All posts by Esteban Kolsky

I’m Getting Engaged!

I know, I know.

I said I would never do it again.

They said it could never happen.

But, at the end of the day you knew it had to happen.  Right?

I mean, no matter how hard I fought it, how bad I wanted not to – I have to do it.

I have to enter the battle for the definition of “engagement”.

What did you think I was talking about? 

You see, that’s the problem.

If you know me, follow me on Twitter or somewhere else or heard me talking the past few years you know I am just wrapping up my second divorce – which makes me single – hello ladies ;-) – and therefore getting engaged to get married would not be outside of the question.

You might’ve been surprised to read about that in a business blog, but not the first time it’s been done.

But I am not talking about that engagement, just like you are not talking about that when you are talking about engagement with your clients.

How do I know?

Because you don’t know what engagement means. And I have the data to prove it.

I did a study last year, April through June, where I interviewed 45 CMOs from different countries and industries.  The goal was to find out what they thought about engagement, what they thought it meant, and how they had to react to it to make sure their organizations were prepared and addressed the issue.

What were the findings? Like I said above, there was not a lot of agreement as to what engagement meant, how it was defined and what they needed to do about it.

I wrote one of my traditional long, but awesome, reports about it (thanks to my friends at ThunderHead who sponsored it) and I am now ready to share the information with you.

Two ways to get this information:

1) If you are not patient – go here to download the report now (there is also a consumer report on engagement you will get, another great read to get a two-sided perspective)

2) Sign up for the webinar.  I am doing a webinar on 04/16 (April 16th for people who grew up in Argentina or live anywhere but in the USA).

The webinar will give you access to all the information on the report (see some tidbits below) and will give you a better explanation of the model of engagement we are proposing (see chart below).

engagement 3.0

 

Some of the most interesting findings from this report:

  • Engagement is not an action or a single exchange with a customer, it is a function that happens over time.  It is not the same, not related directly to, as Customer Experience, Customer Interaction, Customer Relationship or any of the terms we use today (but I said this before).
  • You cannot engage a customer in a single interaction anymore than meeting someone for the first date signifies you are engaged to get married (or I’d be in trouble after this past year… but ask me sometime about my wonderful experiences dating at the tender age of 46)
  • Engagement can only be measured as a function of value given and value received (value exchange) as it accumulates over time (which is the same as saying that there is no metric for engagement – another fuzzy metric… yay!)
  • Trust, and how to create and maintain it, is the biggest barrier to engagement.  Nearly three quarters of the interviews surfaced a lack of understanding of trust as a key issue for brands – and engagement cannot happen without trust!

There are many more fascinating tidbits about engagement, a formula that will let you understand engagement further, and a great discussion and synthesis of the conversations I had.

Go ahead, sign up for the webinar and come hear me (and my very cute argentinian accent) present the report (you will get a copy of both reports at the end: consumer and CMO interviews), or simply go and download the report now if you are impatient.

Either way, we are starting the conversation that matters for the next two decades: what is engagement?

I am getting engaged into this conversation — what did you think I was talking about?

Is It All About Mobile?

Mobile First.

Mobile Only.

Mobile seems to be in everybody’s minds these days, no? I mean, name one person in #EnSw that has not added mobile to their credentials in the past 12-18 months.

(BTW, I was one of the originators of m-CRM while I was at Gartner back in the early 2000s – we pioneered this stuff; needless to say, I know more about for far longer than most of these new “experts”… sorry, where was I?)

There are  many, many, many issues with the way we are approaching mobile – from pretending it is a new way to work in the cloud (calling it Salesforce 1 mobile development client – or something like that), to making it a new channel for communication, to thinking it is a complete different way to do things.

If we did not learn the lesson with the recent Social debacle (seriously, try to get funding for a new social X application or project at any VC or organization today) and the end result (it was, is, and will continue to be part of the infrastructure, and only the outcomes matter – in the case of Social is collaboration), let me try to address it now in a simple manner.

Mobile is an interface, nothing more.

Anything you do via mobile (interface) leverages the device it is riding on (usually a smartphone or table, even a laptop or a kiosk in some cases), bur the device is not the solution (it cannot be, there are many, many more models of iOS and Android and Windows and even RIM based devices that you can ever plan for).  If it was, your testing would be in each device to make sure (for example) that the camera works equally well.

You don’t test in each device, because you don’t need to.  You are not developing for the device (with some exceptions) but for the interface.  You make sure that the display fits the information, you make sure that the information flows you need are available in your infrastructure (including, sometimes, social channels) and that your cloud architecture will support it (if not today, in the near future – trust me on this).

If you do all that, you can master the art of mobile.  Of course, there is a lot more to come – but understanding it is an interface it is the first step.

I have been doing a lot of work with mobile over the years (I was a pioneer, remember?) and I have compiled the lessons learned in a few pieces.

I did a session with Salesforce.com at Dreamforce last year (video included – well, more like audio over slides – below).

I am chairing an event on mobile commerce in Las Vegas today and tomorrow (link, but not sure if there is availability as it is by invitation only).

I wrote a white paper on how to master mobile customer service (an extension of the work done with Salesforce last year) with Bright Pattern.

You can download the white paper (I think you need to register for it) here.  The statement above is one of the three steps you I highlight in that white paper that will make you succeed at mobile.

Check it out, would love your comments as always – anywhere you want to provide them.

When it comes to mobile though, we are not even cracking the coconut — there is a lot more to come!

disclaimer: Salesforce is a retainer client (and it was last year as well, when I was paid to produce the content and present it).  Bright Pattern is a sponsored research client, where they subscribe to different topics and help me defray the costs of research for those topics and in exchange get content to use for their purposes.  I have no clients that produce mobile OS (mentioned above) nor do I expect to have any.  The research presented in this white paper would’ve happen anyways — but it is nice to know that I have nice clients willing to help me pay for my vices: my worst vice is research.  thanks for reading the research that I produce under that model. It is not pay for play research as, as you would see when you read it, I don’t endorse a vendor or technology – I simply present my research for free to the world thanks to my sponsors.

