Tag Archives: enterprise 2.0

SAS Analytics and Why It Matters to Customer Experience

I just got back from a brief but intense conference with SAS. Followers of customer experience, social CRM, and other related topics will know SAS from … well, they might not know SAS very well at all. This is both understandable and a shame, but more on that in a moment.

On display at the the SAS Premiere Business Leadership conference were everything from customer stories of how high-powered analytical tools get them closer to their customers, all the way to computing clusters that eat terabytes of data in seconds and spit out detailed reports and predictive models in near real time. I got to watch a live demo of SAS Visual Analytics, a program that makes what used to take an advanced degree to create and turns it into a drag-and-drop tool with as much granularity and complexity as you want. It’s not just a dashboard, mind you—detailed reports with multiple variables and axes (the plural of axis, not the plural of chopping tool) can be built on the fly, several levels deep. The kicker? It’s all processed server-side so you can run it on a tablet as easily as on a PC.

Those servers aren’t necessarily budget-breakers either. SAS has been putting a lot of effort into working well in Hadoop clusters, inexpensive distributed computing environments operating under the Apache Hadoop open-source framework. There’s nothing to stop a company from running SAS on something like an Oracle grid (except maybe Oracle preferring you run Exalytics), but it doesn’t have to. Tremendous power is working its way into the hands of smaller and smaller businesses with each advancement; trickle-down theory doesn’t work in economics, but it works like crazy in computing.

SAS also talked bout products for information management, fraud detection, and hospitality/entertainment businesses (complete with their relevance to the average person), most of which are already in the wild or will be available by December.

An example of that relevance: Imagine a credit card company running multiple loyalty programs for cash back, discounts, etc., across multiple cards, each with a number of messages and contacts for customers. Customer X only wants a small number of contacts per day/week. Analytics can optimize and decide which messages to send for best results. It’s a very complex analysis that could take 4-6 hours. With the new system, running the same SAS interface, the company can do it in 2-4 minutes. Similarly, a retailer can manage pricing across thousands of SKUs and hundreds of shops on an individual level, rather than by region.

If you’re wondering at the amount of attention I’ve been devoting lately to high-end hardware, middleware, and enterprise software that the typical customer will never see or even know exists, let me explain. As much as I love the intimacy and immediacy of social CRM, customer experience, and all things SMB, it doesn’t happen ex nihilo. Businesses can track your preferences and history, make decisions about you as a customer, and provide compelling offers only because of advanced analytical engines running on powerful computing backbones. While it’s nice to imagine a team of elves personally interacting with you and evaluating your account, the fact remains that those elves are actually massive computing resources digesting millions of lines of database entries every second. Unstructured data—the kind that comes from social tools—is especially hard to manage, and the amount of it is growing at a rate that has storage vendors drooling.

Analytics, grid computing, in-memory operations—these are how the sausage is made, and the more advanced it gets the better the sausage tastes. Understanding what’s happening behind the CRM suite and the social platform makes me that much better at my job.

Besides, all that metal, silicon, and Big Data feeds a deep-seated geek desire in me for tech porn with MOAR POWAH! Petrol heads and overclockers know what I’m talking about. The possibility that all this face-melting power will make my life more science fiction than it already is sets me all a-quiver.

Oracle OpenWorld, Part 3: The NetSuite Addendum

Oracle OpenWorld got me reacquainted with SaaS ERP and CRM provider NetSuite, as part of a week that was all about making clear that which had been a bit foggy for a while. I hope you’re not expecting me to be writing about how NetSuite has re-emerged, because they never went away. The fault is all mine for not providing more coverage of the company the past couple of years—I let the San Mateo-based company drop off my radar because their primary focus is ERP, while mine is not.

There are two reasons this was a mistake (three, actually, but only two of them matter to you). The first is that NetSuite’s CRM prowess, while not the thing that brings most customers to the door, has been consistently excellent over the years, good enough to rival any CRM vendor’s offering. Second is that the company has found a way of making ERP relevant to customer experience, which is no mean feat—more about that in a moment.

The third reason is that the NetSuite team is composed of some of my very favorite people in the industry, and I’ve done them a disservice by not staying in touch. It has nothing to do with the lovely dinners and bottles of liquor they’ve bought me in times past, not the CES-level swag that often accompanies their conferences and other gatherings. I mention that because it’s always a good idea for people like me to disclose what might serve to bias us in a company’s favor. It takes a lot to bribe me, though; I’m perfectly happy to pee in a vendor’s Cheerios if I think there’s something wrong with their products or strategy, no matter how nice they’ve been to me; the best they can hope for in such a case is that I’ll try not to be mean about it. Fortunately, NetSuite has given me no reason for any cereal micturation.

Here’s what got me back in the business of observing NetSuite. The company showed off a very snazzy e-commerce engine that runs directly on top of the two-tiered ERP system that’s part of NetSuite OneWorld. I say snazzy because there’s nothing basic-looking about it; you get a highly polished front end for the minimal required work of setting a few parameters and telling the system what colors and logos it should use.

The two-tier ERP concept is pretty clever in its own right; the system allows users to run NetSuite OneWorld ERP at subsidiaries and satellite offices, while maintaining the value of its existing investment in on-premises ERP software (in this case Oracle’s) at the home office.

I am probably assuming facts not in evidence, but the sample we were shown seemed superior to anything I’ve used as a consumer—uncluttered, sensible, and minimalist, yet vibrant and friendly enough to draw the user along the buying process. I haven’t had a proper demo—as I said, we’ve been out of touch—but I plan to rectify that ASAP and let you know what’s going on with NetSuite behind the pretty face.

I will caution you not to take my initial enthusiasm as anything more than that; because I have recollections of NetSuite products from just a couple of years ago, and am impressed with what little I’ve seen, I am inclined to think the company’s offerings are still strong. However, I also recall a notable lack of redundant data centers just a couple of years ago, and it appears they still only have the one. It should also be noted that there’s a good reason for NetSuite to be present at an Oracle conference: Larry Ellison owns a consiberable stake in NetSuite, and in fact his money is what founder Evan Goldberg used to get started in 1998. If Oracle wants to buy itself some new toys, NetSuite is always a possible target—and that has to factor into any assessment I make.

Final thoughts on Oracle Open World 2011

I got back from San Francisco a few days ago, after attending Oracle’s annual conference, and have been ruminating ever since. You can see a summary here (I wrote some news coverage for CRM magazine), but that’s journalism—there’s no place for my own opinions. What follows are the impressions that don’t belong in a neutral-toned article. Nothing horrible, but still inappropriate for news articles outside of the New York Post.

I should point out first, however, that Oracle paid for my flight and hotel accommodations, and treated me to a couple of meals to boot. The Oracle analyst relations people are top notch, and the company is smart enough to allow them to do their job without undue interference.

