Platforms: What FinancialForce, Xactly, and Hubspot Understand

Platforms – can’t live with them… pass the potatoes.

I know, we all hate platforms.

The crux of the problem is explaining what a platform is and how it works, I can write for ages about the details and go into nitpicking details – and never publish.  The closest I got to it was the post I did when SFDC announced Salesforce1 (the platform, not the message of a mobile client attempt at confusing users).

But the issue remains: how to explain platforms easy and simple?

Then, it hit me as I was sitting at conference after conference these past weeks: use examples.  I collected some of the most obvious ones these past months and I want to share them with you to try to elucidate on what platforms are and how they work.

Defining a Platform

If there was ever a fool’s errand it is to try to get y’all to agree on what a platform is.  I know better than that.

However, before we start I want to give you a short version of  what I call platforms (and what you should also, if you want to be right… ok, ok, just messing with you…).

First a proper definition, but not from Webster’s (who misses the point by simply stating it is an OS – which is a very basic form or platform, but not related to cloud computing), but form Wikipedia (after disambiguation, ended up in computing platform) that says:

A computing platform is, in the most general sense, whatever pre-existing environment a piece of software is designed to run within, obeying its constraints, and making use of its facilities. Typical platforms include a hardware architecture, an operating system (OS), and runtime libraries

Some of the critical pars of this definition are: environment, self-contained, and with specific resources to leverage the environment at least as I read it, but I may be biased. Also, by “hardware architecture” I interpret Cloud Computing in the context of this post and my future writings.

In cloud computing, a hardware / software architecture combination, the platform is the middle layer that provides essential, secure, scalable, and repeatable services that are then leveraged by the SaaS and IaaS layers to run operations.  Think of it as a “traffic cop” that ensures that the right element (data, function, integration point, more) goes where it is supposed and ends up in the right place, after providing it with the right resources to get there.

The easiest way to think about a platform (PaaS) in cloud computing is to look at the requirements:

  • A component of a three tier open cloud architecture (entails being able to communicate with any IaaS or PaaS or SaaS component directly without point-to-point integration) – see figure below

Slide3

  • A collection of functions delivered like a service (see some of the examples in the picture above); if you want to call them APIs, do so – but make sure they are open, discoverable, and secure as services at the very least (there is lot more about this coming in future posts).

I am in awe of the many versions and approaches I am finding (as well as failed attempts).  I will highlight a few, but know that I’m merely pointing you to some of the most mature I found; there are many, many others not included here (I cannot cover everything in one post, sorry).

The Platform-to-Platform Play

FinancialForce.is a very interesting play on platforms, as they are both an application leveraging Force.com (Salesforce1) as a platform and a platform on their own.  Depending on what solutions you implement you are either using a service that is delivered on top of Force.com (Salesforce1) or their own platform that also connects to Salesforce1 (Force.com) to provide additional services.

As you see in the chart above, there is an inherent element to cloud-based platforms that is to connect to other platforms and FinancialForce has done this quite well.  By establishing these connections between platforms they both deliver a value add via  new platform that can easily integrate into exiting ones as well as leverage previous investments the customer may have made.

This is the way organizations will leverage the solutions and power provided them by vendors in the cloud: through an aggregation of multiple services delivered by a myriad of platforms providers.

The traditional role of the vendor as a seller of software that does everything end-to-end is coming to an end and being replaced by vendors that connect platforms and offer services on top of them.

The Leveraged Outcome Play

The second example is something that Xactly showcased earlier this year: a new service based on the outcomes generated by the established service they provide.

If you don’t follow Xactly they have a service that helps organizations manage their compensation strategies and tactics.  They do this by delivering data points showing  what others are doing (anonymously) and use that information, together with real-time performance data, to manage compensation for sales people.

In a world that is dramatically changing the value and purpose of the salesperson, Xactly offers organizations an easy way to manage their performance and to reward the right behaviors with proper compensation dynamically and flexibly.

One of the things that Xactly noticed was that they had access to reams of data about more than compensation: who the people were, how they acted, what they did and didn’t do, what worked and didn’t, etc.  All that data started to show insights that were too useful to be abandoned.  Xactly at first used them to share with their clients, in a non-methodic manner, as casual insights.

Along the way they figured two things: one, the insights could be a  product once they figured a method to share them consistently with customers who wanted to know not only how they compared to others, but also what worked and didn’t for others.

Second, it was not only that specific data that made sense-  but the model.  The model of collecting data, any data, from transactions and operations as part of cloud-provided services.  This model, together with the data and the insights, became the basis for a new service they provided via their existing platform by simply leveraging the outcomes and the results of the other services.

This is what platforms do divinely well and easy: extend what has been done into many different new directions with minimal effort.

