How Enterprise Applications Will Change in 2010

Back when I lived in Los Angeles I used to take one week at the end of the year to recover from the past and prepare for the new one.

I would drive into the dessert (Las Vegas) embracing all it had to offer (mostly CHP officers pulling me over).  I would stay in a clean and modest hotel (hotels in the strip where cheap and decent then), and spend a few days pondering (playing blackjack and craps) on the fate (I almost always lost) of the year to come. It allowed me to plan better (how long to eat mac & cheese and ramen dinners) and to set my goals (ask for a raise at work).

As I got older, more serious (married and with kids) the process changed slightly.  Alas, since I live in the dessert now (for lack of better publishable words to describe Reno), the process is similar but I spend more time thinking about next year (married, two kids = no money, small town = nothing to do — might as well think).

This past week was my think week for 2009, and I am using the takeaways to frame my research the next 12-18 months.

Four strategies are going to be critical for businesses to address starting in 2010; use this list to plan where to spend your hard-earned strategic budget dollars:

Business Functions. How much has the customer changed in the last two years and how much will it change in the next two? We are not talking about customers any more (at least not as before).  Then, why would you continue to use same business functions as two, five – even ten years ago?  You have to embrace a new model, and you need new business functions for that.

Communities. The most critical element in dealing with “customers” (yes, in quotation marks) in 2010.  As the roles of business functions shift, they are finding communities to be the precipitant (I refuse to say catalyst) for those changes.  You will have to re-learn what you are thinking about communities, and how to interact with them.  You will no longer build communities to control, you will participate in ad-hoc and impromptu communities.

Experience.  If you solely focus on delivering the best experiences during customer interactions (as you have done until now), you will miss out on the best savings and innovation.  Disney plans and executes flawless experiences from the moment you plan your vacation through the post-vacation memories.  Are you approaching experiences the same way? Or are you trying to do the “online experience” or the “brick-and-mortar experience”?  The disconnect is what’s causing you to fail.

Convergence. You will need to converge your Enterprise 2.0 (internal) and Social CRM (external) strategies (first), initiatives (second), and implementations (third).  This is THE sine-qua-non condition for your organization to succeed and become a Social Business.  If you cannot get your organization to collaborate internally and externally at the same time, you will be left behind by the competition — and that means in the next 6-12 months, not years.

The biggest problem organizations are going to face is not going to be strategy.  That is easy (well, not so complicated) to tackle.  The biggest problem is the technical architecture underlying these changes.  There is really only one technology focus area for organizations going forward:

The Cloud. I promise not to say private cloud anymore.  In reality the cloud is not even started yet (although clues are beginning to pop up here and there).  I am planning a series of posts through the year to explore the issues and items you must consider from the business side as you dive deeper into this vaporware (not metaphorically speaking anymore – yeah, bad joke).  If you have any doubts that the cloud will change your business in the next five to ten years, you won’t by the time we are done dissecting it.

I did say before that analytics was a critical component of 2010 – and I still believe it.  I am trying to fit it within the bigger picture and will bring it out as needed (my wild card for 2010).

This wraps up 2009 blogging.  I want to write a short sentence to say thanks for your support and commentary.


Things I Don't Want to Hear Anymore in 2010

I was thinking of doing a predictions post, really, but then Paul Greenberg came along and wrote up all my predictions and added some better ones.  So, instead of filling up the streams with more of the same, I thought of a twist to predictions: I won’t tell you what I think it will happen,  I am going to tell you what I hope won’t hear anymore in 2010.

Ready? There are five things I don’t want to hear anymore in2010 (and the reasons why):

Private Cloud – Do you realize that the mere definition of a cloud forbids the existence of a private cloud? A cloud is there to interconnect two or more public applications or networks.  The concept of building a private cloud is a way for IT managers to say they are ahead of the curve, knowledgeable about what is going on, and to make their infrastructure sound hip and advanced.  In reality, anytime they say they have a private cloud they look like a fully dressed clown at a funeral: I am sure the intention is there, but the actions don’t reflect that.  Say you have an open architecture, a services-oriented infrastructure, or a dynamic API-driven platform if you want.  Just don’t call it a private cloud.

