Back to Basics: Event Analytics for the Non-analytical – Part 1

As consultants and analysts, we all want to deliver on visions of a new kind of socially enabled enterprise, much like the promises offered at Dreamforce, but there are pivotal challenges that will ultimately decrease the likelihood for real success stories, if the core language and educational challenges go unaddressed.  One reality is that many VARs and even more customers don’t speak in terms of data intelligence 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.  In an effort to aid the non-analytical, but eager masses, this will be a very basic ‘how to’ guide series for organizations on how to take smaller sips from the firehose, and chew on new knowledge nuggets in smaller, more easily digestible morsels.

Frameworks are useful. Development has Agile. Project Management has Prince2. How about a 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. I’m not suggesting this series will be that kind of framework, but let’s start by giving some simple steps in simple language as a starting point.

If we shift our thinking away from use cases and toward specific events, we quickly recognize that we can iterate how social, listening and monitoring are woven into the processes that are affected by events. And we can guide customers to build more value and intelligence into their services as a result.  We can also teach an invaluable set of basic principles for understanding better how to market, monitor, respond and analyze activities and insights, in phases and as a whole – regardless of whether users have fancy new tools or are performing manual analysis.

Given that there are different use cases & needs across organizations – there is no ‘one scenario to rule them all’ – the key to better story-telling, messaging and use understanding is to present using a standard basic, but infinitely flexible theme. The basics – while there are unique requirements and goals for every business, ALL businesses share one commonality:

Whether large or small, all organizations have events – planned and unplanned.

(They might not call them events, but that is what they are.)

  1. All orgs have events, whether planned or unplanned
  2. Events can have internal, external, or a combination of both audiences
  3. Events may include any combination of: customers, partners, prospects/leads, supply chain, vendors, employees, VARs, competitors, influencers, public, media, industry interests.

In simple terms, an event might be planned like a new product launch, a marketing campaign, a webinar series, or attendance at an industry conference or trade show. Unplanned events might be something like a natural disaster that affects business, loss of wireless connection during a big conference, or it might even be a single negative tweet that spreads across the internet. Once you shift the story to begin understanding that you can look at most business and social activities as events, it becomes easier to begin to analyze them using a very simple method: break the event nuggets into bite-sized, chewable, digestible bites.

ALL events can minimally be broken down into Before, During, After phases

With that basic shift in perspective, non-analytically inclined business users can now begin to ask relevant, intelligent questions to determine where listening, engagement, response, community building, follow-ups and sentiment might fit into their business processes and KPI’s at each phase. It is as simple as repeating these steps over and over – before, during and after every event – rinse and repeat infinitely to improve your value offerings and business intelligence:

  • Monitor
  • Feedback
  • Assign
  • Action
  • Response
  • Process
  • Analyze

Using the event method, you have:

  •  two kinds of listening/data mining/analysis – confirmation (searching for knowns) and discovery – searching for unknowns using layered data that builds over time
  • and two kinds of responses – real-time recovery/action and longer term strategies/initiatives generation

You can:

  • tell stories with a better narrative flow – you can can show cause to correlation
  • Build your own framework for consistent analysis – measured across multiple dimensions, data points and metrics
  • It’s repeatable – can repeat on infinite events or over and over on the same event – like a negative tweet turned into a happy customer
  • From a fan page ‘like’ to an international story making headlines – when examined under the same basic framework  it is easier to decide what drove success and failure at each phase.

Take it a step further and think a head to audit, governance and risk management for your organization. All social conversations and activities (events in and of themselves,) can be linked to a specific point in time. Whether creating policy or running recovery strategies, what happens before, during & after are critical considerations.

If you leap even further ahead, you’re now also providing a solid foundation for doing predictive analytics for future events based on activities by phase during earlier events. Ultimately, customers and business users can begin to build their own maturity model and better understand how to merge activities and analysis into their own unique processes more readily.

We’ve established that all organizations have events, but many look at those events as a whole project, or as singular unrelated happenings.  Businesses can improve their own value offerings by defining goals, KPIs, process adjustments, and activities – before, during and after events, large or small. It all starts with a basic understanding of layering data and the value of infinite intelligence loops.