The Extending Functionality Play

Another platform example that I noticed recently was Hubspot.  At their recent user conference they announced that in addition to the Marketing Automation functionality they were already offering they would begin to offer more basic CRM functionality (related to Sales and Pipeline management as well as contact management).

This was partly led by requests from their clients and partly by them noticing that the data was the same and if they could add a few more reporting and operations functions to the cadre of services their platform offered they could extend the functionality of their platform – but more importantly do so in a way that delivered what customers wanted to see.

Hubspot focus was not only on the data they could add to their existing database, but more on the functions that their customers could not complete with other offerings as well as extending the functionality of their functional and reporting services.

By extending the functionality of their platform (adding new services) they were able to deliver more value to their customers and also showed them how easy it was to do so, enabling future requests for added functionality to come in to them and they can fulfill them – continuing the cycle.

Other Examples

One more place where I am seeing the rise of platforms play is in the CRM Idol competition.  Now on its fourth year, we are used to seeing the contest showcase the main technical challenges, and solutions, offered by new and starting CRM vendors.

During the previous years we saw plenty of focus on social, analytics, big data, marketing automation, and small medium businesses – but this year we are seeing a lot more focus on delivering all these solutions as platforms or even as services for other platforms.

While I cannot name names yet (as the contest is still underway and I cannot show favoritism) you can see the list of participants and draw your own conclusions.  However, know that I am more impressed by the technology deployment approach via platforms this year than at any other time.

Please keep in mind that these are just a few examples of what I am seeing as there are many other plays I didn’t highlight (but will going forward).

OK, your turn – flame on (I feel so old saying that)… Troll on… whichever you prefer.  Tell me what I missed and what you noticed.  Caveat: if you are vendor touting your own solution, likely that your comment will be “spamatized”.

What do you say?

disclaimer: as with any post mentioning vendors, I want you to know that FinancialForce and Hubspot were never (or are not now) clients.  They either paid expenses for conferences and events, or invited me to dinners and such.  Xactly is a current client.  Some of the CRM Idol vendors are or were clients also.  As always client status is not indication of inclusion, nor is inclusion in this post something I do for them to hire.  I’d be very surprised if they were to hire me because of this short mention in a blog post – but stranger things have happened and if this does I will update this post.

Oracle’s Approach Makes Sense (But It Sucks)

If you follow the conference circuit you’d know that Oracle held its user group conference this past week – Oracle Openworld 2014 was held at the Moscone Center between Sunday afternoon and — well, today officially.

First off, I did not attend in person.  I watched the keynotes from the comfort of my home office and followed the tweets (as well as chatted with some other influencers and analysts who were there, and had plenty of talks with Oracle people before and during the show).  I also have been following Oracle for close to 15 years.

What follows is not an analysis of the show (Dennis Howlett and Doug Henschen did a good job of analyzing that, go read their stuff), but a summary of many of the conversations I had with executives and vendors these past few days about Oracle.  As we used to say in Gartner, you write the note when you get the same question three times from clients – and it has been more than three times.

Two parts to this post to answer two questions.

Does Oracle Approach Make Sense?

It is very easy in this world of $1.2 billion acquisitions and $5 billion ARR to get confused as to what a vendor should do.  We all want to see massive returns and extraordinary (read, all new and incredibly cool) innovation from all vendors.  We all want to have all vendors re-architect their product to address both market needs and innovation requirements.

Unfortunately, no market can support two (or more) large vendors out-innovating each other forever.  The traditional technology adoption curve for any market says that we have between 15 and 20 percent of buyers that are early adopters, lead adopters, or early mainstream.  These are the ones that look at innovative technologies and product and implement them right away – usually looking for competitive advantage.  The other 80 percent or so of the market is mainstream and late adopters – meaning they wait until the wrinkles are ironed out and implement tools and technologies because they work and do something that needs to be done.

Oracle realized long time ago what target market they wanted to serve, and it was not the early 20 percent.  Oracle knows their customers favor easy integration, fully functional, and tested-and-proven technology.  They gladly trade late and safe adoption, comparatively speaking, for bells and whistles and competitive advantage.  They want something that works the same as everybody else – not something that works before anyone else.

And this is what has guided Oracle all these years in their approach to new technologies – they acquire established vendors that are no longer market leaders and innovators, but that have a solid, functioning product that works (for the most part).  In the CRM world itself, Oracle did not acquire Siebel, Peoplesoft, Inquira, Vitru, and their “friends” until they saw their evolution and innovation stall and the market become more commoditized.  That is the perfect entry point for Oracle, since they are looking to provide the functionality (and add revenue in the process) not to deliver innovation.