Death of Anything – According to my earlier readings today only, 2010 is the year we kill Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, CRM, ERP, Email, Enterprise 2.0, SCRM, databases, relational databases, and  I am certain I am missing some other ailing technology patients.  This is not to mention how vendor #1 will be “dead” before the year end, while the other vendor they back is pretty much alive and kicking.  Why do we need to kill things? Why does everything in this world need to replaced every single time something new comes about?  The shiny new object approach of new always being better and killing old one has never proven successful.  Let’s spend the time we dedicate to “killing” stuff to building better models of what we have.  No one is dying in 2010 — at least not in Enterprise Applications.

CRM Failure Rate – Yes, we know.  CRM used to fail at rates up to 70%. Shocking.  Alas, that was 8-10 years ago.  I want to think we already figured what we were doing wrong, how to fix it, and how to turn that failure rate into a same-number-different-metric success rate.  If we did not, as Paul Greenberg likes to point out, we would not have grown it into a 13 Billion Dollars industry.  So, let’s say the following from now on: CRM has failure rates that are comparable to any other large enterprise-wide application implementation — but we have great knowledge how to make it better and to make it successful.  Yesteryear failure rates don’t play no more.  I am sure that learning to drive resulted in high-failure rates among teenagers, but most of them managed to figure out and are doing fine. Right?

Social Anything – No, not saying that Social is dead (that would contradict myself – right?). I am saying that making special considerations for Social is so — well, 2009.  Social is no longer a new, shiny object — it is part of the fabric of the organization (like DNA better? fine, the DNA of the organization).  You had some couple of years to get surprised and amazed by the social evolution; now is time to take a deep breath, and start building the Social Business.  Darn, this one is going to be harder to do — how about if use either Aligned Enterprise, or we just call it Business?  After all, it is just another evolution of business like the coming of the PC, the Internet, and the industrial revolution before.  Did we change the name of business each time there was an innovation?

You Have to Start in Customer Service – As much as I was one of the earlier proponents of this mantra (been saying that CRM starts in Customer Service since the mid-1990s), it is time to put it to rest.  This was all fine and dandy (wow, my use of metaphors is really going south) back when our business processes and functions were differentiated — not so much as we move to use end-to-end processes.  So, no – you don’t have to start with Customer Service. You have to start where your needs are.  Don’t know where they are?  Lucky for you you became an Aligned Enterprise, and you can use your newfangled, shiny feedback mechanisms to find out.  Then, you will see how you don’t have to start in Customer Service — unless you completely lack imagination and cannot figure out how this whole thing works.  Then, sure start in Customer Service; at least you will be doing something.

Any terms you would like to see move on in 2010?  Pet Peeves?  Let me know in the comments and we can work towards making them go away…

What I Learned from Your Twitter Discoveries

Last Friday @VenessaMiemis and I had the following exchange in Twitter:


We exchanged a few DMs offline to discuss a potential way to do it, and then she twitted out to the world.


I then created the #MonTwit hashtag, advertised it a few times, “counseled” (coerced would probably be a better term) a few people to write about it — and the result was, well almost overwhelming for what I was expecting and for only a day or two advertise the experiment and get the word out.

First, some stats — as the writing of this blog there were 86 contributors (people using the hashtag) 164 times.  Twenty blog posts, and 14 opinions expressed via Twitter.  Check out the rest of the stats at WhatTheHashtag, or get a transcript if you prefer from there.

Some people (14 – list below) just tweeted their discoveries (yes, Twitter is a microblog – so perfectly acceptable).  Some others (10 – list also below) wrote posts or posterous or similar entries on their lessons learned and discoveries.

I read them all, as long as they were properly hashed and I could find them, commented on a few of them, and learned a lot of very interesting things in the process.  Here is my summary of lessons learned on the fist iteration of the MonTwit (Monday Twitter).

