How Salesforce Missed their Golden Opportunity with Free Chatter

Today, January 31 2011, Salesforce made their Chatter product available for free to any company in the world.

There are certain limitations to the offer: there is no access to the reporting dashboards, no access to the AppExchange marketplace, and all user accounts must be in the same domain name.  Under this model, the first user that creates the collaboration community becomes the moderator, and she can then assign others to moderate the community; in addition, if a company finds out that a community exists without management approval, Salesforce will give the company’s IT moderator access to that community.

In bringing Chatter to compete into a crowded internal collaboration space with minor distinctive features and no innovation in the operating models, Salesforce proves that they are more focused on selling their applications than on building the platform they have been promising for a long time.  This is something they have hinted at from the beginning – claiming Chatter is “both an application and a platform”, closing access to Chatter only to those companies that were already Salesforce customers (essentially forcing those that were not to become Salesforce customers), and focusing on how to bring more people to use their applications.  Chatter as a platform, what I advocated to be their opportunity to success when I first wrote about it, is not where their focus is.

Before the accusations and complaints begin – I do understand the issues of “free and open access to anyone”: corporate espionage, leaking of sensitive and confidential information, compliance with internal and external regulations – including gubernatorial regulations and many more privacy, security, and legal issues.  It is not easy to create a truly collaborative enterprise that will allow collaboration among all stakeholders, user, customer, prospects, partner, suppliers, employees and basically anyone that wants to.  It is not about creating the community – it is about securing the platform (and one of the reasons why this model is so well suited to a real cloud computing architecture, where the security and administration of the data used in the community can be managed either at the Platform or Infrastructure level).

There are other issues, too many to cover in a short blog post, but suffice to say: a company the size of Salesforce, with their purported commitment to developing platforms, their embrace of the cloud computing architecture, and their desire to change the way business operate was the ideal candidate to bring something different to the table – and they did not.

What would I have done differently?

I would’ve have taken the exceptional talent they have in the Chatter product management and development team and focus them on creating the Platform and Infrastructure components that would allow anyone – without regards to their email address or their location – to collaborate (Socialcast can do this today, why can’t others?).  I would’ve focus their efforts in building the necessary integration with an existing Rules Server, or created a set of rules that would allow the data to be shared to conform to certain standards and principles: data would need to be classified as safe to share before it was allowed to be shared.  I would’ve ask them to make sure that the collaboration model they were building allowed anyone to come into the community, use the appropriate data, and collaborate to create complex solutions to the complex problems the organization is facing.

In other words, I would’ve focused on building a framework for a collaborative enterprise.

Salesforce had an opportunity to create a new model of collaboration, bringing the idea of a collaborative enterprise closer to fruition – and instead decided to become not only another “me too” competitor in the crowded space of internal collaboration – but one that won’t hesitate to sell out collaboration and communities in exchange for remaining in good graces with IT and the management that buys their applications.

They missed their Golden Opportunity.

What do you think? Am I off? Am I putting too much responsibility in their shoulders? Could that model be created? Is it wanted by the organizations? Needed by the users?

Would love to hear what you have to say.  Leave me a comment.

Best Buy Has Nothing to Cool Runnings

Best Buy has become the poster boy for Social Business.

They are named in virtually every post, every example, every conference, every event. They win awards, they are quoted by pundits, and their logo is a “must-have” for social vendors to place in their slide deck.

Is it deserved?

They are quite good at “doing social”.  I mean, come on – they have twitter, blogs, communities, and don’t forget the twelpforce.  They share willingly, they mea culpa when caught red-handed, and they seem to really be open and transparent. As much as @ComcastCares was the example for using Twitter for Customer Service, Best Buy has become the poster boy for Social Business.

They have done things well, no question about it, but you are better.  You can do better.  You have to do better.

Why?

Because they are not you.