1. Oracle Is Too Big. This should not surprise anybody. I don’t even think it’s necessarily a problem—economies of scale are important for industries valued in the billions of dollars and touching every facet of life in the developed world. It becomes a problem when you have a diverse array of products to display, but only one opportunity to do so.

OOW11 was two conferences, one for hardware and one for software. Unfortunately, the two conferences were co-located and ran consecutively, so all the hardware people got their content first, and then all the software people got theirs. This was especially evident at Larry Ellison’s two keynotes. The first, on Sunday evening, was a drool session for server wonks, with nary a bone thrown to the applications crowd. The result? A number of walkouts, and scads of Twitter heckling. The second, on Wednesday afternoon, introduced enterprise social networking tools and the Oracle Public Cloud—a big deal for apps people, useless for server people. More walkouts, and probably some heckling as well.

This approach isn’t likely to change, either. Throwing two events would be more expensive than throwing one big one, and Oracle’s new Engineered Systems initiative will bind hardware and software even tighter. Should it succeed, there will be even less reason to separate the shows.

2. Larry Ellison Doesn’t Get People. He’s an extremely sharp fellow, this Larry Ellison. He’s passionate about Oracle technology, and he’s an absolute shark for business. But he hasn’t figured out these flesh creatures around him. Sunday’s widely-ridiculed talk about nuts and bolts—Oracle Exadata, Exalogic, and new Exalytics servers, and the new SPARC SuperCluster general purpose megaserver—was passionate enough to hold my interest for a while, despite being irrelevant to my immediate needs. It made a strong business case for the devices, and was really a love letter to the technology. No doubt about it: Oracle has some very sexy tech, and it runs the world.

But the whole thing was numbers. “Ten times faster than X! One-fifth the power consumption of Y!” Complete failure to engage people, to tell a story that sold these behemoths on anything but raw capability. Attendees of OOW10 said it was like he picked up right where he left off the previous year, with as little regard for the audience as he exhibited then.

By comparison, the Wednesday keynote showed us a different Ellison. His presentation, likely due in part to the poor reception from Sunday and the gaffe of cancelling Marc Benioff’s scheduled Tuesday address, was lively, pojnted, and full of humor and fire. I don’t know Larry Ellison personally, but I’ve observed him over the years and seen him speak on several occasions. This was the first time I felt he was human, and I liked it. He rose to the occasion, introducing a family of Cloud apps whose relevance to individual users as well as the enterprises that employ them was clear.

This second address wasn’t perfect. It was largely devoid of specifics and, coming on the last full day of the conference, left little opportunity to get more information, or even build up much buzz. Introducing the Oracle Social Network and Oracle Public Cloud earlier on would have given us industry analysts and reporters a chance to talk amongst ourselves, dig for details, and basically do Oracle’s PR work for it. Instead, we spent three days begging for scraps, and Oracle leaders like Anthony Lye and Steve Miranda were reduced to telling us “there’s an announcement coming on Wednesday, and we can’t talk about it.”

3. If You’re Going to Give Free Press to the Competition, Do It on Your Terms. If you heard a loud bang on Tuesday night, it was Oracle shooting itself in the foot. Marc Benioff, chairman of Salesforce.com, was scheduled to give an address at OOW11 on Wednesday, as he’d done for at least the previous two years. At the last moment, Oracle (Larry Ellison) cancelled the address—changed the time, actually, to Thursday 8 a.m., after many attendees would have already left. This, combined with Marc having a prior commitment in that time slot, effectively killed the session.

Perhaps inviting Benioff in the first place was a bad move. He’d been critical of Oracle’s strategy and products in years past, and there’s no reason to think this year would have been different. The social tech Oracle was introducing would put the two companies into more direct competition, so providing a podium could be a risk.

As bad as it might have been, blocking the address was a HORRIBLE move. Marc Benioff is a master of the public address. Every word out of his mouth sells Salesforce.com and the vision of Cloud computing. Ellison’s actions removed any constraint Benioff might have had to be a gracious guest; they cast Benioff in the role of injured party and Ellison in the role of jerk; and they cost him money by making him have to get a different venue at the last minute. In other words, shit just got real.

Marc was able to use his time to attack Oracle much more fully than he could as part of the Open World calendar, pitting Salesforce’s fully-formed and successful Cloud model against Oracle’s still-unannounced one. Larry’s rebuttal in his own Wednesday address was intriguing and pointed, but it didn’t have enough meat on its bones. For the first time in history, Oracle was fighting outside its weight class. It’s believed Larry set this debacle in motion on his own initiative, which means there’s nobody else to blame. Stupid move from a very smart man.

4. Follow Your Announcements With Facts. I am really looking forward to seeing OPC and OSN in action. Their introduction alone was worth my attendance, and 2012 is going to be all the more exciting for the social technology crowd because of it.

The old show biz mantra is to always leave the audience wanting more. OOW11 took it to an unreasonable extreme, but it left us wanting anything. I can tell you little more about Oracle’s social and Cloud initiatives than that they exist, and there are some early adopters. I can’t name the early adopters because of NDA. I can’t tell you what the apps do, because the demo was sparse and the people who could tell us more were gagged. I can’t even tell you when to expect to see them in the real world, because the company’s official line is that no release schedule has been set beyond “over the next several weeks.” This is not how a company generates buzz. It’s a great way to make us industry watchers very suspicious of what we’re being shown.

Time spent by top executives deflecting questions could have been spent arming us with the facts we need to get the message out, all by tweaking the announcement date a few days. Now we have to beg for follow-on briefings and demos when available, hoping that satisfying our curiosity will wash this bad taste from out mouths.

5. Please Invite Me Back Next Year. Oracle is an incredibly important company. Even when Open World is a misfire, it provides valuable information, access, and networking. My criticisms are honest, and I offer them in the hopes you’ll make OOW12 much better for us, and thus for yourselves. Prove me wrong about what I perceive as your mistakes. I look forward to it.

Enterprise Social CRM a la Tibco

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned them before, but TIBCO (Tibco hereafter, because I hate capitalizing entire company names) is one of those wicked-smart companies that is moving social CRM forward in a usable, well thought out way for the enterprise. Tibco, and its tibbr product in particular, needs more exposure, because it has got a really solid grip on what businesses need to make social computing part of the work day.

Today marked the launch of tibbr 3.0, which Tibco is calling “the 21st century universal inbox for social computing in the enterprise.” Tibbr 3.0 will be generally available in August 2011; you can read the launch press release here, but I’m inclined to give my own thoughts about what’s on offer.

Videoconferencing. One of the components is tibcast, a video conference app with desktop video and voice. You might think this is no big deal, since there are several companies who have conference modules, and at least one or two who only do video conferencing. the difference is that tibcast is built right into your desktop work environment, and is completely ad-hoc. Nothing needs to be set up or agreed upon in advance; you can decide to have a conference on the fly with anybody you can reach, and just start the thing up. Anybody on the team who wasn’t available has full access to the recorded meeting, as well as any files that were shared.