Oracle’s approach is very smart in that sense: take an established customer base of nearly half-a-million companies, bring tested-and-proven technology solutions to them, increase revenue from the established base five-to-ten percent by selling these solutions, and reduce the costs of delivering those solutions to maximize profits.  Continue to collect maintenance (on-premise solutions) or recurring revenues from hosted solutions (there is no cloud, but that is another discussion for another time – think three-tiers and open, you’ll quickly see why Oracle does not support cloud solutions).

There is a far longer discussion to be had on the size of the customers, risk management, and tailored offers that encompasses Exa-x machines and solution, databases and “platforms”, and applications but this is not the place.  For the most part, this is Oracle’s approach to the market – and one of the reasons they are doing what makes sense: they can generate sufficient revenue from this basic strategy to continue operations and growth ad-infinitum.

So, yes – Oracle’s approach makes sense.  Which brings us to the next question…

Why Does Oracle Approach Suck?

There are three main reasons this approach sucks.

  1. Misdirection and Fear Mongering – This is what Oracle does in relation to the cloud:  The three tier public cloud? Yeah, we could do that – but instead, let me show you this beautiful “new” security-in-a-chip solution that will do everything you need (although cloud-based security has been proven to be more secure than any other method time and again).  If you insist in taking a different approach, one that may make sense for an organization investing in a three-tier public cloud infrastructure, I will have to tell you how scary that world is: you cannot do things without multitenancy else your data is commingled and remote (not true).  Still not convinced? Any solution you will implement is ultimately running my products (database, platforms, analytics, hardware, etc.) underneath, just  but not as secure as they would be in a private cloud we can implement in your location.  Still thinking about going elsewhere? Did you know that without my hardware underneath it all, the solutions are not “engineered to work together”.  Of course, none of these issues matter if you are moving to the cloud – but they do spread sufficient FUD to keep you close by.
  2. Lock In – Now that I convinced you that you must run my hardware, servers, databases and solutions (even mentioning how you can migrate anything you want into my data centers with “the push of a button” as mentioned throughout this past show) you are in.  There is no easy way to get out and go anywhere else.  Now you are one more of the almost half-million customers that will take what I give you (functional products, albeit not innovative or advanced) and will continue to buy from me.  If I convinced you to go the “private cloud” route, even better – moving from a system “engineered to run together” to a three-tier cloud model with open integration is as much of a nightmare as moving from client-server to the internet was in its day.  You are locked-in and living in a “Red Stack”.  Uber-blogger Jon Reed wrote a great piece on lock-in and adoption at Diginomica that you should read also.
  3. Anti Innovation – As mentioned in the section above, Oracle customers are not the most audacious innovators there are out there.  And this is perfectly fine, as they don’t have to be.  However, there is a line that separates offering them the solutions and technologies they want and need and telling them to not innovate.  That  line is crossed when Oracle tells them how bad things are out there, how many horrible things will happen to them if they deviate from staying with Oracle, and how their careers and organizations will fail.  Using misdirection, fear mongering, and adoption lock-in the vendor can then convince their customers to not try new and different, but instead stay with the old and trusted.  In some fields this may be acceptable, but in technology this translates into working into the insecurities of IT departments and CIOs to convert them into anti-innovation hubs that will continue to buy from the established vendor.  Not a good place to be, even worse off as the pace of innovation and technology evolution continues to accelerate.

Now, before I get tar-and-feathered out of town for being mean to Oracle, a caveat.

I am picking on Oracle because they are the latest to do this – all vendors do something similar to some extent.  It is incredibly hard, not to mention almost impossible, to re-architect a behemoth with as many products and solutions as Oracle has.  I recognize that.

However, Oracle is the worst offender in using these tactics to ensure an end-to-end lock-in (hardware to applications) since they are the only one offering the “entire stack”.  Picking on Oracle does not absolve other vendors that are doing the same or using similar tactics.

Caveat Emptor – be aware of what the vendors tell you, and make your decisions based on thought-out, rational conclusions.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once famously said – there is nothing to fear, but fear itself.

note: thanks to Alan Berkson for putting up with my un-flushed thoughts earlier and let me use his brain and intelligence to make this more coherent.  If there is something wrong or omitted in this post, it is entirely my fault.  If something good, it was his help.
disclaimer: dang, i posted initially without this – hope you get this.  Oracle is a past client.  SAP, Salesforce, Microsoft are active clients. Inquira was a client, as was Siebel and Peoplesoft in the day.  if i miss someone else, they might’ve been a client or not.  as you can see from the tone of this post – it does not matter :-).  things don’t change because you are or not a client.  and, for the record, i was invited by Oracle to attend Openworld and they would’ve covered expenses by declined – so there is also that to get out of the way.

Digital Transformation Adoption: A Point-by-Point Update

We did it!

