Augmented Relationship Management


Are tools supposed to guide or assist? [tweetmeme source=”Marcio_saito” only_single=false]

You most likely have used a GPS device to guide you from point A to point B. You also know that your GPS system has a Point-of-Interest (POI) feature that allows you to locate gas stations along the way and insert them as waypoints in your route.

You have never used that POI feature to find gas stations for real. And you never will.

Why is that? Humans are not good driving to a place they don’t know, but they are very good at finding gas stations along the way. That is because we can search them visually (we are better than machines at that) and use patterns such as “there is usually a gas station on freeway exits”. The GPS POI software does not provide enough value to justify itself for that task.

If your company has more than a handful of people in sales, it most likely has a CRM system which is used, among other things, to store contact and transactional information and provide reports and dashboards to management. You know your CRM was also designed to enforce sales processes and help sales people sell. And, as you probably know, they don’t use those features for real.

As discussed here, sales is a human, non-structured activity and it is impossible to capture the sales process into a linear workflow. If the CRM system won’t let you send a quote to the customer before recording the 5 mandatory customer interactions in the system, you just stop using it.

Does that mean that GPS systems cannot help us find a gas station and CRM systems cannot help us sell?

Of course they could, but it takes a different approach. For activities that are not suitable for automation, systems should not attempt to guide through a pre-established path or workflow, but  instead it should assist by bringing meaningful data in context that enhances their ability to make decisions on the fly.

Augmented Reality is an emerging technology that overlays a data layer over what you see to assist you in making faster decisions. Imagine that as you drive, your car can detect sources of infrared and project on the windshield so that it highlights a deer crossing the road in front of you. It is still up to you to avoid hitting the animal, but the system is providing information to assist your actions.

Andrew McAfee, author of Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organizational Thoughest Challenges has been talking about “Lightweight Workflows”, systems that can assist with processes without constraining people to a linear workflow.

If CRM systems can refrain from guiding people through a rigid sales process and rather project a data layer on the windshield that brings information in context so that humans can make better and faster decisions, maybe we can get the right combination of guidance and assistance that makes CRM software not only good at storing contacts, capturing transactional data and providing analytical reports, but actually help you to find more gas stations.

This article was originally written for and posted at  http://www.theclickcompany.com
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Socializing in the Clouds


Is there a connection between Social and Cloud-based CRM? [tweetmeme source=”Marcio_saito” only_single=false]

As several of the CRM tool vendors rush to enable their products to be more “Social” and position around Cloud Computing, a question emerges: Are Social CRM and Cloud-based CRM Softwaretrends related?

The short answer is no.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the set of business processes and associated tools companies use to manage their relationship with customers. The “Social” in Social CRM is the layer that reflects the recent shift in control from companies to the customer.

That shift in control is happening because customers have access to information through the digital medium and are no longer captive listeners of traditional marketing channels. Companies have to listen and engage if they are to influence buyer’s decisions.

According to WikipediaCloud Computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility.

That shift makes sense because if there is a large enough pool or providers and consumers, a shared pool of resources is a more efficient way of consuming computing compared to dedicated, user-owned infrastructure.

But the real answer is yes. Social and Cloud-based computing are related.

While they have different roots, both trends are about sharing more, controlling less, opening up. So there are parallels between them. And there is convergence, which is why this market space is so interesting right now.

In the case of CRM, it is about gathering information where customers are interacting rather than try to suck every piece of information into a proprietary database. The exchange is between controls over communication and richer access of public interactions.

In the case of Cloud computing, it is about better utilizing computing resources from a shared and scalable pool rather than building a dedicated (and underutilized) IT infrastructure. The exchange is between control over computing platforms and more efficient use of utility computing.

People and businesses don’t open up, become more social, or decide to share just because they want or because it is trendy. They do it be if there is a payoff.

Utility and Social Computing are not new concepts. What is happening now is that we are reaching the maturity level in technology that tips the value trade-off between closeness and openness, of controlling and sharing, of screaming and listening.

The world has changed.

Prepare to Socialize in the Clouds.

This article was originally written for and posted at  http://www.theclickcompany.com

Transparency or Lipstick on a Pig?


Openness is easier than you may think [tweetmeme source=”Marcio_saito” only_single=false]

I just got back from the Social Business Edge, a conference in New York City discussing the effects of Social in Business. Two (of many) topics generated discussion: organizational transparency and personal privacy.

Lee Bryant from Dachis Group noted that companies are rushing to address social media from an external communication perspective, but to support that, they also must become more social on the inside. Otherwise “social” is just lipstick on a pig.

Stowe Boyd, the chair of the conference, has for some time been talking about the erosion of personal privacy and how publicy (opposed to “privacy”) is becoming the dominant motif of our online lives.