Will there be more?  Conversations are underway to try to produce it better, spread the word farther, and looking for better focused and more concrete topics.  Short answer? more than likely.  Stay tuned.

Lesson #1 – Tribal Knowledge Rocks — On Demand.  Asking people to talk about something they know, at a certain time and with proper structure brings you a lot of different views.  This is good.  One of the largest problems with crowdsourcing or wisdom of the crowds is that the largest voices influence the smaller voices (or more powerful or more influential – pick your word to use).  Setting a specific timeframe for the answers takes away the “bully” effect inherent to wisdom of the crowds.  You will notice if you read through the entries the influence that early ones begin to have on latter ones.  Setting a specific time takes away a lot of this and provides very interesting, different perspectives.

Lesson #2 – Twitter is About People, not Technology or Content.  Yep, virtually everyone wrote about the contact with people they did not know before, or met via Twitter, as the most critical part of what they discovered about it.  Twitter is a community, as I always said, and the knowledge sharing is inherent to the model of community. People want to connect to people, and what is what Twitter offers — the largest “brain phone book” in the world to find the people you want, to tap into brains and knowledge that you think must exist but are not sure how or where to find.  See @WimRampen’s entry for more on this, as his was the most RT one during this experiment (barely edging Venessa in reach and reads).

Lesson #3 – Know Your Purpose.  Twitter can suck the life out of you… yes, it is that addictive.  Close to 100 million people talking about — well, just about anything can really cause you to lose track of time even worse that spending time on YouTube.  Why are you on Twitter is the first and last question you should always ask yourself.  Sure, it works great as a time-killer, but even better as a community – and communities are about sharing knowledge.  What are you trying to learn today?

Lesson #4 – I Still Know Little.  I realized what I know and what I am still to learn.  I like to say that I am constantly evolving and learning and did confirm some of my suspicions and best practices by reading the blogs today, but I also realized that there are so many aspects of any issue I am not considering, or discarding too quickly.  Twitter is a great mind-expansion tool and you should always, always look at if for that: an unfiltered window into the tribal knowledge of the world.

Tweeted Entries (chronological order)
Blogged Entries
@ekolsky (me)

Now, it is your turn.  Did you read them all? some? most? What did you learn? What is new or different that you picked up from today’s experiment? Do you have any ideas on how to do it better?  woudl love to hear your thoughts…

Update (12/23/2009): The #MonTwit hashtag will be revived in 2010 for more like experiments.  If you are interested, keep a search column in your favorite client to stay updated.  Thanks for the persistent asking everyone.

Late Update (01/02/2010): David Carr (@carr2n) wrote a compelling #MonTwit entry — without hashtag.

What I've discovered about Twitter

This is part of  the #MonTwit experiment; several bloggers are writing about the same topic on the same day, each adding their own perspective, so we can share our earned experiences about Twitter and learn more in the process.  I will update links at the end of this post as I find them, but feel free to follow hashtag #MonTwit in your Twitter client or browser to see where this is going.

I have been on Twitter since 2007 — well, almost.  I signed up with a bogus account in May 2007 to see what the buzz was about (there were so few people really doing it back then, it almost sounded like a porn place — was not going to use my real name for that… there was also some privacy fears).  Used it for 4 days — but not sure the word used is the proper one to describe my behavior.  Posted some breakfast and lunch things, exchanged a few messages with some people I never knew – but most of the talk at that time was not about technology or business, rather between friends and with some little professional chatter mixed in.  Left it behind, thinking it was interesting, but was not sure how it would actually make it to the next step.

Then in 2008 the noise was too high to stay out and jumped in.  Still, I was clueless as to what it was (I think it was in May of 2008).  I read about it and learned as much as I could: you have to follow to be followed, you have to listen before engaging, you have to put interesting stuff out, you have to build you presence… you read all the advice.  I turned into a generic Twitter user: no purpose, no reason, just follow the “basic rules” that everyone was touting.

