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Smart People Look Into the Future

I tweeted a link to this Software Advice article a few days ago because it looked pretty cool, it had a lot of my friends in it, and another friend (Lauren Carlson) wrote it. That’s good enough for most people, and I hope you read it and got something out of the experience. I can’t let it go at that, however, so I’m going to respond briefly (you hope) to some of the ideas the article brought up.

Not so briefly, though, that I could just write, “They’re all totally on target. The end.” Smart they may be, but not so smart that I can’t have a variant opinion or two.

Context services and real-time customer intelligence are the first two topics in Lauren’s article, and that makes some sense; the two can go hand-in-hand in many cases. Think about it: If much of the context info is coming from mobile devices (as Ray Wang posits), and that information is processed immediately (as Esteban Kolsky hopes), it stands to reason that there’s an opportunity to use that intelligence to reach out to the customer at the point of engagement. Granted, a business that could take advantage of this would have a structure that I can’t picture, but it’s possible. What’s more likely is that these two technologies will give businesses a better sense of macro trends in the customer base over shorter stretches of time, and allow them to adjust campaigns on the fly for better immediacy (and better incremental sales).

Television as a customer engagement channel is next, with Brent Leary predicting a convergence of CRM tech and TV tech. I’m going to come down hard here, which shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on Brent’s wisdom; he’s very smart and a good friend, I just think he’s wrong here. I’ve been following HDTV since the late 1990s—before there was content for the expensive-as-a-new-car sets that existed then—and the same hope was expressed then as now. “Digital TV will free bandwidth for added content and two-way interactions,” they said. It has happened, in limited cases with limited success, but the idea has never really blossomed. The idea that TV can be a customer engagement channel is as old as TV itself—where do you think commercials came from? The fact is, nobody wants their TV time interrupted with sales pitches (Super Bowl ads notwithstanding). The “Is this ad relevant to you?” bar at the top of my Hulu window doesn’t seem to have any effect on what I’m shown, either. Now, if the engagement was something where the consumer could quickly and unobtrusively request information from an ad to be sent to a PC or mobile device, I could get behind that. It would answer the advertisers’ need to know if they’re having an effect, and give the consumer something of value without getting in the way of the show. Also, anything coming from a Nielsen report on usage trends is a bit suspect nowadays, if my February edition of Pint of View carries any weight. It should be up on CRM magazine’s site any moment now. EDIT: Here it is.

Virtual meetings, according to Denis Pombriant, will change the way people do business. I say they already have. We travel less, have more teleconferences and Webinars, and have tools that allow us to get more done in virtual meetings than in real ones. The technology will continue to advance—it will have to, especially if we run out of oil before the newer energy sources can take up the slack and nobody can travel—but all in all this is a safe prediction. I’d love to see what we have in five years’ time, but I hope I can still go to work in my PJs and slippers, as is my right as a self-employed kinda dude.

Unified communications (UC) also gets a mention, from Paul Greenberg no less. Like virtual meetings, I feel this is something that has already arrived, and will continue to grow. There is not only a place for it, but a real need—while I say UC has arrived, it isn’t nearly universal enough. If you don’t believe me, see how well an IVR hands you off to to a live agent sometime. A lot has been done here, and I am thankful for things like screen sharing in customer service, and the ability to engage in multiple channels, but more is better. (Paul is also found earlier in Lauren’s article discussing in-memory and distributed processing technologies like SAP-HANA and Hadoop, but I’m not knowledgeable enough about them to weigh in—yet.)

Gamification bats cleanup in the article, and Brian Solis gets the thankless task (except for where Lauren thanks him) of predicting what will happen with something that is still a buzzword fantasy for many people. I think gamification has the potential to fundamentally change the way businesses and customers interact, and can also have serious positive implications for the workplace itself. I have some thoughts on this that should be published soon, so I can’t expound on them here yet, but gamification is big. It’s not for every brand or every person, but it opens up possibilities that are as yet untapped. EDIT: Here’s a link to the article, by Ryan Zuk.

Of course, these are all just my opinions—and you know what they say about opinions. A difference of them makes a horse race. Wait, what did you think I meant?

5 thoughts on “Smart People Look Into the Future”

  1. Hello marshall: I am digesting your pints book. I grabbed it as I like a good pint and have little time for fluff & puff. so far … (thumbs up)

    Reading above post (thumbs up)…. you did not say it explicitly… but i sense an under-current.. of something not reconciling / gel-ing. But I cannot put my finger, on what that is for you. Do you know?

    For me — within the quagmire of social media talk, the many “revolutions” and “movements” in progress… alot of chitter-chatter. alot providing clarity (Paul Greenberg) and alot of chasing ones tail.

    What I dont see posted, is dialogue around
    - what are the assumptions all this talk is based on
    - what are the implications on jobs being done. actions to taken.

    For example:
    There is a frequent conversation about Likes mean? The thumbs up/down.
    I say technology always mimics the human being. Not other way around. So its nothing more than “a progress indicator” your tracking well. Its NOT meant to be tracked, analysed, and worse… used as a metric for go/no-go decisions in corporations… or monetarised.

