Category Archives: Uncategorized

Duck Intelligence, Think Wisdom

I have exercised my systems of patience, after using my systems of reading to dive into the blog and research published (sorry, posted using their systems of writing, editing, and publication) by Forrester recently.

I had to use my patience not to react using what my daughters call my “catch phrase” — Aw, come on!!

Seriously – is everything becoming a system now? I groaned at the birth of Systems of Engagement (possibly as a potential alter-ego to the forever-there-but-never-named-so systems of record… AKA CRM).  Downright exploded and made my feelings known at the “systems of intelligence” (aka analytics).  But this is where I feel I have to put down my proverbial foot and say enough is enough.

Just like not everything in this world is a platform or part of an ecosystem (as necessary as those are, you cannot turn a 20-year old solution into a “knowledge management platform” just by hiring a new VP of Marketing), not everything in this world is becoming a “system of” something.

In this case, the problem is that the marketing hype surrounding the concept of wisdom (and the rush to be the first one to coin a term – well done, Forrester — you win that one… yay) is clouding a reality.

Knowledge Management is no longer sufficient to power organizations’ quest for business transformation.

We have been trying for over 50 years to manage knowledge with different degrees of success.  We created technology, processes, even a culture of knowledge that was supposed to ensure organizations could corral, manage, and reuse knowledge at the drop of a hat in any instance, at any time, via any channel, integrated into any technology.

Needless to say, it hasn’t happened.  I wrote plenty about this (look at the my downloads page and read some of the series of blog posts I did – or search knowledge management on my blog) and the need to alter the model of knowledge management.  I am a big pusher for knowledge-in-use and communities and try to stay away from knowledge repositories – although I know that virtually no one is following me there…

The recent changes to technologies, information management (which i covered in my last business transformation update), speed of change, and societal changes induced by communities (no, not powered by vendors – more and more people flocking to communities) have made the traditional knowledge-in-storage model almost unsustainable.

Indeed, collecting knowledge for (maybe) later use is no longer feasible for organizations.  While the current systems will continue powering that model for another 2-3 years (up to a decade in some cases) I am seeing a need and demand for something more useful.

Powered by “Systems of Intelligence” (analytics), “Systems of Insight” (seriously?), and more importantly by the failure rate associated with traditional KM implementations in organizations my clients are asking to bypass the concept of KM and instead focus on wisdom.

Before you start screaming, I am not using wisdom in the same way that Webster defines it – but as a model for applied knowledge.  Got a better word? bring it – comment box is below.

Wisdom is what happens when you use knowledge – and what we always wanted our KM systems to do.  It is not just to store an article with an answer, but it is to know how that answer is applied, when does it work, when it doesn’t, and how to find the ancillary information necessary to make it work in the latter.  Not by simply starting a new query – but by associating all the wisdom surrounding that answer (in real time, mind you – as things are changing quite rapidly these days) from all the relevant SME (subject matter experts) regardless of where they are and what they are doing.

There is an old phrase – knowledge is understanding that tomatoes are fruits.  Wisdom is understanding that they shouldn’t go into a fruit salad.

That is likely the easier way to explain the difference.  Or to go back to my title… as odd as it is.

Knowledge is understanding that ducks are unlikely to be a source of wisdom.  Wisdom is to know I wrote that title on my iPhone and autocorrect changed it.

Waddle on to the comments below and let me know what you think… are we ready for some wisdom?

The Worst Problem With Cloud Applications

Let’s face it, switching from on-premises, on-demand, hosted, or any traditional model to cloud-based applications has issues associated with it.

Denying this would be — unconscionable, questionable… even downright dangerous.

Is the worse problem you’ll face the integration between systems? Is it the lack of IT support? A too-small-to-make-it-happen IT staff? Lack of a strategy? Not enough mobile support?

Or is it something as simple a too many logins and the lack of a single-sign-on solution?

Would you like to know?

I can help!

We are starting a research project on this topic with a survey and would love to have your input into it.  We are asking anyone that is associated with cloud applications (admins, IT people, or business users with admin responsibilities) to take our survey for the next two weeks and let us know.

