Reigniting an Old Debate: Does Knowledege as a Service Exist?

In the penultimate post on the series I am doing at Stone Cobra’s blog on the tectonic shifts in knowledge management, I want to explore the use of Platforms for knowledge.

Alas, since we are in the era of cloud – the use of Platforms MUST have an “aaS” suffix added, no?

In all seriousness, a concept that is “old” (mid 1990’s was the first instance I was able to find) has resurfaced midst advances in cloud and knowledge management.  Knowledge as a Service is something that you should look into if you are redoing your KM initiatives – consider the power of leveraging the knowledge-in-use model we already discussed in a platform — this could be something big!

Check it out, read the post at the Stone Cobra blog and let me know what you think… comments here or there are welcome, unless they are to claim you are the person who invented the term… I provide an answer to that in my post over there.

Two Things from Convergence 2013: CMOs ain’t Rich, MSDynCRM is Getting There

I attended Convergence for a short time this week (I was unfortunately booked for another event so I was only able to make it for a day and a half).

It was a good show, nearly 12,000 people clamoring to learn as much as possible about Microsoft Dynamics (all of the flavors, not just CRM) – well, clamoring may be a tad exaggerated – but the users I talked to all had certainly interesting stories to tell and were happy to be there (side note: it was in New Orleans, where even if you go to the worse restaurant in town you will be happy — how can they not be happy?  But I digress…)

Two things I learned in the short time I was there, and I think they are important enough to share in this blog.

First, Microsoft is finally (finally!) en route to have a competitive enterprise solution for CRM.

Why I say this? Not only functionality (although the Marketing Pilot demo I saw and the conversations I had showed they did improve the functionality greatly – at least on Marketing and Sales) but also because the implementations are getting done in larger, enterprise setups.  In the old days (what, like 4-5 years ago maybe) if you asked for the average deal size for Microsoft Dynamics CRM (the preferred spelling of their name by their branding people, don’t get caught saying MS CRM or even Microsoft CRM) it would’ve been ~25 people.  That number now is in the low 200s.  The number or larger implementations (1,000+ licenses) that are actually deployed is increasing, as are the stories that I heard.  The performance and scalability that were hounding them in past versions is no longer an issue (according to their clients, not just their marketing department).

The functionality introduced (both via the fully-integrated Marketing Pilot that was done in around 6 months and the recently acquired NetBreeze) was good, complete, and the performance (in demos I saw in sessions and on the show floor) was competitive.  The traction is not yet there, but the pipelines are quite well setup according to their sales people.  If it continues this way, Microsoft will have more than one trick to play – and that is good for the market overall.

It would take an entire other post to talk about their potential (on the balance side: invest time and efforts in customer service — please!) and what they could likely do, so will do that in another post – just not sure when.  If you want a more detailed explanation of what I think of Microsoft Dynamics CRM (you are welcome, entire marketing team) I did this interview with Dennis Howlett of JD-OD.com (video, Youtube).

But I want to make sure I tell you the other thing I learned while there – it was not related to technology, or Microsoft.

During a customer panel today they had a few CIOs and a marketing person.  Apparently the CIO for that particular company could not make it and their marketing person had to step in (I was late to the panel, what with it bring at 9 AM — and I did mention it was in New Orleans, right?).  The coolest part was during the Q&A (they were very interesting people, all very advanced users of technology and they understood quite well the role that CIOs played in the organization as well as the LoB stakeholders).

I can’t precisely remember the question asked (NOLA, early AM), but I remember the precise answer.  One of the CIOs said (paraphrasing): “My job is to create a cloud infrastructure with the technology so that the LoB people can do what they need to do”.  The Marketing person, sitting right next to him, said (also paraphrasing): “I don’t care where the application resides, who owns it, or how it works as long as I can do what I need to do and it fits with IT requirements”.

My ears perked when I heard that.  Why?