Like hula hoops, the more loops you can spin and longer you can keep them off the ground, the healthier & more fit you are… and healthier businesses can deliver better service and value.

Next up in Part 2 of this series, we’ll explore how to use this basic method to plan a trade show event and incorporate engagement, community building, customer service and analysis into each phase of the event.

The Social Business Army: Do You Want a Buck Private or Sniper?

(This is a cross-posting of my CMSWire article .)

As social business vendors grow, especially those who provide solution suites, there is a greater need for professional service consultants/analysts to undergo rigid vetting appraisals and skill certification testing similar to military training courses. It’s one thing to be dedicated to social engagement and quite another to be both committed to improving the business bottom line and the overall experience for the customers and having the skill to do so.

Social Business Boot Camp

How important is “in the trenches” professional service enterprise experience for social business to reach a new level of maturity and more customer successes?

If many of the new breed of social media gurus are to be believed, then probably not much. I disagree. I think it is time to move beyond defining and marketing social this and that, and get down to offering basic training on the delivery best practices. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this is necessary — respected strategist/analyst Esteban Kolsky recently added this comment to a previous post on the Missing Link between the Preachers and Practitioners:

If you provide the profile, the practitioner ranks will swell with people who understand what they need to do. This is, in my opinion, the missing link — no one is taking the time to explain and mentor the up-and-coming practitioners, then expecting sergeants to become colonels in the battle-field. Ain’t happening just by wishing, know what I mean?”

Despite all of the discussion about social business, social CRM and social strategies, vendors need to expend the effort towards building a strong cadre of practitioners capable of training staff of all ranks on the basic tenets of enterprise consultancy and how to incorporate social engagement in context with business transactions. Much can indeed be learned from the methods used by the Armed Forces to train and certify expertise in their own ranks.

The “Who’s Who in the Social Biz Zoo” hierarchy is similar to the military: there are Foot Soldiers, Platoon Leaders, Sergeants, Majors and Colonels and then there are Special Ops groups that include Snipers. How do you recognize a skilled marksman from a newly enlisted grunt? Surely they aren’t all wearing “Expert” badges?

Or are they?

Verifying Service Records

The consumers, customers and businesses that are looking for social strategy guidance have access to more information at hand than ever before to vet the history of analysts, experts and consultants via the very same channels they’re trying to break into. But, they don’t have the ability to simply check service records. It’s all too easy for self-proclaimed gurus to pin badges on their own breasts.

When an expert wants you to believe that he’s honorable, he may tell you that he served in the trenches, lugging a heavy ruck sack over steep hills in blistering weather. When a foot soldier wants you to believe he’s a larger-than-life hero, he may tell you he was a black ops commando. Even worse, some vendors pass off similarly uniformed staff with little to no enterprise experience at all as “the point of the social spear,” yet they’re more like toy tin soldiers.

Here’s what you should remember: true military veterans rarely sit idly talking about their experiences after the fact — they’re always looking ahead to prepare for the next battle. If someone is trying to impress you with tales of social business heroism, there is a good chance he or she is lying, looking to gain 15 minutes of fame on TechCrunch or has awarded themselves a promotion without moving up through the ranks after spending some uncomfortable nights in the muck on the front lines ducking incoming grenades. Hint: look for the business battle-worn with a few scars.

Don’t be fooled by influence rank, as many inexperienced souls are promoted during times of war — it is an inevitable ploy to calm the masses by imposing additional levels of command and control during periods of stress. The reality is that the more people there are shouting orders (“you must listen and engage”), the more confusion sets in. The voices that matter most are those who can pull the trigger with accurate aim. No matter what your social strategy is, what you want is a Special Ops Commando. After all, they’re the resources most often responsible for targeted executions.

Social platform vendors have a responsibility to their customers to fill their professional services ranks with war-tested enterprise business analysts. No, not like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal – we’re talking real deal action figures armed with cool weaponry and the skill to use them.

Profile of a Social Business Analyst Sharpshooter

How do drill sarges become sarges? It’s not just because they are the loudest.