Related to this is Tibbr Voice. When you dial into 1-800-TIBBR, the system recognizes your phone number (and thus your permissions) and allows you to post voice memos directly to your wall, or somebody else’s.

Document Management. Ram Menon, Tibco’s EVP of marketing, has been mentioning lately that next year, businesses will generate an estimated 1,500 exabytes (1 EB = 1 billion GB) of files—some 33 trillion documents—in addition to all the other data they will produce. Each year, what Menon calls “Where’s the File Syndrome” grows worse, and is exacerbated by cases where static copies must be distributed.

Tibbr 3.0 integrates with any folder file system (the example given is Microsoft SharePoint), granting discovery and write-back capabilities while preserving all corporate permissions and security. You can’t accidentally share a forbidden document by dragging it to the wrong area of your desktop, but you can make it available to the right people as if they had their own copy while still preserving a single version of the truth.

Easing Social Sprawl. Anybody who deals with more than a few social networking tools knows what social sprawl is—our attentions are split between so many communities and different kinds of interaction that managing the feeds becomes its own full time job. Tibbr Communities provides a single work space for them all, with multiple walls and varying access rights—again, you can’t accidentally put sensitive data on the wrong wall. All the pieces of your social media pile are consolidated into one installation. Tibco is calling this an industry first.

Actionability in the Social Context. Seeing the activity of coworkers, partners, and customers, and being able to communicate about it quickly and easily, is a huge plus. But business operations need more than a news feed and some chat. Tibco draws on its SOA expertise to let users act on what they see in the feed without going to another applications. Tibbr 3.0 lets you do things like approve purchase orders, OK budget requests, or order more inventory without ever leaving your wall—the place where you found out about the needed actions.

Further drawing on SOA, Tibbr 3.0 introduces tibSmartwidgets (I don’t choose the names, I just report on ’em), a way to embed tibbr 3.0 into any existing enterprise apps through context-sensitive widgets.

What it all means to me. From what I can see, tibbr 3.0 is bloody beautiful in concept and execution. I might never again work in a large corporation where all of these new and awesome technologies will be used, but I can imagine using something like tibbr if I did, and feeling like it was how things should always have been. Feeling faceless, powerless, out of the loop, disconnected—these are major concerns for modern workers, and the younger generations coming into the work force won’t stand for it.

A number of good point solutions and adaptations of consumer-level social technology already exist, and there is a growing movement to integrate them into a single social business environment. Tibco is doing a fantastic job of it with tibbr. This is full-bore SCRM here.

Tibco is a name well known to industry insiders, but it seems the company doesn’t get much attention beyond those circles. I think this is a mistake. Tibco is doing game-changing work, and I urge you to take a closer look. Even if you’re happy with what you’ve got, or are a competitor, make Tibco part of the conversation. A rising tide floats all boats.

SuperNova Awards

There’s something in the air lately that is encouraging recognition of clever businesses. Constellation Research Group, headed by the amazing Ray Wang, has just announced its own set: the Supernova Awards. I am honored to be part of the judging panel for Social Business. Here’s the release.

THE GENESIS

Today, we announce an award that celebrates and recognizes leaders who have overcome the odds to successfully apply emerging and disruptive technologies for their organizations.

In Search of Protostars

Most award programs recognize the technology suppliers for their advancements in the market. Few, if any programs, have recognized individuals for their courage in battling the odds to effect change in their organization. The Constellation SuperNova Awards celebrate the explorers, the pioneers, and the unsung heroes who successfully put new technologies to work. More importantly, these leaders have created disruptions in their market.

“Applying technology innovation to effect business results requires exceptional organizational leadership and teamwork. It is not enough to simply implement the technology. To ensure success, these leaders had to build buy-in relationships across all levels of the organization – appealing to rational and emotional senses – as well as make tough calls in system delivery to make change easier”, noted Amy Wilson, Vice-President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Inc.

An all star cast of judges will identify applicants who embody the human spirit to innovate, overcome adversity, and successfully deliver market changing approaches. Applicants will be subjected to a vigorous set of criteria that reflect real-world and pragmatic experience. Semifinalists will be selected in five categories: social business, mobile enterprise, cloud computing, advanced analytics, and emerging technologies.

“Innovation is the life blood of businesses. We need to celebrate those pioneers who are able to see what the others don’t, who are willing to invest their time and energy while others don’t dare to, and whose passion inspires us all to look innovation in the eyes, embrace it and become innovators.” said Paul Papadimitriou, Vice-President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Inc.

THE DETAILS

Twitter: @SuperNovaAwards
Website: www.supernovaawards.com (Not Up Yet)

Time Lines
June 6, 2011 – First day of submissions
July 31, 2011 – Last day of submissions
August 15, 2011 – Protostars (semi-finalists) announced
November 4th, 2011 – SuperNovas (finalists) announced

All Star Judging Panel
Our judging panel comes from the best of the best. We’ve mixed an esteemed group of media professionals and industry experts with our analysts. Judges have agreed to volunteer their time in the evaluation of the submissions. The 2011 judging panel includes:

Social Business
Aaron Pearson (@apearson), Senior Vice-President – Weber Shandwick (PR Agency Lead)
Jeff Ashcroft (@jeffashcroft), Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.
Barney Beal (@barneybeal), Managing Editor – Tech Target
Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe), President – The 56 Group, LLC, Constellation Board of Advisors
Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky), Founder – ThinkJar, Constellation Board of Advisors
Marshall Lager (@lager), Managing Principal – Third Idea Consulting, LLC
David Myron (@dmyron), Editor In Chief – CRM Magazine
Jon Swartz (@jswartz652), Technology Reporter – USA Today

Mobile Enterprise
Kewal Varia (@kewalv), Managing Director – Spark Communications (PR Agency Lead)
David Brousell (@drb1), Editor-in-Chief – Thomas Publishing/Managing Automation
Bob Egan (@bobegan), Chief Analyst – Sepharim Group
Maribel Lopez (@maribellopez), Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.
Jason Maynard (@jasonamaynard), Managing Director – Wells Fargo Securities
Mike Simons (@ITjournalist), Editor In Chief – ComputerWorldUK
Thomas Wailgum (@twailgum), Co-Editorial Director – ASUG News

Advanced Analytics
Susan Thomas (@susantrainer), CEO – Trainer Communic@tions (PR Agency Lead)
Courtney Bjorlin (@cbjorlin), Co-Editorial Director – ASUG News
Bridgette Chambers (@bchambersASUG), CEO – America’s SAP User Group (ASUG), Constellation Board of Advisors
Douglas Henschen (@dhenschen), Editor at Large – Information Week
Dennis Howlett (@dahowlett), Blogger – ZD Net Irregular Enterprise, Constellation Board of Advisors
Chris Kanaracus (@ckanaracus), Technology Reporter – IDG News Service
Erin Kinikin – Board of Advisor – Constellation Research, Inc.
Amy Wilson (@awils) – Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.