Finally, we reached peak of the hype cycle for Digital Transformation.

Congratulations, we couldn’t have done it without your help.

Thank you!

I first wrote, seriously, about it earlier this year after many years of mentioning the coming paradigm shift that would revolutionize business (not an evolution like social media and social networks).

Since then just about every Tom, Patty, and Rene has written about it (that my gender neutral version of Tom, Dick, and Henry by the way…) and taken a stance about it.  Most of those stances are — nuanced, to say it a way that is not using the words “biased” and “wrong” but at least they managed to move the needle in some direction.

I would like to take the next few minutes of your attention (about 15-20 if you believe Wikipedia) to help you understand where we are, where we are going, and what’s going on right now in the world of Organizations in regards to Digital Transformation.

Two caveats: first, I won’t link to anything or anyone else unless I see value and lack of hype in what they are saying.  If you want hype, you can Google “Digital Transformation” (yes, with the quotes) and you can get as much hype as you can stomach.  Second, I don’t have all the answers (likely don’t have many either) but I can give you some data and information that will help you feel better about this paradigm shift (read my past post to understand why this is a paradigm shift).

(note: all the content of this post is based on conversations, interactions, and work I have been doing with vendors and organizations this past year around this model; which is why I have not been able to write much about anything in the past few months)

Ready?

First: the Hype

About that hype statement above.

If you ever used Google trends you know how this works: any topic is scored on a scale from zero (no substantial amount of searches or content created around it) to 100 (top trending topic in Google searches and content found via spidering).  While I don’t know the algorithm used to compute the score, I have found them very accurate in the past.

Here is the chart for Google Trends for Digital Transformation (click on the chart to navigate to Google Trends site for more details)

DT TrendsBy contrast, here is the chart for Google Trends for Social Media (click on the chart to navigate to Google Trends site for more details)

SM Trends

And the first thing you will notice is that the both took different lengths of time to get to the top.  Which is why, as Gartner has said from the beginning, hype only serves as birddogging for early adopters (more on that below).

Second: The Progress

That brings me to the second point I want to share: this is early adopter’s time for digital transformation.

By definition-ish, early adopters are those organizations that are comfortable with managing risk and taking chances with untested technology and tools and even concepts.  They foresee a potential value that exceeds the potential damage that could occur if they were to move forward.  Of course, this is done within a framework of risk management and methodical trial-before-commitment – but that is risk management 101 and the topic for another post.

Hype Cycle for dt

 (as with every other interpretation of the hype cycle in my writings, this is not Gartner’s stated position on digital transformation; they are kind enough to let me borrow the model and I add my comments on top of it)

The reality is that without those early adopters jumping in ahead of everyone else and “testing the waters” we wouldn’t be able to move to mainstream adoption (around 30% of the overall market adoption).  There are about 5% of organizations that fit into the early adopter category – and not all topics and tools apply to all of them: thus, when I say “early adopter’s time” I mean a handful of organizations around the world actively doing digital transformation.

Which means, there are more people talking than doing this – and use that as a yardstick when someone tells you they “know how to do digital transformation”.

Third: The Management Stance

I often, read every day many times a day sometimes, get asked who is doing digital transformation? who can i point to that has done a good job and can be used as an example.

Funny thing happened on the way to this answer, everyone now is doing digital transformation… and naming CDO (chief digital officer) and CTO (chief transformation officers) along the way.

Is this the right move?  Read on.

If you need a generic statement, this is a key top-level strategic initiative that is often led by the CEO, the COO, or in very few cases someone below them.

There is no single purchaser of “digital transformation” projects – nor should it ever be (and I did mentioned this in my previous post also).  This is not a software purchase – this is about transforming your business (and that is led by executives if it is to be successful).

There is positively no way this is going to happen in a “ground-up” or grassroots way.  The fact that a lot of people in the organization know about digital, understand the impact, and (frankly) are devoted users of digital makes no difference.  There may be some lab-based projects here and there of tools and technologies – but this is an infrastructure-level, all-in initiative.  Nothing short of that would work, and nothing like that works without executive support.

Mea Culpa, I did say last year at a conference that CDO is the mix of CMO and CIO as a visionary statement together with friend Ray Wang (of Constellation Research).  Since then, we both retracted that statement (we actually did it in the same conference this year, video is forthcoming soon) and provided some guidance as to how to embrace digital transformation.

If you absolutely, positively need to point to someone that is “buying” or leading the efforts, there is another trend to consider…

Remember your CIO?  yeah, that funny person who is always worried about deploying tablets, laptops, securing and integrating and managing data, and developing custom applications for you — but that does not get it?

Guess what? They have been getting it.  Big Time.