The discussions at the conference and particularly the thoughts of Bryant and Boyd, made me think about how personal privacy and company opacity are related.

Until a few years ago I kept my life relatively private. Not only in the sense of keeping personal information from the public, but also by segmenting my social circles. I had multiple personas, with clear boundaries between information I would share among “family”, “friends”,  “co-workers”, or “acquaintances.”

Boyd has used a quote by Gabriel Garcia Marques to illustrate the discussion about privacy: Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.

When I started using social websites starting a couple of years ago, I initially transposed my segmentation to the virtual life (I communicated with family by phone and e-mail, Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn is for professional connections, Yubliss is for self-discovery, and I would not tell anyone about having joined Match.com). But it became increasingly difficult to manage all those groups and the leaking of context between them.

There was a point where I gave up maintaining those siloes. It is just too difficult to keep track of who are in which group and what are the overlaps. I still try to route content that is relevant to each segment, but I assume that what I say online can and will be seen by everyone. To a large degree, I gave up having a secret life.

While it was initially difficult make that leap, I eventually found the experience to be liberating. Once I internalized my newly found publicy, I did not need to think twice before writing or saying something. I felt free to say what I (really) thought.

Of course, I do not advocate the end of the rights to privacy or secrecy. On the contrary, I think those rights become even more important to freedom in a more social world. What I am saying is that, from a personal perspective, refraining from exercising those rights in excess for the illusion of privacy can be a very liberating experience.

I think the same applies to companies and social organizations as well. Advocating organizational transparency might trigger skepticism among people used to functional segmentation, but we are going from communicating only in a “need to know basis”, to the “public by default” era.

I was once given a “secret” document with the company strategy and told not to share with any other employee. I looked at the document and did not see anything in there that was more valuable secret than if it was shared with the people supposed to execute on that strategy. That company no longer exists, companies like that will have a hard time surviving.

If companies are to engage with customers using social media, they must be more transparent and less controlling in that interaction. As Bryant said, they also need to transform themselves from the inside out. Employees must be trusted and empowered to help the organization engage satisfactorily with customers.

When companies go through that transformation, I suspect their experience will be similar to my personal evolution from a “private” to a “social” person and they will find that it is easier, not harder, to conduct business that way.

And you, what is your secret?

This article was originally written for and posted at  http://www.theclickcompany.com

Requirement: Weak Analytical Skills


The key to inovation is not in a spreadsheet

Businesses seem to value analytical skills highly. Indeed, a recent study found that 68% of all job postings list “analytical skills” as a requirement or desired characteristic and 39% of all resumes claim the applicant has that quality.

Dictionaries define analysis as the separation of a whole into its component parts.

Ok, breaking things apart and then being able to understand each of the components separately. That is an important skill. If we have a complex problem to solve, decomposing it into self-contained components helps us to organize a group of people to solve it efficiently. That is the basis of the Classical Strategic Process.

But we all know that more often than not, analytical data in companies is manipulated to support the agenda of the person creating the PowerPoint presentation. A study found that 84% of all cited statistics are manipulated or made up to support a pre-made conclusion. That includes this one and the one in the first paragraph of this article.

I am hoping that the examples above show that well crafted baseless “analytical” headlines can be very effective tools of communication and influence.

But when businesses talk about analytical skills, they are thinking about the ability to use analysis to drive good business decisions based on historical or real-time data. As someone with self-declared strong analytical skills, I am a big supporter of that.

Most businesses and projects are too complex to be solely grasped holistically. Good and honest analysis can help us to identify the key performance metrics to both monitor and identify problems and target efforts for continuous improvement.

I am a skeptical about analysis being the key to growth and innovation. Let me explain why.

Humans are very good at establishing and detecting patterns. Most of the times we do it unconsciously. To illustrate that, you might want to take this short Vision/Brain test. I guarantee it is short, fun and enlightening.

True innovation happens when we look at incomplete data and are able to fill the blanks before it becomes obvious to everyone else.

Your typical analyst can find whatever is hidden in your historical data. If you want to improve processes, optimize existing business, identify problems, monitor and improve performance, prioritize actions, then the answers are there and you need good analysis.

To innovate, create new business, develop new products, you need to detected patterns, look forward and synthesize the future. To increase the organizational capacity to innovate, you need to leverage good synthesis – or “analysis of the future” (I love the research firm IDC tagline).

