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.)

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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.