As I highlighted in my first post, this is about infrastructure.  Cloud underlies the transformation.  Without PUBLIC cloud, there is no possibility of transformation.  Go ahead and debate me below if you want.

Who owns the cloud infrastructure? Yep, you got it. The CIO.

But, wait – there’s more! (wanted to say for a while now)…

Before you pack your bags and head to haunt every CIO in the world for budget, read a little bit more.

Business stakeholders are represented in this debate by the CMO.  A large part of that is because Gartner said that technology budgets would explode by 2017 for CMOs.  Which is likely true, except…

Except that they forgot two points surrounding that “explosion”:

  1. They did not mention that CMOs budgets are for more than just technology.  The technology portion of their budgets are not what is exploding – the expense in advertising, media, content generation, etc. is what is exploding.  And there is not a lot that can be moved from there to technology (we will argue allocation from traditional media to digital in another post if you want, but not part of this discussion).  Even if the technology budgets were to be exploding, the starting point is so low compared to IT budgets (which even if continuing their slow 5% average expansion would still crowd over CMO budgets) that the amount of spend is — well, not worth the expense to target it (as a lot of vendors found out in the last few months).
  2. CMOs had a hard time proving the use of the “expanded” budgets in social as they allocated the money in the past few years.  Let’s face it, Social was not what was supposed to be.  True, a communications evolution happened – and brands needed to be there.  But the change to consumer behaviors, the link from social to expanded revenues, the correlation between social presence (or lack of the same) and higher revenues was not there.  Promises made around the social revolution did not, for the most part, come true – and that hurt the reputation and credibility of the CMOs that lined up behind it.

So, if the CMO is not the one with budgets for digital transformation, and the CIO is the gate-keeper (but not the purse keeper) what’s going in the organization? Is this another “who owns social?” discussion.

Hardly, there is a massive change adrift – but you have to pay attention to notice it.

Enter your old, ignored friend – the COO.

Who? COO? What is that? Do we even have one?

Yes, you do – and she (or he, to be politically correct) is becoming the unsung hero for digital transformation.

There is a change in organization chart, partly driven by the fact that CMO-as-a-proxy-for-business-stakeholders were not able to deliver for social initiatives, and partly because CEOs realized that strategies don’t get implemented just because you think about them.

dt-org-chart

The new dynamic duo of the CEO and COO work in tandem, with the Executive handling the vision and strategy and the Operations chief handling tactical and implementation.  The rest of the C-level peeps end up reporting to one or the other – as need be.  Yes, even if you don’t have C-level people but SVP, EVP, GVP, or MVP – or whatnot, the concept is the same: CEOs strategize, COOs operationalize.

OK, you say, fine.  This is happening – but who is holding the budget for digital transformation?

No one.  Yet.

There is no budget yet allocated, and very little I am seeing being allocated for 2015 budget cycles, for digital transformation.  And that brings me to the next point.

Fourth: The Gurus

If no one is spending money, and few are doing it, then who do I turn to for help and assistance in understanding this paradigm shift?

Well, first of all – me.  This blog will continue to publish more and more content about this transition as we move forward.  I am always happy to extend conversations from this “printed” world to the real world anytime.

Second, turn to those that have been talking and writing about it for some time now.  In no particular order (and because I am too lazy to put them in alphabetical order) they are:

IBM (good research, but lacking field-level people IMO that can extend that research), Accenture, Ernst & Young Advisors (or just EY so their branding police don’t get me), and Deloitte are all staffed with good people that have been writing, researching, and talking about it for some time.

Their research reports, published in the past few months, are worth reading as they reflect the thoughts of executives around the world (which highlight the intent, but not the execution yet on these ideas).

These are the players in the US Market (and not so much at a global level – yet).  If you are in EMEA, then Cap Gemini has been doing quite well, and EY (see? I learn) is gaining ground as well.  Accenture had a slow start, but is gaining ground quickly there also.  My good friend Jesus Hoyos from Solvis Consulting as always has the coverage on the Latin American market.

Most of the outsourcers have been also doing quite well in expanding their presence in this field (including some of the names I mentioned above) but I will let my good friends at Horses for Sources cover that in more detail as they are far more entrenched in that world that I am.

There are many others that have been talking about it – but in my interactions with executives in all countries and of all sizes I have not heard many compliments – nor have I seen a change in their organizations to support their thought leadership.

As I mentioned above, many people talk about it (which is why we reached the top of the hype cycle), but few have actually the bandwidth and knowledge to take it to the next level.

Fifth: The Model

When I first released the “model” for Digital Transformation I challenged you to take it and improve it.  I said, this is just an idea – but it need to get better.

There were a few people that took me on it, and apparently still working on it – had limited contact since they started, but no major changes.

