Thursday, November 19, 2009

CRM = 'Collaboration, Relationship Management' ?

I was following #df09 day 1 tweets from Dreamforce 09, the annual event, and got hooked to the live streaming keynote speech by Marc Benioff as the discussion got interesting and moved to real app demo instead of pptware. Marc announced another potentially exciting release by Salesforce - its 4th cloud- Chatter (wasn't there a better name?). But before he closed his keynote, he made an interesting statement that struck my mind. He mentioned CRM is now 'Collaboration Relationship Management' or - CRM = 'Collaboration, Relationship Management' (?). But changing description of a deeply established acronym like CRM - deserves a lot more thinking and justification I feel.

We do know that Social media and sites like Twitter and Facebook have had (and will continue to have) a huge impact on how businesses interact with their customers, who now have a new 'social' dimension to their behavior. The social phenomenon is also redefining the rules and the core definition of CRM, with more power than ever to the customer, and I love Paul's 'Twitter-size' definition of SCRM:

"The company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation"

Point to note is that in all these (re) definitions, the 'Customer' has always remained at the center.

Now, Social mediums are promoting seamless collaboration to an enormous extent, (so would 'Chatter', I'm sure) but is 'Collaboration' going to become powerful enough to replace 'Customer' as the C of CRM? not too sure - but let's see:

Currently we have multiple 'roles' tagged to people in general in the entire ecosystem viz. Customer, Employee, Partner etc. But thinking of a scenario in the future when 'Collaboration' comes to the fore in such a big way that the need to constantly identify a person with a role tag 'Customer' will diminish. As roles become interchangeable where an employee or a partner today is a customer tomorrow and vice versa, who collaborate via social channels all this while, in whatever roles then don. Transparency increases to a level where information is accessible through open social channels always, promoting this further. It no longer remains only employees helping customer but - customers helping other customers, employee helping partners, customers helping employees - the permutations are multiple.

This will be the time when CRM = 'Collaboration, Relationship Management' with 'people' at its center, and not tagged 'roles' ...

'Social' adds a brilliant dimension to primarily extend CRM philosophy and give more power to the 'Customer', is what I understood. But if everyone in the ecosystem gets the same value - and premium value is not just bestowed to the 'customer' - as everyone is 'collaborating' and helping and networking, I guess it might result in a better equilibrium state .. and help the world get flatter.

Would love to get your thoughts and comments on this - realistic? idealistic? social'istic'? :-)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Amazing CRM Thought Pearls by Paul @ CRM Evolution 09

Following tweets by attendees at the CRM Evolution Conference, who were Tweeting while listening in to Paul Greenberg. Found some of the 'thought pearls' so good, that I have collated them at one place. Thanks to @drnatalie, @rwang0 and @mkrigsman for getting these pearls out! Here's the key takeaway from microblogs converted to a Blog:
  • Customers are no longer just transactions. Getting them to be your advocate is now the goal. (Read the great post by PGreenberg on United Airlines' treatment of customers as 'transactions')
  • In the social world, you can't just dump low-value customers cause they'll talk about you on the web. Ouch
  • Discussion around - 'Speech Analytics' - what is it ? Word spotting; Context; Stereo conversation capture; emotion; data (would love to hear this one in more detail).
  • Bad customer can go viral, great example of United breaking guitar Youtube video - which got over 5mn views! Forcing United Airlines to revert to the customer.
  • Insight into the customer no longer comes to you easily. The ultimate customer condition is advocacy
  • Customer Referral Value - a NEW metric to identify customers - CLV alone is not enough!
  • The phone has maintained its strong position as a channel for customer service 41% vs Store visit 35%
  • Take a negative experience and turn it to a positive - you get an advocate !
  • and the funny one - Customers are the center of the universe ! Galileo was wrong :-)
Simply great pearls by Paul worth storing. Did I miss any ? Appreciate if you can add those as comments.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Solar Powered Cell phones, Relevant Technology ?