    This ruins it. Its playful. Its interactive. Its in the moment, a sense feeling, an outward expression mimick’d thru technology.

    Not an identical comparison, but similar action pre-collision of 3 forces — technology/people/economics, was people looking at my shop-front. Sometimes walking in, sometimes not. Was it valuable to track “lookers” then?

    NO — foolish.

    I singled out this “Likes” as one example. But there are a myriad of conversations of this nature going on. I get it, people seeking to understand. But my sense, is might have been caught up in the whirl-wind, and best go for a 11 day hike with no social media, no technology, just nature, people, the earth the sky… get grounded.

    WHAT-IF the assumption regarding online economics: “on the Internet, traffic equals money” is actually incorrect.

    What if traffic on “internet” is same as “lookers” at your shop-front. We just walk an on-line pavement these days. So we can walk further… we have greater walk diversity…

    So in-fact traffic is less an indicator than lookers.

    WHAT-IF the assumption I like thinking for myself is the mother of all assumptions. So getting informed, seeing thru marketing tactics, ducking sales reps reaches, so i can explore and ponder … and digest in my own way, at my on pace is really what is going on.

    Nothing more than – please leave me alone (=thumbs up) – I am quite happy and capable forming my own thinking. When I have a question, if you could answer it precisely that would be so appreciated (= thumbs up) rather than flick me off with some generic reply “you can find that on our website”. When I would like to play/explore with your product to get intimate it, please make it easy for me to do that (=double thumbs up).

    Then when I purchase, I will feel really responsible for my decision. I am already vested as I put so much time pre-sales. So just dont mess it up in purchase (=new role of sales dude) and if there is a problem after sale, address quickly would be lovely (= same role of customer service). All these get thumbs up.

    But my heart was vested in your product, during my self-generated pre-sales cycle. That is where the engagement was. The service you provide is making it easy for me e.g. getting out of the way.

    Marshall: I am not as articulate as you. In fact I am not very articulate at all.
    But I try. So really, its ok to reply back saying I’m a fruit-loop, if that is your view.
    rather you speak straight than all this fluff I keep seeing.

  2. just to clarify:
    InfusionSoft (your next blog post), is really for “internet alert” rather than marketing gunk. Its your eyes on the internet.

    So just like, I previously could see lookers at my shopfront, apps like InfusionSoft, give me eyes to my online store.

    “eyes” not leads

    When apps, like InfusionSoft, position themselves this as leads generation tools, they are not helping. They are playing to market confusion. And that for me, undermines their credibility.

    Now “eyes” is valuable. So they do have a value-proposition.
    Eye’s like you say in your post
    - gives you awareness your content is liked (+1)
    - gives you the indicator that blog post had some juicy hooks. And so if the individual interacts further.. you could inquire what specifically. But to send them a freebie or direct market back. NO. that will eventually dissuade people clicking +1. or they start dummy the system and not give their real email address or something… = ruins it

    My point — it is another example. Likes. Eyes.

  3. WHAT-IF marketing / sales has to give up control and command. Or perhaps give up the little control/command they had. So its a game of TRUST.

    TRUST in consumer can think for themselves. or TRUST in…??? (your take?)

    Same issue, that has enabled/enabling recent shifts:
    1- on-premise to SaaS applications (IT give up control of my data, my business logic is on my premise to trust in provider).
    2- IT guru app development to PaaS app development (e.g. Force.com, a favourite of mine shifts power to front liners, so trust they wont stuff the ERP up and they can combine their IP of font line actions/jobs-to-be done with app development toolset of Force.com to create apps QUICKLY, with EASE (e.g. make it easy for them))

    These are the 2 that I interact with daily. What are others?


    Middle man is being/has been cut out.
    = Empowered Consumer directly interacts to Provider.

    Defined as:
    Empowered Consumer = INDIVIDUAL + easily-accessible intelligent internet
    (= which is… CONTENT + right-time web
    (R-T web = which is mobile, cloud, API, P2P technologies, collaboration technologies)))

    For Example:
    I don’t use recruitment agents anymore. No need.
    - For business owner – anyone worth their grain of salt, will contact me direct. So many channels of communication. Every future employee could also be a future customer.
    - Anyone I want to work for, I can contact myself.
    - But recruitment adverts to have a purpose, they are “alerters” “my eyes in the on-line market place”, that something is available. So if you don’t have alot of connections in the industry, it helps. NB: Relationships still win.
    - Using Internet, I can look to see who could that be, cause I know the industry, I know the players.
    - Using Linked-In at worse case — I look at the linked-in page, see who has moved, that narrows it some-what and tells me it has not been filled, so skills-shortage, or something funny with organization’s culture if it has not been filled. I can even, drop the person who moved, a line, and ask “What did you think of the organization?” “Did they treat you well?”

  4. It is amazing how slow moving the television industry can be. I remember selling digital TVs 15 years ago and warning my customers that they need to change from analog due to the rollover to Digital. Analog is only now been switched off in Adelaide, South Australia – always the guinea pig state

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