The Next Chapter Begins

October 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Every once in a while you meet a person, or a group of people who have an idea or an approach that just causes a subconscious head-nod. As you watch and observe, they carry themselves with confidence, approach work and life with energy and passion.  Problems are analyzed, dissected, solutions designed and then the real work begins. This is DRI: a team, group of people a family really, with a big heart, big ideas, more importantly, the ability and know-how to execute.

I could introduce the cast of characters, professionals, humans, friends and peers. That, however, would be self-serving and will happen organically over time. Members of the team cut their teeth in the open source ecosystem, but there is more (much more) to it than that. The shared passion is problem solving, affection for technology and innovation; creative ways to solve the hard problems. Providing value at each stage, to every client, every day is critical. The focus moves beyond what needs to be done and why, to how to execute the vision. It is about goals, objectives, experience, strategy and our customer’s, customers.

What Part Will I Play

I will be building and leading the US team. I will do my best not to break what is already working. I am not here to change anything; I am here to show the US market what we can do. The work was started in Portugal and we realized this is only the beginning. DRI is now a Global organization; DRI Global. I am part of a team, we live, learn, share and collaborate. The countries served now number 5 and it will grow beyond, carefully, measured, with caution and a deliberate approach. We are small, execute with precision and make decisions quickly.

To put a label on what we do is important, but I do so with caution.  It will include solutions labeled CEM, CRM, SFA and CMS. Further, it would be great to simply add prefixes like Social, Mobile and a suffix or two like Platform and Intelligence. Sorry that it feels like buzzword bingo; something I am trying very hard to avoid. What if the approach was bottom up; design and build a platform that solved for the specific goals and objectives required by a business? What if the focus was helping businesses to understand what jobs their customers want to do with their products and how technology can help?

We are not going to build everything from scratch, quite the opposite really. We will build on top of solid products, supported by great companies like SugarCRM, IBM, Acquia, Knime and Talend, just to name a few. In the world where outcome driven innovation is the powerful model moving forward, it is the space between the applications that is the hard part. The space between engineering and support, the space between sales and marketing or the space between the organization and the customer, these are the challenges. You may know this space by other names; social CRM, collaboration, workflow, integration or business process.

I am looking forward to this chapter with excitement – feel free to give me a call, send me a note or reach out on your favorite social network to see how we can help! Yes, we are hiring. (If you made it this far, here is the press release)

Mitch Lieberman – Managing Partner DRI US

The Front Line

October 10, 2012 2 comments

Every Tuesday evening (9 pm EST) a group of people get together on Twitter to discuss Customer Service. You could call it a Tweet Chat, Twitter Jam or a Virtual Water Cooler. The Hashtag; the way in which participants can both filter out noise and denote participation is #custserv. I do not participate every Tuesday, but try and listen in and join in when the timing works and have been doing so for quite a while. The focus last night was on front line agents. The chats are archived, diligently by Marsha Collier, here. but just to share some quick stats regarding last night (October 9, 2012); 95 participants (give or take) and my absolute favorite zero links, in the >750 messages exchanged.

But, how much can actually be shared in 140 characters? Do people simply ‘talk’ and not listen? Everyone has their own approach some topic are more spirited than others, that is for sure. Some people represent big business, some medium, some one person solopreneurs; some consultants, authors, speakers, vendors and practitioners. The egos are checked at the ‘door’ everyone has an opinion that matters. To answer my first question, yes, quite a lot can be shared in 140 characters, it does amaze me sometimes. Of course, there is the occasional ‘sound bite’ but those are becoming more rare.

OK, so how important IS the Front Line Service Person?

As I stated, the topic was regarding front line agents – my quick response to this was “Frontline is an attitude, not a person”. Moving beyond the soundbite, there is a series of subtopics which arise and can be discussed. When I said it, what I was thinking about was actually a bit of a technical spin, but even then there is so much more. The topic of the human element is very important and I will leave that to experts like Kate Nasser – check her work, it is time well spent. However, increasingly, the front line of your organization is technical – sometimes guided by humans, sometimes not. While I do not want to conjure images of battles, the front line of modern warfare is almost all electronic, with human input and intelligence playing a supporting role.