Innovation is necessary and an inevitable human urge. But innovation being 'relevant' is equally essential is what I feel. Agreed that you cannot (and should not) stop the geeks and scientists from thinking of whacky ideas - coz if they didn't, then I'm sure we might have been devoid of many of our most loved gadgets and inventions. But when professional companies are investing in research and aiming at commercial viability, that is what adds 'relevant' to the entire process.

Reading an article on Solar Powered Cell Phones, gives me the same feeling that folks are forgetting the term 'relevant' and putting futile (atleast in its current state) effort on making cellphones - solar powered. And it has already been launched in the market in Japan! Look at some interesting specs - 10 minutes of charging in the sun will give you 1 minute of talktime ! but hold on - this is what the company specifies - when it was tested, it took - '40 minutes to squeeze out one minute of talk time, 60 minutes for three minutes of talk time'.

Interesting, but any takers ? - that only time will tell, but I'm not sure if mobile phone is an instrument where the concept of solar energy could be applied (commercially), knowing its usage requirements and functional need.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Create 'Blue Ocean' or 'Think Twice About Being First' ?!

An interesting irony of practical life, and a possible conflict of strategic approaches - as I read the article on - "Think Twice about being first". It talks about how David Cohen thought ahead of his times about Social communities on Mobile phones. There were venture capitalists who bought his idea, invested in it, it remained alive for 18 months but slowly died and he closed his shop - as it was possibly just a wee bit early.

After 4 years - now that internet on mobile is picking up across developed and developing countries around the globe, promoted by cool gadgets like the iPhone and other smartphones - real time for monetizing the idea seems to have come. Now we have many companies that are following Cohen's concept and finding much better traction ! But unfortunately for Cohen, the founder of this concept, the shop is already closed.

Now, let me contrast this with the much acclaimed strategy by Management guru's from Harvard - The 'Blue Ocean' strategy. In simple words this is a breakthrough strategic approach, and a bestseller, promoting lateral thinking that recommends and suggests how to move away from bloodbath ridden 'Red oceans', to virgin and unchartered 'Blue Oceans'. Oceans being an equivalent of a 'market' or a 'market segment'.

It elaborates how existing markets or market segments get converted to 'Red oceans', where there are multiple competitors - selling same or similar products, with limited or no differentiators, fighting for a slice of the pie getting into a bloodbath - making the 'ocean' red. The strategists recommend how, instead of fighting in the same red ocean by engaging in the ongoing bloodbath, it is much better to find newer and safer 'Blue Oceans' where there is enough pieces in the pie to be grabbed while avoiding bloodshed ! A breakthrough concept indeed and its popularity as a bestseller is a resounding proof.

But contrasting it with Cohen's story above, we definitely see an irony that life's practicality has in store. So even though Cohen found a shimmering 'blue ocean' it resulted more in being a 'marooned island' for him!

The only thing that went wrong in Cohen's case was the timing. So, guess its best to create 'Blue oceans', but venture in it only when the time is ripe. But how to predict that ? Can a management strategy do that ? not sure .. possibly a soothsayer !

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SaaS industry 'will collapse' in two years!

Nindak niyare rakhiye, aangan kuti chhawaye;
Bin pani sabun bina, nirmal karat subhaye.

(Keep a critic near you in your backyard for they will help you cleanse yourself without soap and water)

A famous doha by Kabir, and shows the vision and mature thought the famous saint-poet had, which I think should be applied in all walks of life, to be able to see a situation from all possible viewpoints.

Applying the same approach to what I've been all praise for - SaaS, I found an interesting interview on the internet - an old interview, but a contrasting and bold comment made by CEO of a lesser known Enterprise app company -

The article reads "SaaS industry 'will collapse' in two years", and I really appreciate his viewpoint (and guts) in line with the same doha or adage that I said upfront. It is vital to have people who point to the possible negative aspects of a phenomenon currently sweeping the world of enterprise apps. Also he speaks from his experience and analysis and I think there are valid points in the statement too, which highlight the big risk the SaaS operators of the world sit on. Because in contrast to an on-premise world where there is no onus on the software company for maintaining the infrastructure/hardware or worry about its maintenance and upkeep - the SaaS vendors have to bother about all that - and also be on the firing line from the customer in case it is not managed well. Which actually can go to the extent of customers turning away from the SaaS vendor, as the contracts go year on year !