We have been hearing ad-nausea lately how the CMO cares about technology and the CIO is done and does not get it — these two people (from different companies) were saying something different  – the CIO was important as the owner of the infrastructure and the LoB person was important for the functionality it required to do their job – but they both wanted to make sure the corporate infrastructure was leveraged and compliance was in place.

A deviation from the mantra of selling to Marketing and ignoring IT — they were both important.

Things that make you go hmmmmm (sorry Arsenio, had to do it).

I asked a follow-up question, the one that I have been fighting over many times the past few weeks: could Gartner’s prediction that the CMO was getting away from IT and spending tons of money in being independent be wrong? How about the overall assumption that the CIO was done, was that also a myth?

This is what I learned: the LoB person said that he needed IT to make sure what he ran (which he did not care where it lived) was compliant, integrated, and leverageable.  The CIO said similarly, he did not care where the application lived as long as the data was under compliance and their control.

This is what is critical to understand as we get 2013 underway: there is no gigantic growth in technology budgets for CMOs – and what has increased is going to make sure what they do is in compliance with the rest of the organization.  There is no decrease in responsibilities for CIOs, to the contrary – there is an increase, but it is very focused on building the infrastructure for cloud to SUPPORT the LoB.

You may say that this was an exception, and you may be correct, but even a broken clock is right twice a day — which means that even as an exception, it is highlighting what few of us have been saying for a while now… CMO’s ain’t becoming rich, and IT still matters.

What says you? Am I wrong? Right? Meh?  Say Something!

Disclaimer: Microsoft invited me to the event, picked up my trip, hotel, conference fees, fed me (well, lunch on Wednesday was not considered food – but I blame the convention center, not Microsoft) and gave me access to executives and virtually anyone I wanted.  They were a client in the past and are likely to become one again in the future – and yet, if they did not do things right I would’ve call them on it as I did the past 3-4 years. Credit where Credit is due, the product is getting better.

Social Business is a Snap

Yep, you read that right.

A snap. Simple. Uncomplicated. Two bits and change. a Drachma of work (well, probably the wrong analogy).

And you don’t even need to buy, invest, change, or even do something different.  You got all it takes, most of what it needs (you may need some software – but i am sure you already bought what you needed in the past few years), and the investment of time is minimal.

Wanna know why?

Here is the scoop – there are five categories that matter when it comes to Enterprise Technology.  Any adoption, change, deployment, etc. must consider this five areas (and here is how Social Business fares):

People – you will hear every single pundit in the world tell you how social business is about culture more than anything.  They will say that unless the people (customers, employees, partners, interested stakeholders) can be social there is nothing you can do to become social.  They will cite change management as sine-qua-non for Social Business to exist.  What they won’t tell you that there is no methodology that will change any company’s culture – that takes time and is influenced heavily by external factors (society, political, financial, and many more).  The other thing they won’t tell you is that your people are already social.

They have been immersed in the world of social networks for at least five years (in some cases even longer, remember – CompuServe was around in the 1970’s, The Well was around in the 1960’s).  They know, they understand, they embraced (more than one billion people in Facebook, remember?) them and they want to use the for work.

Change management is not about changing the culture, is about making sure you don’t upset your employees as you embrace Social Business – but they are actually asking why you have not deployed it.  It is not the culture that is behind, it’s management.

Process – Change in process is what makes most of the technologies adopted by the Enterprise cumbersome.  There are nuances and details that you need to tend to whenever any new technology or channel is introduced.  There are integration points, manual processes, legacy processes that will need to changed or improved or even created and more.  But you are forgetting something – the countless dollars and time you spent during the 1990’s and early 2000’s in BPX (where X is any of one of the alphabet letters with a different meaning and BP stands for business process).  You have already done most of the work (I’d say all of it, but there are likely to be undocumented processes created between then and now) and have the documentation.  You already know how to handle it — and more than likely you have processes in place (no pun intended — OK  maybe just a little) to tell you how to deal with changes in processes.