Cloud Computing
Colette Ballou (@coletteballou), President and CEO – Ballou PR (PR Agency Lead)
Naomi Bloom (@infullbloom), Managing Partner – Bloom & Wallace
Larry Dignan (@ldignan), Editor-in-Chief – ZDNet
Zoli Erdos (@zolierdos), Editor – CloudAve
Mary Jo Foley, Editor (@maryjofoley) – ZDNet All About Microsoft Blog and Contributor – Cloud Pro
Debra Lilley (@debralilley) – Board of Advisor – Constellation Research, Inc. & Chairperson – UK Oracle Users Group
Kash Rangan (@kashrangan), Managing Director – Merrill Lynch
Frank Scavo (@fscavo), Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.
Krishnan Subramaninan (@krishnan), Industry Analyst and Researcher – KrishWorld & CloudAve
Alex Williams (@alexwilliams), Editor – SiliconAngle

Emerging Tech
Vanessa Camones (@vanessacamones), Principal and Founder – theMIX Agency (PR Agency Lead)
Adrian Bowles (@ajbowles), Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.
John Furrier (@furrier), Editor and Founder – SiliconAngle
Annalie Killian (@maverickwoman), Catalyst for Magic – AMP , Executive Producer – Amplify Festival
Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk), Co-Editor -ReadWriteWeb
Paul Papadimitriou (@papadimitriou), Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.
Robert Scoble (@scoblelizer), Tech Evangelist – RackSpace
Alan Silberberg (@alanwsilberberg), Vice President – Constellation Research, Inc.

Awards Criteria
Judges will evaluate submissions in six key areas:

  1. Building the business case for exec sponsorship – How did you overcome internal adversity for the project? What was used to build the case for buy – in among the executives? How did you fund the project?
  2. Applying change management critical success factors – What communication channels did you face? How did the organization gain acceptance for new approaches? What worked? What didn’t work? What were your key lessons learned?
  3. Deploying innovative uses of emerging and disruptive technology – How did you determine which technology was feasible? Why did you choose the vendor or approach you chose for this technology? How did IT and the business cooperate to apply new technologies?
  4. Measuring the metrics that matter – What metrics drove the business case? Why were these metrics chosen to measure the impact of the technology? How did you measure success with those technologies?
  5. Assessing the impact of innovation? What was the impact to stakeholders (internal and external)? What was the impact to the business? What was the impact on the competitive landscape?
  6. Coolness factor for the story – How well was the story told? Is this story usable for a panel on best practices? Was this truly game changing or disruptive? Can others learn and apply the lessons told?

THE REWARDS

All semifinalists will be invited to Constellation’s Connected Enterprise 2011, an invitation only innovation event in Scottsdale, Arizona from November 4th to 6th, 2011. Described as TED meets Davos meets Innovation summit, the three-day executive retreat will include mind expanding keynotes from visionaries and futurists, interactive best practices panels, The Constellation SuperNova Awards event, a golf outing, and an experiential spousal/partner program.

“Connected Enterprise 2011 brings together our research, our clients, and a network of thought leaders into a networked physical and online community” noted Maribel Lopez, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Inc..

A select group of semi-finalists will be chosen to present on one of five best practice panels at the event. The panelists will receive one innovation retreat invitation and one spousal/partner experiential invitation. All semifinalists will become honorary SuperNova community members of Constellation Research.

All finalists will win a one -year subscription to Constellation’s Research Library and complimentary tickets to the Connected Enterprise 2012 event, an estimated value of $120,000 per winner. Additional rewards will be announced as sponsors are added to the Constellation’s Connected Enterprise 2011 event. For sponsorship details contact: sales (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.

APPLY NOW

Applications can be obtained by using the official submission form.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Questions?

Send your comments to the blog or reach Constellation via email: SuperNova (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com.

Disclosure

Although we work closely with many mega software vendors, we want you to trust us. For the full disclosure policy, see the full client list on the Constellation Research website.

Copyright © 2011 R Wang and Insider Associates, LLC All rights reserved.

CRM Idol: Something Big for the Small Standouts

Have you ever noticed how all the talk in the CRM sphere tends to focus on a handful of big names? The companies that have already achieved massive success and recognition (relatively speaking; I still need to explain the concept of CRM and SCRM to just about everybody I meet)? It seems there’s no room for smaller vendors to compete, despite the fresh approaches and innovative ideas they may bring.

That state of affairs is a thing of the past. Once again, Paul “CRM Godfather” Greenberg is shaking up the industry—he has masterminded CRM Idol 2011: The Open Season. As the name suggests, it’s something of a riff on American Idol, but with more talent and less drama. Entries are being accepted, starting today; more about that later.

A total of 60 companies (40 in North America, 20 in EMEA) will present their commercially-available CRM wares to a panel of judges composed of the greatest influencers, analysts, and journalists in the field (and also me). Finalists chosen from these vendors will create a 10-minute video presentation to fight it out for a choice of the top prizes.

The prizes, you ask? Several. Free consulting from members of the judging panel and other top minds in the field. Webinars conducted pro bono by the same. Subscriptions and/or beta access to leading CRM suites so partner applications and integrations can be developed. And the coveted free publicity, consisting of a joint product review produced and signed by the judging panel, released immediately through a huge list of media partners.

And since everybody’s a winner in a game like this, everybody gets the review. Like American Idol, though, there is a risk of the Simon Cowell experience—a weak product and a bad presentation will be reviewed appropriately.

But enough of my paraphrasing and editorializing—you want the meat of the subject. Here it is, straight from Paul:

The Idea

Most of what we’re trying to do was outlined in the pre-announcement announcement of CRM Idol last week. But it bears some repeating:

Small companies – at least in the CRM software related world – and that means social software world, in this case, too – abound. There are thousands of companies out there that are possibly innovative, possibly commercially viable in a big way, possibly the next big thing. But, as we said, there are thousands of them. And, no matter how great your product is, if no one knows about it, well, then, oops. Not a good thing.

These small companies are all making efforts to get into the ecosystem that could benefit them – one which includes investors, influencers, technology/strategic partners, media connections, etc. While getting support from this powerful ecosystem is by no means a guarantee of success, it can be enormously helpful in getting well down the road there. But, those small companies are often thwarted in that effort by either really bad PR people, or just the incredible amount of companies out there trying to reach into the ecosystem who are pummeling the small amount of influencers, etc. every week with requests to demo or talk.

Now, to be fair to the influencers, they are human beings with lives that aren’t built around supporting this one company that really thinks they are it. All they know is that each of them is getting between 20-50 requests a week to take a demo or conversation with someone who owns or represents a company they’ve never heard of and never talked to yet. In addition to those that they know. Often enough, they are pitched by a public relations person who is either inexperienced or not really good at their job who makes no effort to find anything out about the person that they are pitching to. So the influencer, journalist, venture capitalist gets a generic curve thrown at them that doesn’t even break over the plate – guaranteeing that the email is going to be discarded as a matter of course before the first paragraph is even read. Or it could be that on a particular day the influencer got 10 pitches and had a headache and didn’t want to see any of them.

