Electric Cars are Cars

CRM vs. Social CRM – The reason why we need “Social CRM” terminology

This post captures my response to a question posted by Jeremiah Owyang in the Social CRM Pioneer Discussion Group.

His question was: What is the upside and downside of SCRM branding?

My answer follows.

Social CRM is CRM (I think that has already been settled). The differentiated terminology reflects the significant changes in the business environment and CRM evolution in response to them. Until that evolution consolidates, “Social CRM” is the future of CRM.

It is natural that incumbents stick to “CRM” and new entrants highlight the differences by calling themselves “Social”.

For how long we will continue to discuss terminology will depend on how successful the new entrants are carving a position in the CRM market. Will the “SCRM vendors” be able to maintain  momentum through the inevitable disillusionment that follows the Social-anything hype?

If those vendors can capture a significant portion of the market in the next couple of years, the CRM/SCRM differentiation will survive for a long time. If they don’t, then SCRM blends back into CRM.

Electric cars are cars. If Tesla survives and grows independently, they will continue to represent the “electric car” (even if GM sells more electrics than them). If the big car makers swallow the small ones, electric cars will just be “cars” very soon.

So for new entrants, the advantage of associating themselves to ”Social CRM” is to highlight the differences.I don’t think that
creates the expectation by business users of delivery of a revolution (that demand only exist among  us, searching for a formal definition of the difference).

At Coffee Bean Technology we have had that discussion and, as it is obvious, we decided to position as something different from Classical CRM. So Social CRM we are. There are benefits and risks in that choice.

Evolution happen when we focus on what is new and to draw that focus new terminology is needed. That doesn’t mean the status quo is not important. It is just not interesting.

Being Stategic Every Day

Being Strategic means considering whether our current actions move us towards a desired scenario in the future.

I have led corporate strategy for a large company and have always though strange that a 2000-people organization would dedicate 6 people to strategy. Does that mean the other 1994 are not?

Unfortunately, it does.

The CEO says: strategy is very important, but…. we really need to close this quarter, so would like us to focus on delivering the results we need.

Because the cost of communication through the hierarchical layers and collaboration across functional silos is very high, it is more efficient to break the vision into smaller partial goals and ask people to ignore vision and focus on partial metrics of performance.

Because the data workflows are serial and the measurement and analytical methods are primitive, the strategic loop has a long time lag and vision and strategies can only be revised in the long-term (typically in intervals of 6 months or a year).

Strategy is about making decisions that are thoughtful and deliberate, based on the vision of desired results. Strategy is not meant to be inefficient or long-term. The classical business model imposes that.

Adoption of social computing technologies promise to reduce the cost of communication/collaboration and deliver analytical data in real-time to people making decisions at any level.

Social Computing technologies can shorten the strategic loop, break the information silos and let everyone make decisions with visibility.

Being strategic every day keeps the doctor away.

Good Metaphors are Truth

Metaphors are a figure of speech that aims to conveying one idea in terms of another. As an old teacher once told me, “it is like comparing two things, but doing it in a way that the other person doesn’t notice.”

One of the classic references is “Metaphors we Live by” (George Lakoff/Mark Johnsson).

Why are metaphors so attractive and powerful?

Looking for common patterns and trying to reduce the Universe to a basic set of unifying rules is our way of dealing with complexity. Metaphors are tools for applying knowledge in one field transposing them into another.

Is that really true? Are metaphors passive tools? Or are they patterns embedded in our physical brain, driving the way we perceive and (mis-)understand things around us? If the “The Medium is the Message”, then maybe metaphors are our brain (trying to do as the old teacher said).

I was in Twitter this morning discussing an interesting business metaphor (could we create a “Company health index”) with @NurtureGirl and @KRCraft.

@HarryLyme interjected with: “as attractive as such abstractions tend to be: all metaphors are ultimately false.”

That thought made me think and conclude just the opposite.

Our brains work through patterns. That is why metaphors are so useful and powerful. They can take over our thoughts, shape our understand and lead us to conclusions disconnected from the original issue. Caution is advised.

But the world around us also follows patterns (or so does it appear to me). If that is true, our brain workings just mimic those patterns, then some metaphors might just be true.

Our brain follows patterns. So does the Universe.

Good metaphors are Truth.

Ok, time to go look for something to eat.

Corporate Social Networks and Communities

Functional Departments are like Social Networks, Projects are like Communities

Events such the Haiti Earthquake or the Chilean miners rescue have the power to bring people from around the world together to collaborate on a common goal. That happens quickly and without central coordination when all undertand unequivocally what the priorities are.

“People from all walks of life that seem to have no relationship at all, held together by a common interest.” That is exactly how Dr. Michael Wu defines Social Communities.

Still according to Dr. Wu, in a Social Network, on the other hand, “people are held together by pre-established interpersonal relationships, such as kinship, friendship, classmates, colleagues, business partners, etc”.

In real-life social environments, people move from one community to another as their interests change over time. They belong to multiple communities at the same time as every human being is multi-dimensional and has multiple interests to share with different groups.

As we think about implementing Social Business models, it makes sense to map and relate current corporate organizations into social organizations.

  • In corporate structures, Functional Departments are like Corporate Networks of employees  held together by pre-established common set of skills and domain knowledge, organized in a relatively fixed and unequivocal hierarchical management structure.
  • When people from different  functional areas are brought together into a Project (say, design, develop, market and sell a specific product), they form something like a Corporate Community collaborating towards a common interest and pursuing a common goal.