However, since I have been using this model extensively in conversations and consulting with vendors and brands, I came up with a few changes to it.  Look right below

DT New FrameworkI am not going to send you to the previous post (although it is linked here if you want to go there) to compare, so let me tell you some of the discoveries I made since (and feel free to add your links to the comments if you have expanded on the previous model since).

The most notable one, the interfaces layer at the top.

This used to be part of what is now the legacy pillar on the right side, but have since separated.  Why?

Glad you asked…

I used to say that interfaces and legacy were all part of one giant layer: you collected information from legacy apps, processed it, and because for the most part the interfaces were not “upgraded” yet (read, not mobile or IoT or similar) then we would just process it back to legacy.  While I still maintain that is the case for most (read again, most) situations, to future-proof the model the interfaces layer had to decouple from the legacy layer.

Once I did that, I also looked at the flow of process and information through the framework (the whole idea for the framework was to have a blueprint of sorts that could be used to manage the transformation for the organization) and in doing that I realized also that the interfaces layer must be overarching and cover direct output from analytics and direct output from legacy pillars.

In this way, there is a more natural flow that happens in this model:

  1. The interfaces layer requests an experience (regardless of the client or channel)
  2. The experience layer deconstructs the requests and determines what to deliver
  3. Queries are then dispatched to the information, analytics, and legacy layer to secure the necessary data / knowledge and / or content to build the outcome
    • If necessary, it may also use the cloud layer to obtain ancillary but remote information)
  4. All this information is delivered back to the experience layer
  5. Then it is prepared for delivery via any interface

Pretty simple flow, with lots of work to make sure it is delivered as expected.

For a deeper discussion of how this works and how it can be adapted to any situation (including how it applies to your specific situation) contact me.  That is too much to include in this post.

Phew, thanks for hanging in there…

Yes, close to 3,000 words – but it is shorter than last time, and it is still a brief summary.

I have often been told two things:

I don’t do things on the timeframe that I propose.  Yes, I know it is a shocker – but sometimes practice takes longer than intent (which is why I have been trying to write this for about 2 months now – needs time to “solidify” in my mind first).  And there is no better “push” for me to do things than committing them in public as I have you to push me to do it (and I hate to not deliver on a promise).

I need to write a book about “this”.

Thus, I am going to use this platform to tell you that I am committed (now that I said it publicly) to write the book about “this”.  What this is and what shape the book will take is to be decided in the next few weeks.  However, this will be researched, expanded, and delivered in the form of a book next year.

(note: if you are a publisher who is looking for an idea for a book, contact me, yes – this is shameless… I know)

With that in mind, I will use this medium to publish summaries of each of the layers and pillars in the model above, starting with the cloud layer.  Yes, Mr. Sameer Patel -I will finally write that post you have been pestering me about for a long time – including the one-page-summary of cloud models… Geez, the lack of patience.

I hope.

Comments? Arguments? Disagreements? Agreements?

Comments section below is open to everyone and not moderated (although WordPress will ask me to confirm if you are first time commenter; I don’t even look at the comment and I approve them).o

disclaimer: as with all my posts, here is the disclaimer. there are no vendors mentioned in this update. the consulting organizations I mentioned above are not clients, nor do they pay me for anything — heck, most I ever got might’ve been a couple of drinks at a bar late at night and some lunch or dinner here and there.  these are my opinions, and will forever continue to be my opinions.  if you think one of those consulting firms will either hire me or want to work with me because of this post then you need to understand better how they spend their money.  I will continue to get those drinks and meals, but it won’t affect my judgement as it have not done yet.

Measuring Customer Service Usage One More Time

For the third year in a row, and consistently growing in responses and popularity, it is time to measure what’s been happening in Customer Service.

The survey, conducted by thinkJar and sponsored by KANA for the past three years, is a great way to showcase what’s going on in Customer Service, what has changed in the past 12 months, and – more importantly – what’s trending and in which direction.

With over 400 responses the last year (more than double the first year) and an expected increase of at least 100-120 more this year the survey is showing what customer service professionals are thinking and doing.

Last year’s effort showcased some interesting insights:

  • Almost on one is still sure about what to do with communities – yet they all want to do it.
  • Literally no one was working or deployed in omnichannel, and almost 2/3 of respondents were not even clear of their multi-channel strategy
  • Social customer service was dropping dramatically in adoption, to the benefit of Chat (yes, chat – kid you not)
  • The value of mobile and social for organizations is still not well understood – where more than one third of organizations see no value to the customer in deploying those channels.