As unfair as generic pitches and high volumes of noise are to the influencers in the highly desirable ecosystem we are chatting about here, it is a problem because what are probably a lot of good companies are never given a chance to move ahead because of the difficulties inherent in the process and the vagaries of bad luck on any given day.

Which is why CRM Idol 2011: The Open Season exists.

The concept is simple, small companies out there. If you meet the submission criteria outlined below, you will be given the opportunity, first come first serve, to secure a time slot on a specific day that will put you in front of some of the most influential people in the CRM/SCRM world. They will spend an hour with you in a demo to hear about your technology product – software only – and they will write a jointly signed review of what they saw of you – that will be published in multiple venues as soon as its written. It can be a good review, a bad one, a mix or indifferent. There’s risk on your part to be taken here. But it is something that you need to be aware of. The reviews will go up as soon as the 5 judge sign off on the final content. They won’t be exhaustive reviews but they will be opinionated and fair.

Forty companies from the Americas and twenty companies from EMEA (that means ONLY Europe, the Middle East and Africa) will get a shot at this – again first come first serve (more later on what that means). Of the 40 in the Americas, 4 finalists will be chosen. (NOTE: There will be an APAC edition hopefully late in the year or if not, early 2012, depending on the success of these two events. Sorry, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, et.al. Logistics made it impossible at this juncture.) Out of the 20 in EMEA, 3 finalists will be chosen. Each of the finalists will be REQUIRED to do a ten minute video about their company and the product. Not a repeat of the demo but a video. Note I used the word REQUIRED here. Let me put it this way. If you make the finals and don’t do the video, we will publicly skewer your company. Know why? Because our judges are giving up what little free time they actually have in a summer to do this and it will take us 4 hours a day for 3 business weeks to do it. So if you can’t or won’t put in the effort to do the video, don’t bother to apply. Seriously. We’re trying to help out here and we want you guys all to succeed but it’s a two way street.

Okay, that rant out of the way. Once the finalists are chosen and the videos done, they will be posted online in multiple media outlets. They will be voted on in two ways:

    1. Popular vote – see, crowdsourcing is important. All the votes for the one winner from the Americas and the one winner from EMEA will be tallied from the public sites – in aggregate. That’s 50% of the vote.
    2. Extended Judges Panels – as you can see below, we may have assembled the greatest panels of judges – both leading vendors and influencers ever assembled in the history of CRM – not to be hyperbolic or anything. Each judge will select a specific winner in each of the Americas and EMEA from the 7 finalists. That’s the other 50% of the vote. The original judges will be voting as panel members.

The winners in each will get a major array of prizes, some of which are below, and be declared “CRM Idol 2011 Winner.”

Not too shabby is it? Vast amounts of media attention even if you don’t make the finals. If you make the finals at all, some prizes to you. The winners get everything that the ecosystem can offer but guaranteed success. But they do get all the accoutrements they need to support their increased likelihood of it.

That way, you small companies out there who have been victimized by bad approaches or just circumstance have the opportunity to bypass all of that and make something happen. It’s up to you to take the reins in hand but once you do, you have at least a serious chance at making yourself successful.

The Criteria

This competition is for small companies in the CRMish/SocialCRMish world. – see the categories below for some guidelines though please feel free to make the case if you don’t see yourself in the guidelines.

    1. You have to have software that is commercially available by the time of the demo – that would be in August – again see below. No betas, alphas, release candidates allowed. If we find that you’re not commercially available, and you have a time slot, you’re out and someone else will fill the slot. So please be sure that you can verify the claim if you want to participate.
    2. You have to have 3 referenceable customers that, if we care to, we can contact and ask about you.
    3. You have to have revenue under $12 million U.S. your last fiscal year. As far as disclosure goes, you have the choice of making the claim that you do – though that will have to be stated in your submission and we’ll trust you or you can disclose your revenue in the submission with the knowledge that only the permanent judges will know what it is. If you make the claim, please be prepared to back it up if we ask. Your call on how.
    4. You have to be willing to make a ten minute video if you get to the finals. More on that later.
    5. You have to fit a category – though there is some leeway there.

The Categories

The categories that we’ve identified to start are:

    1. Traditional CRM Suites
    2. Social CRM
    3. Sales – Sales Force Automation, Sales Optimization, Sales Effectiveness
    4. Marketing – Marketing Automation, Revenue Performance Management, Social Marketing, Email Marketing, Enterprise Marketing Management, Database Marketing
    5. Customer Service – all permutations
    6. Mobile CRM
    7. Customer Experience Management
    8. Social Media Monitoring – requires the possibility of integrating with a CRM technology
    9. Customer Analytics – including text/sentiment analytics; voice based analytics; social media analytics, influencer scoring, etc.
    10. Enterprise Feedback Management
    11. Innovation Management
    12. Community Platforms
    13. Enterprise 2.0 – collaboration, activity streams etc.
    14. Social Business
    15. Knowledge Management – this one requires the possibility of integrating with CRM systems
    16. Vendor Relationship Management
    17. Partner Relationship Management

Once again, if you don’t see yourself in this list, don’t worry. Just make the case as to why you have some customer-facing possibilities and the likelihood is that we’ll be cool with it. We’re trying to make this easier for you, not hard.

The Rules

They are numbered to be entirely clear.

Submissions

    1. There will be 40 slots made available in the Americas and 20 in EMEA.
    2. The submission will be by email ONLY to: nextbigthing@crmidol.com. (See below to see this again and what to do if there are problems). Any other attempt at submission will be rejected out of hand with the problem exception mentioned below.
    3. The submissions will occur starting today – Monday, April 25 and will continue until Friday May 13 or until all slots are filled, whichever is first (watch #crmidol on twitter for updates on that as it occurs). On May 13, should any slots be left, the remaining specific dates and times will be made publicly available and another final round of submissions for those remaining slots will occur from May 13 through May 20. After that the submissions will be closed.
    4. Each submission will include the following:
      • Your company contact and named person contact information Two date and time specific slot requests. ONLY two. If your slots are not available, you’re out of luck until May 14 – and then you can resubmit to any time slots that are publicly announced as still available. Though there is no guarantee that there will be any available slots at that time. (see below for examples of how to submit the dates/times)
      • The category you feel you fit into – or if you don’t but think that you qualify – why.
      • A description of what the product is/the company is. Be persuasive here that you meet the criteria, not that you have a great product. This is merely a qualifying discussion. URLs cannot be used as substitutes for this description. The submission needs to be all inclusive. However, they can be used as supporting documentation.
      • The names of the three (3) referenceable customers – the company, the contact and the way to communicate with them – minimum of email and phone, please.
      • A statement that says that you meet the revenue requirement along the lines of “our company states truthfully that our revenues in our last fiscal year 2010 were under $12 million U.S”. OR you can state the actual number with the knowledge that the primary judges in each of the Americas and EMEA will treat it as under non-disclosure. But please be aware those designated primary judges below will see the actual figures if you choose to reveal them.
      • A statement that says, “if (you) make the finals, you are committed to making a 10 minute video for submission and public viewing as part of the conditions for entry.” Word it anyway you prefer but make the commitment clear.
    5. If you are accepted, you’ll be notified privately but it will be posted that you’ve been accepted on the Twitter #crmidol stream. The time will only be sent to you privately. Just your acceptance will be posted. Please allow some time between your submission and the posting of it to the hashtag and your private notification, since we all still have to work for a living.
    6. If you don’t include everything specified in the rules for submission, it means automatic disqualification and you cannot resubmit.