We do have our theories, of course, from the many successful inquiries, interviews, and work we have done so far – but we want data to contrast it.  If you help us, we will send you the results as soon as they are ready and we will also send you the report with the detailed analysis.

And, to make it better, I am partnering with Denis Pombriant on this effort so you know you will get top-level writing (not my usual dribbles with parenthetical comments only… er, sorry).

Our friends at FinancialForce are sponsoring this effort and helping us put the information out there… so what do you say?

Help us? Take the survey?

In advance, many thanks.

ICYMM: Communities Are What You Need – Trust Me!

ICYMM: In Case You Missed Me - things with me or about me elsewhere in the internetz.

I have been saying for a very, very long time (back in 2001 I wrote a research note for Gartner, and in 2003 Michael Maoz and I spoke about this already at the conferences… and, oh yeah – in the late 1980s when I was moderating Compuserve forums I gave an interview for PCWeek about them – and I am sure there’s more, but you are bored of hearing me say how awesome I am — even though I am) that communities are the end goal for business.

The real power of the social networks is not the ability to share kitten pictures or news or baby pictures with people we loathed in high school but love now.  The power is the power of aggregating people of kin minds into communities.

Moving communities from offline to online is the greatest trick ever pulled by the internet.  We moved from an average of 12 communities participation per person in 2002 (just 4 online) to 48 communities participation per person (26 online).

The aggregation of power and knowledge (the reason for communities to exist) go back to the caves of Altamira and the fires that gathered people around to share stories (thanks Fred Studer for that image, well done).

I recently had a google hangout interview / webinar / something-else-you-want-to-call-it with my friend Sheridan Gaenger of Helpshift to talk about communities and how they are changing businesses.  We talked for a while, and it was one of the greatest conversations about communities I recall from recent years.

Pay a listen to it, or read the blog post that Sheridan wrote about it.  If you are interested in communities you will not be disappointed.

When  you are done, come back and talk to me about your thoughts please.  I’d love to know what you are doing and thinking in regards to communities.

disclosure: Helpshift was a client once some time ago.  I also sit in the board of advisers and own equity in the company as a result of this relationship (and, no, did not get paid to do this).  The interesting thing though, HelpShift does not sell community software, nor do they benefit if you implement or use communities.  Its part of the power of communities: spark conversations that broaden the topics you are interested in, watch what happens.  Inbound.  Funny...

Salesforce Buyout: My Speculation

If you are reading this you don’t need to be directed to an article explaining what happened: Bloomberg said that (somehow) it leaked that Salesforce had retained investment bankers to help them evaluate a potential acquisition or buyout.

Of course, this meant it was open season for everyone to add fuel to the fire, blood to the feeding frenzy, or — whatever else you add to something else to make it more intense.

Of course, these are all speculations – so I decided to add my 0.0015 drachmas to the affair and add my speculation.

Caveat: unlikely I can add a name to this that has not been mentioned (and that has a chance to happen).  

Caveat2: I am not privileged to any information that is not public – so take it for what it is… pure speculation.

Caveat3: you still reading?  Good… here we go.

Scenario 1: The PR Confabulation

It would be unfair or illogical to assume that SFDC has not had its fair share of M&A over the years – both before and after going public.  It would also be unfair to Marc Benioff and its board to say that any of those attempts had more than a passable chance at becoming reality.

Why mention the M&A attempt and the search for advisers this time around?

Some people out there are speculating that is part of a PR effort to shore up the value of SFDC and to promote Marc Benioff’s name before a commitment to start a career in politics.  Some people infer that this time is the right price / contender combination to make it a sizable event that must be reported before it leaks (you know how fast things leak in SF and Silicon Valley – see Yammer/MSFT for reference).

While there is a certain, minor, potential for this to be true I cannot see a PR campaign being made out of this.  True, Mr. Benioff has been more cozy in taking political positions lately and the remarkable coverage of all the philanthropic efforts he takes part of is growing – but I don’t think he needs this to shore up his name – or his company name.

As I discussed yesterday with a well-known CEO of a competitor – everybody in the known world either has or is considering having an instance of SFDC software in their company.  They are well known.