Simple, if you wanted to deploy the same solution that Best Buy has in place you’d have to (at the very least):

  1. Have the same business model: multiple stores, inventory management, experienced and knowledgeable staff, a professional services force, similar infrastructure, and a management team that not only “gets it” but also embraces getting it and uses to further the business.
  2. Have the same goals and objectives: you would have to have baked in leveraging social into your business model, your business strategy, your goals, your compensation models, and your executive’s incentive plans
  3. Have the same social setup: you have to be able to listen, engage, and deliver across all social channels – even down to the most basic one: person-to-person communication in the store or anywhere else for that matter.
  4. Have the same culture and workforce: without the employees and the culture to support your business becoming social, it simply does not work.  Best Buy has been quoted as saying that this was a natural extension for their culture, their  way of working before.

I am not a gambling man (anymore – I moved from Nevada to California about 3 months ago, thankfully, so I can now write that sentence), but if I was I’d be willing to bet that you don’t have the exact same business model, infrastructure, culture, training plans, goals, strategy, people, and objectives.

Yours are going to be different, and your solution is going to be different.  Same as your Twitter solution was (is actually) different than Comcast’s.  Same way as your customer service is different from Zappos, Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, and every one else.

You can listen to Best Buy talk about how they have a motto of being nice and human, or how they engage immediately with anyone. You can also listen to JetBlue admonish you about being open and honest, or to Southwest Air tell you that the secret is to engage everyone.  Comcast will tell you how Twitter helps them do Customer Service better.  All these stories are awesome.  And they became legends on their own good results.

They are all good – but they are not you.

You have to write your own social story.  Your social story is what is going to make you succeed.  It is going to be what your people will be able to repeat as your mantra, what will become your battle cry, and will guide your social results.  You have to write your own story, if you want to succeed.

The title of this post, however, is not about Best Buy – it is about you finding your own identity and building on it.

In the sappy movie “Cool Runnings” from Disney (it is about the Jamaican Bob Sledding team going to the Olympics) there’s a scene where one of the characters that has been obsessed by the efficiency of the Swiss Team tells his teammates how they should act more like the Swiss.  Their teammates complain about his obsession — look, here is the dialog, which as sappy as it is totally applies to all of us trying to get into Social Business (the movie is uploaded into YouTube in 10-15 minutes “chunks”, but this part of the movie is missing, sorry — yes, I made the sacrifice of watching it just for you, my loyal readers — you are welcome):

Derice: You know, when the Swiss want to ge….[Team groans]
Sanka: Ah, will you shut up about the damn Swiss! I mean, it was all that eins zwei drei nonsense that got us all nervous in the first place.
Derice: Hey man, look here, I’m just trying to get us off on the right foot.
Sanka: Well the right foot for us is not the Swiss foot. I mean come on Derice, we can’t be copying nobody else’s style. We have our own style.
Derice: Kissing an egg is no kind of style. It’s the Olympics here, it’s no stupid push-cart derby. [Long pause]
Sanka: Let me tell you something rasta, I didn’t come up here to forget who I am and where I come from.
Derice: Neither did I, I’m just trying to be the best I can be.
Sanka: So am I, and the best I can be is Jamaican. Look, Derice…I’ve known you since Julie Jeffreys asked to see your ding-a-ling and I’m telling you as a friend if we look Jamaican, walk Jamaican, talk Jamaican and IS Jamaican, then we sure as hell better bobsled Jamaican.

Don’t be Swiss, be Jamaican in your Social Endeavors.

What do you think? Would it work for you?

Even With a Culture of Listening – You Still Need Surveys

I have been keeping tabs on the Clarabridge Customer Connections conference in Las Vegas Florida via Twitter.  Clarabridge is a vendor in the analytics world and one of the vendors I follow.  There have been some interesting tidbits that have come across my activity stream about the role and need of analytics going forward, how to better use data, what is Big Data and why it matters.  Some good stuff indeed.

Then, I see this tweet from Seth Grimes come across my stream.

First, let me absolve Seth of any crimes – he is merely reporting the content being presented – my rant is not against him (whom I respect and whose work is very grounded when it comes to analytics and sentiment analysis — if you don’t follow him on Twitter or his blog, you should).

How can anyone even conceive not asking the client?

