Archives for category: innovation

The next major battlefront in technology will take place in your living room… and your dining room, kitchen, bathroom, garage…. The major players in both hardware and software – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Samsung, Amazon – are all taking position in the field, getting ready to square off. All of these big guns have already made their way into the home through gaming and entertainment, whether on console platforms or via the mobile device that never leaves your side. This has created a beachhead to give access to the whole home ecosystem, enabling them to drive deeper into the home and providing them with deeper customer insight they can deploy across their entire relationship with the consumer across every kind of device.

The major players in both hardware and software are aiming to gain access to the whole home ecosystem and deepen their relationship with the consumer across every kind of device.Let’s look at some of the recent moves the combatants have made that are changing the game of customer experience:

  • Apple announced HomeKit, a set of tools that will let users easily control home devices (heating and cooling appliances, refrigerators, lights, webcams, security systems and so on) from their iPhone or iPad.
  • Google acquired Nest’s sleek smart thermostat system, and is moving rapidly toward an integrated strategy that will extend its presence across the home ecosystem through Google Wear, Glass and Watch.
  • Samsung just announced the acquisition of home automation start-up SmartThings.
  • Amazon is buying Twitch, an online video platform and community for gamers where people discuss games or watch others as they play.

What is all this activity really about? Context. Individually, products alone provide singular features and offer value within their respective functions, whether that is a thermostat, security, time, or gaming. But combined, the way the parts work together create sources of customer value far beyond their individual use. In a way, these tech companies are trying to avoid themistakes made by the U.S. railroad industry in the mid-20th century. Railroad companies focused on their product (trains) rather than on the context that customers had for them (transportation). As a result, railroads were basically kicked to the curb as people flocked to the cars and highways that still form the main transportation arteries throughout the U.S.

To succeed, companies need the ability to create customer value in a multi-contextual world. Simply put, context is king. The ability to create more and more channels to enter the ecosystem, whether via mobile apps, home sensors, and games, creates a competitive advantage and, as a whole, a frictionless customer experience. Crucially, these services need to be designed with a holistic view, as the value of the ecosystem is both a competitive necessity and an emerging customer expectation of seamless integration. Moreover, you will see that many of these services come at a very low price point as free mobile applications allow companies to create a hub of customer value and, just as important, opportunities for ecosystem end to end value for businesses.

In this battle, there is another front opening as well in terms of whether this will evolve via open standards, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – with many services supporting multiple platforms – or be tightly woven to the provider’s ecosystem. Samsung has clearly opted for theopen integration model, while other players are experimenting with both approaches.

How will this affect enterprise customer experience strategies? An ecosystem of various capabilities, seamlessly linked, has the potential to break down both product focused siloes, increase customer value and create greater top line revenues than the disparate parts. Perhaps most important, it could create a competitive barrier, or at least an innovation stop-gap, to keep up with the continuously changing customer technology landscape.

The lines in the sand are taking shape!  Where do you want to be?  Most important, which side is vital for your success?

(Note: this post first appeared on TCS Enterprise Insights)

The emergence of the social customer, business, and partner value chain, alongside the rapid growth of social media channels to enable businesses to extend their customer engagement operations in ways never available before has also caused as many problems as it has generated significant new benefits.

The market has witnessed multiple vendors with various Social CRM solutions without a deep focus on current enterprise CRM investments from prior waves. New social analytics tightly woven to the vendor offering to determine sentiment, influence external to business intelligence enterprise tools, the rise of new social work flows gaps inside the business to link community and content search optimization, category aggregation, tablets, mobility, technology connectors, propriety lock-in platforms for businesses strategically navigate in their customer IT strategy, and so on.

Ironically, all the above new complexity and noise (and there is more) can be boiled down to two simple trends we have witnessed in the last decade:

1. Enterprise CRM operations from earlier waves have remained fairly static or have become fragmented organizationally by channel or unit, leading to the growth of technology, business, and data silos internally and a decrease in enterprise coordination around the end customer needs and channels.

2. The networked customer increasingly influences a larger portion of the business relationship across sales, service, and marketing outside of the current enterprise customer operations and expects the business, in turn, to interact in a unified fashion, without regard to channel or business touch point.

These two mega trends have ignited a firestorm of activity across the vendor landscape, be it in software (legacy and start up), platform exchanges, tablets and smart phones, developer partner communities and collaboration, new SI and vendor alliances, and more.

Unlike the CMO driven Social Media initiatives that are in various stages of deployment, the market for Social CRM and associated enterprise CRM intersections between social and operational is still in its nascent stages. Identification of the most suitable solutions, best-in-class practices, silo avoidance, private and public cloud architectural implications, and the appropriate enterprise hybrid technology mix for organizations remains greenfield (while Gartner pegs this sub-sector in CRM to be 1B in 2011, data on the ground appears to indicate otherwise).

This hesitancy has a solid rationale. Unlike the current initiatives creating Social Media COE’s and such, Social CRM has much higher implications for enterprise front office operations, involving thousands resources, organizational constraints, business and legal implications. Its what happens once an enterprise acts on the social insight.