Simply put, real social business analysts have done real work with enterprises, earning invaluable domain knowledge. The very best of the best, like Special Ops professionals, (cadre — drill sergeant) have know-how in multiple disciplines such as CRM, Customer Service and ERP, as well as an evolving understanding of the impact of pervasive communications (like social engagement) on business. If we look to the military, we can identify seven key characteristics of trained warriors that well represent the abilities competent practitioners should possess:

  1. Proficient and Safe Handling of Weapons — practitioners should have a thorough practical knowledge of the solutions and applications they promote and deliver. This means knowing how to pick the right weapon for the right strengths and how to take them apart and put them back together in the dark without shining a flash light on a manual. They must be capable of guiding implementations and integrations — providing adroit offensive coverage for key processes like sales and marketing, while also applying careful knife skills to compliance and governance requirements.
  2. Observation — practitioners have honed their skills in scanning, observing and logging all they see. This allows them to detect minor details that may aid them in spotting additional quarry and avoiding ambushes, which further develops their ability to collate information scrutinized from multiple angles, which they share with other team members and commanders as real time intelligence. They continue to monitor surroundings and activities and do not pull the trigger until it best supports the mission.
  3. Map Reading and Topography — practitioners carefully read existing maps and sketch additional scaled diagrams to plan navigation to and from operation insertion and extraction points with the ability to identify recognizable landmarks along the route. They must be able to accurately calculate range, wind direction and distance to be covered to get from A to Z, with strategies ready for scaling any obstacles and reconfiguring the path if detours are encountered in between.
  4. Cross Training — practitioners pair up regularly with other forces in sales, product development and customer service to cross train each other and keep each unit on their toes. Encouraging participation in cross training exercises requires the ability to adeptly detail the value to the individuals in learning how all of the pieces fit together to create a customer-centric organization capable of creating consistent customer success stories.
  5. Fitness Training — practitioners undertake daily, rigorous training to keep their skills sharp. They’re disciplined about perfecting their knowledge spanning multiple disciplines. This usually includes trade-craft practice, practice and more practice with their core products, plus research and/or enrollment in additional courses to study new technologies and methodologies.
  6. Communications — practitioners are able to effectively communicate both up channel and down, internally and externally, using a variety of tools. In case of comm system issues, they should have the ability to troubleshoot and find alternate methods to send and receive messages, including the use of hand signals if necessary. ;-P
  7. Marksmanship — practitioners have the ability to consistently hit both stationary and moving targets within short or long ranges. They must be able to accurately use scope to find hidden targets within specifically defined areas. They must be able to fire from conventional and unconventional positions for the strongest probability of a first shot kill.

“In the Trenches” Expertise Drives Social Business Sophistication

Incorporating social listening, analysis and engagement strategies with traditional transactional business processes requires an understanding of the mission in the context of the customers. Putting tactical implementations in the hands of people who may have decent abilities in one or another area of “social” anything is like putting a loaded semi-automatic in the hands of a kid who is so eager to play with his new toy that he just starts shooting for the sheer joy of pulling a trigger.

You shouldn’t get the “social business expert” badge until you’ve earned it by successfully participating in enterprise business executions.

Rally the troops!

Does Salesforce Get what they’ve Got with Radian6?

I was eagerly waiting for Paul Greenberg’s  thoughts on the latest Salesforce announcements from Cloudforce,  as his is most often the first & last voice I rely upon to tell it like it is when it comes to Salesforce and Radian6 as ‘the social platform to beat’. And I’m not disappointed – it was worth the wait. In his post ‘Salesforce & the Social Marketing Cloud: Round 1 Goes to…‘ Paul carefully dissects the positioning of Radian6 as a Marketing Cloud, delivering astute cautionary points on the pitfalls of pitching it this way. Good advice that I hope Salesforce will sit up and take note of.  As someone more interested in enterprise customer success than the buzz that fills the pipeline, Paul’s post highlights a bigger issue for Salesforce. They don’t get what they’ve got. Or if they do, they aren’t quite showing it in a way that will accelerate enterprise acceptance yet.

Like Paul, I think that while the Radian6 acquisition is one of the most significant moves that has long-term impact on the social business industry, I’m not yet convinced that SFDC has put the right team of strategists together to design truly persuasive value positioning of the suite for the enterprise.  In my opinion, Paul nailed it with this statement:

“Salesforce is underestimating the value or at least apparently underestimating the value of the Radian6 platform to its entire product suite and platform.”