(No, I do not want you to consider doing battle with your customers – I was just making a point. Do a Google search for Front Line, I dare you)

Yes, each bit of technology should be carefully vetted, reviewed, scrutinized and checked again before deployment; but technology as the most likely front line agent is highly likely. From static websites, to FAQs and videos to knowledge bases and Integrated Voice Response systems and automatic email replies and avatar type text chats, non-humans are the only way many businesses are going to be able to scale. Because, in the end, businesses are there to make money. It is a tough, competitive, world out there and every chance they get to be more efficient will be taken.

Is this about Customer Service, Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction or Social CRM – Yes!

Gartner Social CRM MQ Misses Big

October 1, 2012 19 comments

I need to begin with the following: I have the highest respect for the authors and contributors to the recently released Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social CRM. I am disagreeing with the ideas and concepts, not people. I am more troubled that what was published is so off the mark, as it leads to further confusion in an already confused space. This is not to say that the companies included in various locations are right or wrong either, it is simply the apples to oranges comparison of ‘things’.

Desperate to Call it a Strategy, yet Describe it as an Application

At the outset, the authors describe Social CRM as a” business strategy that generates opportunities”.  While I agree with the first part, it is the second part that is the struggle as it takes an inside-out company centric view. The single most important part of Social CRM is that it needs to start with an outside-in view (organizational benefits can still be realized). The focus should be on the needs of the customer, on their jobs-to-be-done, the outcome they want and their experience – it is about the customer, not the company – this is what the social part is about. While many parts of traditional CRM might remain about the company, Social extends it in the right way.

“Social CRM is based on the simple premise that you are able to interact with your customers based on their needs, not your rules. It is an extension of CRM, not a replacement, and among the important benefits is that it adds value back to the users and customers.” (Mitch Lieberman June 2010)

Social CRM is, and always has been about extending CRM, not replacing it. It is about the integrations, the connections; it is about the space between the applications, the enterprise and the customer. It is not itself another enterprise application – certainly not another silo.  It is not whether a new class of application can capture content. It is whether the current processes can become more practical and interesting for customers to share content, the capture part is easy and there are lots of applications which already do it. I apologize in advance, but I have never met a software application that can “Build Trust” (Sorry Siri).

“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.” (Previous Post)

In Social, People are the Stars, Applications take a Supporting Role

It is because of the focus on technology and applications that Gartner loses its way here. In many of their other Magic Quadrants, the maturity of the application and/or the technology is critical to the success of the initiative. In Social, people trump technology every time. I struggle to see how any application can “improve self-esteem”. When used properly, I suppose I can stretch a little to understand the thought, but it is much more about the people. Giving access to more information and better information is critical of course, but why is that “social”. Customers do not want to feel more involved in their decisions, they want to be more involved in their decisions.

“Social CRM is a strategy first, but it will not be successful if it is not supported by people, processes and technology with defined goals and objectives. The way customers are interacting with companies and a companies’ brands is changing and this poses a challenge; a challenge of volume of new data, scale and speed.”(previous post)

In the digital age, information flows easily in directions you cannot predict and pathways you cannot control. Your customers have questions, they need answers and they want to be heard; they are a little short on patience as well.  At the click of the mouse, people expect answers, solutions and resolutions. Social CRM is about humanizing your organization, it is an enabler of positive customer experience and meeting expectations. The benefits to you are tangible, in the form of loyalty and advocacy.

Social CRM does NOT need a quadrant. What companies need is help understanding how to humanize their CRM practices.

Service to Customers needs to be more than just words

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Customer service is a mission critical, strategic, imperative, and it drives customer experience. Your products and services are evaluated every moment of every day. When the ‘evaluation’ is not going so well, the phone rings, email chimes, social networks sing. Brand performance (your brand), loyalty and customer satisfaction are driven by the experiences your customers have with your organization every day, every touch and every interaction – full circle.