In a Classical Company we organize primarily along Corporate Networks of professionals grouped by domain knowledge. By using classical planning strategies of decomposition of the mission into objectives aligned to the organizational lines, we hope to maximize efficiency by leveraging specialization and minimizing the need for inter-area collaboration to get the job done.

But, as competitive pressures increase, innovation accelerates, and information spreads faster,  companies are required to respond in real-time, the classical strategic planning process modeled after functional or managerial networks falls apart and communities become the most effective model of primary corporate organization.

Social Business seeks to make the classical corporate structures more flexible and fluid so that they can better leverage collaboration. To embrace Social Business, corporations will have to adapt their structure (less hierarchical, fluid organization charts), attitude (let information flow, empower and react in real-time), and process (more reliance on collaboration, less on linear workflows).

Embracing Social Business is prioritizing Communities over Networks. It is a move from tactical discipline  towards real-time response. It is deciding what is important and then organizing to do it (like in the international rescue effort in Chile) instead of organizing first and then define what is the goal of each party (like in classical business or regular diplomatic circles).

Formigas Argentinas

Semana passada, minha casa (na California) foi invadida por Formigas Argentinas. Isso acontece todo ano no final do verão. Então eu sei o que fazer. Tenho que colocar a única marca de veneno que funciona com as ditas cujas e daí ter paciência e viver dois dias com as formigas até o veneno fazer efeito.

Não se se vocês já ouviram a história, mas as formigas chegaram a da Argentina e se deram bem por aqui. Hoje elas formam uma única super-colônia que cobre 1000 quilometros da costa Californiana.

Eu imagino que para uma formiga, achar uma migalha de comida no chão da minha cozinha é desafio comparável a achar um específico torcedor do Flamengo no Maracanã lotado. Mas, trabalhando de forma colaborativa, formigas conseguem executar essa tarefa com eficiência surpreendente.

Umas quarenta formigas entram na cozinha e começam a explorar ao acaso. Pode levar uma hora ou duas, mas no final uma delas acaba encontrando a migalha de comida. Ela então começa uma nova busca por uma companheira. Encontrando, as duas tocam as antenas por um momento: achei comida.

A formiga original volta à migalha, marcando o caminho quimicamente de forma que outras possam seguir a trilha. A segunda formiga vai procurar a próxima para espalhar a notícia.

A mágica acontece. Em menos de dez minutos depois da primeira descoberta, a coisa converge rápidamente. Uma trilha se forma entre o ponto onde as formigas entram na casa e a migalha de comida. Um exército de centenas de milhares invade minha cozinha.

Imagino que cada formiga não tenha a menor idéia da missão coletiva. Ela apenas segue um programa bem simples gravado no instinto individual. Mas, através da colaboração, a comunidade de formigas executa uma tarefa complexa (achar uma migalha de comida no chão de uma cozinha) com “inteligência” e eficiência surpreendentes.

A lição das formigas: indivíduos iguais, trabalhando colaborativamente, sem comando centralizado (tem a rainha, mas ela não parece muito ditadora) podem executar tarefas complexas que estão além da habilidade (ou mesmo a compreensão) individual.

Fico pensando se somos como formigas, inconscientes da nossa missão coletiva.

Tenho certeza que podia ter outras idéias interessantes derivadas da observação das formigas. Mas era hora de preparar o jantar.

The Power of Collaboration

Late last week, my house was invaded by Argentine ants. That happens every year after a bout of high temperatures in late summer, so I know what to do. I set ant baits (Home Depot sells the only brand effective with this variety) and have to be patient and live with the invaders for a couple of days.

So I had been observing them on my kitchen floor and worked on this post, but was preempted a couple of day ago by another “Business Lessons from Ants” post by Nbuduisi Ekekwe on HBR.

This morning I decided my story is a bit different and worth publishing. So here it is.

I imagine that for an ant, looking for a small crumb of food on my kitchen floor is comparable in dimension to me searching from a hot-dog cart in an area the size of Manhattan. But working as a collaborative community ants can accomplish that task with very surprising efficiency.

A few dozen ants enter the kitchen and explore following a seemingly random pattern. It could take an hour, but eventually one of them finds the food crumb. She then starts a new search, for another fellow scouter. Once they find each other, they briefly touch antennas “I’ve found food”. The original ant traces back to the food (leaving a chemical trail that others can follow), the second one start looking for the next scouter to spread the news in the same manner.

That is when the magic happen. Within 5-10 minutes of the first discovery, the simple algorithm converges quickly. An obstacle-optimized highway forms between the point where they enter the house and the piece of food. An army of hundreds of thousands (enough to fill half of my vacuum cleaner canister) then invade the kitchen.

I would assume each ant is pre-programmed with a very simple algorithm and has no visibility of the higher-level mission. But using a very collaborative method and a simple and descentralized communication method, the colony can explore vast areas, and very efficiently create a path from newfound food and the nest.

Observing ants brought a few thoughts to my mind:

  • Classical business rely on work hierarchy, segmentation, specialization and competition to execute
  • Ants show us that equal individuals working collaboratively, without central command (well, there is a queen, but she doesn’t seem to be very dictatorial), can execute tasks that are far beyond the ability (or even the understanding) of each individual
  • Are we wired to collaborate and share information like ants seem to be? I believe we are “social”, but to a lesser degree than ants are.
  • The successful implementation of social business models will depend on our ability to learn some of the lessons ants can offer.

There are many other lessons and thoughts that can emerge from observing ants. But I had to stop to cook dinner.