There are a few pioneering vendors that have been able to prove their capabilities and are pursuing a ‘suite’ position in this market. Yet there is a lot of duplication (and major gaps) in the functionality, and, more important, none can claim to replace existing enterprise CRM with new social CRM solutions for the existing enterprise CRM market (that is without creating yet another Social CRM silo). Rather, an integration, hub-spoke, division based, or combination of the above is the sales model approach witnessed, with low risk POC or assessment types of engagements occurring alongside.

Moreover, there is no one vendor that ‘does it all’, unlike prior ‘feature wars’ from the earlier CRM era. As a result the entire evaluation process is fundamentally different, involving stakeholders from Finance (CAPEX vs. OPEX), Technology (Multi-Tenancy, Off Premise vs. On Premise, and SOA implications), Business (Field Adoption, Mobility, and Time to Benefits Realization), and other units, such as PR, reviewing against a completely new set of parameters.

The above considerations are critical in the Business and IT investment decision (or lack thereof, with often today a preference to postpone given the state of the market). Yet, business leaders navigating their future customer strategies, full due diligence is required now more than ever before to be positioned now for rapid execution. Businesses are completing due diligence efforts as the recognition of the need for change, even with the highest ‘noise to signal’ ratio seen in the CRM sector for years, will not abate in the coming years and competitive attrition is around the corner. Rather, indicators on ‘noise to signal’ are that it will only increase.

Without new customer engagement models envisioned that can be operationalized in the enterprise front office, and a plan to harness the benefits of change, sitting on the sidelines, ‘waiting for the dust to settle’, is not an option.

Here’s the mashable take… I disagree. PR metrics based on # of gmail users who woke up last week, and found the gBuzz tab with all these unapproved followers set by some unapproved arbiter somewhere in Mountain View, is marketing being promoted as truth.

Each “social” tool (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) is architected differently for a clear and different business and user need. For example, Twitter – 140 char limit, API architecture enabling a huge ecosystem to develop – was by design based on a business need and gap identified. FB is at least perceived by end users as “semi-closed” as I “think” I have user control on the platform, and assume no default actions impacting my data will be taken without prior consent and notification (although they too had find out the hard way with many missteps). But all this is past history and common knowledge and, moreover, both Twitter and FB are social platforms.

The email channel and platform is different. Emails (unlike blog posting, FB status update, Twitter, etc.) can be analogous to phone conversations, making it subject to even stricter scrutiny over control and privacy. Has Google not learned from their social competitors and frenemies?  Has it really become that much of a gBubble?

They truly messed up on the roll out of gBuzz last week by unnecessarily exposing this issue, and are correcting the trust issue with PR and updates now. We can now add them to the growing “loss of customer trust” list of United, Toyota, etc.  What’s unsettling is that this should have been so obvious from the start. With all the data Google manages, is it wrong to hold them to a higher standard than a typical start-up now? If gBuzz simply had been introduced like a standalone offering (e.g. like Gmail was slowly nurtured) that allowed the end user to walk through who to import/add, how to integrate with Gmail, what to set on content, etc. it would have completely changed the dynamic. Sneakily showing up as a Trojan Horse in Gmail, exposing email addresses, without any user notification or authorization was the easy road to take to gain immediate market share. However it was paid with a major hit to core of the Google brand – user trust. Trust takes years to develop, but can be destroyed in a nano-second.

The implied assumption is that I trust Google to manage my data in a way that ensures all PII data is masked. This has been the standard Google has set internally and externally since day one. In return for this handover of trust, Google generates a very profitable keyword advertising business, along with side products that further create vendor lock in and revenue. That trust assumption was heavily challenged by the errors last week and it just served to re-trigger further debates raging now over Google (and the internet in general) on ownership control and privacy concerns.

I agree, gBuzz will not fade as its embedded in the mighty Google twin pillars of Search and Email. Maybe this issue will fade fast as everyone turns the page (“nothing to see here, move along”) and I give kudos in that senior management recognized almost immediately, albeit retroactively. There is clearly plenty of time to recover, and I imagine this will fade, but something was definitely malfunctioning in Mountain View last week. Oh yea… and “never waste a crises”.

The shifts in technology and social media are already disrupting the ways businesses go to market. You can note the impacts by the day in the news (and by the tweet in the blogger world). What you do not see, yet, are indicators of any market-wide business understanding on how to address, although there are plenty of vendors with “solutions” to choose from already. Today, most businesses still seem remain primarily reactive (Toyota, United, Maytag?).

One way to view how this shift impacts business strategies is seeing how they impact the “Touch vs. Scale” matrix.

Current models in place today are either B2B/Enterprise Sales (High Touch, Low Scale, F2F Sales Teams, Med-Long Cycles) or B2C/Consumer Sales (Low Touch, High Scale, Marketing, Call Center, Fast Cycles). And the SME space has been (often awkwardly) in the middle between these points.

Recent shifts in technology are further moving into the High Touch / High Scale “fourth quadrant”, an area often targeted, but rarely reached until recently.

I think most already understand (or “feel”) this, but have a hard time figuring out the ramifications to their current business models. There is already a large number of technology solutions, but many are without a business focused decision-making framework to help align and guide the Business/IT planing  processes.

New Yorker article on China’s “863 Program” sounds like 90’s Fed “Advanced Technology Program” (or “TIP” now) http://bit.ly/85uVim