Chance of this scenario being the one: less than 5 percent (there are some crazy PR people out there, after all)

Scenario 2: All’s Well That Ends Well

With due apologies to Murphy Brown writers (look it up,  trust me) nothing will happen at the end.

As I said before, many talks have happened and many offers have been made – and this may be the most logical, or (as some say) predicted one, or closest to the mark, or even the only one that the board would seriously consider… but that means it means to be made public to minimize the carnage at a later time for someone’s stock or private cash stash.

Independently of that, nothing’s going to happen – but its a significant possibility that must be advertised or leaked or whatever was done to it.

Chance of this scenario being the one: less than 10 percent 

Scenario 3: Everybody Needs Somebody (sing it!)

There is a not-zero possibility that an acquisition is going to happen (and given SFDC’s inability to keep a secret in its history – trust me on this) and they will be acquired.

But whom?

Plenty of speculation has already happened in the Internetz and the Twitterz – will let you find it.  My take? Glad you asked.

Three potential suitors (and some not-so-potential) in order of likelihood:

IBM – yes, those guys.

Their businesses has been shrinking and they need a way to get into the cloud.  Bad.  In spite of whatever magic mushrooms they consume to say their cloud businesses are near $15BB – they are not a player in cloud.  This will give them “cloud creed” and an incredible entry point into enterprise software.  It will also allow them to take a $5-6BB business and easily double it over the next couple of years by letting their consulting and outsourcing LOB go at it.

There is the question that emerges quickly here, given their recent relationship, what about SugarCRM?

When the relationship between them was first announced I had the chance to talk to an IBM executive about that potential.  He said, paraphrasing, that IBM does not make acquisitions that yield less than  billion dollars in return – and they could not see SugarCRM getting to that level.

Should I remark that Salesforce is already there?  And then many times over?

There is a lot of upside for IBM to enter this market with this acquisition… only downfall? they would need to cut through the many layers of bureaucracy to make the right people agree.  And any IBMer would agree that is not a small task (the smart joke would be that they wanted to acquire SFDC when they turned $1BB in revenues but just now they were able to get the right approvals; hehehe – I am not smart humor).

Oracle – Yes, Benioff’s former boss and fist investor (well, not the company but the chairman) and a vendor with a desperate need for “cloud creed”.

In spite of their marketing prowess, Oracle has nothing that resembles a modern cloud product.  They bought old, outdated, and (pardon the french) crappy software and never really updated or improved it.  The customer attrition rate at some of the properties the acquired has crossed the 50% range (meaning that more than half the customers at the time of the acquisitions are already gone) and the revenues they expected are nowhere near what they should’ve been.

OMG could they use some cloud creed.  Quickly being left behind and without even a simple sleight-of-hand like HANA is for SAP they need to make a statement.

The rumor / conspiracy theory states that when Benioff left Oracle Larry made a pact that he would acquire SFDC at a later time for Marc to come back as CEO.  If true, and the likelihood is minuscule, what a master plan (as someone said earlier on twitter)! To plan to lay low for 15 years like a Enterprise Software Disruption Sleeper Cell and pounce at the right moment (when Larry wants to retire).  Incredible and very, very difficult to pull off.

If you seriously consider this to be possible you have short term memory (or lapses in memory).  Oracle has, by any count, a sizable command of the CRM market.  Remember: they acquired PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and (fanfare here) Siebel – the King of CRM.  By magic and marketing they lost very few Siebel customers over the years and they have done a good marketing effort at keeping them past two years.

The part where your memory may not work well – the FTC investigated (and I do mean investigated) that deal in detail and barely, barely concluded there was no collusion or monopoly at that time.  At that time.

With the changes in market share and the sizable command SFDC has of the market? Highly unlikely that would happen.  Then again, I am not the FTC (although for the record, when everyone said it would not be allowed last time I said it would – and won some sizable bets in the process :)).

Microsoft – The partner.

With the recent partnership still fresh in some minds, there is a likelihood (and by market cap, a better suitor than the past two) but they are very gun-shy following their Yammer debacle (although there is some value in this deal – not so much on that one) and the ill-fit into the “one-Microsoft owning the world” strategy (unless they want to compete with – which frankly, I don’t see it) makes it hard to visualize.