What (Some, if Not Most) CMOs Don’t See

Two things to start:

  1. I have no qualms with CMOs and their responsibilities – it is a critical job in most organizations and hard to do as any other one.
  2. I was not going to caveat the title and say ALL CMOs, but am trying to avoid being singled out as ignorant (yeah, new thing for me – I know)

OK, now that I put on the first layer of asbestos, let’s begin.

The job of a marketer is hard.

According to fellow barb-trader (blog post) Scott Brinker (@ChiefMarTech) as stated during his CxOTalk appearance on 03/21/2014, there are over 1,100 tools that a marketer could use to do their job.  And most of them use more of one of each type (here is a link to his website where he stored the infographic about it).

If I triple count and am generous in giving credit to vendors that are not really in the market but say they are I cannot get to 1,100 tools in Customer Service – nor in Sales, or in most any other discipline I can think of.  That is a challenge to begin.

If you talk to any marketer in the trenches they will tell you their job involves navigating between applications, pulling data from different places to use in others, and constantly struggle to make sure their campaigns and actions reflect ROI.

And this was before the “customer revolution” that turned the entire world from outbound to inbound – and is transforming the world of marketers into a “digital marketing” place – in the process virtually destroying the traditional role of Marketing.

No longer is about finding the people to receive the message, but it is now more focused on influencing others to shape the conversations so the brand remains relevant.  While having no control of the process for the most part.

Talk about challenging.

However, this change brought with it more problems that seen at first light, and this is what some, if not most, of the CMOs I talk to don’t see – yet.

  • Tools are no longer useful as before.  This was made evident at the Adobe Summit that finished last week in Salt Lake City (not singling out Adobe, merely using them as a data point).  I did not attend in person, to be honest, but I watched some of the streamed sessions, talked to many people who were there, read their reports (good job by Dan Lyons here) and “saw the tweets go by“.  The entire event was about a collection of tools (great tools, nothing bad about them) and the people who use them.  There was virtually nothing about strategy, about aligning with business objectives or even about corresponding to KPIs.  It was about getting the job done.  And getting the job done for a business is more than tools.  If CMOs moved to the forefront of the “customer revolution” as they say, then they need to realize it is not about tactics but strategies.  Even the data Adobe presented talked to tools (and lack of understanding – see below)
As a side item, fellow influencer, Godfather of CRM, and master of all #EnSw (not to mention good friend) Paul Greenberg is posting his take on the Adobe Summit soon – will update with link when he does.  It is a very good post from what he shared so far…
  • The role of marketing (and virtually all functions in the organization) has changed.  And will continue to change.  I have talked about Digital Transformation before (here is my “manifesto” about it – 4,500 words, and below is a tweet about a two-part interview I did with Jon Reed @Diginomica recently.  Good stuff) and this is a critical paradigm shift in our lives.  Everything in the organization is changing (unfortunately we are adding digital to the front of things now, like we did with Social and e- and i- everything before instead of really changing it – #LeSigh) and will continue to do so.  These changes require more – much more – than tools, and Marketing is lagging on the strategic aspects of this shift.
  • Strategy is more than saying we are going to do something – even if you put numbers to that something.  The use of ROI to justify everything they do talks to a tactical approach to the world.  In a strategic world ROI does not matter as much (there are other metrics that do, don’t get me wrong – but the investment is usually too big to be justified in an ROI calculation only).  Half-jokingly I tell people that ROI is more like CYA when management does not understand what you are doing and want to make sure they are not help responsible for “wasting money”.  Marketing needs to get past this, even if they have more data to make the calculations work to the point of measuring each single interaction.  ROI is no their justification, the digital transformation paradigm shift is – and that requires a strategic, not tactical approach.

 

 


This is not meant to attack CMOs or marketers. In spite of my early lack of understanding on the value of Marketing in my career (which I might’ve stated publicly – just in case you run a search on the terms) I have learned since a lot about it and the value it brings to the organization.  No group in the organizations is as talented as they are at crafting and managing a message.  Messages are incredibly valuable in this new world, as are tools and methods to manage them. The CMO and their organization, if they become more strategic, are critical.

Alas, (some, if not most) they are not getting the radical change that is happening.

That — needs to change.

What do you think? Am i missing the point entirely? Am i being unfair?

Would love your thoughts…

disclaimer: Adobe is not now, nor in the past has been, a client.  I had a semi-short, unpaid consulting session with them about three years ago when they were embarking on this trek.  Doubt they will remember, but I remember it was about  – marketing as Social CRM.  While they have made great progress since then (it was somewhat painful) they’d be the first ones to tell you there’s work to be done.  I also have no dealings of grudges against any other CMO, or any of the other people mentioned here or linked to from here.  I think we are embarking on a great debate that will effectively changed market from the top down – as opposed to just seeing tools change and evolve.

State of Social Customer Service (Twitter Custom Timeline)

I will admit, this would not make a post traditionally – but I wanted to test a Twitter Custom Timeline.

I built one after a conversation I had with Martin Hill-Wilson (one of the sharpest, if not the sharpest, people in the  forward frontiers of Social Customer Service; read his book; follow him on Twitter).

Here is the custom timeline, comments welcome underneath as always.  BTW. remember that Twitter is read from bottom to top – wish they had a setting to change that – #LeSigh.

(now, back to digital transformation; another post coming tomorrow)

edited post publication

After posting i realized the potential use for this “tool” (custom timelines).