The Demo

The demo has few rules. Just be prepared to a. explain your company; b. show your product – live please c. answer questions from the influencers/experts. Not much more than that. I’m sure many of you are experienced at this already so wed don’t have to tell you this, but just in case… A site for the demos with login etc. will be announced to the timeslot owners in early August.

The Video

The standards for the video will be mentioned to the finalists once they are named. To rest any unease, you won’t be required to spend lots of money to get it done. How much you spend and on what will be up to you as will the content and how you present it. We’ll issue guidelines when the time gets near, including how the video is going to be distributed for posting and voting.

The Judges

Here are the lists of all the judges. As you can see, we have what is likely to be the heaviest hitting list in the history of anything done in CRM when it comes to awards or competitions. Click on their names to get to their LinkedIn bios. They are in alphabetical order.

Primary Judges

The Americas

These five judges will handle the 40 entries for the Americas which consists of the United States, Canada, South and Central America. They will all be involved in the one hour reviews each of the days over the two weeks and will jointly sign off on each review which will be posted to multiple media sites. They will also solely choose the four finalists for the Americas.

    1. Paul Greenberg – Managing Principal, The 56 Group, LLC
    2. Jesus Hoyos – Managing Partner, JesusHoyos.com, LLC
    3. Esteban Kolsky – Principal and Founder, Thinkjar LLC
    4. Brent Leary – Managing Partner, CRM Essentials
    5. Denis Pombriant – CEO, Beagle Research Group

EMEA

These four judges will handle the 20 entries from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia etc. They will all be involved in the each of the 1 hour demos/discussions from Sept 5 through 9 and will write and jointly sign off on each review which will be posted to multiple media sites. They will also solely choose the three finalists for EMEA.

    1. Laurence Buchanan – Vice President, CRM & Social CRM, EMEA, Capgemini
    2. Silvana Buljan – Founder & Managing Director, Buljan & Partners
    3. Paul Greenberg – see above
    4. Mark Tamis – Social Business Strategist, NET-7

Mentors

This is an exciting part of CRM Idol 2011. Each of these fine human beings has volunteered a day of their time – two during the finals and one with the winners – to provide the benefit of their experience to the contestants. What they will do is noted by their name. This is an awesome idea that Anthony Lye actually cooked up. Each of these mentors has decades of experience in the software and venture capital world and is considered a leader in the CRM space. So if you make it to the finals, you have the benefit of their knowledge and their valuable time. Amazing.

    1. Anthony Lye – Anthony will provide one day for the Americas finalists and one day for the EMEA finalists for consultation on how to best do the content for the contending videos and whatever other pertinent advice the finalists need. Anthony has had years of experience as a senior management person for enterprise CRM and a thought leader.
    2. Joe Hughes – Joe will provide one day for the Americas finalists and one day for the EMEA finalists for consultation on how to best do the content for the contending videos and whatever other pertinent advice the finalists need. Joe has been a leader in the CRM space for as long as we can remember and one of the more foresighted when it comes to the value of Social CRM
    3. Larry Augustin – This is a prize for the winner of EMEA and the winner of the Americas. Larry who has years of experience as an executive in the software space and has been a successful venture capitalist will work with the winner to prepare them for dealing with possible investors including doing a VC matching with the winners.

There will most likely be other mentors announced as the competition gets closer to the demo dates. We might try to make some mentors available to prepare you if you need them for the one hour demos but that’s still up in the air. We’ll keep you posted.

Extended Judges Panels

The Influencer Panel

    1. William Band – Vice President & Principal Analyst, CRM, Forrester Research
    2. Jim Berkowitz – CEO, CRM Mastery
    3. Bruce Culbert – Chief Service Officer, The Pedowitz Group
    4. Zoli Erdos – Publisher/Editor, CloudAve and Enterprise Irregulars
    5. Mike Fauscette – Group Vice President, Software Business Solutions, IDC
    6. Josh Greenbaum – Principal, Enterprise Applications Consulting
    7. Dr. Graham Hill – Partner, Optima Partners
    8. Dennis Howlett – Buyer Advocate
    9. Ian Jacobs – Senior Analyst, Customer Interaction, Ovum/Datamonitor
    10. Michael Krigsman – CEO, Asuret
    11. Marshall Lager – Managing Principal, Third Idea Consulting
    12. Kate Leggett – Senior Analyst, CRM, Forrester Research
    13. Maribel Lopez – Principal Analyst and VP, Constellation Research Founder Lopez Research LLC
    14. Jeremiah Owyang -Managing Partner, Altimeter Group
    15. Sameer Patel – Managing Partner, Sovos Group
    16. Scott Rogers – Customer Evangelist
    17. Robert Scoble – Managing Director, Rackspace Hosting
    18. Brian Solis – Principal, Altimeter Group
    19. Dilip Soman – Professor of Marketing, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
    20. Ray Wang – CEO, Constellation Research
    21. Mary Wardley – Vice President, CRM Applications, IDC

The Vendor Panel

    1. Larry Augustin – CEO, SugarCRM
    2. Anthony Lye – Senior Vice President & GM, CRM, Oracle
    3. Phil Fernandez – CEO, Marketo
    4. John Hernandez – General Manager, Customer Care Business, Cisco
    5. Jonathan Hornby – Director, Worldwide Marketing, SAS
    6. Joseph Hughes – Senior Executive, CRM Service, Support and Social System Integration Lead, Accenture
    7. Charlie Isaacs, VP, eServices and Social Media Strategy Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise
    8. Vinay Iyer – Vice President, Marketing CRM, SAP
    9. Katy Keim – CMO, Lithium
    10. Marcel Lebrun,- CEO, Radian6
    11. Mitch Lieberman, Vice President, Marketing, Sword-Ciboodle
    12. Chris Morace– Senior Vice President, Business Development, Jive
    13. Zach Nelson – CEO, NetSuite
    14. Bill Patterson– Director, CRM Product Management, Microsoft
    15. Dileep Srinivasan – AVP – CRM & Social CRM, Digital Marketing & MDM, Cognizant
    16. John Taschek –Vice President, Market Strategy, Salesforce