The effort this year for me is twofold:

  1. I want to confirm the findings from last year and see if the trends continue in adoption, usage, and positions that organizations are taking with their investments
  2. I want to see what new insights can be gathered from more respondents and from an additional year of trending data

We are also trying something new this year.  We will release a report at the end of the analysis, but we will also release data in an ongoing basis.  Once we generate sufficient responses to showcase some interesting data (which I expect to be within 1-2 weeks) I will begin posting the data and the analysis in short snippets.  No longer you will have to wait to see the entire report or try to find interesting insights from it.

Expect to see anywhere from six to ten insights published these way every 2-3 weeks as data becomes available.

OK, enough peddling of the product – on to the survey.  Please take the survey here, advertise it everywhere you can, and help me get as many answers as possible so we have great data available.

Questions? Comments? Drop them below.

The survey is embedded below and also you can take it here if you prefer a full browser experience.

Disclaimer: KANA is a customer, has been for many years, and is sponsoring this survey exclusively – but they don’t have any control over the content, questions asked (they did collaborate on some questions, providing suggestions, but the final questionnaire is in line with out theses only) or even the results.  All data remains property of thinkJar and all content are ours.  KANA gets to enjoy the warm and fuzzy feelings of both having the results published under the name and knowing that they helped advanced the world of customer service.  Both very important, if you ask me.  I get to do more research with someone helping me pay the bills – and to keep my consciences clear that I still own the process, methodology, and content. Phew.   A big thank you to KANA for supporting this project for the past three years.

Time For Tiedosta: To Know About Knowledge

In the late 1999 and into early 2000 I was the CTO for a startup.

The product was ahead of its time (“can you put it in an email?” it the comment from a VC that still haunts me to this day — as if) and it was a platform play.  Inconsequential to this post.

The reason I bring this up is because when we set out to settle the name of the company one of my co-founders (a truly amazing person by the name of Mike Harris – with whom I lost contact unfortunately) suggested we use the word Tiedosta.

Turns out he had spent some time in Finland and he learned that the word Tiedosta in Finnish means “about knowledge”.

It is not knowledge, or to know – it is about knowledge (which, was a very important part of our product).

It is about the knowledge that surrounds the actual knowledge, about the processes and methods by which we obtain that knowledge, and grow it, and how the knowledge we use is merely a piece of a larger puzzle.

Tiedosta – about knowledge.

If you follow my writings and my research you know that knowledge is one of the things that intrigues me the most.  I have spent hours and hours reading and researching it, putting together new thinking and models about it, documenting what others are doing, and writing about it when I have time.

Which, coincidentally, is usually in the second half of the year… namely, now.

I am launching the first of a few research projects I am conducting this year on knowledge.  You know my sponsored research model where I do the research I would normally conduct with clients sponsoring parts of it.  I get to remain impartial, and they get much needed data and analysis – and I pay the bills.  Win, win, win.

In this case, I am working with IntelliResponse to find out as much as we can about knowledge management and web self-service for customer service.

We just published a survey on those topics and we would love your help.  I have embedded the survey down here

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

 

or you can click this link and take the survey in a full tab if you prefer.

Rather lengthy (32 questions total, divided in two topics, and need to qualify to respond to each topic) but clocks in at 20-25 minutes for most people who tested it.

Help us, please, find out more about knowledge management and web self-service for customer service.  As usual, for your participation you will get an exclusive report to be published at the end of September with all the answers and the analysis of the survey.

We are closing this survey at the end of the month – we want to accommodate vacationers, or we may extend it if the summer plays with our response rate… but we prefer to get more answers early.

You can stop and come back anytime, you can answer one or two questions a day, or all at once – your choice.  Either way, we will be very grateful and you get to find out what others are doing with knowledge management and web self- service for customer service.

Take the survey, please.

Questions? email me.

Comments? enter them below.

THANK YOU, truly.

What’s the Future of Feedback? Stay Tuned…

Back in 2001 – while an incredible talented, young, and successful Gartner analyst – I wrote a research note introducing  the concept of Customer Feedback Systems.

In it I wrote about how feedback was poorly done as stand-alone surveys or outsourced entirely to market research firms (that in turn took too long to deliver insights) and that it never really looked at the bigger issue: how to coordinate and integrate the existing data with the data collected via surveys.

Through a couple of naming conventions and work done with Perseus and Jeffrey Henning we finally settled on EFM (Enterprise Feedback Management) as the name for the solution.  The birth of the EFM market was simple and unassuming.

Fast forward five years, and 2006 saw me fielding 10-12 inquiries about EFM a day, and the market grow from non-existing to nearly $100 million in software sales and related fees.  Fast forward another five years, and the market had been changed from EFM to VoC and was nearing $250-300 million in software sales and related fees – and began to slow-down in adoption.  I even had to come to the defense of the market in a blog post.