It is true you cannot reorganize the tweets in a specific way – but with proper planning, this can become a Twitter FAQ/KM tool for organizations.  Here is the first pass at a process to do so:

  1. Create a private Twitter Account just to build these lists
  2. Plan what your FAQ should be, and the process to update them as necessary (life changes, your customers will ask different questions over time). Nothing worse than an outdated FAQ.
  3. Write the tweets you need to direct your customers to existing resources that will answer their questions or concerns.
  4. Use your Customer Service solution to
    1. monitor for specific phrases, keywords, questions
    2. provide an automatic answer to those customers with a link to the specific timeline that answers them
    3. monitor responses to your timeline account to pick up follow ups
    4. follow up to new questions, if necessary, via your existing accounts – not the timeline account (need to keep the tweetstream clean for timelines – this is crucial for maintenance).
  5. Monitor, report, improve your FAQs

Congratulations, first step towards using Twitter properly for triage – want to try it?

Let me know what you think and how this can be improved — straw man idea right now…

The Foundation Components For Digital Transformation

(note: I have to give many thanks for my good friend Sameer Patel who took at first look at this and said “let me tell you what you got wrong” – thus helping me improve it immensely – you should thank him too when you see him, the first pass needed lots of TLC – not perfect yet, but can be shared for wider commenting)

You’ve heard from many people that Digital Transformation is all the rage now. right?

Can you explain what it is?

How about what you have to do in your organization to be prepared (or even to be able to understand it enough to have a decent conversation)?

If you said no, or are not sure, you are not alone.  Virtually everywhere I go these days this is the conversation we are having: what it is, how it works, what do I need to know and do, and what is the timeframe to get it done.

I will try to address as much as possible of these questions, and this post will frame my thinking for the research I am conducting in the next 2-3 years.  This is the biggest thing to hit Enterprise Technology since I started, am looking for at least a decade if not longer of expansion and excitement.

This post is not even beginning to scratch the surface and all these items will be covered in far more detail in future writings.  But, it is a a start – so let’s start at the beginning.

Why is this happening?

180px-ThePerfectStorm

I could use the “perfect storm” analogy, but I prefer to call it confluence of event.  

Of course, y’all like perfect storm better.  Perfect storm it is – for now. 

There was a perfect storm that caused this:

 

Customers In Control.  We have been saying for some time now, at least five or six years,  that customers have gained control of the conversation (good friend Paul Greenberg wrote very eloquently about this at the beginning of the “Social CRM Craze of 2008-2012″).

But what exactly does it mean?

It means that customers are more demanding of service times, of companies listening to them, and of making their voices heard.  No small coincidence, of course, that this happened at the same time that online communities (including social networks) saw an expansion – a case can be made for a chicken-or-egg situation actually…  In either case, the control of the conversation shifting to the customer was the first  – er, cold-front in this storm.

Everything Went Digital.  I am not going to assume anything about you and how you work and live – but, as an example, this morning I had to print and mail a document (remember that?).  I have been in this office for over a year and a half – and never before had to use my printer — I know, because it was not connected to my wireless network.

I have gone so far digital that I can check my snail-mail once a month and throw away all the mailers and coupons without even checking (I do, don’t worry if you send checks).  I even sold and bought a house last year – and not a smidgen of paper in my archives.

Granted, I am not a business – but if you agree with the statement above about customers going online – they are producing all the information in digital form.  And the businesses that dealt with me throughout my two house transactions were indeed businesses – and they had also gone digital.

When was the last time your customers mailed you a survey (wait, I meant to ask – what is the return rate for paper surveys you mail out or ask customers to mail in? I know some still do, but rates are plummeting). A warranty card (remember those) back? A registration card?

Content, data, knowledge – all has gone digital.  And we are not even talking about the expectations and demands from digital natives and digital immigrants – the people who live in digital world – that is another element altogether  that influences the amount of data and content that has gone digital as well.

Add the oh-so-famous Internet of Things with connected devices and machinery giving more data, social networks, constant generation of blogs, communities conversations, interactions between customers and web sites, web logs, navigation logs for customers – and that is just scratching the surface of how much digital information we are producing.

You get the idea.  Information is digital, and if not today – very soon.

Business Cycles Are Ending-Restarting.  Business is cyclical.  I know, shocker – everything we are doing today we did before (just faster, better, cheaper, easier now – supposedly).

Businesses evolve in cycles.  The last few cycles you can relate to:

  • ERP implementation (some 25-30 years ago) which was about automation and digitizing the work organizations did to stay alive;
  • CRM Implementation (some 15-20 years ago) which was about digitizing interaction of customers;
  • Internet Implementation (some 10-15 years ago) which was about bringing digital information from all over the universe to the organization; and
  • HR implementation (past 5-10 years and ongoing) about digitizing relationships with employees

All these moves gave us more digital information and processes that we know what to do with.  And all these moves in business also share common characteristics – they were executive conversations started at the highest levels of the organizations, with no technology or software solutions that defined and did what they proposed.  They were conversations on how to improve / change / automate / speed up processing of different areas of the organization.

There is a lot of similarities between Tom Siebel talking to Executive Boards about providing visibility into their pipelines and interactions with customers two-to-three years before the first workable version of Siebel CRM came out (ibid for Dave Duffield from PeopleSoft and HCM and Hasso Plattner from SAP and ERP) and the discussions we are having these days in executive boards about Digital Transformation.

Generational Shifts Giving Way to Paradigm Shifts.  I wrote this some time ago, but every fifteen years (give or take) we have (usually in concordance with business and / or technology cycles) a shift in the organization.

This is either a generational shift (a slow progressing movement that organizations can react to in time) or a paradigm shift (a massive societal, workplace, and marketplace shift that organizations need to react to quickly).  It is not a sudden transition,. where one ends and the next one begins – as with all ongoing entities there is an overlap of a certain time between them.

We are navigating the final stages of the generational shift that brought us the Social / Collaboration “Revolution” (more like an evolution to be honest).