Direct questioning of the client is a sine-qua-non requirement of any listening program.

There is no possible way that any organization, under any circumstances can get sufficient data and knowledge about the customer needs, wants, and desires simply by “listening”.  Sure, the unstructured feedback you can get from listening is more likely to have truthful statements than poorly done surveys, and the volume of unstructured feedback collected in a listening program can be 20x to 100x the volume to structured feedback collected in surveys – but there is no comparison between one and the other.  We tried this before, where CRM and the operational and transactional data it produces was going to generate a “360-degree” view of the customer – that ended up being more like a “220-ish-degree” view of the customer since we were missing both the attitudinal and sentimental aspects of them, both provided by surveys.

Listening and Surveys have a place in a well executed Feedback Management initiative.

If you want to understand why your customer did something, or how they feel about it you must ask them.  Was the experience effective?  Did we do a good job? Can we do something better?

I can see the thought process behind this: if something was wrong, the customer will find a way to express themselves in other channels and we will capture that in our listening program.  Possible, but not always likely.  Not to mention that you would then never find out what you did right (maybe what you did exceptionally well, but not what you did just right – which is about 70%+ of the interactions.

There are three problems with that thought process:

  1. Your listening program may not capture that specific piece of information
  2. The customer may not be interested in using the channels you listen on
  3. The customer may not be inclined to share their thoughts in public

How do you bypass those problems? Ask them.

Would you rely on a listening program to know what is going on with your kids? What they like and dislike?  Would you rely on a listening program to find out why your spouse is unhappy? (Editor’s Note: experience speaking, don’t try that one – back to the regularly scheduled post).

The bottom line: relying entirely on your listening program may capture the feedback from the client, but without the surveys to corroborate you are just likely to end up “greasing squeeky wheels”, not solving root causes of problems.  You must query customers directly to find out what is going on, there is no substitute for it.  No matter how good your company may be at analytics or how much you have improved your listening skills.

Do yourself a favor and have a listening program in place.  Make it one portion of a well executed Feedback Management program that includes both structured and unstructured feedback.

You will thank me later.

The Hype of Collaboration? I Could do Without It for One Day…

Another day, another release by a major vendor, another slew of hype and hyperbole thrown around.

Why, if the hype we bestow on new solutions as they are announced were to ever materialize we’d all be out of jobs and SkyNet would be fully operational by now.

Alas, that is not the case.

Today TIBCO threw their Social hat in the ring with Tibbr (sorry, not sure if I am doing their branding people a favor here — not sure which letter is supposed to be capitalized).

There are interesting features in the product that I like: focus on integration of anything with anything (well, it is a TIBCO product) that allow any system to talk to the platform, and to anything and everyone in it; it is not about following people or liking them or becoming fans – the focus is on systems and data (you can follow topics, systems, departments, even people if you want – the case studies they presented basically made the case that no one wants to follow people when collaborating inside the organization — I am not entirely sure that is true always, everywhere.); it has a very flexible filtering model to make sure that only the right information gets through (as they said in the presentation, don’t want to know that John had lunch, but I do want to know he closed the deal); has a very easy to use interface (think Facebook for business, as much as I hate that analogy); users access the platform to share data and collaborate among themselves.

Think of Salesforce Chatter, but in a very open model – no platform dependency, systems post information automatically, filtering and rules allow information to flow freely where it needs to go, it has a dynamic integration model, and a simple to use interface.  It is an interesting platform; still, it does not solve the main problem of collaboration.

A collaborative enterprise it is not about the act of collaborating, it is about the people who collaborate.

Will this platform help the people collaborate better? Maybe, maybe not.

What I do know is that the demo they did basically replicated very closely the way a company would work – not the way people work. Briefly, a person looking for information needed to follow a specific group of people to find the data he needed (which, of course, he did not know – he found out when someone else told him as a comment to a posting he made — are you following this? is this getting too complicated? is this reminding you of how your organization works today – not the way you wish it would work? does it sound that it is not collaboration, rather automating the processes you have in place today?) Of course, it is too early to tell – and this is a platform, not a closed system.  Thus my previous statement — no solution, no matter how good it is at introduction, can solve any problems until it actually is deployed, and used by the people.

