Visible Technologies Launches Social Intelligence Product

This morning at 6 AM PST (way too early for me, but thankfully I was briefed before) Visible Technologies (client) announced the release of their new product.  I worked with them on this project and you can stop reading now if you think this is a biased post.

It is not.

I always said that I chose my clients and projects based on what has similar views to what I hold.  I am very passionate in my work, and passion cannot be faked — so I have to agree with the topic.

This is one of those cases.

If you ever asked me or hear me talk about Social Media Monitoring (SMM), I’ve been saying for some time that it is a commodity, soon to be extinct.  There is very limited, if any value, today from its current inception.  That has  been proven by virtually every vendor building their own module for it in a short time, for little investment.  There is some limited value to the remaining SMM tools in the market, but I don’t expect to say the same in 12 months or less — at least not for those are simply counting hits and reporting them in a dashboard.  They need to grow and become something more, work on the data they collect and report more than a count or sentiment analysis on it (which is usually not very reliable anyways).

They need to create intelligence.

This is an opinion I shared with my clients, including of course more details of specific actions and features they can take to take their SMM to the next level.  I shared this view with Visible at the very beginning of our relationship and they agreed.

They had been working on combining five different products under one common platform for some time now.  If you knew them before, you knew them as a SMM (Social Media Monitoring) vendor – someone who competed with Radian6, ScoutLabs and Biz360 before the acquisitions, Crimson Hexagon, Alterian-Techrigy, Sysomos and few others.  Alas, their power was never on the capturing of social media and counting of occurrences, that was just one part of it.  The power of their combined solution is the analytics engine and the ability to generate intelligence from that analysis.  Not simply reporting and dashboarding – actual intelligence on the information collected.  The problem they had was it was spread across different products, not in a single location.

They now have brought  all their products together in a single platform that can capture., analyze, generate intelligence, and integrate  with CRM and other legacy systems.  I saw how it works. I like the concept as it focuses more on the analytics not the technology .  Visible Intelligence generates Social Intelligence (no, not that one — the other one… it is all in my white paper that you should read), real actionable intelligence from social channels.  Some of their customers already have it working and the results have been spectacular and incredible. (their words).  There is a very interesting case study in the white paper you should read as well.  The white paper is downloadable from their web site, link is at the end of this post.

I won’t go on and on about it, you get the idea.  It is a step in the right direction and I am looking forward to see what the market says about it, and the concept of Social Intelligence.

Check it out (video explaining their concept of Social Intelligence, and my white paper available in the main page).

Is Social CRM Compatible with Enterprise 2.0?

At a high level what vendors of Social CRM products pitch and what vendors of Enterprise 2.0 pitch is the same product.

They use similar words: collaboration, share, engagement, conversation, and social (oops, maybe not all the same words).  The concepts of what they deliver are very similar as well: collaborate with customers to build a better business, collaborate with employees to build a better business.

Unfortunately, that is where the similarities end.

As strange as it may sound, I have encountered no Enterprise 2.0 initiatives that have actually made direct contact with the customer.  Almost as if doing something for them is sufficient and talking to them would ruin it.  In spite of all the talk of customer-centricity, the Enterprise 2.0 projects are still pretty much company-centric.

The reverse of the coin is not much better.  Social CRM (or traditionally CRM) projects have been boasting of being customer centric for quite some time as well – and point to different implementations of Customer Experience Management or similar CX initiative as proof that they care about the customer.

Talk is cheap – actions don’t really show a focus on the customer.  While they do ask the customer for feedback, it is seldom used and ignored, or not even understood.  Whatever good intentions are present in trying to make CRM and Social CMR more customer-centric, vanish in implementation realities.

Hmmm.  Maybe, just maybe there are similarities we can work on.

The two initiatives want to be customer-centric, both want to be more collaborative, and both are not getting it right the first time around.  Maybe, just maybe…

Compatibility through goals? Sure.

As a matter of fact, the proposal of building a social business on the way to creating a collaborative enterprise relies on that compatibility of goals.  The concept of creating a shared platform where customers and organizations can work together to create a better process that will deliver greater value to both of them is not flawed – it has been proven to work quite well.  Organizations that work jointly with their customers, giving them access to the necessary systems as if they were employees, have reported much better results at customer-centricity.  The customer is not only put at the center, but is brought in as a member of the team to contribute and work alongside.

There is something to that idea…

Is compatibility of goals the only area where they are the same (or pulling in the same direction)?

If you start looking a little deeper, they leverage and use similar tools.  Features, bells, and whistles may vary from one camp to the other – even may be totally different.  The core, however, the basic functions are the same.

Collaboration, Integration, and Platform-driven development are the same whether you are talking about customers, consumers, partners, or employees and functions.  The job to be done may differ, but the tools used and the systems and platforms they rely on are similar.  This similarity is what has not been explored by the vendors in detail, and where a lot of the promise of collaborative enterprise shines.

