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On the Prowl for Thought Leadership

By Denis Pombriant CRM Buyer ECT News Network
Aug 10, 2011 5:00 AM PT

Maybe I'll take some heat for this, but I am trying to live by Don Tapscott's and Anthony Williams' ideas, especially concerning transparency. Let me digress already.

On the Prowl for Thought Leadership

Tapscott and Williams wrote a very good book called Wikinomics and followed it up with a better one, Macrowikinomics. As the titles suggest, the books deal with general and macroeconomics, but from a today-as-future perspective, hence the "wiki." Their thesis is that what's happening today is more or less the end of a paradigm, or actually a set of paradigms, and that wiki culture, including social media, the Internet and cloud computing, and maybe some other stuff, is causing disruption and defining the future.

Any Grand Ideas?

I am so on-board with this that it's useless to discuss my differences. So where does that leave us? Well, maybe at the point where I might get into trouble with my colleagues here in New York, where I am spending several days taking in CRM Evolution.

This is a very good show bringing together some great names in CRM leadership, and I am sure it is helpful for educating people new to CRM and social media on how to implement and use the stuff. I think that's commendable, and I can't beef about it, but I do have a problem with what George Bush the elder once called the "vision thing." I keep waiting for some big ideas to come out, but what I get is tips and techniques -- tactical stuff. I think a show like this ought to be about thought leadership.

Oh, you haven't gotten into CRM yet? Well that's unfortunate, but we've been telling you about its importance for the better part of the last decade, and now we need to move on.

Marc Benioff said something like that at his last appearance in Boston a couple of months ago. It was said with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, but there also was a serious message embedded in the statement. Time to fish, we've cut all the bait we intend to, and if you don't land a fish pretty soon, we're going to start calling you Santiago.

Too Many Golden Oldies

I thought it was a good message, and if it was tough, it was said with love, and that's what should have been dispensed here in New York. I have a great deal of respect for the people around me, the ones to put on the sessions and all that, and I am a friend to the magazine sponsoring the event.

I have no problem with anyone. But the collective result is, in my eyes, mush -- a bunch of greatest hits from when social was new. It isn't anymore. That title doesn't even go to mobile, which has been on the burner for the best part of a decade, nor does it go to analytics, which has been a ship looking for a port for even longer. Both are great and important technologies, and the social revolution has breathed new life into both. But they aren't the future, they're the now.

At this conference, I heard too many people talking about CRM and social as if they were separate and independent. They aren't, not if you expect to thrive in the next decade. People also talk cautiously about CRM implementation as if they are still trying to not offend their recalcitrant users, and if anybody trots out that old chestnut about half of CRM implementations being failures, I might explode (that was a forward-looking statement from about nine years ago, and things got better).

What I thought was missing from this show was real thought leadership. There was definitely thought leadership prowling the corridors, but certainly not enough for the show to earn its stripes.

Blown to Dust

Why am I being so hard on this? I don't think I am, and if you think so, I apologize. It's just that last week the full faith and credit of the United States went into doubt for the first time. The day I am writing this, the Dow sank another 500+ points, and it's all vivid evidence that the old thinking that was sustained by ancient paradigms is finally kaput, broken and irretrievably lost. Those paradigms drove the development of our old business processes, and therefore software models too. Whether you call it by a number like one-dot-oh or something else, those paradigms are being blown away this summer after more than a decade of simmering disruption.

This was a great time for thinking people to say that all the new technologies that we are celebrating are not simply the next shiny objects but the path -- no! the lifeboat -- to the future. This is not the time to dither about whether to implement this year or next, and the time is passed for questioning whether this stuff is a fad or the real thing. It's first off a cultural shift, and it starts with Tapscott's and Williams' five major points of Macrowikinomics -- collaboration, openness, sharing, integrity and interdependence -- and what things like social, analytics, mobile and other technologies do to enable them.

The news is full of our need to acknowledge our collective interdependence and the messes we see can best be solved by the other four. We should have had boatloads of thought leadership on those subjects and the importance of the emerging technologies to help us achieve them. What we got instead was a rehash of the tactical uses of certain technologies. But we could have been a contender.


Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and website. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.


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