Note the underline above – I couldn’t agree more heartily with that observation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,  many vendors either don’t tell a story at all, or don’t tell the right story, and that gives me the vapors. It could be argued that Salesforce strategists are less aware of the true potential of what can be delivered than outsiders like us are. With what they now have to offer, there are better ways to tell compelling stories to the enterprise, but SFDC doesn’t seem to have the right type of enterprise suite strategists guiding a team of kickass engineering tacticians, as voices at levels in the organization’s hierarchy to drive development of clear, relatable, doable use cases.  Sure, SFDC is beginning to show touch points spanning the offerings, but only as touch points – not as part of process chains. With Radian6, plus other key acquisitions and integrations like the plan to ‘unlock the SAP core‘, the pieces are there to sell, but a different level of  ability is required to demonstrate and implement it all in a meaningful way for the enterprise.

Warning, Symptom – or is this a Clue?

Scanning career openings posted on three of the ‘top’ social platform vendor sites (aside from SFDC), doesn’t bode well for the customers or the VARs. Of fifty-five jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or enterprise software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of blood-&-guts bad horror movie scary. You just know that the virgin is going to go in the room where the killer is, regardless of the foreshadowing.

(Queue up ominous Metallica sound track here – sleep with one eye open… )

Several other respected analyst/strategists like Esteban Kolsky are also questioning the logic behind positioning E20 suites using ‘social voices’ instead of, or in tandem with enterprise platform professionals delivering proven, vetted value.  Esteban recently shared a an episode of Cheers with me as an allegorical story highlighting one issue that is prevalent with vendors and customers both in their approach to hiring ‘social stars’ to lead the team. In this episode, Sam is asked to join the executive team at a corporation… but only so he could play on the baseball team.  He insists on being taken seriously and writes a report about something, only to be dismissed out of hand. His intended role was to garner exposure from sports fans and maybe go up to bat to hit one now and then — not to plan strategy for the company.

The same scenario is more common than not with many organisations who want to play the social business game. They hire and put people out front who can fill the seats with spectator butts, but those players can’t always deliver home runs, because they’ve never worked in strategic enterprise or management consulting.  I haven’t seen much yet by way of functional coaching and instruction on how to merge listening and new analytics into operations intelligently. If you can’t show me an end-to-end story from trade show through sales pipeline to order entry and delivery, then circle back on customer satisfaction at all points, then you don’t understand how the pieces all fit together for the enterprise to begin with. Can it be done with the SFDC suite and select integrations? Hell yes, it can.  But the resources with the knowledge to engineer that kind of story either aren’t on board yet, or aren’t being used to deliver ‘proof of concept’ examples for the enterprise, and they certainly aren’t evident as part of the positioning team.

Fortunately, Salesforce has put another key piece in play with automated workflow that can now be used to fill in the gaps in the stories.  The fact that SocialHub can be used for marketing isn’t the big news.

 The real SocialHub headline is: the fact that this workflow ensures that the right information gets to the right people in the organization

That means action and efficiencies for organizations. And if SFDC is really, really smart they’ll take this a step further and show the analytics that tell the story of what happened before, during and after each event that spawned the alert in the first place.  That is the real value they coulda, shoulda, woulda be pitching to the enterprise. This is the story that every demo should be showing:

Listen -> Alert -> Action -> Engage -> Analyse = Organizational Intelligence 

The Fix

Salesforce needs to build a core team of enterprise suite experts. These aren’t people who would give the demos or write the positioning messages, but are strategists who guide the direction of the positioning and make sure that sales & marketing have the right demos to present, and that professional services is ready to deliver on the promises that Benioff and the marketing team are extolling.  There are CRM experts, and listening/engagement gurus at hand, but as I said above, this team must be lead by enterprise suite strategists and analysts guiding a team of kickass engineering tacticians, responsible for these key deliverables:

