I wrote this as a guest post for CRM Outsiders where as an Employee of SugarCRM I stated agreement with Mark Benioff of Salesforce. After this post, one may wonder whether I will be invited back for more, or not. So, I will quickly get to the point. Two things happened during this past week which drove me to write this post.
- Mark Benioff wrote a great article, and the consumerization of the Enterprise is certainly upon us – a position that I agree with
- Paul Greenberg wrote a great post, which hit home on a few fronts – this article is a way to show respect for the thoughts
Starting with Paul’s post first, he raised several issues, but the one that hit home is that there is too much “Jockeying for position”. The reference was not specific to any particular vendor, but the point was made. Paul stated the following: “When this manipulating jockey decides to differentiate to get “position” they denigrate what others do.” Paul is correct, and it is rather interesting as well that we are in the CRM business. While we certainly would like to do well, there are certain topics where that agreement leads to simply a better product.
Paul went on to say “Compete by the strength of your offerings”. The core of the offerings of any company goes beyond the products that are built, but are also the people behind the products. I would like to further point out that in the future of…well, the future of just about everything, the differentiators will increasingly be the people. As friend and IDC analyst, Mike Fauscette, likes to state, “People are the platform”. My simple conclusion on this topic is that the boundary between work and non-work is getting fuzzier by the day. Making the next part of this post that much more interesting.
Why I believe Mark Benioff agrees with me
Now, not to upset the apple cart by trying to play nice, and then jockey for position. A wording trick suggested to me by a friend, changes the positioning, doesn’t it? In many recent conversations and even comments on other’s blogs I have made the case that there has been a large shift in expectations by people regarding Computing and Access. Until around 2002 – 2004 or so, the faster computer you had access to was at work, and the fastest data pipe you had access to was also at work. Is this true anymore?
If you combine that phenomenon with the availability of cloud based applications, both consumer and enterprise, consumer is growing faster. (Sidebar – anyone who thinks that Gmail, LinkedIn or Facebook are not cloud apps, friend me and we can chat about it). Ok, enough setting up the scenario, what exactly are we in agreement on? Here is a quote from the article (actually the prequel) “We need to transform the business conversation the same way Facebook has changed the consumer conversation. Market shifts happen in real time, deals are won and lost in real time, and data changes in real time.”
But, it is about usability, not technology
I am not going to try and say “I agree, but” (that is like saying “I’m sorry, but”). I will however extend the thought, in the following way – So, for all 90% or more of you who have one or more of the applications I just mentioned in the sidebar above, how long did you spend reading the manual for any of these applications? Facebook even changed the application 2 or 3 times (depending upon when you joined) and even after the yelling and screaming and the joining of the ‘no do not change FaceBook’ fan page – 350 million of us are members and 175 million log in each day. Facebook did more than change the consumer conversation, it changed the enterprise conversation as well.
Ok, I lied, it is not only about usability, it is about the fact that we enjoy the social dynamic these applications provide. It is also no longer a technology play; that is simply accepted. I am probably the only one who takes a break from Facebook and Skype at home by checking my work email. The boss (my wife) tried to block access to work from home, but the IT department (me) pushed back. If she was successful (unplugging the router) then I just access work via my iPhone and 3G. While this sounds a bit backwards, how far off am I? It is about usability and culture. People, Process and Technology – help people to succeed and we will all succeed. If people enjoy where they spend their time (online and offline) they will spend more time there.
This is the first part in a series where I will explore other topics on the consumerization of the enterprise, data and cultural silos.
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?
A crucial step in the deployment, or redeployment of any application requires a heavy dose of end-user involvement. We do not need to go too far back in time to find good examples of this; i.e. the recent Facebook changes that were not very popular. Even more recently, the a popular social site, FriendFeed, introduced changes that are causing a little bit of a stir, not as bad a Facebook though, is it was soft-launched as a beta. The simple fact is that we can learn from others, within our domain and outside of it, in order to avoid these pitfalls. Finally, while the examples used here are on a grand scale, when deploying your own solutions, the same rules do apply.
Two key messages I am hopeful are supported within this short post:
- Ease of use, on the first use, is not always the end goal – said with caution and caveats
- Change management is a practice unto itself with good reason
Bringing three accepted tenets of application development/deployment together in support of my key messages:
- The processes (thought and action) required to introduce changes are important and necessary.
- Involve your users/customers, ask them what they want, listen to the answers.
- Look outside of your core businesses or domain; you can learn from other lines of business.
(ok, that last one is not yet a ‘tenet’ but we are working on it)
A fun example brings us back to the old Pepsi Challenge. A few years back, Pepsi supported a blind taste test, to prove that people liked Pepsi better than Coke. I am not a marketer by trade, but smart enough to understand what happened, or at least the analysis. The summary version (with a reference here – warning it is a pdf) is that Pepsi won the challenge based on the ‘sip’ test, Coke reacted (New Coke), and then realized that people do not drink one sip, they drink a whole can. Further analysis showed that people actually liked a can of Coke, better than Pepsi.
This study hits 2 of the 3 tenets –
- Coke reacted and did not do effective change management,
- Coke reacted and did not talk to their customers,
- What they could have learned from another business?
I am sure you can think of a few examples outside of the soft drink industry that if Coke had looked at, would have taught them a thing or two. Lucky for us, we can take this example and learn from it; First impressions do not always represent the end-game, and involve your customers before acting.
In designing systems there exists a critical balance between feature rich, sophistication and ease of use. Of course it is easier said, than done; It takes time, thought and a lot of skill. Iterations and incremental changes, based on customer/user feedback will provide guidance. I do understand that it is a balance, because if users or customers cannot get past the first screen, they will simply stop and not use whatever it is you are building.
Systems (applications and hardware) that demonstrate ‘too well’; with eye-candy and overly simplified user interfaces often fail once the user community reach a level of competency. This rings true more for applications designed for internal enterprise use, but may be carefully applied to consumer facing applications in a given context.
The timing of this muse may seem odd, given my recent research on Cloud Computing, SaaS and SocialCRM (CRM 2.0). But, I needed to remind myself that we need spend time looking back every once in a while in order to move forward. Given the power to reach nearly any customer base or user community, through a variety of channels, with unprecedented speed, we all need to have an action plan in place to consumer the information. Planning and strategy have taken on a whole new meaning.
- There is a Big Difference Between Can’t and Won’t
- Stop Thinking in Two Dimensions
- No Beginning, No Middle and No End
- Rethinking the Customer Journey
- The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write
- Context Integration, the Future of System to System Interactions
- The Evolution of Customer Community
- The Fine Line Between Personalization and Creepy
- Experience Innovation
- Maybe We are Using the Wrong Words to Describe Collaboration
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