Can Tibbr become a collaboration platform? Likely, it already is more of a collaboration platform that a lot of other solutions out there.  Is it the one? Again, too early too tell.

My recommendation, let’s stop solving all problems of collaboration each time a new product is launched, let’s focus on making flexible, dynamic, easy to use platforms that users can leverage to collaborate, and let’s use those collaborations to build a collaborative enterprise.  Let’s see how the users solve their own collaboration problems using a flexible platform.

Are you with me?

How Can Genesys Get Into Enterprise Software?

Before we start – Genesys already has an enterprise software solution; they had it for some time. I remember having conversations with them at least in 2003-2004 (that I recall).

It is a good solution also – evolved over the years from  being a good ERMS (email response management systems) solution to become a full fledged eService Suite.  It even made it as a leader in the latest Magic Quadrant from Gartner.

It works, they have customers and references;  recently  released a new version that covers Social Media and Social CRM quite well (this one I have not seen beyond the demo, but there are customers working on deploying – so I expect to see it working and get first-hand accounts soon).

Why, you might ask yourself, am I then saying that Genesys needs to get into Enterprise Software?

Before I answer that, let me tell you about the recent Genesys Enterprise Analyst Day I attended.

During this past week (January 19-21, 2011) Alcatel Lucent held their annual Enterprise Analyst Day. I attended, they covered part of my expenses and were very, very kind and nice to all of us.  I am thankful for the nice setting, the invitation, and the nice meals and other extras.  It was a fantastic event. (disclaimer done).

Most of the time we were there we enjoyed interaction with executives, product managers, and researchers working with concept products.  All of the “stuff” (technical term, look it up) that we saw was quite interesting – my focus was not on the Alcatel Lucent products (although I do have an indirect interest since they power Call Centers and Contact Centers) as much as the agent desktop product that Genesys has.  As I said, been tracking them for some time.

I saw a lot of good features: social, knowledge management, multi-channel, and adaptive desktop to mention just a few.  I saw differentiators like  Universal Queue Management, Workload Management, and Workforce Optimization that set it apart.  There are opportunities for improvement, in my opinion, since a few of the features are offered in partnership (Lithium for communities, Inquira for knowledge management) that I have said for some time they need to bring internal – but that is just a release strategy, not a deal- breaker.

I saw some incredibly innovative concept products: in speech recognition, integration with Facebook, video, and cross-channel reporting.

I saw the brainchild of Charlie Isaacs, their uber-talented VP of Strategic eService Products (or a title that sounds similar, but it is different – he should be called VP of Innovation quite frankly) who showed me ALUC-it – a tremendous new product that leverages QR codes, rapid application development, mobile networks, QR Codes and much more into a one-of-a-kind application that has a lot of power to change the way we interact with organizations virtually everywhere.

I am very impressed with their innovation, their ability to maintain a product in the market and evolve it over the years, and their commitment to the product.

Alas, I still think that they are not an Enterprise Software company.

Why?

The mentality is that the product, which is world-class ready and among the leaders in the market, is still dependent or secondary to Alcatel Lucent’s efforts to sell hardware.  They talk about adding features to the product for the purpose of increasing bandwidth demand – which conveniently Alcatel Lucent sells.  The case studies we were presented were of companies deploying Voice-over-IP; they were good and had sufficient good data to justify them — but not Enterprise Software.

And yet, the best client presentation I have seen in a long time (presented by Groupama – a French insurance company) was a client-developed iPhone app: the Visual IVR (which, BTW, you must see the video, so well done) that used Genesys products to deliver point-of-need customer service. The best and most innovative solutions on display where for Workforce Innovation, Video Customer Service, Social features, and the ALUC-it product – none of them relying on Alcatel Lucent hardware exclusively — all of them Enterprise Software.