This means that we are also starting the paradigm shift that is known as Digital Transformation (see picture below for a better explanation of these shifts in the world).

Paradigm shifts are characterized by breakneck speed of change, very similar to the conversations we are having today about Digital Transformation.

Generations

These are the four occluded / cold / warm fronts (I really hate this comparison to a perfect storm) that are all happening and aligning at the same time to create this perfect storm.

Sourcing The Vision

You are probably asking yourself how do I know this, where do I get this.

Among the many in-person, over the phone, and even email exchanges I had in recent months, I had this Twitter exchange with some smart folks and friends.  The question was “Where is the conversation about Digital Transformation happening?”

Before we move forward, and this is where Sameer helped me clarify this earlier, one caveat.

There is no purchaser – yet – for Digital Transformation.

This conversation on Twitter was clarified by an in-person conversation and we agreed that there are 1) no solutions available to purchase, 2) no purchasers.  There are conversations between the consulting firms that get it and their clients:

  • There are executive level and CEO level conversations about this;
  • The four trends above are being discussed in the context of changing the organization;
  • There are early steps taken by competitive-advantage driven early innovators;
  • There are some examples starting to see the light of day.

You’ve probably seen or heard of the early examples: Salesforce.com’s CEO Marc Benioff has mentioned and exulted the virtues of Burberry’s for the past three or four years, as well as some of their other customers.

The transformation at Burberry was driven by their CEO (Angela Ahrendts, now working at Apple to make the same change happen at their retail stores) who had undertaken a radical change to how they do business.  The realization that their customers did not wait at home for a catalog or mailer to come to them with the latest trends led to a change on how information is shared, interactions are captured, and recognition is given to customers’ voices.

And the fact that retail is seen as the next frontier for Digital Transformation is no surprise, it has been going on for a while.

My friend Paul Greenberg also talks about Karmaloop, one of the pioneers in e-tailing, in some of his presentations; a company change driven at the highest levels.  The company understood that their customers were either digital natives or immigrants and transformed their processes and KPIs to support and leverage digital channels and interactions.

The results were impressive: one percent of their community (created by digitally transforming their marketing efforts) drives fifteen percent of their business.

I have had these conversations around the world in the past six-to-twelve months with executives and directors of companies of all sizes, located anywhere – and they all agree.  This is the next change coming to business, this is going to be our next decade: adopting and implementing Digital Transformation.

Awesomer.

Vision Definition

The confluence of events (sorry, perfect storm) above seems to do the job of explaining at length how this transformation is coming of age but it is a tad long to go through it.  In executive circles sometimes the attention span is just not there to listen to the whole explanation.

We need a tweetable definition of Digital Transformation.

Finally, I was able to come up with one that I am quite comfortable.

In case you cannot read the picture of the tweet above, it says:

The world went digital and biz must adapt. Not from being analog. From having little know-how for digital owned.

That is the best way to define what Digital Transformation means and how it becomes our next business cycle.

tranform-cover

Plug-for-a-friend-break.  

If you have not yet get the book Christopher Morace (Chief Strategy Officer at Jive Software) co-authored .  It is not a how-to book for DT, but it is an amazing resource to understand this shift.  

You can get it for Kindle or old-format at Amazon (click the picture, not an associate link, I don’t get anything out of this).

Back to work.

Thanks for hanging in for that first part, I could break this into many posts, but half of you will complain that it should’ve been one (and the other half stopped reading after the third paragraph anyways).  So, keeping it as one.

Besides, this is the best part coming up, see the picture right below.

foundation elements for DT - 2

I know, I know.  Cray-cray as my 11-year-old daughter would say.

Let me ‘splain.

First, I am not a graphic designer – this is very crude, but it highlights what you need to know – the foundation elements for digital transformation and how they interact and relate to each other.  This is a good way to understand where everything fits, and why.

If you have any additions or comments, please lay them down in the comments section, contact me, or email me.

You will need an infrastructure layer, an information management layer, and an experience layer to make this happen.    In addition, you will show this via interfaces, and you will augment the power of your transformation by focusing on optimization, personalization, and automation as ideal outcomes (also called the Greek layer – get it? Greek…. OPA….Greek…. oh, never mind; no more jokes)

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s talk about each component first.

The Commoditized Cloud

To say the cloud is commoditized would be disingenuous.  The open, three-layer cloud has less than 10% adoption in the organization.  The SaaS-as-cloud, private-cloud-as-cloud, hosted-applications-as-cloud, and other-monstrosities-we-cannot-call-cloud-being-called-cloud has around forty-percent adoption across all organizations (all sizes, all verticals, all geographies, etc.).  If you don’t like those numbers, feel free to insert your own – still makes my point.

Although we are all talking about cloud as a given, commoditized concept – it has not yet reach mainstream adoption in the organization.  However, it is also not an item of differentiation where companies can say “because we are cloud, we are better”.  The fact that hosted applications that provide multi-tenancy solutions as a service can call themselves cloud gave every on-premises vendor the ability to call themselves cloud.  And thus, it is no longer a differentiation.

The reason I mention this is because the underlying infrastructure for digital transformation is an open cloud infrastructure (I don’t recognize private cloud as being cloud, nor hosted applications as being cloud – but they are good interim steps, stepping-stones towards adopting the cloud in larger, more complex, compliance-heavy organizations; they don’t have a long life ahead of them, but they are a good starting point).

There is not a single CIO or IT department in the world that has not undertaken in the past two-to-three years a migration project to embrace open cloud.  Even those slow-to-move, compliance-heavy, and laggards of adoption.  They may not be there yet, but it is their goal to get there. There are too many advantages to the model not to leverage it fully.

