August Rushed In
It's good to be busy, but I remember when August was a slow month, sort of like January, and for the same reasons. The holidays are out of the way, there's less to do -- other than eat the Christmas chocolates or the summer squash and tomatoes, and think about spring or going back to school. The August doldrums were a time of clambakes and vacations. Now? Clambake, si! Vacation, no mucho!
This month is just a little too full of the traditional things like vacation (still) but also the 24/7/365 work cycle. So as you read this you will already know who the CRM Idol semifinalists are and CRM Evolution will be wrapping up in New York, as will Sage Summit in Nashville. Just another week in the CRM world.
Also, at CRM Evolution, Esteban Kolsky will be reviewing (while I am in Nashville) some research we did this summer on social media adoption and customer attitudes. The free white paper is just around the corner. And I should say here that the research would not be possible without the financial support of our sponsors, who included Microsoft, Attensity, Moxie, Kana, Dun and Bradstreet and Salesforce.
Hubs and Simplicity
Last week I offered some observations on the research and CRM Idol, and perhaps I can offer a bit more here. A couple of themes running through Idol this year are simplicity and information hubs. Hubs are to me the most important; simplicity is an interesting throwback.
More than one emerging company has started its pitch with the idea that they've looked at a CRM business process and found it cluttered. They therefore designed a stripped-down system that delivers just the functionality you need to perform the process. Of course this analogy only goes so far, and it is something you'd expect a new company to say, but it might also be true. More mature systems tend to attempt to do more in part because the stripped-down versions they started with were successful and customers demanded more as they built out their best practices.
So for me, the answer to the stripped-down argument is more about whether the tool is aimed at a new process or an old one. And if it's an old process, does the new tool bring something better other than fewer tabs? Keep watching Idol to find out.
Do You Know Me?
One of the reasons I am an Idol fan (and judge) is that I get an intensive dose of newness, and I can start trying to understand the drivers and processes early. Paul Greenberg deserves a lot of credit for herding all the CRM cats (he has experience as a serious cat lover). One idea that has struck a chord with me this year is that the newest and most advanced solutions (in my opinion) are focusing more on data and what to do with it. Here's why.
Effectively using social media in business, beyond its initial use as a transmission protocol, requires a good deal of data analysis and information. We tend to forget about this when we use social media in our personal lives because in our minds we automatically do the data-to-information conversion. A friend posts some data and we immediately interpret it as part of a life that we more or less know. But it is the previous knowledge of the friend's past behavior that sets up the analytic template in our minds, into which we then fit the new data to produce useful information.
Businesses do not have this capability because they don't know their customers as intimately, and a successful business has many, many customers. Also, many customers are reluctant to share their personal information directly. Nevertheless, this level of intimacy, based on prior knowledge and assembled into a profile of the customer, is the ultimate goal of social media's thought leaders.
Big Data, Big Wrinkle
Also, most solutions are SaaS-oriented, and that part might seem like table stakes today, but it should not be overlooked. One of the important things it provides is a solution to the "Big Data" problem that many companies discovered as soon as they discovered social media. With the data off in the cloud, the management chore is out of mind, and users can concentrate on the benefits to be had from having as much of it as possible, rather than worrying about where to put it. So as I am looking at it, big data and social have a new wrinkle, one that will cause a lot of discussion and adoption in the year ahead.
Interestingly, last year's Big Idea, gamification, is relatively absent from Idol. I don't think it means gamification went away -- some companies dropped out, but that perhaps and hopefully means they are so busy satisfying customer need that they don't have time for contests these days. If that's the case, we'll be able to see it in the next iteration of our longitudinal study of the social markets. When I know more, you'll be second to find out (first dibs go to the sponsors, after all).