Service organizations, whether for product companies, constituencies or service businesses are working diligently to orchestrate experiences that are positive, engaging, meaningful and consistent across all channels and touch-points. Imagine being the maestro of an orchestra with expertise levels that range from 20 years to 1 year (nails on a chalk board…). Providing consistent experience across channels and between channels is really, really hard! Further, throw in costs (people and technology), revenue, policy and productivity and your job became even harder.

Getting There, it is Possible

R “Ray” Wang wrote a blog for Harvard Business Review about a year ago, the key points are still resonating. In the post he identified nine characteristics of engagement systems that differ from the transactional systems. Take a look for yourself (after you finish reading this of course). But, I would like to focus on a few of the key points, just now:

First, there are systems that are “Design for sense and response.” These systems of engagement keep the ‘ear to ground’ in order to assess en masse. No transaction system was ever meant to perform this type of function.

Second, in order for the response part to work, systems need to “Foster two-way, engaging conversations.” What this means is that, we must avoid the one sided, unidirectional, broadcast type conversations. In order to accomplish this, systems and people need coordination and a joined up focus.

Third, if the ‘Social Web’ has taught us anything, it is that patience is a dying characteristic – You must deliver (service, answers, help, responses) in real time. Engagement systems need to focus not only on immediacy, but context as well. Users can see activity streams, real-time alerts, and notifications on all their devices.

Finally, you need to reach your constituents, customers, partners and ecosystem on the channels they want, not just the ones that work for you. Your systems of interactions or engagement need to touch corporate departments, personal networks, and mobile devices.

And the way in which you get this done is with a Platform built today, with an eye on tomorrow.

How do you put the Systems Together?

Integration needs to make things easier for the knowledge worker rather than introducing overhead and friction. The consumer Web set the baseline expectations for ease of use including mobile and tablet access. On my small phone, my contacts are linked across 4 different networks and my little device helps me get things done – are you systems integrated?

Work streams and processes need to include integrated, permission based system access including activity streams and community type interactions. This is coordination and collaboration at both the human level and the system level. I need to find the people and information I need to solve a particular problem. The only way to do this is in context. Some people call this search, I like to call it find – similar but different. Hard, yes, but possible.

I will leave with the following. Before I do, I would ask you to consider the following question and comment back. Is this a social issues, an analytics issue or a service issue?

According to an IBM research study – “Social media conversations about parking in Bangalore are three times more negative than in other cities.”

And to this you might say “So, What?” But, let us think about this for a moment. If a city could monitor with an operational ‘eye’ (as opposed to just analytical), the city could learn even more and might actually be able to come up with some tactical solutions, and meet the need of the constituents.

Any Thoughts?

(Disclosure: This post was written for KANA as part of their KANA Connect Customer Conference which is in full swing in Vegas. You can see other posts on the KANA Blog)

Message Heard Loud and Clear, You have no Interest in my Business

September 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Life is truly stranger than fiction. You cannot make this stuff up. But, before I go there, let me do a little compare and contrast and start with how things should be done.

L.L. Bean Does it Right

 

I made a commitment a long time ago not to simply rant, but also to tell the stories of good. This is a simple story really, as it should be. The family were up in Maine, saying goodbye to a long time family home. One day it was raining, so we decided to just head to Freeport, 15 miles away and the home of L.L Bean, among other outlets. We did not make any big purchases, just a couple pair of inexpensive sunglasses ($18 each pair). The pair my son bought lost a screw and one of the ear pieces about a week after purchase. An email, a response in 20 minutes, knowledge of my purchase, clarification of which pair broke, new pair in the mail – done.