So, the risk that a SaaS vendor takes and the investment he makes upfront or on a regular basis - definitely is bigger than a software-as-a-product manufacturer's, which ultimately can also be a reason for its own death. But we all know that businesses revolve around the customer, and so is the case with this model - where the risk and investment that the vendor is making - is taken off the heads of the customer, which possibly is the key reason for its success too.

Now, with the prediction on SaaS industry going kaput in two years - we'll need to wait for another year to rule out entirely - as it's already been almost an year since the interview, and the SaaS market leader has been going from strength to strength in that duration. The irony also is that the interviewee himself uses! but he has a valid point again when he says that he uses it because the product is good, and not because its SaaS, and I agree again. Apart from the model - the key lies ultimately in the product being a good product. So you can do off shoring or outsourcing, but if you are not a good service provider - no one can help you from getting doomed. And so there would be many 'me-too' SaaS offerings, but the one that will stand out in the long run would be the best product, offering the best service at the best price.

So an interesting 'prediction' and viewpoint - but as long as the SaaS industry is in safe and able hands and keeps attracting bigger companies and better brains - I don't see a 'collapse' happening anytime in the near and far future. But critics, please keep those viewpoints coming, we need you in our backyard ! :-)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

From Desktops, to Laptops and now NetTops !

As we all know one of nature's biggest irony is that the only thing which remains constant is 'Change'. And nothing demonstrates that faster and better than Electronic and IT gadgets, (I hope you've seen the amazing video that demonstrates IT system's evolution, a MUST WATCH), The evolution has had us move from mainframes to PCs to Desktops to Laptops and now we hear of NetTops ! What exactly are these NetTops ?

Quoting the Wikipedia "A Nettop is a type of mini desktop or small form factor computer designed for performing basic computation tasks such as surfing the Internet, accessing web-based applications and rich internet applications, document processing and audio/video playback etc."

But why this move from race for computing devices Desktops/Laptops going high end every other month, to a device that is really basic? Isn't this a step back in time ?

The answer is no, and the reason partly lies in my earlier post 'Future-as-a-service'. Imagine if the future is Software-free, with all software being available as a Service that you can use through a basic computing device that only provided internet connectivity, a browser and basic OS level administration capabilities - won't it complement the on-demand or SaaS world perfectly ? Why would one need to carry high end, heavier laptops everywhere he/she goes if all they are using is a browser to access their enterprise applications, documents (Google docs/spreadsheet e.g.), mails etc.

Great lateral thinking once again I'd say, and I'm positive that the future of NetTops would be bright as well. But there is still time where we had a world with 'no-software' and NetTops became omnipresent. And I'm sure before that there will be a transition period where we had both a Laptop and a NetTop - almost like having both a regular Car and a Tata Nano ! :-) .. both serving different purpose and complementing coexistence.

Edit-[28-Aug-09]: Just read this interesting news article on 'Students Abandoning Apple MacBooks for Cheap Netbooks' and thought would capture it here to track the trend on this topic- this definitely looks like a tiny step in the direction I indicated above. BTW, Netbooks are not exactly NetTops, but very close to this category - simply put, it's a no-frills Laptop.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Future as-a-Service

I'm sure we all have heard of SaaS or Software-as-a-service, which is a pathbreaking concept introducing a way of 'serving' software which traditionally was always a physical and locally installed entity. I would say it all started few decades back when 'outsourcing' got coined as a futuristic concept to bring efficiency to business operations. It was an inevitable move to optimize costs by moving operations to lower cost locations. This concept, initially limited within a country or region, got expanded across countries and geos as economies became global .. and we all know that it's such an integral part of doing business now that it's here to stay. (unless the human brain finds another brilliant cost optimization idea, while avoiding some of the possible issues outsourcing poses)

