Archives for category: technology trends

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)

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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.

The unrelenting spread of social networks, with its ability to entice the masses to supply vast amounts of personal data (knowingly or not), has generated a corresponding spike in demand for social software and services to manage an organization’s “social identity”. Not surprisingly, this mandate has landed on the CMO’s desk for the most part. I would argue that positioning Social CRM as a Marketing owned and led initiative has the potential to create more issues, both internal and external, that far outweigh the shiny new SCRM tools and services available.

To put it in context, I can understand the desire to run fast waving the new “Inbound Marketing” flag. The first wave of CRM solutions neglected, to some degree, the marketing functions. First and foremost, it focused on enabling SFA (it’s the pipeline stupid!). Service came next, but usually with another CRM silo bolted on (it’s the ticket stupid!) or web self service. During this phase, Marketing was supported via CRM campaign management, web analytics, etc. but often the critical effectiveness data often came from within the internal CRM Sales and Service systems (or internal marketing tools and external data providers).

That’s not to say customer alignment across front office units was not the most critical enterprise goal from above during this period. It was always the mandate, required for the ever elusive 360 degree view. Various initiatives were kicked off to do just that, with some successes here and there, some failures, and lots of internal cross-unit complexities to manage.

Does anybody think the end customer cared during this phase of business activity? While corporate front office business units and IT were sorting out their differences between tools, data, systems, and business languages – – the customer moved on. The technology cost curve made it possible for individuals to invest their own set of Sales (research), (self) Service, and Marketing (platforms) reaching millions in a nano-second. Many of these customers now aim this newly acquired arsenal directly back at the company (rightly or wrongly).

Or, in other words, inside out processes turned outside in, customer relationship management turned into customer managed relationships.

So where are we today? Even now, most companies are in a reactionary mode. For organizations that exist in markets where there is individual choice, it’s simply matter of time before the new customer arsenal hits their turf (and of course there are always – two – ways to learn).  For others trying to be proactive on the wave, it has been mostly directed as a mandate for “Inbound Marketing” or “Social CRM/Twitter” based initiatives (side note: I have a problem with the “Inbound Marketing” term as its seems just as flawed as “Outbound Marketing” – last time I checked customer conversations and engagement are bi-directional, no?).

This is a start, but will still miss the end goal as we are repeating the past. Creating a truly customer centric operating model that is cross Sales, Service, and Marketing is a bigger imperative now more than ever. If anything, the new drivers should seek to empower Customer Service agents as much as it does Marketing.  And Sales, always looking for the most complete customer profile and activity data, needs to be in sync with Service and Marketing now as well. Revenue generation (or loss) activities on an account can occur at any touch point (so long pipeline and tickets!).

So what’s my point? Unleashing Social CRM initiatives via a Marketing-only silo has the potential to repeat historical failures if not properly planned and synchronized. Deployed in isolation, Social CRM can make the company look even more flat footed and less connected. In the first phase of CRM much of these miss-steps were, for the most part, invisible to the end customer.  Today, it can be blasted with all the world to see.

So really, this should be a mandate for real culture change within the front office first (the change that didn’t happen during the first wave), integrated strategic planning across Sales, Service, and Marketing second, and then deploying and managing the shiny new Social CRM initiatives, tools, and services last. #scrm #crm

Businesses are more likely to invest in private Clouds over the next couple of years than take a leap of faith into public alternatives, but over time a hybrid model will emerge.

http://www.businesscloud9.com/topic/management/private-clouds-set-dominate-until-2012-says-gartner

Just got this about a month ago.  Pen and Paper as the Social Computer…  Amazing technology and thinking over there.  Pen, dot paper, then integrated with the both desktop, web, and social network.

Back to the future indeed.

The Wall Street Journal 2009 Technology Innovation Awards


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