 

Large Financial Services Firm Does it Wrong

 

Managing a portfolio of money. We are not talking Rockefeller nor Trump dollars here, but let’s just say more than the sunglasses. Emails, phone calls, opportunities to show value and caring; nada, zilch, nothing.  Days go by and I need to send another email, make another phone call. An email labeled “URGENT” – oh, I better get to that. Wait, it was something they needed and did not have everything in place. As a matter of fact, the “URGENT” issue took a week to resolve, because they forgot to send something out of the office. I am not going to even touch the legalese and bureaucracy issues, as much of that is not in their control, however, they could have made it more tolerable.

 

Lessons Learned

 

I will most certainly make a purchase at L.L. Bean again, no hesitation. If the product they offer is more expensive than other locations, online or not, yes I will still strongly consider it. Did L.L. Bean “Wow” me or greatly exceed my expectations? No, not really. Wait. Huh? They exceed the norm, but like I said with a family home near the store, L.L. Bean has had consistently met my expectations of them, which of course exceed most (all) other retailers. What about the financial services firm. Business is lost, specifically that location. Is business lost to all branches of that firm, quite possibly. Will I name them publicly? Not sure yet. I may point them and some friends at this post and privately let them know it is about them.

 

The world is now a very transparent place. We all have choices… Let’s spend a minute or two looking at the various metrics. Sure, I am probably skewing things, but it is worth a shot:

 

NPS – Yes, I would  and  will recommend L.L. Bean, no I will not the Financial Services firm
Effort – L.L. Bean is very easy to do business with, I will do business with them again for this reason
Satisfaction – L.L. Bean met my expectations, their own bar is high, but that is fine
Effort and Satisfaction for Financial Services firm – seems obvious to me…

 

Did I take to the Social media waves with frustration and negative commentary, no I did not. I see no reason in this instance unless I call out the firms specific location. I did give props to Bean, because I felt they deserved it.

 

Who’s on First?

Abbott and Costello are probably my favorite comedy double act of all time. Strike that, they are my favorite comedy double act of all time. I used to watch them every Sunday morning at 11am growing up. Within that context, easily my favorite routine, possibly their most famous is their baseball routine; Who’s on First. The general premise behind the exchange has Costello, a peanut vendor named Sebastion Dinwiddle, talking to Abbott who is Dexter Broadhurt, the manager of the mythical St. Louis Wolves. However, before Costello can get behind the plate, Abbott wants to make sure he knows everyone’s name on the team…

Fast forward 30 odd years, and the new double act seems to be Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Customer Experience – you can add the ‘Management’ part if you are so inclined. It seems that every conversation that starts with CRM these days, ends with Customer Experience. But they are strange bedfellows, because one is an Inside-out view of the world and the other is an Outside-in view. Similar to Abbott and Costello, all we want to know ‘everyone’s name on the team’. It sometimes feels like the definitions conversation many have had during the past 3 years or longer. Also, the whole ‘relationship’ bit is quite contentious.

Every conversation about CRM should consider customer jobs to be done (JTBD, thanks Mark Walton-Hayfield for that thought), thus there is an experience happening, in some way shape or form… But, not every experience needs to consider CRM (I touch on this in a post written last year). This is hardly a new conversation, when I began thinking about this, I reached out to my trust network and Paul G came back with the following from CRM at the Speed of Light’s very first edition which came out January 2001 and is on page xvii of the introduction.  Paul noted that this was “LITERALLY the first time I EVER talked about a definition of CRM in any way at all”:

“Okay, enough of this. So, you ask, what is CRM? What is the purpose of this book on CRM technology and the Internet? The more substantial definition of CRM is being left to Chapter 1. However, I’ll throw in a short, distilled, filtered definition (120 proof) of CRM to begin to satisfy your terminological blood lust. CRM is a complete system that (1) provides a means and method to enhance the experience of the individual customers so that they will remain customers for life….”