  1. Touch point Maps: A clear map of what the touch points are spanning the various apps is invaluable for several purposes – it surfaces shared areas for use that folks might not otherwise recognize, and is important for setting standards for Professional Services delivery standards.
  2. SFDC and Radian6 Capability Maturity model: define and articulate the capabilities and competencies. Tool to categorize messaging, define best practices and design case studies.
  3. End-to-end Use Cases: And by use cases here, I mean whole process chain stories.  Great, so SocialHub can be used for marketing.  Now show us how we’ll use Salesforce and Radian6 to market to three different audiences (customers, partners and public) before, during, and after a product launch or conference – say something like Dreamforce? ;-P That’s a use case that can be used in whole and in snippet parts to show impact and outcomes to enterprises. All businesses are different, but every organization has events of one sort or another. Build the use cases around that basic premise.
  4. Detailed Implementation Plans: The plans need to be developed by tacticians that know how to break requirements down based on the needs of all the business units in enterprises – sales & marketing, support, delivery, HR and finance first to actually deliver a comprehensive, holistic solution suite.
  5. Coaching Guides:  Teaching the SFDC positioning, marketing, delivery, sales engineers, and the VARs not how to build it, but how to tell the story creatively and where to pause to show genuine insights of value to the customer.
That’s a sure path for Salesforce to start getting what they’ve got.

(And if Salesforce wants to get busy on this, they can always call me. I’d be happy to help.)

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.

The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

 

Previous comments on this post here.

I like my strategy hard-boiled, with pepper

There is a late night ad that drives me nuts, because it reminds me that sometimes ‘innovative’ attempts to repackage the basics are neither truly innovative, nor ultimately very useful.  The same is true with the way some people (pseudo gurus) and organizations are trying to approach ‘social’ business. One of these things is just like the other:  Behold, the Eggies System, which takes one of Mother Nature’s most perfectly engineered foods and turns it into a flat, hardened mess in a singular form.

Much of the social business hype reminds me of the Eggies System battle cry “Finally enjoy Hard-Boiled Eggs without peeling a single shell!” And, “When it comes to eggs, hard-boiled means hard work!  Messy shells, broken whites, and you’ll be peeling all night! Well, not anymore… introducing Eggies, the fast, easy way to cook hard-boiled eggs without the shell!”

When I watch that commercial, and I admit I’ve watched it far more times than I should, I hear the voices of the Social Gurus in my head, touting their wares. “Cook your eggs just like in a real shell,” sounds a lot like, “Go social, never mind how it fits into your core business.” Even while watching the recent keynote and corresponding tweets for Dreamforce, I was alternating between mockery and ire, as Salesforce  took it further and pitched ‘collaboration’ and ‘workflow’ so that they became sexy, trendy must-haves for the masses. This isn’t new. Or even fresh.  In fact, its long past the ‘best before’ date.

Collaboration, process, design and workflow aren’t new for many of us. They’re a given as necessary aspects in knowledge worker’s days. I believe that the attention E20 got via the Salesforce event will help us shape and mold broader adoption, which is something we’ve long strived for, but inevitably, I’m still left wondering who it is that businesses will trust to crack the necessary eggs, (and the heads), to implement it all in the Enterprise?

Crack, Pour & Boil!

But guiding organizations as they evolve to include social and collaboration into their cultures, helping them change to grow, is a business like any other. It’s not a brand new way to crack an egg and cook it. We often tell this to everyone who will listen, probably irritating them to no end with the repetition, and the sometimes strident tone. But, we will keep on saying it, because it needs to be said. Being a change agent is a business, with procedures that we study, refine, then improve upon, the same way that chefs learn to make a fluffy omelet or cook the perfect soft-boiled egg.  It takes practice, and an understanding of methodology until techniques are honed through the years and time-tested to work.

Susan Scrupski recently sent up call-to-arms to practitioners in Zen and the Art of Enterprise Maintenance, while championing a corporate culture ‘do over’:

“To get to the “fix” part of this equation, it’s going to take the smarts and knowhow of everyone who’s focused on the Enterprise.  There’s a great thread on G+ from Sameer Patel on the “how.”  The lasting value will be to apply the spirit of social revolution in the enterprise to the practical application of social in the enterprise.  I’ve heard reports from Dreamforce that the rhetoric-to-reality gap was pretty stark once you left the Benioff keynote cathedral and walked onto the show floor.

