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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s