So here are some thoughts I offer:

  • If you have no time nor interest in directly participating in the analysis, ignore the numbers and focus on the rationale. In my corporate career, I’ve seen too many decisions being driven by bogus cited statistics off a PowerPoint presentation.
  • Most of us have strong innate synthesizing skills. If you want to leverage that human characteristic, expose data at the point where it is needed, trust and empower people whenever possible. Afraid people will be confused or misled by incomplete or noisy data? Look at how good regular people are filtering the extreme product reviews at Amazon.com. Look at the vision test above.
  • Hire people with good analytical skills to look at the aggregation of data. Be honest and transparent when using the results of the analysis. If your intention is to start the spreadsheet from the bottom line, skip all the analysis crap. Real-time KPI dashboards are good because they inhibit “what-if” spreadsheet manipulations.
  • If all you are going to give people is decomposed tasks and personal MBO goals, they don’t need “strong analytical skills”. Stop asking for what you don’t need or, better, start offering holistic views of problems, data and the freedom to act outside the corporate boxes they are in.
  • If you are a successful business leader, it is probably because of you have above-average synthesizing skills. Remove the line about strong analytical skills from your resume.
This article was originally written for and posted at  http://www.theclickcompany.com

More Social, Less CRM


The future of the Enterprise is more social

Have you watched the 30-second “Evolve” on the Click Company Community home page? If you haven’t, take time to do it. An interesting exercise is to invite children to watch it and then ask them to tell you what the film is about. “Evolve” was produced by Birdo, an award-winning animation studio based in Brazil.

The message is: “The world has changed”. How so?

  • The emergence of Social Computing is affecting the way people interact (you have probably noted the shorter attention span, emphasis on interaction over reflection, context over content).
  • A new generation of consumers and workers who grew under the influence of the digital medium is now taking positions of power and decision-making (the generation born in the 1980s, who grew with video-games and computers, are now turning 30)
  • As a consequence, organizations are evolving to adapt into (or being replaced by) what we call “Click Companies

Those changes are not good or bad. There is no resisting or promoting them. They just are.

There is change in customer behavior, with control shifting away from the company. The informed and connected customer has access to information (competition, price, business value) and is no longer dependent on and captive to the vendor communication channels.

Marketing needs to listen and resonate rather than influence. Sales need to engage with people and facilitate rather than manage transactions with faceless “contacts”. Companies don’t “own” accounts.

“Customer Relationship Management” (CRM) is the set of business processes and associated tools companies use to manage their relationship with customers. The “Social” in Social CRM is the layer that reflects the shift in control from companies to the customer.

But it is not only customer relationship that changes. People are also changing how a company operates. “Enterprise 2.0” is the name of the framework that attempts to model the organizational transformations to adapt to a more social, collaborative world.

Concretely, Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM processes and tools attempt to promote and leverage increased levels of:

  • Customer Participation – customers can interact with their peers and with the company to generate knowledge, form communities, and direct affect company processes (such as product design). Think next-generation of knowledge base, user communities, and customer service management tools.
  • Workforce Collaboration – new workers perform better in a less hierarchical, more transparent environment. Social tools emphasize collaboration to solve jointly owned problems over personal accountability and functional segmentation. Think next-generation Wikis and SharePoint, with focus on people and interactions rather than on documents.
  • Real-time Visibility – Social CRM attempts to eliminate brokers and aggregators of information and short-circuit long analytical cycles. Agility is emphasized over efficiency. Think next-generation ERP and BI tools, but capturing conversations in addition to transactions and bringing information where it is needed in real time instead of delayed reports from a central relational database.

Enterprise 2.0 and Social CRM are not pieces of technology you can buy in a box. Technology is shaping people by affecting the way they think and interact. People are changing how business is done. Tools can support the evolution needed to cope with those changes.

Are you ready?

This article was originally written for and posted at  http://www.theclickcompany.com

Jogando Bola Com a Sissi


[tweetmeme source=”Marcio_saito” only_single=false]

O Graham é um Inglês que trabalha comigo aqui na California. Nós dividimos uma sala. Ele anda estranho, mais quieto que o normal, incomodado.

Hoje era sexta-feira, estávamos no happy hour e perguntei:

– Aconteceu alguma coisa?

– Não, nada.

– Tem certeza? Você anda quieto.

– Essa cerveja… boa, né?

Percebi que, seja lá o que incomodava, ele não queria falar.

Mudei de assunto.

– Vocês jogaram futebol essa semana? Como foi o jogo?

– A cerveja… boa.

Ele ficou vermelho. Desconversou. Deu uma desculpa e disse que tinha que ir.

Estranho. Fui investigar a história.

Os brasileiros do escritório organizaram um time para jogar futebol. Convidaram o Graham.

Quando a gente fala de futebol, sempre brincamos que os Ingleses que inventaram, mas os Brasileiros é que são penta campeões.

Ele se empolgou. Se preparou. Foi na loja e comprou chuteiras novas (inglesas, modelo David Beckham, caríssimas).

O jogo foi na terça-feira a noite.

Perderam de 8 x 1.

Pior: o outro time era de mulheres.