I could not see the value of being another voice in an ocean of millions — I started to experiment with it.

Follow people who are different, with lots of followers but that have something interesting to say, participate of events, follow links, RT different things to see the reaction, and many other things.  A picture began to emerge of what Twitter was, what it can do for me, and how to use it better.  Slowly started to change my follower/following ratio, using searches more and more to find the right people and the right content.  Began integrating Twitter with other social networks, with blogs and other places.  Started to admit I was a Twitter user at meetings, explaining to people what it does and watching their reactions.  It was all data that contributed to my learning about Twitter.  To understanding what it was, how to use it, what it does.  It was the preamble to these three key things i discovered about Twitter:

1. Twitter is what you make of it. Twitter has no life, nor purpose, no direction, and no idea of who you are.  Sorry, hate to break the news like that to you – but that is it.  It is a platform that just sits there and waits for you to do something with it.  Approaching 100 million people quickly, it is a very large platform actually.  True, there may be 20-25 million active users — but that is still something.  However, it won’t wait for you or guide you to accomplish something. If you know how to get value out of communities, then you are going to enjoy Twitter.  If you enjoy listening to people talk about — well anything, you are going to get value.  If you know what you want to do in Twitter, you can get it.  Twitter has nothing prepared for anyone, it is what you want to make of it.

2. Twitter is a community.  Shocking, I know.  There are no forums or ideas or structure (well, you could try hashtags — it worked very well for the #SCRM Accidental Community), but it is a community.  I wrote about this a couple of times.  The main difference, and the great part about it, is that each person gets to build and mold their own community – and change it at the drop of a hat if you want.  You can create and follow lists, groups, searches, hashtags, and people for The Red Hat Society today, and for Punk Rock tonight – without much effort.  You can create several IDs and follow people in different ways, have several personas here and still be you.  It is a great build-it-yourself, shape-it-as-you-go community.  Just be yourself in as many ways as you want.

3. No one is ever wrong about Twitter. There is no right and no wrong way to do Twitter, since it is what you make of it and what you build around it.  So, don’t tell anyone how to do it right, or wrong, or better or worse.  What works for you, or your organization, may (probably won’t) not work for someone else.  Share your experiences and lessons, but make sure that you understand that it is just that  – yours.  As with any communities, the ideal outcome is gained knowledge from tribal sharing, or gained power from aggregation.  The way you go about doing that is going to be different, so don’t expect other people to do it same as you.  Share your knowledge in your community, learn from them, and always look for new ways to use it and get value out of it — then you’ll be right about it.

What do you think? What have you learned or discovered about Twitter? How was your experience different from mine?  Would love to hear your thoughts…

Other blogs participating on #MonTwit (constantly updating this section):

Thanks, Paul

This is a personal post, and way overdue.  Feel free to tune out if you prefer, no offense.

Today, December 19th, is Paul Greenberg’s birthday.  You may have known that, if not – feel free to wish him a very happy one.

The reason I am writing this is because I am at a loss as to what you could gift someone who seemingly needs nothing.  So, I am going to use the only two gifts I have to give: writing something, and making a fool of myself in the process.

As you probably know if you read this blog, Paul Greenberg wrote in 2000-2001 a book called “CRM @ The Speed of Light”.  Paul wrote a seminal tome on a then fledgling enterprise application called Customer Relationship Management.  I had been doing that thing, CRM, for about 2 years then – selecting and implementing it at my then employer.  It had been out for about 10 years (Tom Siebel wrote in the S-1 for Siebel that they invented it in 1991), and really available for little more than a couple of years.

What Paul did back then was to, in the words of Siebel executives repeated many times since then, “validate CRM as a business”.

Of course, being an analyst at the time with Gartner I dismissed the book since — how could he know more than we did?  We were THE hottest team in the world when it came to CRM.  Turns out I did read the first edition sometime in 2002-2003 and I was surprised.  The book was good (yes, we had more material in some areas, but not bad for a “civvy”), informational, but more than anything else – entertaining.  You could read it and understand it without a problem, you had a feeling that he had suffered understanding the basic concepts so he could explain it “for dummies”.