This is the hard part.  Delivering on the promise of social.  So consider it a clarion call for all practitioners, consultants, and vendors (big and small):  Figure it out.  Bring it home for the rest of us and the planet.  We’ve done the first hard part which is selling the promise of revolutionary change.  And we’ll keep beating that drum, btw.  It’s the backbeat to the song we’re singing.”

Which is definitely a tune I’m in harmony with, but I believe there are challenges in building an army of experienced change agents that can be heard above the choir of social misfits who lack any genuine enterprise knowledge or experience.

Do you want it whipped, fried, baked, scrambled, or coddled & cooked in plastic?

Much like new and improved cracked shell Eggies, the social gurus seem to be easier and more appetizing to the HR gate-keepers than the hard-boiled trench soldiers presenting old style resumes as their shell.  I hear it day in and day out from valued, truly expert contemporaries who have extensive domain knowledge, singing the same refrain for change, but they have to reinvent  themselves first as the jargon changes to compete. We’re forced to repackage the expertise and knowledge that will really benefit organizations into new HR marketing norms, using industry buzzwords that sometimes have little to do with the real value seasoned enterprise software vets have. Those of us ahead of the curve in experiences had better get cracking to stay competitive and findable.

And as a bonus – you’ll get the Eggie Slicer!

While this outstanding piece by Sameer Patel was written to illustrate the need for process and innovation in the HR space within the enterprise, I’d add Assessing the Real Value of Me to the must read list for consultants who are trying to hatch-up a better way to get the HR wardens to give them a closer look. Consider the line “I’m much more than what HR thinks of me, today”, as you read through the Four Dimensions of the Employee System of Record, then do an inventory to determine if you’ve put enough of your eggs into a basket that recruiters, colleagues and references can easily access.

We can’t blame it all on the gate-keepers, if we’re just recycling the same old CV’s and portfolios that used to work years ago, and yapping away on twitter and Google+. While reading Sameer’s piece, I recognized that while I have an extensive, solid body of work that clearly demonstrates my own abilities and value within a large enterprise that happens to be in the business of providing collaboration solutions – it isn’t findable to external resources. And while I rail against the thin veneer of of buzzword SEO, I recognize that in order to get out there as trusted practitioners, we do need to work to remain relevant in the same way that we preach and promote change in the organizations we serve.

There are problems to be solved, and improvements to be made.  Doesn’t matter what the problem is really; companies should be hiring people who know how to do both. Not just people who speak fluent (pick your target industry/role) hype.  But, this whole issue of relevancy and being heard is just another problem.  And we’re problem solvers and solution creators. We can do this.

While we might want to work with folks who dig a little deeper than the buzz anyway, we could be making it easier on them and ourselves by enriching the E20 community with ever more voices talking about the HOW TO get it done. In my case, that means bitching less about the gurus, and writing more about the delivery.  We all need to keep talking, singing, preaching and cracking through shells so that social isn’t just another gadget to clutter up the kitchen.

And that’s no yolk.

Highlights from the Focus ‘CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You’ve Never Heard Of’ Event

Photo credit and use permission given by copyright holder Charlie Isaacs

CRM Idol isn’t like American Idol, it’s better! This competition provides unique opportunities to contestants, industry analysts, and consumers alike. Any small business can benefit from the advice offered during the Focus ‘CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You’ve Never Heard Of‘ event today,as  judges Paul GreenbergEsteban KolskyBrent Leary and Brian Vellmure shared some key insights about the contest, and the contestants, gained during the North American first round of the competition. If you missed the event, I highly recommend that you listen to the replay here – especially if you are a young, small start-up in need of some wise mentoring in any industry.