But why these jargons, concepts, theories keep on getting coined every now and then, are these mere buzzwords? I don't think so; I think it’s a necessity, apart from being a reflection of human nature. Being part of a professional organization all of us know that the only way to move, for a professional org like ours, is to move ahead. The sales, revenue, delivery efficiency targets every year have to be more aggressive for any organization worth its salt that wants to be a front runner. Now, the question is 'HOW' you can get more and more efficient with almost similar resources you had earlier. 'HOW' do we cut corners and be on the lookout for finding possible redundancy in the seemingly 'frills-detached' way that we work. The answer I think lies in 'Innovation'. And all these concepts are brainchild of some very innovative people, and packaged well too! by some marketing gurus.

I was listening to Eric Schmidt (Chairman & CEO, Google) on YouTube in a press conference, and he was asked - "We all know about Web 2.0, What would be Web 3.0"; and he said on a lighter note - "Web 2.0 is a Marketing term, and I think you've just invented Web 3.0". So, there definitely is a Marketing air about these jargons but one cannot rule out the important impact they bring to the way businesses are run, by their underlying design and meaning.

On the Human nature aspect - I'm sure we all sometimes feel that how easy work life was a few years back and if we had a time machine we all can go back a few years in our lives, have much less work pressure and better work-life balance. Those years and those targets seem like a cakewalk now. But the irony is that when we were physically living that year, the situation was very much the same, meaning, the years past that, used to look easier and simpler then!

So, I think it’s in the human nature to challenge its limits and move ahead, put tougher targets and try to constantly beat them, the basic reason why we are where we are, from the prehistoric Stone Age days. This inherent nature is what differentiates us human from animals and other forms of life.

I think 'SaaS' takes the same urge to bring in efficiency, innovate and move ahead further, bundled with a proven concept of ‘outsourcing’, and applies it to a different area. Only that this time, not operations but software installation, hosting, maintenance, upgrade and associated pain areas are being 'outsourced'. A brilliant way of applying the same outsourcing concept indeed!

Proliferation of the internet is a major contributor in promotion of this concept, where it is becoming increasingly valid to assume that all professionals are connected or can connect to the internet most of their working hours. So, exploiting Internet as its vehicle, some brilliant brains applied the service concept to Software and transformed ‘Software-as-a-Product’ to ‘Software-as-a-Service’.

From a budding concept almost a decade back, when became flag bearer for this model promoting "No-Software", it has matured in a massive way where customers are now considering Enterprise SaaS offering a must-have in their IT portfolio, primarily with an aim to reduce TCO and realize ROI faster. And in my own experience we have companies of all sizes - from large Manufacturing or Retail companies, to Airlines or Hi-tech companies, Telcos and even Banks & FIs keen on evaluating and/or migrating to this model.

Despite the slumping worldwide economy, the adoption of SaaS is growing and evolving in the enterprise markets. To cash in, many vendors are rechristening their offerings as SaaS, but as Gartner notes, it is important to keep in mind that the true SaaS/on-demand is comprised of the following:

* Delivery of multi-tenant service
* From a remote location
* Over an internet protocol (IP) network
* Via a subscription-based outsourcing contract

Garther further predicts SaaS revenue reaching US$ 14.8 billion in 2012, with SaaS within the office suites reaching 99.2% compound annual growth rate from 2007 through 2012. just proved that plausible, by crossing $1bn in revenue last fiscal, becoming the first Enterprise SaaS company to do so.

Indian IT powerhouse Wipro too has recently shared its plan and intent to enter the Cloud computing market [Wipro To Enter Cloud Computing]

So, with a positive backup of prediction-gurus, proven past performance, acceptance increasing by the day, innovation happening across areas to apply the 'Services' tag and concept; I would just say - let’s brace ourselves for the future - for it will be the Future-as-a-Service.