(Paul mentioned to me that he has some thoughts that he will be sharing directly in about a month’s time)

Cause and Effect

CRM can drive customer experience, but customer experience cannot drive CRM.  Customer Relationship can be impacted by the experiences had with the company (Thanks Scott Rogers for that thought) That said, lessons learned and listening to voice of the customer can impact what data is stored and how to act, of course. CRM is an enabling strategy and technology, used by people inside the organization. Where CRM gets a bad rap is when people believe that CRM and SFA (Sales Force Automation) are the same thing. ‘I don’t know, third base’. They are not the same thing, SFA is an inward focused, manage the pipeline, manage sales process, manage money and very often does not do much to provide external value. Customer Experience is an SFA afterthought, it just is!

How about Social CRM, does that get us closer? Customer Experience and Social CRM are not the same thing, either (again, my blog from last year). I am not going down the path of definitions, been there, done that. Social CRM is about a specific response, by companies because customers now want to have a say in the boundaries of the customer / company conversation. Social CRM takes into consideration how, when and where a company engages in the conversation will impact the experience of the customer. Interestingly, many examples of customer service done right could be called service experience, customer experience or Social CRM, take your pick, there are supporting arguments for any of the above.  I also believe that the word Social is over used and more often than not people actually mean digital, topic for another day.

What about Design?

Proper customer experience design should focus (at least in part) on what good CRM tells you to do. For example, if you are using CRM to manage complaints, the customer data should specify the type of response, the channel of the response and the timing of the response due to the customer. This is not customer experience, is it? A few of the larger analyst firms have so closely linked CRM and customer experience that a conversation about one cannot really be had without the other. Well, that is not totally true, people talking about customer experience do not seem to jump into a CRM conversation, but those talking about CRM quickly jump into a customer experience conversation, hmmm….

Something I have said a few times, you can manage data and you can manage process. Not so sure you can manage customers and I am confident that you cannot manage experiences. We can simply do our best to manage what we would like the experience to be, we can design it and pay attention to detail, it is what the customer perceives it to be – period.  How does, or should CRM play into the design process? For example, where does automation fit in, is automation a bad word? It sounds impersonal. But as Esteban Kolsky shared, people simply want the right answer and they want it now:

“For the first time in more than 15 years, automation through multiple channels is growing and the satisfaction scores are rising steadily. People are liking what they get, for the most part, and companies are improving how they do things. In the early 2000s, purchasing a ticket by phone using United’s telephone network would take over one hour and involve an innumerable number of steps; today it can be done in 5-10 minutes in far fewer and easier steps (mostly thanks to speech recognition).”

Just remember, if you want to know ‘Why’ – He is the left fielder… The answer is ‘Because’, the center fielder.

Time to hit the Pause Button

Thank goodness I do not have a title for this blog, as my posts have been, well, a bit all over the map lately. Not quite ramblings of a mad man, but close. This may give you the idea that I have random disconnected thoughts. Well, I do, and to make sense of them I write and often realize that there are connections. Here is the thing, writing  forces me to focus, think through the idea, put fingers to keyboard and see if it makes sense. Twitter fits into this category, as squeezing a rational thought into 140 characters that does not feel like a sound bite is hard.

A few weeks ago, I was away from work, away from Skype, away from email (well, mostly) and I tried to focus on nothing, intentionally. The Euro Cup was on, I tried to avoid social networks. At first, I failed miserably, yep, I missed the news, current events, technology gossip (Ciboodle was part of it) and watching the flow of information. After a few days, it was easy, I read a few fiction books, watched soccer, had a few drinks and did relax. I did not spend time writing either.

Here is what I learned:

  • I am (many of us are) too connected, therefore I/we lose touch with people who are not as connected as I am (we are).
  • Things (change, technology,…) are moving at a pace that borders on bizarre, caution advised.
  • Keeping up with everything is nearly impossible, you will lose your hair trying; focus.
  • I need to read more foundational works, not just others interpretation of them.
  • Hitting the pause button gives a perspective that I think many people need right now. I know I did.

I will stop there before I get philosophical, then I will really get myself in trouble. Enjoy the weekend.

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!

