MUST READ: Best answer EVER to the question, “What’s the best CRM?”

If you are interested in CRM and aren’t already reading the work of Brian Vellmure, you should be.  Brian scored a home-run with this post answering the question, “What’s the best CRM?” It’s a must read for customers, and a great perspective for vendors to adopt. Without question, this post is one of the best CRM posts I have  have read in ages.

It is accurate, realistic, and practical.  More significantly, the whole psychology & practice applies to any business app selection, not just CRM.  It should be kept at hand for customers to read, and read by the rest of us as vendors and consultants to keep our focus directed correctly.

The very best part of his approach is that it is also the way that we should approach and answer prospects any time we are asked, “What’s the best X?” for technology.

You’ve all heard the term ‘solution fit’, but let me introduce you to the term ‘Situational Leadership’, which is what Brain’s demonstrated in this post. When we’re asked to guide organizations in decision-making and selections, it isn’t about walking in the door to provide answers.  Situational Leadership means that you work to help customers figure out what are the right questions they should be asking themselves. “What are we really trying to accomplish with our customers? (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives?)

There is no single, ‘best’ answer to anything, and this is most especially true when we’re asked to weigh the merits of one product or another for a client’s needs.  Fit is indeed determined by need and goals. Brian’s more accurate refinement of the question leads to a critical shift in perspective for those looking for an answer.  It’s not about the answers – it really is about the questions you’re asking:

“How can we get a deeper understanding of our prospects and customers, create a well crafted vision of how to listen and respond better, and enable people throughout our entire organization to execute in the most efficient. effective, and profitable way?”

Adjust your question slightly and adjust your outcome significantly.

ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, OR JUST TOSSING OUT ANSWERS ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?

——————

Note: This year’s CRM Idol lucky winner will also receive four hours of of free consultantion by phone with Brian, too! 

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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.

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?