I love seeing old friends. I get to hang with them and do stuff with them and have a drink and exchange family and business notes and see what the latest things they are doing are and all in all, having been around CRM a pretty long time at this point, I gots lots of people to see and hang out with.
That said, I don't like old knowledge or long time (already run through a good burr grinder) information. When I came to Gartner this year (which started today), I was wary about whether or not I was going to hear knowledge from the ancien regime or.....
I am happy to say, that while I recognized a fair chunk of the face, the clothes were nicer, the limbs and bodies were toned and the selection is considerably better than last year. Which means not only has Gartner apparently done its work, but they are starting to GET it.
First some numbers and a little bit of color. About 550 plus people, ranging from of course vendors to customers to analysts to people of unknown interests. Only salesforce.com and Netsuite don't seem to be here at least as far as the majors go - salesforce.com because Dreamforce is going on simultaneously and NetSuite, well, I'm not sure why they aren't here - though I'm sorry not to see them. Love those folks. But RightNow, Microsoft, SAP, Aplicor, Oracle, Neocase, SugarCRM and a myriad of others are well represented by booths and attendance and there is an exhibit hall, which is doubling as the place to chow down, a clever use of space in this lovely hotel - The Westin Diplomat in Hollywood FL.
The venue is gorgeous and convenient and right nearby are restaurants of serious quality and other ones that are great for football - Rivals the latter, and Nikki's Marina the former.
Interestingly the mood is low key but optimistic around here. I can't say its bursting with excitement or flair but the crowd is pretty much interested in furthering the CRM cause and also figuring out both how to use it and where to go. Coupled with that is a number of surrounding events related to the conference though not OF the conference such as the official launch of MyCRMCareer.com today - which I am thrilled to say - went off without a hitch. Gartner has been generous in working with MyCRMCareer to help the launch along and all the conference attendees are going to be able to become members and vendors can participate for the most part for free until the end of the year.
But enough on that for now. While much of what I heard, I've heard Gartner speak of before, there were a seriously interesting number of new kinds of presentations that not only acknowledged the changes in the world of business and itscustomers, but at least began to establish a methodology to both define a customer experience or establish the terms of the new business ecosystem. So for example, there were presentations on "Selling in a Web 2.0 World" and "Using Consumer Technology in Your Business." In fact, in the latter, the Gartner analyst, Isher Kaila clearly stated that the customers control the business environment, a very important concept that isn't often recognized by the analysts out there.
The attendees so far in conversation seem to be pretty happy with the content. One, a customer from a company who's name I had a hard time reading so don't remember, said that they had been taking copious notes on particularly how to deal with senior management when dealing with a CRM initiative.
One point, however, I heard twice during the day in two different presentations was an emphasis on using CRM to as a cost controller. While one of the analysts who said that indicated that this was something to basically tell the boss but not to really drive with because it would actually provide revenue benefit, the other seemed to think that this was some sort of driver for CRM - which I disagree with wholeheartedly. I don't even agree with setting a false expectation with the boss to get the project accepted, frankly. CRM is NEVER driven for any reason by its ability to save money. It can, but it may not. Its a costly ongoing programmatic initiative that benefits because it provides value to customers and in return receives value (in the form you hopefully are looking for) from customers.
In any case, that wasn't the primary focus of the conference. The trend toward customer experience and customer control of the ecosystem is really important here and that is day one in a nutshell.
I'm speaking this morning (day 2) at 7:30am and its 6:00am now so I've got to get ready. More later tonight and more detail. Unfortunately, I left a lot of my notes in a suite that Microsoft had after a meeting by Brad Wilson, so there are some details about yesterday I'm sure I"m forgetting. But I'll retrieve it later today and then if I did, let you know tonight.
Wish me luck.