Ele não quer mais falar de futebol. Chegou em casa, não falou para a família do jogo. De mal-humor, botou as chuteiras novas no armário. Sabia da fama dos brasileiros, mas perder de 8 x1? Para um time de mulheres?

Está sofrendo.

Mas o que ele não sabe é que o time adversário tinha algumas jogadoras que já foram profissionais, incluindo a Sissi, que jogou nas seleção brasileira e alguns anos atrás era considerada uma das melhores do mundo. Para quem não sabe, a Sissi ensina futebol aqui perto de San Francisco.

Mas como no campo só se falava Português, o Graham não entendeu nada. Ninguém contou pra ele. Disseram que o jogo era contra “umas brasileiras”.

Cheguei em casa agora a noite depois de entender o que tinha acontecido e pensei em ligar e explicar que não é motivo de vergonha perder para aquele time. Que a Sissi jogou na seleção.

Mas resolvi deixar ele sofrer o final de semana. Na segunda, eu conto.

Nice to Meet You!


Are you a social person or a salesperson first?


More often than not, meetings at work are an inefficient use of time. A problem that could be solved by two people in five minutes take eight people for half an hour. Outlook sets meetings in half-hour increments and the conversation degenerates in arguments unrelated to the problem at hand.

There are many books written about that.

What about sales meetings with customers? A substantial part of the life of the salesperson is going from customer to customer, often investing several hours of travel for each hour of face-to-face interaction. That doesn’t sound very efficient, but is it even necessary?

I know what you are thinking: “People buy from people”.

In the discussion that followed the previous “Speak like a Person” article, a couple of you commented that, like marketers, customers also play their deception games.

To get past the mistrust created by the game-playing, we need to personally connect with the customer and build a sense of mutual interest. I ask my friends in sales and they confirm that most customer meetings are not about selling; they are about building a relationship.

Ok, nothing new there either. There are piles of books and papers examining that subject.

Now, if I saw the world exclusively through my rosy social new world lenses, I would argue that if companies become more transparent and authentic, they could establish a trust-based relationship with their customers from the beginning.

A Click Company doesn’t need to get out of the credibility hole because it did not dig it in the first place. It can focus more on delivering business value and less on rebuilding lost trust.

Business is more complex than that, I know. We can envision a future in which vendors and sellers meet frictionless in a perfectly transparent market, but that doesn’t mean it will happen overnight (if ever).

Still, the digital medium is creating an environment that is more conducive to transparency. Let’s look at consumer retailing for a minute. I can go to Amazon.com and compare products in a neutral environment, shop for the lowest price (including vendors other than Amazon), see reviews and recommendation by my peers (including negative ones).

Whether granted or not, I feel a sense of trust and confidence when buying in that environment. I am less inclined to shop elsewhere (because I can see the competition in the same place), I don’t haggle (because there is embedded transparency and competition), I am willing to share more information (because sellers use it to recommending products, not to take unfair advantage of the knowledge).

Can a similar experience be had in B-to-B?

As of early 2010, LinkedIn has about 60 million users, half of that in the US (Source: LinkedIn). Facebook has over 350 million users and 61% are 35 or older (source: Pingdom, based on Google data). Almost all B-to-B decision makers already have a social media footprint.

How can we concretely leverage that footprint to better connect with our customers and accelerate the trust-building process? Here are a few ideas to consider before meeting your next new prospect:

  • Use social channels to interact with your contacts. We are moving from a sender’s discretion to a recipient’s discretion world (the audience chooses when to engage). You can communicate more often without being intrusive and meet less resistance from your customer audience.
  • Don’t use PowerPoint just because. Don’t create artificial excuses to trigger a meeting. If it is a relationship-building meeting, focus on relationship and be transparent with the customer about its purpose. Listen first.
  • As others have suggested, before meeting a contact for the first time, take the time to check their profile on LinkedIn and other sites. Learn about their interest in Photography and the fact that she has a Brown Labrador. Ten minutes of learning about them can save a couple of relationship building meetings in the future.
  • Make your profile in social media richer and proactively share it with your prospects before the first meeting. Show yourself as a person, with interests and passions other than work. Let your human face precede your sales persona. People buy from people, you know?
  • People also follow recommendations from people. Ask existing happy customers to introduce you new prospects in their community. Have you proactively tried to offer the opportunity to talk to an existing customer to a new prospect? We have recognized the power of “customer cases” for a long time, but in sales we have resisted letting customers freely talk to each other. There is more upside than risks and you would be surprised on how willing they are to do it for you.

Try something different in your next meeting and let us know the results.

That is only a start on how Social Computing changes customer relationship management. For more on that, check the research paper by the Altimeter Group on what they is called “Social CRM”, the emergence of a social layer on top of existing CRM  efforts.

This article was originally written for and posted at  http://www.theclickcompany.com