It Is About The Relationship Not The Transaction

July 17, 2012 4 comments

Co-creation emphasizes the generation and ongoing realization of mutual organization-customer value. Historically, organizations spent too much time and effort to extract as much value out of a relationship as possible. Unfortunately, customers are now more knowledgeable, connected and interactive than they have ever been. This was one of the themes in my Evolution of the Contact Center post last month, I subtitled this ‘Governance’. In trying to play catch-up on my reading, the June issue of Harvard Business Review took a similar stance.  They called it “Pricing to Create Shared Value” (by Marco Bertini and John T. Gourville).

While my focus was (and still is) customer service, the HBR article in the June 2012 issue focuses much more on pricing strategies. There are some great examples, ones many of us have heard before. The airlines (yes, the poster child for doing things wrong). Do everything they can to extract value. Once you have confirmed your seat, everything else is a cost; from baggage to pillows. In this instance, the overall customer experience is abysmal and the traveler is left with a sour taste in their mouth.

Where does value originate?

Before I read this article, I had not considered this point. According to the authors “value neither originates with nor belongs solely to the firm. Without a willing customer, there is no value.” Fascinating in the simplicity of the statement. When I was first reading the article, I was about ready to challenge the premise, until the last phrase. Without a customer, there is no value – simple really. The authors extend the premise by simply using logic. If you cannot have value without a customer, value must be shared. Value can be enhanced (expanded) via co-creation. It is true that there is a little bit of chicken and egg going on here, as the company must initiate the process of creating something valuable, but it is positive feedback loop if done right.

Price, Money or Value?

Money or currency always seem to be an afterthought in these conversations. Academics talk about value exchange, when they really just do not like say the word ‘money’.

“Consumers often come to identify with the brands they buy, and firms hope to encourage this, preferring loyal customers to ones who engage on a merely transactional basis. But pricing decisions often undermine the relationship between brands and their followers.”

Why is it that pricing decisions undermine the the relationship? Because, the firm tries to extract as much value from the individual as possible (to make the numbers). However, if the firm is transparent about how it makes money  – yes, businesses are there to make money – the transparency builds trust and loyalty. Within the article, there is an a great example, especially for those who have heard the phrase ” You do not actually want a drill, what you want is a hole in the wall”. Hilti is a company who created a Fleet Management program, operating on just this premise. The realization was that construction company’s do not really care about owning tools, what they wanted is the outcome of using the tools (aka a hole in the wall or a hole in the ground).

There is a whole lot more to the article, I only hit the tip of the iceberg, well worth the read.

One Week In, KANA Plus Ciboodle.

For those unaware, KANA Software announced Tuesday, that it has acquired Ciboodle – the company I have been at for the past year and a half.  The technological components are a great fit; the vision, framework and solution are excellent.  As with any merger, there is work ahead required to execute on the vision. One of the most challenging elements, as identified by some of the industries finest minds, is going to be the merging of the cultures. The cultural elements will have a direct and large impact on the ability to execute against the vision, so we better get it right. Culture is the sum total of personalities, driven by the leadership driving towards common goals.

Prologue

While I am sure many of you have been part of an M&A process, my personal perspective comes from the following: In 1997, when I was a wee lad, Kenan Systems (a 250 person private company) was acquired by Lucent technology  (>100,000 people) for $1.4B. Having matured considerably by 1999 I was part of Octane, who were acquired by Epiphany for $3.2B (Monopoly money). While I do live in Vermont, I have worked for both Silicon Valley tech companies and a Scottish software company, come on, how many people can say that!

Let’s get to it!

Bain and Co published ” Building a winning culture ” (link below) where they outline the key attributes of a winning culture; high aspirations and a desire to win, external focus, ‘think like owners’ attitude, bias to action, individuals who team finally, passion and energy. These seems completely logical, obvious even, but how do two companies 5000 miles apart, an 11 hour flight (if connections are on time, but I digress) and 8 time zones different realize these attributes within the logical 4 walls?