It was a good book.  I must confess I skipped version 2 and version 3 was a skimming thing mostly.  Alas, Paul was doing very well building his reputation and influence, educating tons and tons of executives, and making sure they all knew what CRM was and what it did for business.  While, we even had him keynote at one of the Gartner CRM conferences (or two) back when version 2 came out (OK, second edition – sorry).

Fast Forward another few years and I am leaving Gartner.  As I was doing my studying to become an analyst again (mostly reading about the market and talking to people), I came across his blog.  He had posted a good article on whether he was going to adopt the Social CRM name or not for the fourth edition (he was favoring CRM 2.0 and I was with him on that – yet another time I was wrong).  I commented that I’d prefer 2.0, then he replied something and asked for my email, we started corresponding and talking, then exchanging information, meeting at conferences, etc.  Throughout all this time I was trying to decide what to do with my life when I grew up (IF is a more fitting description, per my wife) and talking to Paul about it.

Why am I telling you this?  Because Paul became a very good and true friend.  I am sure if you ever met Paul you would agree that he is the nicest person you will ever meet in this industry (probably outside of it as well).  He knows everyone, everyone respects him and adores him.  He has been called the Godfather of CRM – and never has a name been more fitting.  He truly cares and grows this industry like no one else.  I cannot find a single person that will openly express a single bad word or thought about him (and, trust me, this industry likes to gossip like teenage girls at the mall).

It was this Gentleman who made sure we all had a market and an industry to express our craft and our passions.  Would things have turned up the same way without him writing the book and tirelessly working to grow CRM into what it is today?  Maybe, but it would not be even close to being as  interesting as it is today.  I cannot find anyone that compares, in any other place, to Paul.

He is a consummate professional who cares for the career well-being of everyone whom he calls his friend.

He is a true friend to those who take the time to get to know him, as few good friends could be.

He was a true mentor and my biggest supporter while I was deciding what to do.

He is very generous, almost to a fault, and very friendly — even to those who waste his time (alas, he is always learning so not much is a waste of time).

He is a role model, and what I aspire to become.

And, without him I would probably be at some company doing something else I hate.  So, my gift to you, friend, is a very public and heartfelt Thank You, and a promise to not waste what time and patience you have given me, and the certainty that if I could be at 60 half the person you are today I will have fulfilled most of my personal goals.

Happy Birthday, Paul.  Thanks.

The Three Realities of SCRM Right Now

I spent the past four months talking to as many people as I could about Social CRM.  I talked to thought leaders, analysts, vendors, consultants, C-level executives, corporate managers and directors — anyone who wanted to talk about it.

We discussed definitions, and models, and strategies and plans.  What they are doing, what they want to do, what they would love to do. Ended up with a great view of where the market is now from all different perspectives.  There are three different views of SCRM.

Before, we start — do you want a refresher on what SCRM isHow to make it work?

The Vendor Reality

Vendors are rushing, well walking very fast or running at the very least, to call themselves SCRM vendors.  Are they correct? Yes. And No.  Since there is no defined SCRM market beyond taking on the social channels and integrating them with CRM, they are all right.  What they call SCRM is an integration between Social Media (Channels) and CRM functions (Sales, Marketing, and Service).

Alas, none of them provide more than one single function well enough to earn the label of complete CRM solution.  Actually, I would even go as far as to say that there are any that provide complete functions, they all provide parts of a function (for example, using the customer history via Twitter or Facebook is something I have not yet seen – yet, that is a critical function of service).  I already covered via different interviews and articles how to attack Social SalesSocial Marketing and Social Service and talked about what vendors are doing.  It took us almost 20 years to perfect,  well optimize is a better word, those same functions via old-fashioned channels — why shall it take only 6-18 months to do the same for social media?