Stranger things have happened, I did mention the Yammer acquisition – right?, but even then – unlikely that it is worth their time.

Then there is the issue of technical fit — we are not going there as far as integration of SFDC technology into MSFT technology.  Let’s leave that dog alone…

Others – Many

Cisco, Hewlett Packard, EMC, BMC, CA, Amazon (really?), Google (really??), and Apple (really??????????) and some others I can’t remember.

Yes, everyone needs to get into the cloud – and everyone needs to do this now (we can have the discussion about the obscene dollar amount allocated by organizations to “buy cloud” in the next two years in a separate post).

However, most of these people don’t have the capacity to absorb and grow the potential of SFDC.

Will not speculate more than that.

Your turn – what / who / why / when / and how do you think this ends?



Getting To Know You, Getting To Know More About You

The year was 2009 – eons ago in today’s fast paced world.  A then great vendor called Attensity hired me to write some thought leadership into the budding world of Analytics (budding as in people noticing, not as in just emerging as you well know).  They wanted a series of blog posts that talked to the issues about Analytics that most people were not thinking about – or even considering.  

Some of those posts did not survive the time (like the one comparing the Sodabowl and the Brandbowl approaches during SuperBowl 2010) and some of them are timeless and well worth the re-read.  These are the questions that organizations and vendors are asking today about Analytics.  

I’d like to use them to kick off the series again – and update it.

I won’t tell you if it’s a republished one or not – you can figure that out I hope, but I can tell you for sure this is what you need to be thinking about as we embark, again, into the world of analytics.

Let’s start with the idea of getting to know your customers better.

Back in the stone-age of computers, circa 1980s, we did not know much about our customers. We kept contact information and some account information but we did not use it often. The fact that over 30% of data out there is outdated, incorrect, or even not real (most organizations have at least one Mickey Mouse and one Donald Duck among their customers) tells the tale of businesses that didn’t spend too much time caring for their data. Once we realized that data was valuable we set to create profiles of customers, collecting as much demographic information as we could.

We later added transactional data to these databases, and we thought we knew our customers. We knew who they were, where they lived, what car they drove, what credit cards they carried, where they shopped. In some cases, we kept personalized information about their habits and likes-and-dislikes by “analyzing” their use data.

Later, we began to accumulate transactional data from CRM and similar systems, and we sought to learn about our customers by using analytical CRM in all this transactional data. If a single, 36-year-old, male customer who lives in Milwaukee and drives a Cadillac buys our product surely somebody else with the same profile will do it as well – right?

There is a lot more intricate behavior to segment customers than their demographics; what we called attitudinal (what they are going to do) and behavioral (what they are doing) information appeared from using surveys and was aggregated with existing information inside Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) systems.

Finally, getting back to this day and age, we found out that customers aren’t truthful in their answers to surveys. The reliance on biased information yielded bad analysis; depending on wrong conclusions to make decisions is never a good idea.

Can we really get to know our customers’ needs and wants?

Enter Customer Familiarity.

We are accumulating massive amounts of data on our customers, their transactions, behaviors, likes-and-dislikes – but we are not using it. Stored data is very similar to fresh fish: after a few hours, not so fresh anymore. After a few days, well – you know. Using this data is where analytical engines come in and they make sense of it, provide value, and actually drive actionable insights. And, as the title for this article explains, where we can get to know more about customers.

Why should you get to know your customers better? Glad you asked…

Better Segmentation, Better Returns – One of the tenets of success in managing relationships with customers is proper segmentation. Once the customer base is segmented, organizations can assign the necessary resources to the segments they want to retain to maximize the returns. The problem with segmentation is that it is usually done by the number of dollars spent, not by a metric that can be managed (customer purchase decisions, with very few exceptions, can only be influenced – not managed) and tracked back to KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). There are more clever segmentation techniques that create smaller, more profitable groups – but they cannot be applied without the proper data and the right analysis. Knowing not only who the customers are, or how much money they spent but also what they want and need provides need-based segmentation, making it easier to properly apply marketing, sales, and even service interactions and to optimize the relationships eventually leading to met expectations, higher satisfaction, and eventually emotional loyalty.