We will discuss the software layer of the three-tier model as we get deeper into the discussion of interfaces, but it is the platform layer that will make the most significant difference.  I wrote a bit about what an open platform can bring to an organization (and you also have more links in there as well as definitions) when I wrote about Salesforce1 – please use that for reference of what a platform is.

Indeed, adopting an open platform model is what is going to prepare the organization better for a digital transformation.  The ability to both quickly integrate with just about anything, and to create customized applications that deliver personalized performance via a multitude of interfaces will become critical – but this is not the place for that discussion – you will need to have a three-tier cloud infrastructure to make Digital Transformation happen.

The Information Layer

I have had many interesting discussions and strategy sessions in this past year or two where the discussion was whether knowledge or content or data were more important to deliver personalized experiences to customers.

I even presented at EBEDominicana earlier this year about this.  I was asked to talk about Social Knowledge and how organizations can prepare, but when I get to the event I discovered that the concept of Social Knowledge was nowhere near what attendants wanted to discuss.  I spent almost an entire day talking to attendants and finding out what they wanted to cover and the answer was clear: content.

I went back to my research notes that night (after spending some time learning the basics of merengue dancing  –another time) and found a lot of common topics between the work I had done around content and knowledge.  Turned out, after a long time of contrasting, that the issues, the topics, and even the lessons learned (at a high level) are about the same.  Out of curiosity I did the same analysis for data – since I had many times in the past said there is no marked difference in how an organization must handle data and knowledge.

Low and behold, same principles can be applied to data (I don’t distinguish between big, small, or average data).  I have been making this argument for a long time, and finally got a small break: content, data, and knowledge are similar resources.  And it all can be called information (because, well — that’s what it is).

Think about it, any information you get from an organization or use in a business situation has all three: it has data (usually customer identifying, product identifying), knowledge (this is more like static data, things we know to be true and we use to make a point), and content (more like static knowledge if you want to define it – it is approved and usually has knowledge in a specific format).

plush cerberusThe use of all three, or two or one, of these elements in any one interaction means that they should (at least from the strategic level) be handled and managed together.  We will discuss this and explore more as time goes by – but for now, think of all three elements as siblings: data, content, and knowledge are the Cerberus of the customer interaction.

They fiercely guard customer interactions to  make sure they have the right answer.

The Experience Layer

I wrote a series of blog posts over the summer that were published by my friends at Oracle.  The topic was Customer Experience, the first one had the ever-pressing question: “Who Is In Charge Of The Customer Experience” (others dealt with people, processes, and technology related to customer experience – it is a good series and likely you missed it — but fear not, available now by clicking on those links).

The question of customer experience has become all the rage lately.  These past two years we have seen an onrush from organizations to implement “customer experience — something”.  Whether it is management, or service design initiatives aimed at understanding customers better, or analytics software to better create customer experiences — or, well, too many different projects and initiatives to name them all.  Chances are that in the past three years or so your executives came down from the mountain with the mandate to implement customer experience.

And chances are that you have done something in this area.  In my latest survey of Customer Service practitioners we found that over 80% of organizations have a customer experience initiative under way.

The problem is that since Ed Thompson and I co-wrote the ultimate book of customer experience in 2004 when I was at Gartner (must be Gartner client to read, sorry), not much has changed (well, that’s not true – Ed’s gotten smarter about customer experience, but he was pretty smart to begin with).  It is not to say we don’t know more about it, we do – we had plenty of experiences and we learned a lot about how to do it — but we still continue to approach it as a single purpose project.

Experiences, not customer only, is something that all organizations must embrace for all stakeholders.  Whether we are talking about customers, partners, allies, providers, employees – or any other constituency (citizens?), they all need to work together.  We cannot design an experience for customers without considering that a) they are going to be part of an end-to-end process (and thus must be an end-to-end experience), and b) they must accommodate all parties involved in this end-to-end delivery.

When talking about experience, you must begin to think of them as Figure 2end-to-end and encompassing many stakeholders along the way – and design and implement them that way.  That is what I been pushing for years now using the Experience Continuum.  Indeed, experiences must be done as an all-or-nothing initiative that considers employees, partners, and all other concerned stakeholders – even if their systems and information are not controlled by your organization.

This means that as  you advance your digital transformation plans and begin to implement them you will need to interact and work together with many, many different people and use their information in many ways.

Aren’t you glad you decide to adopt and open cloud as I explained in the first section above?  Yes, you are – and now you get why that is necessary.

The Analytics Layer

This could be the start of a book that could be written just to define and describe what is meant by Analytics.

I am not going to define it and try to convince you that is necessary.  Bottom line, the middle layer of the model above needs to be analyzed.  Period.  Thus, you need analytics.

Without analysis, all you got is a series of structured ones-and-zeroes that really don’t mean much going forward.  Sure, they can tell you what happened, but cannot prepare you for what MAY happen.

Now that we defined the need, let’s debunk the most common myths about it: it is hard to do, and it is magical.  Magical is what many users think it is – if you implement an analytics package all you need to do is point it to your data and — voila! finds relationships and insights you did not even know they were there.  Of course, this is neither true nor possible – no analytics package knows the relationships between your data, their meaning, or even what it means!

Simply knowing that a data field is called Sales_Total does not mean the computer knows what it is, how it is used, or what to do with it.  Even if you, as a user, can describe it and relate it to other data fields – you still don’t know what to do with the data — why on earth you think the analytics package would?  This is what brings the second myth: ti is hard to do and requires scientists to analyze.

Without a deep debate on the term or the concept, it does not.  If a stakeholder knows what the data means, where it comes from, and how to use it – the new tools and packages for analytics will handle the rest.  This applies equally to knowledge and content, by they way – not just data.  And this is why analytics is changing and is no longer the mysterious “thing” it has been assumed and we can now focus on the outcomes, not the definition.