Are vendors moving towards bigger targets?  Sure, Helpstream showed they want to do more than simply social support by adding  social marketing to their social service tools, Oracle and SAP unveiled platforms that allow them to tackle any function – even end-to-end processes, and Salesforce showed how to move the social network to the platform and forget about business functions altogether.  There are many other examples of vendors figuring out through integrations and partnerships how to offer more complex SCRM solutions (Radian6 and Lithium come to mind right away as an example).

This reality will start shifting in 2010 as consolidation starts to take over and a market begins to materialize (led by customers spending again, slowly at first), and larger and well-funded vendors begin to look for tools to complete their suites.  We will see a lot of movement in this market as we approach the summer, and very heavy towards the end of the year.  I will be talking about a very different reality in 12 months.

The Provider Reality

Just to be on the safe side, providers are consultants, integrators, analysts, and other people who help organizations adopt and deploy SCRM.

This group tends to be rather skeptical (pragmatical may be a better word) on anything new – at least until proven (which of course never happens since no one installs it as they wait to be proven – just kidding).  Alas, with SCRM without being a defined market yet, and with little to go beyond one-channel, one-function implementation (usually without ROI or strategy), you can expect a lot of negativity in this field.

But that it not entirely the case.  Sure, there is some skepticism on whether SCRM will succeed, on what it is, and failure versus potential success.  Alas, this is all mitigated with a heavy dose of reality this time.

There is a realization that the shift to social will happen – no matter what.  There is a realization that beyond the hype, vendors and organizations are actually beginning to understand that, and starting to see the path.  And the echo chamber (what happens when visions of the future and how to achieve it become common speech among practitioners and no one else) is quieter than usual. We also see more organizations embracing the concepts early on.  Encouraging.

There is one more thing that I am seeing among practitioners that also is encouraging: less hype.

The comments on what is possible are based on the reality of what vendors are delivering today, and what organizations are focused on.  Not really on what could, may, or should happen based on vendor promises and pie-in-the-sky visions.  It is certainly interesting to see more of a reality-based approach to SCRM than what I have seen in past iterations of  CRM.

The Organization Reality

The organizations are going wacko (my wife is a physician, that is a medical term – look it up)  and it is our fault.  On one hand there is a group of people led by those inexperienced in the enterprise applications market that is screaming at the top of their lungs how you have to engage, you must listen, become social or begone.  On the other hand we tell them they must create a strategy, that it is all about a strategy and everything else falls into place, don’t worry about the social aspect yet.

So, what do they do? What they can, namely Twitter and Facebook.  I cannot even count how many meetings and conversations I had in the past four months with executives who wanted to talk about SCRM – only to be asked how to setup Twitter or Facebooks Fan Pages.

There is an interesting and growing movement among organizations to control the “rogue” deployments within their organizations.  They may see a potential for them to flourish, or maybe started to see results – but now they want them to conform to the rules and guidelines they have for the organization.  Social Media guidelines are sprouting like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Is this good?

Some of the emerging programs have been curtailed severely, while others have benefited from this control and the resource allocation that comes with it.  It is all down to what was the intended purpose and goal, how structured it was, and whether there was an alignment with the organization’s overall strategy for that specific function.  In other words, if they can stamp the seal of approval on top of a good program, it will grow — most others, not so much.  It is indeed, all about the strategy.

Where to now, captain?

That is the reality from my side of the world.  The common thread? well, no one really agrees on where we are – but most agree on the future being full of possibilities.

So, where does this takes us in 2010 and beyond?

I see three trends that will impact SCRM in the near future, and one pattern for the long term:

Trend #1 – Market Consolidation.  What? This early? Really?  The market is not even defined yet, but we are already going through consolidation? Yep.  We have too many vendors defining SCRM in too many different ways and we need to consolidate.  A wave of vendors beginning to offer truly competitive solutions (as opposed to the disfunctional setup we have today) will emerge half-way through the year and bring some interesting offers to compare to each other.  I twitted earlier today than predicting a consolidation in a market of several hundred different vendors is not a prediction, it’s an overdue reality.  So, it is a trend that will continue and y’all can see that – right?