The worse part? This sentiment that they are secondary to a hardware company is reflected in their messaging and their go-to market strategy.  Here is a company that instead of claiming their rightful place as a leader and innovator in the Customer Service Enterprise Software world is instead asking for permission (from my perspective) to continue to develop the product.

Not quite right.

My recommendation? they need to get very, very aggressive with their messaging and go-to-market strategy to gain their rightful place in the market.  The people buying eService solutions are not the same people that buy switches,  IVR, and hardware components – they demand a different message and a different approach.  They are looking for a message and a set of features that is unrelated to their hardware.  They are asking for someone to solve their problems and pain-points in cross-channel solutions – and Genesys could deliver.

They just need to get into Enterprise Software and leave the Enterprise Hardware market behind.

Enough Procrastination, Time to Get Back to Writing!

I am sure you missed me, I know I did miss you.  Yes, you.

If you don’t count the Merry Christmas (have you checked the tour of It’s a Small World – Christmas Edition I recorded and made available) and Happy New Year (yes, my wife really did take that picture – she is that good), I have not written anything since probably October or so (most of the month of November has been busy with Vendor’s talking about their positions on Social Business – a very well received series).

Yes, almost three months of no blog posts.  Shame on me, shame, shame.  Shame.

Well, that is not true – I did write tons, just nothing good enough to publish.  I have close to 10,000 words on why Salesforce matters and how Dreamforce was a turning point both for cloud computing and them – but it lacks the quality I’d like to publish.  Wrote the summary to the “What does X think of Social Business?” series – but never posted it.

Wrote three more posts with focus areas and research concerns for 2011, but they are not really finished.  Four more posts on varied customer service topics – but have not been able to finish them. There are other varied topics (ROI versus CYA, Empowerment, EFM and VOC, etc.) — but none of them were good enough to offer them to you.

I have been quite upset about that, to be honest — pretending it is writer’s block, that I just have to focus.

Today, I realized it is not that.

The problem is that you can only go so far with a blog post that you write in a few days or hours.  There is limited depth to it, more questions left open than answered.  Honestly, that is the model I was taught at the-big-research-house-where-I-used-to-work (new year’s resolution: don’t mention them by name, build my own brand) – give them enough to pick up the phone and call you.

When I set out to become an independent analyst I did it to do something different.  There are flaws in all models, including the large research houses (and my new model, and more than likely yours as well); I wanted to tackle the ones I knew about and set out to try something different, something new — I wanted to not only start the conversations, but follow up to them.

That is my focus for 2011: continuing the conversations.

I will go back to primary research (truth be told, been doing it already – just not in a formal fashion) as a method of research.

I will set out to talk to many people as I usually do, but I will do it with a purpose.  Not only do I want to know what they are doing and what their experiences have been – I also want them to answer questions one-through-five.  I am going to create and work on formal research reports, with specific questions and analysis.

Bear in mind that primary research is not easy, not usually done anymore.  As shocked as you will be, the-place-where-I-used-to-work only does primary research for market numbers – not for anything else.  The primary research unit was disbanded long time ago, so there is not a lot of research to the research analyst.  I know of similar situations at other large houses.

I am bringing primary research back to the job of research analyst.

Now, this is where I need your help.

I want to create a large database of practitioners who are interested in knowing what others are doing, and want to use that data to share with all of you.  I have a database of fair size of practitioners – people whim whom I talk and discuss the market on a regular basis.  I have had (by last count) over 1,200 conversations of varied length and content in 2010: end users, vendors, consultants, practitioners, analysts and more.  This year already, in the past week or so I have officially been working, I already have about 20 interesting conversations.

I would like to expand that database.  Could you please send me an email (click on that link and a new tab will open) and let me know you would like to participate.  Your help would be appreciated, and never abused (of course, I won’t use the information for anything else, will only ask you to complete a short 4-5 question survey once a year or less, and you may be asked to participate in larger studies in exchange for a donation to your favorite charity).

Finally, if you have any burning question that you would like to know the answer to – please send me an email and let me know – or leave them in the comments section.  If I can, I will incorporate them into the studies and let you know the answers.

What do you think? Want to leave me a comment and let me know?