Vendors Giving Me the Vapors

I feel faint. So many vendors either don’t tell a story at all, don’t tell the right story, or they tell a story filled with lies, vapour ware & mis-messaging. As well, they are telling their stories to organizations that don’t even know where to begin. I want more vendors to get beyond ‘shiny object acquisition syndrome’ and tell an intelligent story through their products, while also training their own and VAR Professional Services teams to implement it properly. And I want to see vendors put the brakes on now, figure it out, then launch out in a big way for the benefit of many before the mixed breed mega platform promise gets too badly bastardized by people who don’t get the full big picture.

Case in point: Salesforce announced  a new program to ‘unlock’ customer’s valuable SAP back office environments. In theory, this is really big news for the industry. But a closer look at the details makes this seem like not much more than an effort to drum up integration business for integration partners. From the announcement post, ‘Getting started is easy':

  • Unlocking SAP begins with a free half-day evaluation. We will work with companies to review their previous experiences with cloud apps and architectures; current goals and ongoing projects; and existing apps and use cases best suited for Force.com. Based on the review, we develop a project plan for extracting and sharing back office SAP data using Force.com.
  • Salesforce.com then simplifies the integration, providing quick access to all the resources customers need, from strategies and best practices to access to experienced integration partners such as IBMInformatica and SKYVVA.
Forgive my cynicism, but I’m hard pressed to imagine that customer’s will get much more than a bare bones template ‘project plan’ after a half day review. Seems like another effort where the promise surpasses the practicalities.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an advocate of Salesforce, and especially pleased with some of their recent acquisitions, most significantly the purchase of Radian6.  That said, (and I’ve said it before,) I think it is time for vendors like Salesforce to pause the pace of sales messaging and campaigns,  and focus on Professional Services delivery strategy to move beyond the novelty of ‘ enterprise social’ and set about training their own teams in iterating and improving the processes that organizations are already using.
For starters, they aren’t yet even telling a story with a narrative flow that makes the products understandable while emphasizing usefulness fully; much less demonstrating that they’ve got the right plans in place to make it a reality. I’ve yet to see a design spanning the platform and solution apps that demonstrates the impact pervasive communications have on companies, which knowledge can then be applied in providing optimal, relatable value for external and internal audiences both. The tools are all there to work with, but there doesn’t seem to be enough skilled mechanics to be getting it done.

Many people in the Salesforce ecosystem fall into one of  several camps:

  • Pure sales VARs – ‘We sell it, but we don’t support it’
  • Consulting firms that provide prof serv for either Salesforce.com, or Data.com, or Radian6, but few offer all the above
  • The SM ‘early adopters’ who believe that SM is mostly about branding – selling to existing customers and are just trying to mash it all together as a marketing tool
  • The Strategists, who recognize that there is a need to entrench social into operational critical path

The practitioners with domain knowledge spanning many enterprise industries who are already well-versed in Collaboration, CRM, Analytics & Business Strategy are the missing link species that can bridge the gap between social business theory and intelligent application – of all the Salesforces goody bag of apps. We all want to deliver on the promise of a new kind of enterprise, much like the promises offered at Dreamforce, but there are pivotal challenges that will ultimately decrease the likelihood for real success, if the core challenges in education and delivery are ignored as part of the vendor strategy.

Challenges in Education and Implementation
  • Many VARs and most customers don’t speak data at all yet, much less words like social, engaging, listening, monitoring, and analysis which have now been added to the business lexicon. We have to simplify it and make it easier, especially for SMB’s with lean staffing.
  • We have to guide organizations in how to take smaller sips from the firehouse, and bite off new types of knowledge in smaller, more easily digestible morsels that can be directly applied and integrated into their processes.
  • Development has Agile. Project Management has Prince2. Where is the basic framework for smoothly integrating monitoring and analytics into their business? There is a critical need for a widespread basic methodology as a starting point.
  • To an organization, many of their processes might seem to be dissimilar, so they don’t know where or how to start. And a half day review of their past cloud experiences and goals certainly won’t cut it for creating an integration project plan of any sort.
Disruption Required
Wouldn’t this be kick ass in a demo? This is the type of story that vendors like Salesforce need to be able to show, tell, and to build it end-to-end, because this is business – and business has disruptions:
Show us the trickle effect if there is a pipe burst at the Dreamforce venue and three session rooms are no longer available.
  • How do you respond logistically?
  • What’s that look like on SF Chatter updates internally as you move staff into place to respond and coordinate?
  • Can you broadcast updates on social channels to recommend new session locations to attendees?
  • How can you help vendors relocate quickly – can you use SMS?
  • What are the masses saying in response to this disruption?
  • How can we minimize inconvenience?
  • How is the venue vendor going to compensate us for the disruption?
  • In turn, will we give our speakers and vendors with any sort of compensation?
  • How did this effect our bottom line, attendee sentiment, and resource staffing?
Until you can show & tell a story like that end-to-end – and engineer the demo across all the promise-filled platforms, then it’s all just promise, and the vendors need help with the delivery.
Time to embrace Professional Services pros that can bring real meaning to the sales messages.
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2 thoughts on “Vendors Giving Me the Vapors

  1. […] than an effort to drum up integration business for integration partners,” Craft wrote in a blog post. “Forgive my cynicism, but I’m hard pressed to imagine that customer’s will get […]

  2. […] than an effort to drum up integration business for integration partners,” Craft wrote in a blog post. “Forgive my cynicism, but I’m hard-pressed to imagine that customers will get much […]

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