The Journalist Panel

    1. Elsa Basile – Director, Callcenternews (Argentina)
    2. Barney Beal – Managing Editor, SearchCRM,
    3. Anita Campbell – Publisher, SmallBizTrends.com
    4. Robin Carey – CEO, Social Media Today
    5. Neil Davey – Group Editor, Sift Media
    6. David Myron – Editorial Director, CRM Magazine, Speech Technology Magazine
    7. Valdir Ugalde – Board, Member, mundocontact (Mexico)
    8. Ann Van Den Berg – Senior Editor, CustomerTalk (Netherlands)

Media Partners

You’ll note that we have 8 journalists on a panel of judges. Well, each of them represents a media partner that will be broadcasting the competition and posting the videos for voting in the finals for the popular vote. They are an awesome array of the most influential media sites in social media, CRM, and small business as well as local influencers in CRM in Latin America and Europe. They will be significant in the lives of the contestants, the finalists, and the winners giving each what may be an unprecedented breadth and depth of coverage. Their coverage will be supplemented by posts to the blogs and other sites that are owned by many of the judges so there will be significant reach for all 60 of the initial contenders. Each of these partners will be getting exclusives from the judges and hopefully some of the companies too so that we can add a quality of coverage that would enhance the value to the SMBs participating. in all areas – CRM, social and small business directly.

We expect to add more media partners as we continue on throughout the competition.

The current partners and links to their sites (in alphabetical order, like every list here):

    1. Call Center News (Argentina)
    2. CRM Magazine/DestinationCRM
    3. CustomerTalk (Netherlands)
    4. Mundocontact (Mexico)
    5. MyCustomer.com/Sift Media
    6. SearchCRM
    7. Social Media Today
    8. SmallBizTrends.com

The Prizes…So Far

These are the prizes as of launch today. There are several others in the works that will be announced as the contest rolls out.

All Finalists

All 7 finalists will get to choose one day of consulting from the list of Influencer consultants below. The order of choice will be based on the popular vote on the video which will be kept confidential but used for the choosing. There will be more consultants added to the list as contest moves forward.

The Americas and EMEA Winners

Each winner will get to choose four prizes from the list. Note – in the case where multiple prizes are being offered by a single vendor – the vendor counts as a single prize with all the items as part of that.

    1. Accenture
      1. A full day workshop with CRM leaders in Accenture for possible partnership and/or possible investment.
    2. Capgemini (for EMEA winners only)
      1. A half day workshop with Patrick James, Global VP CRM and Laurence Buchanan to explore joint go to market opportunities and help you refine and test your value proposition.
    3. Social Media Today
      1. A blog post featuring the winner of the contest to run on both The Customer Collective and Social Media Today
      2. A single blast to the Social Media Today opt-in list (approximately 50,000 names) which will conform to their minimum standards (valued at $10,500)
    4. Microsoft
      1. 12 mos. of CRM Online Free for developing extensions to CRM
      2. 12 mos. of Windows Azure Free for developing web-based portals and BI solutions
      3. Access to the Office 365 Beta for building collaborative applications and services
      4. Access to the BizSpark One program -a program designed to connect emerging businesses and their investors with a Microsoft advisor to help them identify unique opportunities and expand its business presence
    5. SugarCRM
      1. Free 10 user subscription to SugarCRM Professional or Enterprise
      2. Membership in the Sugar Exchange and free consulting on product integration with SugarCRM
      3. CEO Larry Augustin, a successful venture capitalist in his own right, does a mentoring & VC matchmaking session with the winners
    6. Brian Solis
      1. One hour internal webinar on how to use SCRM and social media to your advantage
    7. Paul Greenberg
      1. One hour pro bono external webinar on a subject TBD for lead gen, mindshare, etc.
    8. Ray Wang
      1. One hour pro bono external webinar on a subject TBD for lead gen, mindshare, etc.
    9. Sameer Patel
      1. One hour pro bono external webinar on a subject TBD for lead gen, mindshare, etc.
    10. Influencer Consulting– free strategic consulting for 1 day or 8 hours from a variety of judges (in person travel expenses to be covered by winners)
    11. Esteban Kolsky (in person only)
    12. Paul Greenberg (on phone or in person)
    13. Denis Pombriant (on phone or in person)
    14. Mark Tamis (on phone or in person)
    15. Jesus Hoyos (on phone or in person)
    16. Brent Leary (on phone or in person)

The Times, Dates, Hashtag and Email

Okay here’s the hardcore stuff:

    1. The hashtag is #crmidol
    2. The email for submission is nextbigthing@crmidol.com
    3. If you have a problem submitting to that email send your submission and a report of the specific problem to pgreenbe@gmail.com

Dates and Times Table for the Americas and EMEA

We’ve put together an easy little table with all the relevant dates and times that you’ll need as you progress through the competition.

Dates/Times Americas EMEA
Submission Dates August 15-19; August 22-26 September 5-9
Submission Times 3pm ET; 4pm ET; 5pm ET; 6pm ET 3pm GMT; 4pm GMT; 5pm GMT; 6pm GMT
Finalist Video Submission Date September 30 October 14
Winner Announcement October 17 October 31

A Note or Two

A little bit of unfinished stuff that will sort itself out as time goes forward.

    • There will likely be a CRM Idol site (Joomla based) coming in the next month or so that will be an aggregate site for all the media outlets and streams. However, this remains a work in progress that’s still under discussion.
    • There will be more mentors and prizes added and possibly a judge or two.
    • For now ongoing news will be found at the twitter hashtag #crimidol.

In Closing

That’s about it. Now its time to bring it. First come, first serve. See you, maybe as the 1st ever CRM Idol, in Vegas, Hollywood. London or on the Social Web. Somewhere anyway.

CRM IDOL 2011 IS NOW OFFICIALLY UNDERWAY

Still Evolving

Last week a lot of very smart people gathered in New York for CRM Evolution 2010, and it was fantastic. Let’s start with kudos to conference chair Paul Greenberg and CRM magazine’s David Myron for putting together a great three days. As reported by Paul, the show’s attendance was nearly double the previous year’s for the second time in a row.

It’s not just numerical growth that encourages me, though of course greater attention to the disciplines and technologies of CRM is always a Good Thing. Who attends these things is at least as important as how many. The link to Paul’s ZDNet blog I gave you in the last paragraph should give you an idea of the brainpower in attendance, and these folks weren’t there to sniff around—they came to teach and to learn, to make alliances and discuss plans. The link, and those found when you follow it, probably do a better job of summarizing the event than I can hope to, but I have a few thoughts anyway.

There was a different buzz in the air than there has been in previous years, a feeling that our efforts are coming together into something greater than the sum of their parts. Social CRM is a movement now, not a fad or a trend.

