I'm doing a lot of reading and research these days on the idea of the "experience economy" also callled "distributed capitalism" and god knows what else. What is clearer and clearer to me is that creating these business models for new, though current, generations of consumers (in CRM they're customers; in economics they're consumers. Go figure and who cares?) are becoming a matter of urgency. The portents of the new models can be seen everywhere through the democratization of communications and knowledge - with tools for "matrixed communication" (my phrase) and networked knowledge being placed in the hands of the reggalah guys and gals with the ease that the internet brings to this endeavor. You can download applications/services like IpodderX or Itunes 5.0 and voila - you can listen to radio on demand; you can pull together news aggreggators like FeedDemon or Newsgator and voila print (online) ondemand. You can download Twiki or even better, Mediawiki, the wiki application used to create that magnificent repository of human knowledge, Wikipedia, free of charge and hear, hear, you are a knowledge manager. If you have a bent for writing, well, get Bloggar and subscribe to Typepad and you're a blogging whiz. Wanna be a radio star? Castblaster or Audacity and a mike and you are - Itunes will let you be.
But its going a lot further than these sets of well known new media tools. The new paradigms, those that recognize the networked marketplace, are creeping slowly but steadily into the pores of CRM services and applications too. And that's a good thing. A REALLY good thing.
Whose Pores Are Being...Penetrated(Shiverrrrr)?Interestingly enough, the CRM companies that are the most penetrated (oooo! penetrated...) are salesforce.com - which given their model and toolsets and their nearly open source approach to development and easy availability to the development community, makes sense - and Siebel - which, I presume is due to the interest in their market presence. On the latter, what is interesting to me is that Siebel is not only a target for this newgen stuff, but is a willing target. Despite all their problems and their apparent recent loss of "we are number 1, hey!" in the CRM standings to SAP, they have been uniquely smart about understanding the generational hordes they are now facing and what's that's meant to the new customer ecosystem that is in place. They are trying to adopt a model that works for that. Look at these hallmarks:
- They were the first technology company to announce that "CRM is a business strategy" and proceed to operate as if CRM actually was a business strategy. Several analysts who shall remained unnamed, saw no significance in this. They missed the fact that Siebel is a technology license and services company and this was a big thing for a company like that. Sigh. When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?
- They are the first to market to my knowledge to develop and release a Customer Experience Blueprint, which, whether you agree with all its intricacies or not, is the right idea - again the only CRM-related technology company to do that.
- Siebel actually developed a very good (using Upshot as the foundation) On Demand service that functions as a hybrid - able to link reasonably easily (nothing is ever as easy as claimed) to their on premise applications without destroying existing work. Despite the world-famed and much maligned (by me among others) 180 degree turn on the on-demand market, Siebel has done very well by introducing something that is a class product/service.
- Finally, they are wide open to the new paradigm as I'll show in a minute
Salesforce as the other target of choice for the new tools is no big surprise. They are the most easily receptive to it in the CRM community. While I'm an historic and continuing skeptic of their hyperbolic claims of godhood, I think that they are the single most forward thinking entity in the CRM vendor and consulting communities and have developed the tools to allow their "community" to take advantage of Customforce 2.0, their well received and even exciting customization tool. They've handled Customforce 2.0 really intelligently. Customforce 1.x was available only with the Enterprise edition of salesforce.com. Customforce 2.0 is available to everyone who subscribes to salesforce.com - personal edition included. That means that the tools of personalized experience are in the hands of the masses - who subscribe of course. Couple this with sforce 6.0, which they make freely available to the public and their always ahead of the curve moves, like providing an AJAX beta developers kit, you have a hyperspeed (and hyperbolic) mindshare-focused and marketshare-directed company who knows how to bring it.
New Tools for New Schools - of Thought
So what is out there? What's going on? I'm glad you asked because in my long winded way, I'm getting to it. For the most part, the social networking platforms and applications are being integrated with salesforce.com and Siebel. So far, here's what I've found.
- Leverage- for Siebel CRM OnDemand & salesforce.com (This links are to the Leverage products associated with them, not the direct sites)
- Spoke - for Siebel and, even more so, salesforce.com (Spoke is also a major sponsor of the superhyped, but always worth it, salesforce.com user event Dreamforce '05 this week)
- VisiblePath - for Siebel, salesforce.com, and Salesnet
What each of these does in their own way, is integrate social networking analysis software and algorithms into the respective CRM services. Currently focused around sales, it allows the salespeople to see who and how the relationships in any given account or even among accounts work and what the importance is of any particular person to the mesh of relationships that exists. Based on those weighed values, the salesperson can decide who they need to talk to and what they need to do and proceed to do it. So an account no longer has a laundry list of names and positions and an "org chart" that is only meaningful with good guesses. The value (though there is always going to be a subjective element that can't be weighed or quantified) is that the salesperson will be able to see the intricacies of the entire network and how it works with itself - which will suggest "intervention points" and improve the possibilities of successful sales. The algorithms will identify the most "relevant' prospect and the paths that are optimal, given existing relationships, to that prospect. Needless to saly this is pretty valueless when dealing with a small company prospect, but in a Fortune 3500 company, something like this is important, if not invaluable. Later on this year, I'm going to do a review of each of the players in this world and give you a detailed look, beyond this first take. The importance here is not how good Visible Path or Spoke may be with CRM services, but the fact that they are integrating with them is a key indicator of the moves toward a collaborative self-contained relationship and experience based new business model.
I'm going to show you a screen so you can see what this looks like. This is Visible Path for salesforce.com's screen that shows post-algorithmic afterglow (directly captured from their website):
Note that it maps, where the individual is in the matrix, how they relate and the value (weight of importance) of that contact at that time in that matrix. Pretty hefty and pretty damned cool, too.
One More River and That Wide River is JordanLast week (actually a coupla days ago) I found out about a company called Spanning Partners from an entry on the always thought-provoking Chris Selland's blog. Their business value prop is that they provide custom RSS feeds for applications and services that are focused in and around the enterprise applications world. "They" is former NewsGator VP Charlie Wood, a really smart, very nice guy who saw a market opportunity and ventured out to do it. What particularly piqued my interest and got me to call Charlie was what he calls Spanning Salesforce 2.0, an RSS feed for salesforce.com sales information. You can use the link to see the full value of this very, very smart idea (about time someone did this) but suffice to say, it is something that any salesperson or customer service rep will love and any salesforce user, at least from what it offers, would be stupid to be without. It lets you look at with any news aggregator (see above), what you need to know - e.g. your open opportunities, your open trouble tickets, recently entered data that perhaps you didn't enter and it is easily available through the aggregator. Charlie says that he can do this for any CRM (or other enterprise application). Next week or shortly after that, he's going to give me a demo which I'll report on. But I LOVE this idea. The new media tools used in service of CRM.
Its Tim Allen's Gen X revival - The Tool Guy's New Paradigm. Now if we can get the thought leaders to start putting their minds where the actions of the neo-customer and its service wing already are - we're golden. If not, we're dust.