to remind me that what everyone is calling ‘Social’ is really digital. Once the conversation is taken private (DM, SMS, Email, Kiosk) it is no longer ‘Social’, until one side or the other decides to bring it back into the public realm (vent, complaint, review, kudos). The influence Esteban had was that in a way, you could overlay his infinity diagram (here) on top of this as the processes are continuous. On the left is the outside world, on the right is the inside world. If you get the stuff on the right working, then the stuff on the left is positive and good. Conversely, well, I probably do not even need to say it. Each side is a closed loop in its own right, but connected to the other side – a continuum of sorts.

A note on overused words. I have many words listed within the diagram many are over used within industry publications, blogs and articles on social media. often they are not only misused but only industry insiders are the only ones who care about them and pick them apart. There is a need, however, to be clear when they add value. For example, I put in there the word ‘engagement’. I am actually not a big fan of the word, but it makes sense in this context because it says ‘one person interacting with another in a way to adds the intent, context and a personal touch’. If Engagement is used to describe the activities on the left side, I think that is where it is misused. Yes, I know a presenter or Marketeer wants to engage their audience, elicit a response…another day.

Silos

There, the other word that everyone loves to hate. We all want to break down the walls, remove the divisions between departments, make sure everyone has all the data. OK, I got it, thanks for the advice (I live in Vermont, the livestock would have nothing to eat during winter without silos, but I digress). How exactly should I accomplish this goal? Does marketing need the invoice history? Does the product team need to know there is a billing dispute? Each team should focus on that person they are working to create value with and for. Spend time working to understand what they need and what you can offer. They might be a customer, they might be a prospect, influencer or partner. The key point is that they are a person first. What I mean by engage is to speak with this person at a human level. This by the way is the influence of Paul Greenberg, check his post on Engagement Here is a quote:

” The social customer is no longer a customer to gawk at, just a customer to deal with – like any other customer, with one explicit difference. He/she scales. Meaning they know how to impact other customers on a large scale who are “like them” in interests, and use the social channels that are not controlled by the company to do so.” – Paul Greenberg

In my follow-up, I suggested that:

“If Social CRM is about a companies programmatic response, then engagement on the customer’s terms defines the format of the response. Therefore, Social CRM is different for every type of business. In order for it to work, both sides need to mature and be willing to invest emotionally and intellectually.”

What I believe the diagram does is to dissect the issue and puts it back together. I try to illustrate the point that we are shifting from a focus of trying to control the left, to working with the person on the left. Talk to that person, interact with them at a person to person level, be human and be humane. If you want to call this Social CRM, maybe it is, if it is not Social CRM to you, then no worries – it is what it is. The key point is that the strongest bridge between your company and customers (past, present and future) are people. If you try to talk to everyone, worse, at everyone, then you are just broadcasting. As the number of people who choose alternate digital channels increases, it is only going to get harder…

What do you think, am I close?

From Connecting Dots to Connecting People and Back Again

March 21, 2012 1 comment

To an economist, it might be about weather patterns. Weather is super complex with a mind numbing number of variables. Regional fluctuations in rainfall or temperature can cause a dramatic shift in supply or availability of a commodity good. This availability might lead to a change in the price of that good, then of course housing prices will change (now there is a leap, but hold the thought). I am sure there are many ‘dots’ I missed.

To an organization, it is about projects and investment decisions. To receive budget or get the go-ahead a projects need to be connected to stakeholder value (some even call it ROI). It could be to a business stakeholder or for customer value, ideally the two are related, but it is rarely a straight line. The idea is to align projects to the strategy, which should then align to goals and objectives. The final connection, of course aligns perfectly to the customer job to be done – right. Connecting the dots for the CEO and the CFO is required (I am not saying prove ROI – feel free to debate that one yourselves).

To a visionary or critical thinker, it is about the dots that are hard to see. In the economic example above the visionary can build a model to draw the line from the commodity good price change to the change in housing prices. In the organization, the visionary not only connects dots, they are also wonderfully capable of identifying a roadblock real or psychological, and removing it. This persona type is a bit different from a leader, which brings us to the next topic.

The People Part

By way of circular reference, I found a post by friend Wim Rampen, who in turn pointed readers back to something I had said. (I had forgotten about this post; no comment). Wim speaks more to the connecting of people and the network or influencer effect. This is all the rage now (Wim wrote this a couple years ago), as we all try to figure out how to influence or be influenced. Wim asked a critical question, ‘Which is more important, the Connector or the influencer?’ a question that is yet to be answered.

Moving beyond the network effect, to simply the identification of the right person, given a situation for a specific need. Whether it is a product expert, a domain expert, a facilitator or anyone else for that matter, the identification of the right person at the right time is an important part of the connecting process. So, to Wim’s question, I will take the connector please (though they might be the same).

To the organization, it is about connecting to the right person, who can connect the dots, which might be about finding additional people, and so on…

In this short journey, we moved from ‘Dots’ to people. One could argue that they are really one and the same. But, the problem space is too big if they are the same thing, they now need to be separate. The network effect has become a massive, well studied, beast. Opinions are in no short supply. From Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook to Klout and PeerIndex, our relevance to the world is measured and scored, but these sites do not have all details. They are missing capability, and guess at influence.

Take a peek at Seth Godin’s blog today (March 21, 2012) and he touches upon one of my favorite topics, the difference between correlation and causation. Here is the relevance; People who connect people do not really need to worry about the difference, it is a visceral, emotional thing. It ‘feels’ right to facilitate a connection. However, people who connect dots DO need to understand the difference. Connecting dots requires insights into what caused what, and a base level of why.

Seth Godin also shared his thoughts at the Gartner conference. He is not only a gifted write, but a fabulous speaker, there is one point he made, which I keep coming back to:

“Don’t work to be heard at the office, work to be missed when your not (there)”

The most value members of any team in business are the people who solve problems, lead and have a vision. If they have a positive attitude and can connect the dots and the people, the value will be easy to recognize, when you are not there, it will be missed. The title of this blog is what it is for a reason, thanks for sharing my journey. My work at Sword Ciboodle allows me the time to do a bit of both, and for that I am thankful. Written on an 80 degree cloudless day, in March, in Vermont.

(The Image was created – not by me, follow links – with NodeXL, an open-source template for graphing network data in Excel® 2007 and 2010. Network: First 100 YouTube videos returned on a search for “thriller” Nodes: YouTube video Node Size: number of views )