We have similar goals, similar infrastructure – what about similar operating principles?

This is going to be the critical point in converging these two disciplines going forward – how they operate so that all stakeholders benefit, while extending value for the organization.

Convergence is going to be not so much about technology and goals, those are easy, but how to make it all work together.

Don’t you think?

Note: I will begin to explore this and many similar topics at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Santa Clara on November 8-11.  Please join me if you want to talk about this.

A Learning Journey to a Social CRM Framework!

Yesterday the good folks from MyCustomer.com were kind enough to publish another one of my articles — an update on what I have learned since I started the work to identify a SCRM Framework in my Roadmap to SCRM Series.  You can read the article here, and please do comment or let me know your thoughts — either here or there.

Thanks a ton for reading!

The Near Term Future of Social CRM

I posted this yesterday at Jacada’s blog — part of the ongoing series of Meet the Experts (and Esteban)

I have enjoyed writing about Social CRM in this Jacada series, albeit it’s coming to end (got just this one and one more to talk about the long-term future of Social CRM – next week).  Always happy to talk about what’s coming – you know me, all about models and frameworks and visions and futures.

read more at jacada.typepad.com

Want to hear more?

Join me and Jacada at the Webinar, Social CRM: The Final Frontier… of Hype on Thursday October 7th, 2010 – 11:00 AM EST (8:00 AM PST, 9:00 AM MST, 10:00 CST, 15:00 UK, 16:00 Europe — too early in Alaska and Hawaii, too late in the rest of the world)

Is KANA Making a Comeback?

I have to admit that I have a very long history with KANA.

Yes, I worked with eVergance (then a subsidiary, now part of KANA) for about a year before doing this — what I am doing now.

Yes, I covered them for 8 years while at Gartner.  And, if the people that talked to me then are to be believed — a report I wrote in 2004 where I basically said that KANA was on its way to go out of business or get acquired was responsible for the change in their direction and strategy.

Yes, I have many friends and professional acquaintances there (contrary to gossip, there are some people still left in there).

All in all, not a bad history — few vendors with whom I have more experience, history, or know more about.  I do believe that their technology is very good, some of it is “vintage” right now (OK, old) and some of it is quite good (but in need of further proof in the market, like their SEM offer).  They are a client – we did a webinar together last week, doing another one soon in the future and I advice their management team occasionally.

So, I know enough about the company to know what I am talking about — at least in my mind.

I am going to be very honest – I totally thought they were done before they were acquired by Accel-KKR (which, for all intent and purpose they were – as evidenced by the terms of the deal we know).  I never thought they would come back as a viable player in their  space — I thought that A-KKR would eventually sell them to recover their cost of acquisition plus a few dollars.  While not 100% convinced  this would not happen  (I am around 90% convinced), I must say that I hope the other 10% where does not happen.

Even within my bias I can see some glimmers of the old KANA in there, fighting to stage a comeback.  Two announcements from the past two days: few days ago (October 4) they launched the new version, KANA SEM 11, of their product and today (October 6th) they announced they acquired Lagan — a leading provider of Government Services and CRM software (back when I covered them, we called it Government CRM – Citizen Relationship Management — yeah, very clever). One more thing, recently moved out of their old building — which is like leaving all the ghosts behind — a great move.

While this does not make the comeback complete – they are a few steps in the right direction .  Of course, much needs to happen and lots of strategy and execution is still ahead (KANA management, glad to work on the strategy together — wink-wink), I believe this makes them a viable vendor for two reasons: 1) they are showing they recovered from the death spiral they had entered with product direction and releases (caveat: the older products, particularly KM and ERMS, are still end-of-life  — hoping I am wrong or that they reverse that and reinvest in them — or build a better migration from there to SEM); 2) they are taking on a tough — but very rewarding — market to prove their SEM solution and that they can make a comeback.  Solutions for Government are tough to deliver, have long sales cycles, and need lots of patience — but they always prove the value and flexibility of the software they implement.  This is a good testing and piloting ground for SEM and it will definitely make it a better product.

Welcome back? Not yet… but nice to see them going in the right direction…

disclaimer: in case you did not read the post but are just reading the disclaimer, KANA is a client and a former employer, and I still have friends and people I respect there.  A lot.  So, as with any other of my opinions — take this with a grain of salt.  Don’t make any decisions based on this short 500+ words blog post, but do your Due Dilligence and take this as yet another opinion.  Failure to do that and try to blame me for your decision will net you the same laughter I used when I saw Porky’s the very first time (I was 15 and living in Argentina, in my defense) which was probably the most I laughed in my entire life in one sitting — although some of Robin Williams comedy bits were also there… but I digress.  Do your homework, don’t blame me.