 Highlights

  • The idea for CRM Idol evolved from bad PR. Many influencers are approached frequently by companies trying to pitch their wares, but typically, the pitches are badly done and not in a way that encouraged in-depth reviews. Initially, there was talk of an Eminem/Rihanna style video along the lines of parody  ‘Love the way you Lie‘ and the idea to have companies compete for face time. Charlie Isaacs quipped that it sounded a lot like American Idol, and CRM Idol evolved into the extraordinary competition and opportunity that it is today.
  • Judges were somewhat surprised that many of the companies are still building apps on .NET framework. This was an unexpected result. There didn’t seem to be any judgement attached to the statement either way, but it’s an interesting statistic that we might learn more about as the judges continue the competition. (@FuzeDigital started a discussion on stacks here in the community – weigh in! )
  • Some of the competitors did interesting things with java scripting and interfaces.
  • Across the board, most of the entrants would benefit from more focus on marketing. As an example, while most of the orgs had the requisite three references, the fact that many didn’t understand the process to provide the references highlighted other some challenges that small businesses face. “The biggest problem contestants in CRM Idol have isn’t building great products, it’s marketing,” said Paul Greenberg, which was echoed by the other panelists.
  • One of the biggest benefits to participants was the education the panelists provided on raising their visibility, which will continue after the competition. “Once a CRM Idol contestant, always a CRM Idol contact.”
  • Contestant Salestrakr added via twitter “Gotta say, #CRMIdol provided more reach to people of influence than we’ve ever experienced.” @Salestrakr’s CEO Steve Youngblood was praised during today’s event for setting an example as an active participant in the contest and the Idol community. He took it seriously and recognized the opportunity before them. (Demo here)
  • One of the key differentials between semi-finalists and the other entrants was storytelling ability. Esteban Kolsky stressed that participants should, “Know your story.” We all forget that our story is as important as our product. The companies that did really well told their story extremely well and had a product worth showing.
  • Paul added, “Don’t pitch a ball at their face! Do your homework. It doesn’t take much effort to learn a bit about the panel and understand that Influencers are human, get to know them. Swim where they swim, build a connection.”
  • Brent Leary sang harmony with, “Want to get noticed? Be interesting!” and offered up Hubspot as a poster child example to study. Hubspot excels at presenting their story across multiple channels using many different types of media.
  • “Be brief. Tell a story. Have fun!” * (Note that while Judges were amazed at the prevalence for use of @Prezi, which I happen to think is a really fun storytelling tool, it also made some feel seasick, and others feel old.) ;-P
  • Judges were exposed to some negativity, and that did effect potential semi-finalists. “It just doesn’t work if you try to make another company look bad.” Hard lesson learned by one organization that was right on the edge of making the semi-finals, but lost out due to negativity. Brent encouraged participants, “CRM Idol is a community, Be civil. Support each other.”
  • And the community is busy. Paul notes that the site is getting between 1,000 – 3,000 hits a day right now.
  • It was also clear to the Judges and panelists which companies had taken the guidance Esteban Kolsky shared during his presentation guidance webinar, and which contestants hadn’t. It showed during the presentations.
  • Esteban: “There’s not a single influencer in the world that’s beyond the reach of any vendor.” (If they do their homework and craft the story well as advised.)
  • Late comers @AddressTwo who took the last contest spot when another entrant dropped out provided one jaw-dropping demo to the Judges. Towards the end of their presentation they said, “Oh by the way, we also have Addy,” a simple, elegant tool that Esteban expressed would help get work done like an extra employee for a business.
  • “Sometimes it wasn’t about innovation, but a fresh look at traditional things done in a more useful way.” Judges offered up SalesNexus as an vendor who took a fresh look at marketing and sales, “They were very smart in their approach.”
  • Esteban Kolsky expressed humble thanks to all of the contestants. Judges learned tons by listening to all the vendors. Additionally, CRM Idol brings visibility to the whole #CRM and #SCRM community.
  • Event organizer Paul Greenberg further encourages all small vendors to join the crmidol.com community. “You don’t have to be a contestant. It’s a venue for discussion. If you get too markety we’ll beat you with a bat and pitch you out,” but it is an ideal destination spot to engage with others and learn from the influencers. All small CRM companies are welcome to talk on CRM Idol and foloow the #crmidol tag.

An all around excellent session, with worthwhile advice and feedback for small tech companies spanning many industries, not just CRM. I can’t stress often enough that the reviews are also a must read for small businesses searching for new tools, consultants supporting their customers, and analysts who want to benefit from the hard work of the CRM Idol Judges, all of which was volunteered graciously.