The most important aspect of analytics is the outcomes – which so far you’ve been told they’re insights.  We put so much emphasis into generating insights (and I will count myself as one of them as i often encouraged clients to find actionable insights into what they do — without much explanation of what they are or how to get them) that we miss out on the applications of those insights.

That is what you need to do in the new digital world with the data / content / knowledge triumvirate of inputs: find the expected outcomes and aim achieve them.

There are three outcomes you should be seeking via analytics:

  • Optimization (improving processes and functions, even innovating by finding new and different ways to do things)
  • Personalization (make sure that each user gets what they need, when they need it, as they need it – and no more or less), and
  • Automation (leverage the optimization and personalization to take some of the interactions away from users and traditional processes and allow them to happen automatically)

These outcomes are not in any order nor are the three required from any single implementation (although eventually you will get to use all three as your strategy improves and grows).  They are the outcomes you should seek from data, content, and knowledge post-analysis independent of function that is using those inputs.

There is a lot more to cover on this, much more, but we will do so in research during the next 2-3 years.  For now, make sure you realize that analytics is not what you thought, and that is has a primordial role as the tool that will make things happens in the world of digital transformation; after all, it is the aggregate of the expected outcomes.

The Interfaces Layer

Thanks for hanging in there, almost done.

The final layer is the interfaces layer.  This layer serves two purposes, both incredibly important for digital transformation.  First, they are the connecting point to all things “legacy”.

A three-tier cloud architecture calls for the Platform layer to serve as an integration brokerage house of sorts – it creates trusted, verified, secure link to other platforms and brings the information from that platform to complete the services it runs, and it also sends information to the other platforms so they can do the same.

This works great in a three-tier cloud-to-cloud communication, but lacks some of the finesse when dealing with legacy applications and APIs.  Some of the older applications and those with not-so-good APIs require more work than the platform can do in a secure environment that requires token security to operate.  Some of the legacy applications and interfaces require a point-to-point traditional API call. This is where the interfaces layer performs one of the key functions: it serves as the central integration point to all applications and information that cannot be accessed or serviced directly.

The other function it performs is to make sure that the outcomes of the analytics layer are properly displayed and used in any interface: mobile, desktop, internet-of-things, laptops, tablets, and just about anything else that may have access to the DT platform and needs information from it.

As simple as it may sound, the ability to interface with a three-tier cloud, all layers in the DR architecture proposed in this post, and legacy applications at the same time and make sure that information flows properly it’s quite complex.  Think of what EAI (enterprise application integration) components used to do in client-server world – but exponentially more complex due to the multitude of displays and application environments it has to tender to.

Alas, the infrastructure layer and the three-tier cloud model help a lot on this, especially the platform layer that can serve any device, any interface, any need as long as the proper paths to find the service and or application that can deliver the necessary information is known and documented.  This simplicity is what this layer promises – while delivering the outcomes delineated above.

Where to Now?

As i said earlier, this is an oversimplification of a concept that is likely to require an entire book to be explained properly (things that make you go hmmmmm).

But the concept is there, and three things will happen now:

  1. You will help me improve it.  All the content in this blog is licensed under the creative commons CC 3.0 initiative.  You are welcome to use it and improve upon it as long as you don’t use it for commercial reasons and you always credit the source (that’d be me).  Take it for a spin and let me know what think.  Write down your experiences down in the comments section, or contact me with more details.
  2. It will slowly be implemented and improved. The one thing I learned from creating visions for the future and implementation models while at Gartner is that there is a  modicum of my visions that are great, a sensible part that is useful, and the rest if between can-be-ignored and unusable.  As you begin to work in your digital transformation using this post as one of the data points in your journey – please let me know how it works.  I make the commitment to improve it with your feedback and — of course, give you full credit for your contributions.
  3. I will continue to research this.  This is my “research agenda” for the next few years.  I cannot even begin to see this being implemented in less than 2-3 years – and getting close to five is more likely.  I will continue to research and find information to substantiate and improve the model, while you continue to do the things you do – implement.  I will continue to do research on these layer by talking to users and practitioners, discussing it with analysts and consultants, and continuously write about ways to get it done and make it better.

OK, just about 4,500 words and here we are – your turn.  Before I begin to post more and more research in relation to this model — what do you think?

Are you thinking this may work? Do you see the possibilities?  Or do you see it won’t work?  Both answers are likely to be correct – I just want to hear the rationale for either.

Help me improve this architecture of foundation elements for the DT world.

I appreciate it.

Microsoft Acquires Parature: The Analysis

EVENT

On January 7th (officially, although embargo was broken by several analysts and press before then) Microsoft announced it had entered a definitive agreement to acquire Parature.  The terms of the transaction were not disclosed (although wild speculation abounds) and is expected to close during the first quarter of 2014.

ANALYSIS

Although the timing might make it look similar, this deal and the deal between Verint and KANA are very different.  Please read that post earlier in my blog for more details on that – I don’t want to make comparisons that are not appropriate for this analysis.

Microsoft has a glaring hole in their Dynamics CRM product line: customer service.  For as long as I can remember, this has been the case.  Even though they have – something, it is not competitive.  It does OK for small implementations, but as the complexity of the interaction grows it lacks the fortitude to deliver – and even worse in large scale.  This has been a problem as they try to grow into larger accounts and try to compete in the customer service market for position and presence.

As Microsoft tries to win larger accounts against the likes of Salesforce.com, Oracle (either with the Oracle Fusion product or RigthNow’s version of Customer Service) and others the lack of a structured customer service solution began to be noticed.  I worked with Microsoft before, both formally and informally, about this.  There was no doubt there was a need to be filled, the only question was what and how.

On the other hand, Parature was in the mend.  Recovering from a near-disastrous bad-CEO stint, they spent the past three years or so re-architecting their product.  From being considered a solution that could only cater to small and mid-size businesses for simple customer service, they saw early on the need to redo their product with two guiding principles: a stronger, cloud-based architecture and the need to refocus on Knowledge Management.

