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February 24, 2012

Choosing Sides

While it is winter on the calendar, it is a bit hard to tell around here. We have flowers poking through the ground in mid-February when they aren’t really supposed to show themselves for at least another 6 weeks. Much of the folks I know have headed up to the mountains this week anyway, making me a bit jealous that I am still down among the pre-mature daffodils and jonquils. There is snow above the right elevation, and there is a sufficient abundance to keep the holiday crowd happy.

If I were with them, one of the things I would be experiencing is the interesting riff between traditional downhill schussers and the new-school snowboarders. The former refer to the latter as knuckle draggers. The latter mostly ignore the former. Each tends to take sides on the split in the sport – one looking at the other in disdain and the other looking back with indifference. I understand it, but I don’t participate. I actually prefer both. I’ll choose two boards for some conditions and go with a single board under other conditions. I get enjoyment from pairing the right equipment with the right condition, like a good wine with the right entrée.

Sutton Retro Dodo

In the technology world there is something similar developing, but perhaps with less enmity. We have some folks who are all about the Enterprise 2.0 thing, and then we have another set of folks who are jumping on the Social CRM bandwagon. They tend to have different blog sites and on-line communities for sharing articles and case studies. Yet, I don’t get the need for the split.

Enterprise 2.0 seems to be all about the new age of collaboration within the organization, and the technology that supports it. You can find stories about how product development is improved with more creative input through better collaboration; customer issue resolution happens faster and better with similar collaboration; and the pursuit of deals are accelerated and converted more often again due to the collaboration of the right people at the right time.

Social CRM is more directed at customers, attempting to leverage the evolution of societal behavior onto social web platforms. As more people spend more time on Facebook and LinkedIn, it makes sense to manage brand value through social monitoring; drive prospecting through social networking; and perform in-platform customer service issue resolution right at the point where people are ranting within a tweet.

Why have these two disciplines formed as separate interests? Combined they are much more powerful. So, I my suggestion is to combine the two and call it Social Business. Harnessing both internal and external collaboration tools and processes combines the benefits of both and leverages the entire organization in the pursuit of customer business outcomes. Becoming a social business means that you utilize better collaboration internally and engage with customers on social platforms externally. The two together are the perfect combination and are starting to be combined technically within the more powerful CRM platforms.

So, don’t take sides – swing on both sides of the plate. It provides more flexibility and delivers better results. Develop your social business competencies internally and externally and harness double the power to achieve CRM program objectives more effectively.

Enjoy the snow while it lasts.

February 17, 2012

Shower Curtains & Chatter

Have you been traveling much recently? If so, you have probably noticed the propagation of those bulging shower curtains of late. Bathtubs are a pretty confining place to take a shower, especially when you throw in those nasty safety bars on the walls. However, somebody, who I hope has been very well rewarded, came up with the idea of the bowed curtain rod, virtually extending the width of the tub a few critical inches up high where it counts. It is a lot like getting that upgraded economy seat on a plane. That little bit of extra leg room really makes a difference.

Yet, not all is good. While the concept is fantastic, for most hotels the execution has been dismal. There are two primary problems. First is the shower curtain rod. The physics are different – the rod does not extend simply from point to point. Rather, the arc that the rod travels from wall to wall puts immense pressure on the wall mounts because of the lateral weight of the rod bowing out sideways. Simply stated, the rods in most hotels where I stay are barely hanging on, with screws pulling out of the walls ready for catastrophe. The maintenance folks replaced the new rods with a few screws pushed into the drywall and expected everything to be fine. Don’t be surprised if you have a shower curtain crash around you some morning while in the middle of an otherwise pleasant shower.

The second problem involves the curtain. The rod travels further away from the edge of the tub as it bows out, which requires that the curtain has to travel a further distance to safely drop into the tub, especially in the middle. Those same hotel maintenance folks who mounted the new rods placed them at the same height as the old rods to prevent splash and spray. However, if the hotel purchasing folks did not buy longer curtains when they acquired the new fangled rods, it is likely the old curtains don’t completely reach, or stay neatly tucked into the tub as they encounter a brisk shower spray. I you wake up to dripping from your hotel ceiling it just may be that the guest above you is not paying attention to this curtain deficit while showering.

Ultimately, this all boils down to the challenges of installing new technology onto an old structure. If you do not accommodate the requirements of integrating the old with the new, things may not work out all that well. When I see these new curtain rods in my hotel rooms I cannot help but think of Chatter, the new collaboration tool on the Salesforce.com CRM platform.

Mardi Gator

When a company turns on Chatter (or similar collaboration tools) it is much like installing these new rods - most of the time it involves new technology being placed within an old structure. And similar to the problems introduced by the new rods, Chatter as well does not always work out as intended, especially if the organization does not take appropriate steps to adopt the new technology to the old structure.

One of the big misconceptions surrounding the use of Chatter is with regard to the belief that all you have to do is turn it on and everyone will flock toward utilization with wonton abandon. This could not be further from reality. Yes, over the last decade, the general population has embraced many collaboration sites in the social ether-sphere. But this has been accomplished through the process of naturally affinity – people group together over common interests. Unless you form similar interest groups that fit your business users, your Chatter application will not be viewed by most users as useful or beneficial. This is like mounting the rod to the wall without taking into account the change in physics. You need to assemble it with the correct hardware, which in this case means that you need to introduce Chatter with the correct connections built in. You need to form groups from the start, such as customer accounts, target opportunities, or priority service cases. This leverages the natural affinity around which your people collaborate, and serves as a tool for easier collaboration, which drives utilization.

Additionally, the build-it-and-they-will-come mentality also leads to dissatisfaction because it assumes that people will not need attention for the proper use of Chatter. Yes, it is simple and intuitive, not something that one might expect will require a whole bunch of instruction. But, it does require direction. It requires expectations to be set uniformly. For example, if 75% of those who need to collaborate on a topic or issue use the tool, but 25% don’t, this will lead to 25% of the problem or task unsolved. Expectations for use need to be set, communicated, and reinforced with frequency. It cannot be a casual thing if you want success. This is a change after all, and, similar to the length of the shower curtain, if we do not make changes to the existing process, things will come up short.

The bottom line is that you cannot just turn on Chatter and expect great things. It requires a certain amount of intervention to get right – it needs to be properly connected to the old structure. It is worth the little bit of effort required, because the results can be powerful.

I truly like having the extra space in the shower these new rods provide, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that I am not the one who pulls back the curtain and ends up with a curved rod at my feet.