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November 28, 2008

CRM is Green

Polar Plight

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year with the Eagles, that rock band who sang famously about a metaphorical hotel on the west coast. Of course, the “we” refers to me and about 30,000 other folks who gathered to listen and sing along to songs on the eve of the great turkey roast. Here in Eastern Massachusetts, the location of the first ever turkey roast, the Eagles are a very popular group, especially Don Henley. Of course Joe Walsh is popular just about everywhere.

Mr. Henley received especially big applause at this particular gig because of his involvement in protecting a small and unpretentious body of water known as Walden Pond. This is the one made popular in the book with the same name by Henry David Thoreau. The reason for his loud and long applause is becuase Don Henley took on a cause, with both his name and his efforts, to keep Walden Pond from becoming a condo complex. Today it is a preserve and available to the public in its natural state, just as it was described with affection in the book.

This all happened in the previous century – much before the concept of being green was stylish, but you could say that the act was at the core of what it means to be green. The entire green movement would be well served to look to this great success as an example.

Lately, the whole green thing has been invading the CRM space with different vendors jumping on the green marketing bandwagon. I suspect a lot of this is just green crap. Most of the advertising I have seen is nothing more than disguising the monetary savings of energy cost reduction as something that is good for the planet. Businesses won’t put effort into cutting resource costs if it costs more to do it. Let’s not perpetuate that mythology. My clients won’t spend $4M on a CRM system to cut out $10K of paper waste.

On the other hand, most CRM programs do create great efficiencies that are born on the reduction or elimination of wasted resources, which can include paper reduction, reduced travel requirements, and reduced postage & shipping waste. I have also seen the argument made that using hosted applications helps reduce electricity usage due to the economy of scale from a multi-tenant environment. I buy that logic, but I am offended when SaaS vendors jump on the green bandwagon and claim they are saving the planet with their software offering.

Driving home after the concert on Thanksgiving eve we passed by another pond literally just a few miles from Walden. It is located next to one of the busiest highways in New England and surrounded by a massive office complex. This is the poster child of non-green. Literally thousands of office lights were causing a twinkle on the pond at midnight during a 4-day weekend. It had once looked attractive to me, but now all I see there is a polar bear barely hanging on to a melting iceberg. There was virtually no human being who needed those lights to work – they were consuming needless energy and contributing to our planet’s peril.

Yes, CRM can contribute to energy conservation, but let’s not use marketing hype for the wrong purpose. If you really want to go green, turn off the lights.

Thames Ultra

November 21, 2008

IT vs The Biz

It is a miracle that I am making this posting today. On Tuesday my hard drive went into meltdown. Somehow I was fortunate enough to get the image cloned and over to my external drive in time before the meltdown was complete. As a card carrying technophobe you might be surprised to hear that I know what an external hard drive is, not to mention that I am capable enough to capture and restore the image of my entire C drive. That is a big part of the miracle.

There would be no external hard drive at my house if I trusted my IT department. I would have otherwise relied on them to make sure that I was covered. But, I took matters into my own hands and as a result I recovered from the crash with only a couple of days of productivity loss.

Sorry to be airing the dirty laundry, but the cat is now out of the proverbial bag. However, this certainly can’t be any surprise to see such a thing in print here. I have been reading posting after posting of the same topic – strain between IT and the business.

This is really a shame – it doesn’t have to be this way. Back in the 80’s it seemed like the finance department was the function wearing the black hat. Then, in the 90’s it seemed like HR was the subject of everyone’s fury. Now I guess it is IT’s turn for heat. Is the heat warranted?

What is most in the press recently is the power struggle between those who represent business needs, such as the BA role, and those in IT that are charged with satisfying those needs. As a consultant focused on technology solutions, I get to see both sides of this struggle and can attest to the fact that it is real. And, with a perspective into both sides of the issue, I do take a side.

Too many of the IT functions that I serve have a mindset that their work is at the center of the organization – they have lost their perspective. IT is a support function; there to support the business. Their job is to provide the automation needed to achieve business goals. They are not to decide which business goals are a priority or whether the business goals are the right goals. They are to do what ever it takes to support the achievement of the goals.

This is not to say that IT does not need to play a leadership role or be involved in identifying the path to strategy execution. But once we are all on that path, their role is to enable. Too much of the time they disable with dysfunction. One report recently published cited that 50% of the BA role was taken up with work that should have otherwise been performed by IT, but the struggle got in the way.

Yes, these are strong words, but this has to be put on the table and addressed. Which ever side of the fence you sit on, you need to reach across to the other side and work this through. If you need some help, go find somebody in HR (since they are out of the dog house now) and ask them to facilitate the problem resolution. The acrimony is causing too much waste, which we can ill afford in the economy we are now facing.

Oh, before you send along that hate mail to me, just remember, I have friends and family in IT – this is meant as an act of tough love, not a bull fight.

El Toro and You

November 07, 2008

Carpe Diem

History Made

It has been an historic week for us here in the States and I am hopeful, like many, that we are taking a positive step forward. While watching a cable news channel the day after the election the story was focused on the transition and need for speed – act while there is an atmosphere of acceptance and good will. In other words, Washington D.C. is maleable for the moment and carpe diem is the best advice.

This all brings back to mind my ’68 Mustang. My brother sold it to me for $50 and I was thrilled with the idea of the freedom my first car provided to me. Of course the 289 horses in such a small frame made for additional thrill. But that special car has nothing to do with our recent election. It was the rust on that Mustang, and more specifically the work that I performed to replace that rust, which is the point of this posting.

For those of you who have done a little body work this will make a lot of sense. The stuff one uses to make a fender whole and smooth again, Bondo, is an interesting chemical compound. You take a big glop out of the can and you mix it with a little squeeze of paste out of a tube and then for about 20 minutes you have this wonderful substance that can be formed into any shape, curve or contour. It can match the flare of a wheel well or the convex recession of a door. And then, like magic, it hardens and becomes one with the car. A little excess can be sanded, then painted and the rust is gone and the old beat up car transforms into a new sleek silver art piece on wheels.

Our President Elect likewise has virtually 20 minutes of pliability before things harden on Capitol Hill and become much more difficult to form into the shape we need to get back on track. I hope he can act swiftly.

We all face this within our companies from time to time. For different reasons we undertake big changes. Sometimes they are thrust upon us – reorganizations that will be caused by this unfolding recession, acquisitions that demand realignment of resources; and sometimes we choose to take changes on proactively – moving into new markets with new products and services, updating technical systems to modernize the workforce.

No matter the reason, once we start the change process, typically with the expenditure of a huge amount of organizational energy, there is a period of pliability. The organizational Bondo is in a stage of acceptance that is far easier to form into the desired shape at that time than it will be later once the dust settles.

Often I am told by my clients when I propose a secondary change that they would prefer to take on the additional effort once that proverbial dust has settled. Under many circumstances this postponement is a mistake. Again, carpe diem is the better answer. It is an issue of the economy of scale of organizational change. If your employees are going to muscle through a change in technology and process, a little bit of structure or policy change on top of it is going to be nothing. In fact, if the additional changes are related, it is probably best to have them be combined.

Sometimes the counter argument is to doll out a little change over a sustained set of periods – an attempt at the boiled frog syndrome. I don’t buy this rationale because all it does is prolong the stress to the organization. People get exhausted and the performance of the organization suffers.

No, this whole organizational Bondo thing is very real. Act while you are in the pliability period. It is easier to change the organization when it is in a state of change readiness. Once it goes back to the more rigid and natural state, change is harder, more stressful and less likely.

No, are you thinking about your first car?

68 Mustang in Flux