Expectation, Satisfaction, Loyalty –There is a simple path to loyalty: get to know customers’ expectations, meet and exceed them over time to create long-term satisfaction, turn that long-term satisfaction and habit of over-delivery into emotional loyalty. The problem that most organizations have in this equation is the first variable: getting to know their customers’ expectations. Thankfully we collected all this data about their attitudes, behaviors, needs and wants – even opinions on different matters. The massive amounts of data we collected until now (Yahoo, Google, and Sears routinely process databases in excess of a petabyte) can actually be used.   Most organizations can use this data to learn about customers’ expectations, but they do not because we are not paying attention to the right thing. They use reports and “analytics” to see if customer satisfaction is up or down, or if loyalty can be built – but not to familiarize themselves with their customers. They seldom take the time to apply he right resources to the right place.

Resource Allocation – All organizations have very limited people, time and even budget to invest in improving relationships with their customers. It should also come as no surprise that some relationships are worth investing in, where others are not so worth it. Using analytics to get to know better what customers want ensures that the allocation of resources is perfected. As Bruce Temkin, Forrester analyst specialized in Customer Experience, said in his Six Laws of Customer Experience:

CxP Law #3: Customer Familiarity Breeds Alignment

Given that most people want their company to better serve customers, a clear view of what customers need, want, and dislike can align decisions and actions. If everyone shared a vivid view of the target customers and had visibility into customer feedback, then there would be less disagreement about what to do for them. While it may be difficult to agree on overall priorities and strategies, it’s much easier to agree on the best way to treat customers.

Have I convinced you to start looking at ways to use your data better? What are you doing to learn what you customers want and need? Are you seeing the results of your initiatives? Let me know…

Personal: My Daughter Made Me Do This (But I’m Very Proud)

TL;DR –  My daughter is seeking retribution from me using her as example / stories in my blogs and presentations.  Her term is going to globals and is fundraising.  Link at bottom.

If you want to know how this works out…

I have two adorable kids: Gabby (nee Gabriela and AKA Gigi) and Coco (nee Carolina).  They are 12 and 9 respectively and its likely you know this somehow.

I use my kids in presentations and blogs here and there.  I told you once how I had to use I’d’ve in a  blog to show Gigi/Gabby/Gabriela/Oldest that its possible; told you about their Twitter and Snapchat and Facebook (yuck) habits.  Told many stories about her and her friends using Twitter, texting each other in the same room, and their obsession with screens and Minecraft (still don’t get that one).  I often refer to them when debating generational differences.

As she told me last weekend – It’s payback time.

She has been participating in Destination Imagination competitions for the past four years quite successfully.  I used to be their team manager and am still surprised at the level of dedication and work these kids put into it.  Destination Imagination is a global competition where kids from all over the world have 2-3 months to design, build, and implement a “something” using STEM and arts principles.  Beyond the learning about science, physics, chemistry, arts, and more they get self-confidence.  And they learn that winning a medal or trophy requires work, not just showing up (sorry, ranting…)

Her team under my expert tutelage (rather in spite of it) won passage to state for the past three years (competitions are quite interesting, its amazing what 3rd-5th grade kids can do when motivated).  This year they also went to state where they competed against 18 teams from all over California and won the right to compete at Globals in Knoxville TN.  They came in second by 4 points and honestly – kicked ass.  These kids are good and creative and committed.

In DI circles this is big.  Very big.  To give you a perspective: those 18 teams came from 9 regions and approximately 120 initial teams.  They placed 2nd in state by 4 points.  They worked their little fingers to the bones and were hyper creative to get there.  I’m very proud of those kids.  They are competing against the 100 best teams in the country and some 80+ teams from other countries in six different themes.

And now, the dreaded fundraising.

Costs almost $20,000 to take the entire team and materials to Knoxville.  There is no contribution from anyone other than the parents for this (they have written and signed letters to local foundations and business, gone knocking door to door, asked their school mates to contribute, and have other activities planned as well) and just three-four weeks to get as much as possible.  They are working hard to make this happen.