Let’s start with some words from Mike Hughes, CEO of Ciboodle (For effect, please use your very best strong Glaswegian accent as your internal voice when you read this):

“I think that the folks from both organisation’s have the same can do attitude and are keen to capitalise on the opportunity ahead. We clearly have an excellent stack and the motivation of the people will drive this into a real integrated suite in a very short period of time. That will happen because the folks in the business are stoked to make it happen. It’s not often that a opportunity of this magnitude and significance comes along, we understand that and collectively we will deliver.”

From my perspective, this hits 2 of the attributes pretty directly, as well as one that is missing from Bain; executive desire to live the message.  Adding my own perspective here, even within the first week the teams have allowed, encouraged even, participation from both sides of the deal to speak with influencers, analysts and press. This might seem like a small thing, but it is quite big. I am personally very encouraged by these actions – and most appreciative.This illustrates that the days of command and control are numbered. Both the KANA team and the Ciboodle teams have been active in person, on the phone, through WebEx sessions, email and social channels.

External Focus, Bias to action

These two are absolutely critical, my opinion, especially given the industry we live in; Customer Experience and Customer Service Excellence. Both KANA and Ciboodle have a passion for excellence and delighting customers, which should be quite obvious from the posts by Clare Dorrian and Vikas Nehru (Links below). They are words, so we cannot lose focus and must prove ourselves with action; to our current customer base and the current in-flight projects. Here is the kicker and the single biggest risk factor identified by Bain: “Do not get caught-up in internal politics or navel-gazing”. The energy drain from internal politics (which I witnessed during the Kenan / Lucent acquisition) can be very damaging from many perspectives.

The ‘bias to action’ describes me personally pretty well and from early indications my new counterparts in Sunnyvale. I am a bit impatient and I want to get things done. I can see the value that the marriage can bring to customers. I can be a little over-the-top sometimes, but as I have said on a few analyst calls and briefings with industry folks, there are more toys in the toy chest. To the broader ecosystem, I would say that what KANA adds to the Ciboodle Agent Desktop can help our customers to realize the vision I have been putting out here for a while (I suppose I should say what Ciboodle brings to KANA, oh well, sorry). I do realize that it is not only about technology, it is about helping people to get their jobs done.

“The strongest cultures bind people together across both hierarchy and geography, guiding them to make the right decisions and advance the business without explicit direction.”

Action Items:

Here is what the leadership team need to do and I have confidence that it will be done. Can I commit to time frames? Probably not, because if I did I would likely have a very short tenure at my new home. The leadership team need to set expectations about the importance of culture issues within the new organization. The leadership team itself need need to have the common vision which can be shared with the rest of the organization. Everyone needs to have a sense of ownership and accountability. Within large organizations it is too easy to ‘ride and glide’. Everyone needs to pull their own weight. Clarity, communications and ‘walking the talk’ by the leadership will go along way to setting the proper tone. My reflection of week one suggests exactly that, and we need it to continue, even accelerate.

Finally, the winning culture is about the performance values, behaviors added to the personality of the resulting organization. To be fair, I only have a one sided view on this one, but will say that the Ciboodle side has been known for our sometimes quirky personality. We have done things a bit differently (for longer than I have been around). I am not too familiar with the KANA ‘personality’ and I am looking forward to seeing what the proper blend will be – and I will try hard to influence it, I see that as one of my jobs (I am physically half-way between Sunnyvale and Glasgow).

Personality

I mentioned above that the culture of an organization is the sum total of the personalities within the organizations. Where this merger is very different from previous mergers I have been a part of is the enabling technologies which are available. No, technology cannot solve this problem but it should be leveraged to make things easier. Proper collaboration can be used to effectively reduce the timezones, shorten the distance and allow for real 21st century productivity. The resulting culture, driven by individual personalities, will drive a new corporate personality; some combination of KANA and Ciboodle, and I am looking forward to being part of the process.

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