Trend #2 – Organizational Control.  Control was made to be the evil word of 2008-2009.  Guess what? organizations won’t simply empower an employee or group to become their social voice without some degree of control.  Rogue programs are becoming corporate programs, people-as-brands are becoming workers-for-brands, clear guidelines and rules are becoming more common, and roles for social networks are becoming a reality.  This is good, very good actually for corporate adoption of SCRM and the social channels.  This trend will result in a large number of formal SCRM strategies created and implemented in the second and third quarters of next year.

Trends #3 – I Now Know What to Do.  We are (finally) beginning to get away from ComcastCares, Ford, Dell, Coca Cola, etc. as being the only citable case studies in the world of SCRM.  We are seeing some real results from real companies that are going beyond PR and marketing their brand (why, even Comcast is going beyond Twitter now) to extending CRM to work for the social customer.  This will translate into best practices, clear case studies, and how-to-guidelines becoming commonplace.

These trends probably will hang around longer than 12 months.  How about longer term?  What is going to happen to SCRM in three or five years?  There is one pattern beginning to emerge:

Pattern #1 – Loud and Proud.  CRM is not going away.  Nor is SCRM going to replace CRM.  Neither is Social Business going to make CRM and SCRM irrelevant.

CRM is loud, in your face, with good results (now), and going to stick around for a while.  Did it fail in the past? You bet!  Up to 70% of implementations failed.  Then they recovered and did wonderful things — case studies in most cases.

I dare you to find one single failure from the early years that has sworn off CRM forever.  You won’t.  CRM  failures were part of the early days of moving one million miles an hour and shooting from the hip at the same time.  That is behind us, the bubble exploded and collapsed and we don’t need to support gazillion dollar implementations anymore.  Now we do what we need, pick the tools and technologies that work, and make it happen according to our strategy.

Do some people still fail? Yep, and they will continue to do so.  Why? Because, such is life, because we don’t define success and failure before starting, and because enteprise-class applications are very, very hard to do.  And, more importantly, because someone out there still believes that CRM is simply technology.

I now want to hear from you, with one caveat.  I am not going to engage in a SCRM is dead or alive debate here, but would love to hear why I am wrong, where I may be right, and overall what is your sense of SCRM’s reality today.


The SAP Reverse Dichotomy

When I was a Gartner analyst I owned the eService magic quadrant.  The process was quite arduous; worse part was listening to vendors hype their offerings.  No vendor was quite good at it, but SAP did a poor job of explaining and showcasing what they had and their marketing message was a mess, often failed to cover what I was evaluating.

I still remember the time we had a heated exchange on Knowledge Management (me: you don’t have it, them: we are the best).  I challenged them to produce either a client or an internal resource that could convince me.  SAP came back with PhD in Linguistics that worked in their lab, with extensive academic and commercial experience in knowledge, knowledge management, natural language processing, linguistics and related fields.  I was overpowered and became a lot smarter about opening my mouth to challenge vendors (i.e. only when I knew I would win) and was introduced to the SAP Reverse Dichotomy: our technology is better than what we tell you we have.

Most vendors say one thing, usually over-hyped, and the product delivers something different, not so advanced.  While marketing usually wins at most vendors, SAP suffers from the opposite: they often have more in their labs and in their products than what they sell.

And the next generation of applications, based on what I saw the Influencer Summit, is no exception.

Their message talked about retaining the in-premise core product, using NetWeaver for integration to other systems, embracing non-TLA end-to-end processes as the core, and using analytics (present everywhere).  They expanded their message with the old-tried-and-failed approach of pre-packaged end-to-end processes (which I would have never recommended),and  a poorly-worded conflict between private, public, and hybrid clouds as the main excuse for not going in that direction.

The demos showed a very different product from the one being discussed in PowerPoint .  They showed use of REST interfaces, mobile platforms, incredible speed through the use of in-memory analytics and data manipulation, complex transactions and integration, and even support for the cloud.  They showed embedded analytics being a critical part of everything they did.  It was a competitive product.