The structure of the conference changed this year as well. CRM shows are typically arranged along three tracks: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service. Sometimes there’s a Strategy piece thrown in, or a nod to Social CRM/Enterprise 2.0, but it’s usually all about the three main silos CRM has struggled to break down. This time, the tracks were Traditional CRM, Social CRM, and Implementation. Each track had a fair amount of conceptual overlap with the other two. It acknowledged that these are not areas that can truly be separate, that there will be interplay and it will be beneficial. I’m not always comfortable with separating social CRM from the traditional brand, since they are interdependent and it perpetuates the belief that CRM is a failure, but this year’s structure worked for me.

The down side to the three tracks and the relatively small size of Evolution 2010 was—honestly—too much goodness in too small a space. There were several times when no matter which session I chose to attend, I was guaranteed to miss something excellent in the other rooms. Fortunately all the track sessions were recorded, so I can spend the rest of the month catching up.

I’ll need that month, because I missed a lot of good content; not just because of crossed schedules, but because of all the meetings I took. No matter where you went, people were busy getting the word out about new applications and services. I heard enough to make me very optimistic about the future. I also did a lot of socializing, but never at the expense of learning. My colleagues and my friends are increasingly the same people, so how can I complain?

SAS and Sword Ciboodle Partner Up

You may have already heard the announcement from June 3 about Sword Ciboodle using SAS Realtime Decision Manager (RDM) analytics in its new contact center application, Ciboodle One. If not, you have now. I’d have told you about it sooner, but I didn’t get the official briefing until today—I couldn’t share what I knew until then.

The curious can see Ted Hartley, chief channel officer for Sword Ciboodle, talk about the combined SAS RDM/Ciboodle One value proposition here.

According to Ted (he’s a friend, so I can use his first name), Ciboodle was approached by SAS about six months ago seeking a business application to support with its RDM technology. Around the same time, the Ciboodle boffins were thinking of how to create a more compelling experience in the contact center.  Faster than you can say “you got your chocolate in my peanut butter,” the two companies were coding up a system to use existing data to increase the comfort level of customers at the point of contact. Ted says it’s a continuation of the focus on voice of the customer, but now getting into the mind of the customer.

The result is likely to be a new high water mark in customer intelligence and frontline service. SAS is the first name in analytics, and Ciboodle has one of the sweetest CSR agent desktops I’ve seen. With SAS handling high-level intelligence and pushing the results to the Ciboodle desktop, agents can have a better sense than ever before of who they’re talking to. This means better routing, less repetition, and smarter cross-sell/upsell. Most importantly, the agent sees the customer’s history, recent activities, and attitudes so there is a basis for communication—it feels like a relationship, not just a transaction.

The SAS-powered Ciboodle One is rolled out in North America presently, but according to Ted the SAS salespeople in other regions are already calling to ask for the partnership to be extended further abroad.

There’s been a lot of maneuvering going on in the CRM space (as I noted at the tail end of this post), especially where business intelligence meets customer service and social CRM. There’s more to the story in development as you read this, so my lips are sealed until things become official. All I can say is this: The contact center is the natural home for social CRM, and a social engagement model that uses serious analytics is bound to make a difference if somebody can develop one. Stay tuned.

Stuff Is Brewing

Maybe “brewing” isn’t the most comfy-sounding word right now, as it’s starting to get awfully hot outside. But you can’t make iced tea without brewing it first, and that’s sort of what I’m doing—adding heat to the pot so we can have something cool later.

At long last I’ve added something useful to my Services page. I intend to flesh it out with details of what I can actually do (and have done) for my clients, but now there’s a starting point. Chalk up the delay to my fear of saying the wrong thing.

Later this week, I’ve got another briefing scheduled with Sword Ciboodle, and you’ll have the details from that briefing as soon as they’re out from under embargo. I would tell you, but I’ve got friends at Ciboodle and their PR agency Dukas who will go all Jack Bauer on my butt if I talk out of turn.

More good news: I’ve managed to get an invite to Enterprise 2.0 later this month in Boston. I will have some pre-event details for you soon, and I will be running myself ragged at the show, trying to get the most benefit I can. In order to pass the awesomeness on to you, my dear readers and friends, please let me know (via email, Twitter, or comment) what sort of info you want to get from my time at the convention. I exist to serve. And to drink iced tea.

From Pie-in-the-Sky to Practice

I know a pretty fair amount about social CRM. I can tell you what it is, how important it is, and how you can benefit from it, whether you’re an individual (or sole proprietorship) or a large business concern. I can tell you where to start, how to own it, and what to look for as far as success is concerned. But there are limits.

In the end, I’m just one (phenomenally talented) guy. Setting up a big project strategy, seeing it through to completion, and sticking with it for deep insight crosses from social CRM into Enterprise 2.0, which is probably beyond my personal scope for now. But I was just briefed on something that makes me a little jealous, because it provides a strong option for the sometimes elusive “how” of adding the social business component.

Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret and respected ZDNet blogger, told me about his company’s partnership with Hinchcliffe & Company and SocialText to provide a service they’re calling Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0, a low-risk approach to getting social computing right from the start.

The intent of Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 premise is “to bring a new level of maturity to Enterprise 2.0 and social CRM projects that hasn’t been there,” Krigsman says. “Adding social media is effective and necessary for the modern office; half of all organizations have Enterprise 2.0 tools, either by plan or virally, but real adoption and meaningful uptake is slow, and most organizations are still learning the ropes,” adds Dion Hinchcliffe, president of Hinchcliffe & Company.

Often, IT departments are unfamiliar with the tools and techniques of social CRM/E2.0, and consultants don’t always understand how larger companies buy and implement new software. Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 aims to manage all the variables. Hinchcliffe provides the methodology and delivery, while SocialText is the go-to (though not exclusive) social tool set. Asuret is responsible for project intelligence going in and going forward.

Strategy and planning come first with Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0—which seems pragmatic to me, at least—and include Agile software development methods. Once the client’s needs and goals have been assessed and the IT requirements mapped out, the integration begins. Data gathered during the process gets analyzed, fed back into the process, and used to improve the implementation. A typical project will run 24 months, more or less, including two to six months of implementation iterations. Complex projects being complex, however, the actual timetable will vary.

I must say, the idea that somebody who writes a blog about IT failures (Krigsman) is putting his name behind what appears to be an IT implementation business raises an eyebrow for me, but I’ve met Michael and he’s definitely got the chops. SocialText and Hinchcliffe are respected names too, so this is a team.

What I’m still trying to get my head around is the nagging feeling that social CRM and/or enterprise 2.0 shouldn’t be an IT project. That’s because CRM shouldn’t be an IT project. The history of our industry tells us that, when CRM is driven by technology and technologists, it fails. But there’s no reason to tell that to somebody who writes a blog about IT failures, I hope. This Pragmatic Enterprise 2.0 thing really looks good, though, so I’m looking forward to them proving me wrong about my slight misgivings.

Speaking of respected bloggers (authors, consultants, what have you), Paul Greenberg has weighed in with his opinion: “This service is needed and I can’t think of a better group of people to bring it to market.” I’d be happy with that.