I promised I’d help, so here is my chance to pay her back for suffering my ribbing and exposing her secrets over the years.

Because Internet.  They setup a YouCaring site to collect money.  You want to encourage them to continue working hard and seeing results in exchange for that (and have some pocket change to spare)?


Gabby, my daughter (used to be Gigi – but kids grow and nicknames are not cute anymore daddy… yeah, kid… just wait until you start dating and you’ll see how Gigi was cute compared to the ones I have saved…) thanks you.  The Jazzy Snazzy Kitty Cats thank you (I don’t make the names, this is better than some others, trust me).

As I said – she made me do it… but I am also very proud.

disclaimer: seriously, you have no need or obligation to do this and of course no donation will change the course of the world or make me be nicer to you or your product.  If it did I am sure I’d get a sizable donation from Oracle (not a client) :-).  As much as I never ask for anything and this is only my second personal blog ever (first one celebrated Paul Greenberg’s 60th Birthday) I do apologize if you are offended or otherwise miffed.  Thanks for supporting me all these years and will go back to regular rantings on improper use of technology and whatnot next week (I’m deepening coverage of Analytics and Machine Learning – which are not the same y’all).

update: their team and others from the school district was also featured in the local news.

GetSatisfaction: The Controversy Cannot Hide The Facts

If you follow the news you know that GetSatisfaction was acquired by Sprinklr last week (link to press coverage).

Almost immediately the press and analysts went into congratulatory overdrive on a great step for both of them.  Slowly trickled out, and why I try to wait for a few days before publishing reviews, were the not-so-happy postings on the transaction – including this piece on Business Insider today (grain of salt: its business insider – the yellow press of business journalism) where one of the founders complain.

It is not, as you likely know by now, my place to take sides on fights that don’t involve me.  Ask my daughters – broken bones (sticking out) and blood are the only two reasons I get involved (thankfully never got to that).  Let the parties figure out the reasons for the fight and better yet – the reasons not to.

There are two issues though, that bear analyzing:

  1. the role of communities in marketplaces and workplaces
  2. the proper way to fund and support a startup

I’ll make it easy – I cannot contribute something worthwhile to the second one in a blog post; it is a very customized-personalized thing that changes from one to the next and whoever says different is just selling you a — well, their services.

I will gladly contribute to the first one – because i’ve been saying this for far longer than i remember: Michael Maoz (of Gartner fame and a good friend and former colleague while I was there) and I talked about this in 2002-2004 and then had to give it up since no one cared.

I wrote plenty about it before, including a difference between the many ways communities are shaping up to be.  Still, no one cared.

Now, y’all do.  Sort of – at least starting to.

Communities are (should’ve been) the only reason we started social networks and why social matters to organizations.  And they are the (renewable) power source for business transformation going forward.  Communities is something you, Mr/s. business person, should care about deeply – and yet, more than 85% of “youz” don’t.

I don’t have sufficient visibility into the dealings behind the acquisition, but I can tell you one thing: this is not the last.  If you look at the “communities providers” vendors they are all in the same: working through the resistance of 85% of the market that doesn’t get what communities are and what they do – and using the other 15% to propel them forward.

We will see more acquisitions like this very soon, in the next few months.  We will see more vendors with great technologies being folded into more complete social and even CRM suites.  We will see more dreams shattered (likely) and some realized.  We will see the beginning of the rise of communities to become mainstream (rule of thumb: 30% adoption in the marketplace) and to realize their potential.

One more thing: I am not talking about community managers and purposefully built communities.  That’s training wheels stuff when it comes to communities.

I am talking about the model that GetSatisfaction embraced and was unable to sustain in the market: ad-hoc, open, freely moldable and shapeable communities where people come to share power and knowledge – and no one controls or brands.

If you are interested in forums and structured communities you still don’t get the concept of communities for business.  This is not your grandpa communities – that was just more “training wheels” stuff.  This is about providing an infrastructure and let interested parties build and power communities.  Very different model than what you are thinking (and I know this because i talked to many of “you” every week).

What do you think? (comments below, use them)