I have written extensively on KM these past few months, and will continue to do so in the many years to come.  We are approaching a paradigm shift in knowledge like we have not experienced before, mostly driven by the rush to aggregate knowledge in online communities and social networks.  The shift from knowledge-in-storage to knowledge-in-use demands new models, new architectures, and new behaviors.

Whether consciously or through subliminal knowledge, Parature developed their new architecture in a way that can both support the traditional models for KM as well as the new paradigm described above.  At least in my perspective, since I have not yet seen it implemented that way (not only by them, it is a nascent model and not getting sufficient traction in the market – yet, wait a few more months).

Microsoft making this acquisition for the knowledge management components primarily, and after looking in detail at this new architecture, brings the issue of knowledge-in-use and the paradigm shift to the enterprise level – and I cannot be more happy for that.  There are some very interesting new plays in KM that are leveraging this new model (Mindtouch, Transversal) and old companies cozying up to the concept (FuzeDigital , Jive, Moxie Software, and others) and this is the push that they will need to make it happen.

Of course, this only works if Microsoft realizes what they have acquired and puts resources and talent behind that effort.  I understand from my conversations that this is the case and this is what will happen.  Not only as an independent entity, which Parature will remain, but also as a way to bring the power of this architecture to the Dynamics CRM product and enhance their solution there.  A two-for-one special makes me happy.

Here is to hoping they keep on their current path.

CONCLUSIONS

I am bullish on the potential of this acquisition to accomplish two things:

1)      Reinforce the concept of knowledge-in-use by putting additional resources behind the work done by Parature as it remains an independent entity.

2)      Create a more complete enterprise-player out of Dynamics CRM (especially around customer service, but eventually leverage the KM power into other areas) and with a two-tier customer service solution be able to compete more fully with ServiceCloud.

While it does not fully complete the customer service product for Dynamics CRM, it does make it very competitive and with the right partnerships they can deliver that extended value.  While there is more, much more, that can be discussed about Microsoft, this is about this deal – and the bottom line is that has a lot of potential.

There will be changes coming down for Microsoft customers once the product is integrated, likely in the 1-2 years’ timeframe considering the speed and efficiency with which Microsoft completed integration with prior acquisitions made by Dynamics CRM, and don’t foresee significant changes for Parature clients.

It is a little early to see the changes for Microsoft customers but adding functionality for Customer Service is definitely in the works.  As any other vendor, I am sure Microsoft would want a higher price for the more features they will provide – but the functions should remain sufficiently separate so it would not be mandatory upgrade.

All customers, current and prospective, should understand the roadmap for the product but don’t ask for another six-months or so.  The current plan calls for remaining independent (which I don’t foresee changing – or will let you know) and slowly integrating the valuable components.  We will know in six months or so if this remains the same.

Do you see this differently?

Would love your comments…

disclosure: parature is an active client and I have helped them some in positioning and strategy for their new architecture and product.  microsoft is going-to-be (if their verbal commitments hold) a client again and has been in the past going back many years – we also had discussions leading to this event.  both vendors fell out of favor a couple of times before, but now they are listening to me and doing much better.  most of the other vendors mentioned are active clients or will be this year.  may be too late to say this, but I know everyone in the (soon-to-be-extinct) eService market and they all are, were, or will be clients.  no better way to ensure there is no conflict of interest in my opinion. needless to say, but mandated by the ftc, there is no conflict of interest as they all are very nice to me and give me tons of free stuff (like time, access to executives, responses to my DM and emails, etc). i don’t favor one vendor over another, just call them as i see them.

Verint Acquires KANA Software: The Analysis

EVENT

On January 6th, 2014 Verint announced their intentions to purchase KANA Software for a reported $514 million mix of cash and loan obligations.  The expected close date is first quarter of 2014.

ANALYSIS

I cannot say I am surprised that Verint finally got into the multi-channel customer service market.

I have been expecting this move since both NICE and Verint acquired EFM vendors in the middle of 2011 (frankly, I have been expecting this for longer than that – for both of them).  Of course, we should see NICE moving into the market within the next 4-6 months, and we shall see other vendors as well try to enter the market (vendors like Nuance come to mind initially, but also Aspect, Genesys, Avaya, and Nortel trying to expand their presence by acquiring more value and better knowledge management tools).  I don’t expect traditional customer service and / or CRM vendors to try to acquire any of the remaining vendors for customer service or sub-components like knowledge management – with a few exceptions (which would be addressed in commentary if it happens).

Verint has done a lot of acquisitions in the past.  Probably the most iconic for this market is their acquisition of Vovici in July of 2011 to bring in Feedback Management to their suite.  They have a complete suite of agent management tools (things like workforce management, training, scheduling, as well as analytics, reporting, and performance management).  They have also made acquisitions of function-specific tools (like fraud detection and telephony management).

Throughout these acquisitions a consistent model emerged: the acquired vendor does not retain their independence, nor do they retain their product as it was when acquired.  The main reason they are acquired is a technology or tool that Verint needs to complete their suite.

Vovici is a good example, where even though independent implementations of Vovici are still supported, their main message and go-to market is to incorporate feedback and analytics tools from Vovici into their suite and enhance the value the product provides that way.  There is no remaining product from Vovici that resembles or continues the old product.  This translates into a migration for customers that remain on the product if they want to continue using it (usually within 2-3 years, not right away) which brings with it a higher price tag.

Cannot fault Verint, or any other vendor, for trying to make money – it is the inconvenience it brings to their customers.  So far they have promised to keep KANA as an independent solution – but the discussion around the long-term roadmap was not very clear on how long that would last – or if that would be changed later.  It is clear that the main driving force for this acquisition was the integration of the product lines – I’d be surprised to see KANA remain an independent entity for the long-run.