Every single project you have done since then, and even before, has encompassed changes in your processes – you already know how to deal with that.  If that is not enough, remember – Social Business is about a business evolution that happens by adopting Social Media (channels) to — well, do the same you always did in a better fashion.

How is that different from any other project yo have done?

Technology – Ah, my perennial favorite.  According to most vendors and some of the people out there, this is the solution to all your Social problems.  Technology will deliver what you need – whatever it is.  You will hear the business management consultant crowd yell how technology is nothing, strategy is everything – you must have a strategy before you set out to deploy technology – you must! (and, of course, hire them in the process).

As I detailed when laying out my framework for Social CRM – strategy is quite simple (go read, don’t want to go through the whole thing again – thanks — fine, shortly: mission, vision, goals, and objectives – one page).  And it is not a solution; it is a way for you to make sure you understand what you are doing, but not the solution.

You have to keep in mind that this time around, technology is simple, cheap, and easy to deploy.  Thanks to the “cloud” and the simplicity of Social Media, there is not a lot of technology to buy and deploy – and it is very likely you already have it out there.  If you have done anything in the past 2-3 years in Social Channels – you already have the technology you need deployed.

Technology is not complicated this time,how to leverage the technology is where the secret is – but there is nothing you can do to change that — other than deploy the technology, allow stakeholders to use it, and see what develops (with apologies to Polaroid on that “lift”).

Final thought on technology: don’t confuse social with collaboration – but more about that in a later installment.

Measurement – Often forgotten, measurement can be complicated.  After all, you are bringing new technologies, new (or changed) processes, and different ways to communicate to the table.  Surely there are bound to be new metrics to worry about – right?  We always think that, and then we spend countless hours obsessed over the latest and greatest metrics: number of followers, number of likes, number of comments, number of winks – and who knows what else.  We create useless and stupid metrics to track “influence”, “credibility”, “reach”. We talk about social graphs and relationships, Dunbar numbers and weak and strong links, and we find the new uber-fuzzy metric that Management will love to track (think Customer Satisfaction, Loyalty, NPS).  We do all this to try to make sense of the new changes – but we always forget the simplest thing we need to do: correlate those metrics to KPIs (key performance indicators .

If you cannot build a correlation between all these new “things” and the effect they have on the company’s business – they are just noise.  In spite of the noise surrounding social in regards to the above – and Big Data and Analytics – there is nothing new to social business when it comes to metrics.  Find the numbers that make sense to track (which, as always comes down to understanding what you are trying to do in Social Business), correlate them to KPIs (which should be simple, since you have done it before and know what your company’s KPIs are), and prepare reports to detail how Social Business has affected your business.  (If you are tempted to throw ROI in there – please read my piece on ROI vs TTV).

Governance – My favorite subject, seriously, and the one no one understands.  Governance is about what you need to do when you aggregate all of the above into one single location, and how you manage it. Documentation on processes changed, metrics used and their correlation to KPIs, technology decisions for maintenance and deployment, change management that is necessary – and more.  All the new rules, regulations, and guidelines that arise from the use of the above – and their legal connotations (if any, not applicable to everyone but if you are in a regulated or compliance-heavy industry you know what I am talking about) from embracing social business.

If you don’t know what I am talking about, talk to your legal team – they have spent the past few years crafting social media usage guidelines and rules, creating opinions on whether and how a social channel can be used, and making sure that what you are doing in Social does not destroy the company.

The work for governance, under-appreciated as it is, is like the work in technology – more than likely the pieces are there and ready to be adopted – you just need to find them and embrace them (and, yes — you may be missing a few pieces… but the work is not that hard to do since for the most part it has already been done by someone else out there and you just need to find it and adapt it).

There you have it, Social Business in ~1200 words.  Simple, a snap really.

Don’t you think? What has your experience been?

(update: it occurred to me while reading it that I was missing a critical question at the end, so I am adding it… Can we put social business behind us now and move to an evolved version of business that needs to deal with cloud, mobility, and complex analytics?)