While the growth had not stalled, it was certainly beginning to slow down considerably and adoption of VoC was not as interesting as it had been for EFM.  What was the change? Why did organizations began to slow down adoption? What did the future hold for EFM  and VoC?

I have been researching the market from the beginning and I can honestly say that the future is bright as it ever was, it not brighter, and that the major shift in vendor behavior the past four years is responsible for it.

I am writing a detailed report on the new realities of Feedback, EFM, and VoC now that we saw a major change in data collection, analysis, and integration into everyday processes.  I have met and talked to the relevant vendors and consultants, interviewed many practitioners, and discussed the perspectives with analysts and pundits – and am ready to publish my findings.

Although this won’t be for another four-to-six weeks, I participated in a panel earlier this year at Allegiance’s VoCFusion conference where I shared the major findings so far – and they are very interesting.

Watch this video summary of that conference, whet your appetite for the future of Feedback, and let me know if you have something you want to contribute or discuss on this topic.  Happy to engage and extend my knowledge.

Anything you want to add? Comment box is below…

Infor, The Teenager

I attended the Infor Innovation Summit in NYC last week.

It was a good event, headlined by Infor CEO’s Charles Phillips and most of his senior staff.  There were lots of presentations – but also oodles of conversations and questions with the ~60 analysts in attendance (from all walks of like, independent to large research house).  Anyone who has a say in the world of Enterprise Software was there (and, yes – the agenda was a cute attempt at civility, we were behind schedule just 10 minutes into it).

My attention was piqued in the last couple of years as I saw Infor progress from a collection of acquisitions to putting a credible story together.  I wanted to see what was the glue holding all this together, how it fared as built, and how it compares to the rest of the market.  I was not disappointed, Infor delivered all the information needed to make this assessment.

What? The title you say?

I thought you’d never ask…

I am in the middle of my oldest daughter’s awakening into a teenager.  Thanks, I appreciate the sentiment – as I hear, it passes in another 15-20 years.

I may be biased coming into this, but I am seeing similar behaviors and issues with Infor as I see in my daughter: all the elements that would make them a great vendor are there – just not all in the final form or matured enough.  Let me explain.

Infor has in my opinion the most advanced architecture for cloud I’ve seen among large #EnSw vendors.  It can support any “model” of cloud their customers throw at them – but this is mostly because they had the good fortune / foresight of re-architecting in the past few years from a non-existent platform that held it all together to a great three-tier, metadata-based (and this is the key, btw), public cloud that can also bastardize itself to be private or hybrid if their customers are not yet that advanced in the cloud world (something that will be solved in the next 2-3 years more or less).

Further, their ION EAI layer is one of the best answers I’ve seen from vendors to bring legacy solutions into the new world of cloud; it does the job well and the clients I chatted with like it and see it as a great interim step to move forward into the world of cloud.

They really thought about it, and the platform is well built and being adopted at a good pace by existing customers migrating from the old products into the new platform; we shall continue to see this if all my conversations are any indication.

They also distinguish themselves from other vendors by their UX (uber friend Paul Greenberg discussed this in detail in his post last year about this, read more there as I won’t be as detailed).

Using their Hook-and-Loop (I am a brand-killer, I am sure they don’t use the name that way, but works better for me – sorry) agency they have some of the most amazing UI I have seen for Enterprise Software in many years if not ever.  Mobile, desktop, tablet – all well covered and retaining the main attributes of the interfaces.  The ability to build and modify interfaces easily also supports the move to adopt mobile as the leading platform by most organizations.  All in all, definitely a key differentiator for them if not the best.

This to me is the equivalent of a teenager that takes care of their appearance (starts working out, stops eating junk food, buys more fashionable clothes, spends 2 hours every morning doing their hair – I mean, seriously? at 11? — sorry, I digress), begins to understand their likes and dislikes, their preferences, and puts a good amount of time into deciding what their looks are and how the world should see them.

And this is who I see Infor today: a teenager.  All the elements are there, they are lean, buff, and decided.  They have all the components that make up who they are – but are not yet ready to use them all together in critical situations.  They are learning (And having great successes in areas like Public Sector and Healthcare) what they have and how to use it, how to learn from the early mistakes and how to get better.

Infor, the teenager, has a great future as an adult if they continue on this path.  Will continue to watch them over the next few years to see where it goes.

I just hope they don’t spent 2 hours each day doing their hair…

disclaimer: Infor is not a client, but they paid my expenses for this trip, fed me (quite well actually), and took us on a private tour of the Modern Museum of Art in NYC – one of my faves.  Although they did not influence me by doing so, they came as close as anyone can – for future reference, sushi dinner would’ve come closer – but this was pretty good experience.  We were “housed” in the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was OK, but nowhere close to a fave… still food, and museums, rule over hotels in my book.

the blog!

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