I am also concerned with the nascent momentum KANA started to experience in the market.  Coming of their semi-recent acquisition of Sword Ciboodle (barely a year ago) and subsequent re-launch in the August-September timeframe, their presence in the market was just beginning to get solidified.  In addition, the acquisitions KANA made in the past 4 years since A-KKR acquired them (Lagan for Government, Trinicom for mid-market service suite, and Overtone for social media analytics) were not yet fully embedded into their business model, with no (Overtone) to modest (Trinicom) to good traction (Lagan had an exceptional year in 2013) on their own.

It is not clear what will be the fate of these different solutions, but it is clear that it brings another layer of complexity to the planning of the long-term roadmap.

If you read the coverage and the press release for the acquisition you will see that is presented as a marriage of Big Data and Analytics on the Verint side, and Customer Experience on the KANA side.  You would not be faulted to think that this is a match made in heaven, with the ability to deliver the latest and “bestest” solution in the market right now.  After all, customers are asking for Customer Experience and Big Data.

In reality, at least from my perspective, these are 2-3 years old marketing messages for both companies.  Verint will tell you they were founded on the concept of analytics – but the vast majority of their customers (at least all the ones I talked to, I have not talked to all 10,000 of course) think of Verint as a provider of agent management tools (in other words, they make sure the agents are there, trained, and ready to work with the right tools).  I have yet to meet a Verint customer that talks about them in terms of analytics as a core differentiator (even though they had speech and text analytics offerings for some time).  They also made more acquisitions in the past 2-3 years that shored up their solutions, but they are not known primarily as an analytics vendor.

Similar fate for KANA and Customer Experience, it was not until the past two years or so that they began to focus on this message and positioning.  KANA is known for their knowledge management and multi-channel service solutions, not for their focus on customer experience.

The positioning may describe what value they could bring to bear, but it belittles the value they do have to offer.    Both solutions are far better and more complete than their positioning for marketing purposes, and both of them together deliver a complete customer service offering – which takes away one of the strong points of this acquisition if ignored for the benefit of marketing buzz.

About sixty percent of the customer service customers are laggards or late adopters for the technology to power their contact centers.  Partly due to refresh cycles that take too long, partly for amortization and ROI expectations, and partly for the fact that refresh cycles tend to fix what’s broken more than innovate – Customer Service is a laggard technological function.  In this context, more customers are asking for integrated suites like the one KANA and Verint are proposing (there is a healthy demand for an integrated solution among late adopters that are not as interested in the cloud, customer experience, and analytics as they are in delivering multi-channel solutions that are effective).

The up-to-the-minute marketing message they are positioning is taking away from the potential to deliver into that market.

See the following chart (I developed this with my friends at Moxie Software and am using it here with their permission) for a better understanding of how the two vendors come together:

CS Architecture

KANA’s value comes from offering a unified desktop, knowledge repositories, case management and channel management (which was extended by the acquisition of Sword Ciboodle).

Verint value comes from offering agent management tools and some analytics – with an additional set of predictive and proactive analytics for optimization as well as more analytics tools added lately.

In spite of the wonderful marketing buzz of the new message that integrates optimized analytics and customer experience, customer service buyers would be more comfortable seeing a chart like this that addresses all their needs rather than listen to a marketing message that leverages timely buzz words.

I am very interested and hopeful in seeing this deal go through based on the former, not because they can master all the latest and greatest marketing words in their message.

One final item to focus on as they move the deal forward is the cloud.  No, not talking about hosted-apps-in-a-browser and calling it cloud, am talking about the change in infrastructure that brings a three-tier open and public cloud to bear for organizations.  Neither of the solutions is built for or supports that model (yes, they both could – not the standard offering).  Both the solutions are cloud in the old-fashioned hosted applications running through a browser with API access, not in the open, three-tier model.

While this may not be an issue currently for virtually all of their clients, it will become an issue within the next 2-3 years as the open cloud infrastructure begins to take hold inside the organization and more and more organizations begin to migrate their contact center hardware and software to that model.

CONCLUSION

As with any acquisition or merger, some good and some bad in this deal.  Bad is the potential change imposed on customers – although it is not yet confirmed and Verint promised to offer a roadmap based on keeping KANA independent soon.  The roadmap past years 2-3 will be critical to squelch that criticism and show the long-term viability of this acquisition.

Good is the potential to fulfill the demands and needs of the majority of the market and position the product as an all-in-one suite to deliver to expectations from their customers.  If they avoid the cute marketing words, of course.

Existing customers should get a “certified” roadmap from Verint to understand their intentions and direction and match it to their strategy.

Customers considering bringing either one of the vendors in the organization should make sure that their needs will be filled today – but also that potential conflicts with other future needs or existing solutions don’t put a hamper in the integration.

Other vendors in the market should understand that this signals the beginning of the final consolidation for the eService market and find the ecosystem that best fits their need and / or potential acquiring partners in a relative short term.

Anyone else should contact me for a more detailed discussion of where you are, what you need, and how we can make it work for you.

What are your thoughts?

Do you see something I missed in this deal?

Comments welcome, of course.

disclosure: KANA is and has been a wonderful client for a long time, dating back to my first days as an analyst almost fifteen years ago.  I cannot recall any year since then they were not a client.  It is with sadness I see them being acquired one last time (I am quite certain they won’t remain independent for a long time, see above), but looking forward to potentially working with Verint.  Verint was a client of Gartner’s in my past life, but other than a few briefings we never worked together.  They were never a client of thinkJar – although if they are smart they will pick up where KANA left off (I believe KANA has the contract for 2014 in their possession… but we can figure that out later).  As you read this you will realize that whether they were / are / or will be a client means not much as I will be fair in analyzing their situation and the potential for the deal.