Of course, this was my interpretation – not their exact words.  I did not attend the entire summit, just the keynote presentations via the virtual summit  which had the main message.  It is my understanding, by following some of the other sessions via Twitter that they went into deep details into Small and Medium Business Strategy, Use of Embedded in-Memory Analytics, and different delivery platforms – including onDemand.  I don’t have details on any of those, but the following reviewers can provide more details:

  • Paul Greenberg has not yet published his review as of this writing.  But being Paul Greenberg, you know it is going to be good.  Look for it later today (Thursday) at his ZDNet blog.
  • Jesus Hoyos did a quick review via Radian6
  • Dennis Pombriant talked in more detail about the cloud and SaaS versus on-premise
  • Excellent summary of their message via Ventana Research

Bottom Line SAP has a good chance to become a competitive force if their marketing messaging does not get in the way (and don’t forget execution — even on reduced expectations you still have to deliver).  Having a strong product with good features, and bad messaging, is the opposite of what you see in this market.  SAP has been working on fixing their engineering-as-lead-feature core message and hopefully they will get better during 2010 at presenting their product.  Then we will have fun next year at the Influencer Summit (which I hope to attend in person).

What do you think of SAP? Did you evaluate, test, or implement it and found it to be different from their promises (better, actually)?  Would love to hear your thoughts…

The Five Issues to Ponder Now

At the end of the year I work on my wrap-up for the year, and prepare for the year ahead.

I go through my notes from conversations, oft-forgotten “blogs that I must read”, books, and everything else that  has a tangential effect into my research for next year.  I end up with my “predictions” for next year and the next five years, and a wrap-up of what mattered in the year past.

These are the five bullet points that are getting more and more momentum as the key issues for next few years:

1. Generational Shift – This is the one where I am reading more and more off-topic information.  Anything from Zogby’s book  “The Way We’ll Be” and academic research dealing with the coming generational shift from the Generation X and Baby Boomers to Generation Y Digital Citizens.  This is the root cause for the “social business” coming of age.  Our responses to this are evolving and it is becoming quite interesting.  It is not what we are thinking, but what we are doing about it.

2. Experience Continuum – I started to talk about the social experience and the change in the customer experience when I wrote “A Brief History of SCRM”.  I started this blog to dig deeper into customer experiences and the coming changes in organizations, and it remains the focus of all my research.  Social businesses’ goal is to co-create ever improving experiences using feedback from customers – the biggest change brought on by the Social Evolution has been an increased and faster influx of data to co-create these great experiences. It is this faster change to experience management that becomes interesting.

3. Communities – I am not thinking how to create better communities, or how to be a better community manager.  Plenty has been written (wrongly, I might add) about that.  My thought process on this is how to make better use of communities (Brent Leary wrote a great short post recently about what he considers communities – I agree with him) that already exist, how to leverage the knowledge created and how to do it better.  Communities are not managed, nor created ad-hoc – you can only leverage them.  It is leveraging communities outcomes that will make a difference for organizations.

4. Analytics – I was recently asked what was the biggest change we experienced in the last five years, and what will it be for the next five.  The biggest change has been the change from “drinking from a firehose” of data produced by CRM to “surfing the tsunami” of data produced by the social evolution.  And this is where Analytics is critical.   The input from SCRM into the organization is actionable insights – and analytics is the only way to do that.  It is about creating actionable insights in a timely manner.

5. Data Management – All the data we are capturing is becoming too much for our antiquated models of data management to handle.  There are three areas that matter: the speed of analytics (stream flow analytics), the capacity of the store-and-retrieve models (theory that goes way beyond relational), and the actual storage medium (the hardware).  All three must work together for us to be able to realize real-time (or near-real-time) benefits.  It is about using what we have, better.

What are your top-of-mind issues right now? How about for 2010? Did I miss something big in my thinking?