Thoughts and Teases on Business, Customers and Heterogeneous Things

Thoughts and Teases on Business, Customers and Heterogeneous Things

Summary: This is a teaser of posts to come on some of the work and thinking I'm doing on CRM related acquisitions, definitions of things like customer experience, CRM, customer engagement, big data and a few things that I think would be of interest for you. Consider this a series of excerpts from posts I haven't written yet.

SHARE:

I’m going to be writing a really significant series of blog posts this summer. To me that is. I can’t speak for you but the purpose of these is to put my arms around the changes that are going on in business and define for myself what I think they are and what they mean. This post isn’t them.

This post is going to be the meaty teasers for what will be them and a few other thoughts I have and a couple of things that are going on and will be going on that I think would be good for you to be aware of, including a few that I’m involved with.

Teasers

These are more than teasers. They are partial posts. Treat these as excerpts from the posts to be. Meaning I’m excerpting from something I haven’t actually written yet. Go figure that out.

Acquisitions (excerpted from the future “The Acquiring Mind Wants to Know”)

As someone who pays attention to such things, acquisitions of companies by other companies, particularly in technology, more particularly in enterprise software and even more particularly in customer-facing environs (CRM, social, mobile etc), are of a great deal of interest to me.  However, while I have an initial opinion on them, I don’t prejudge because:

  1. In the role of an analyst here, I only have access to some information to make a judgment with
  2. It’s only my opinion, not a rendered definitive “thing.”
  3. As Cervantes said, “it all comes out in the washing.” Meaning that over time the reasons for the acquisition may emerge – which aren’t necessarily either exposed by the acquiring company or apparent without whatever knowledge is still hidden from public or even a semi-private view.

But there is one more reason I don’t prejudge – at least too much.  It’s a “lemonade out of lemons” thing. Meaning that the value of the acquisition really depends on what the company is going to do with it over time – and what its actual intent is – or how it changes.

At this point, especially when we’re dealing with the largest companies, the idea of an acquisition in the world of enterprise software is two-fold.  First, does it fulfill a strategic requirement or substantiate a vision?  Second, how does it apply to an ecosystem, rather than just an addition to a product portfolio?

Now the question is, who is acquiring whom and for what?

Salesforce.com

Salesforce’s recent acquisition of GoInstant and prior to that Buddy Media is apparently part of a sequence of 16 acquisitions in the last year or so (though I can’t find evidence of that. I found about 10 so far. Where’s Waldo?).  They are clearly acquiring to fill out the ecosystem for the social enterprise. They seem to be sparing no expense to do so and for that, you go salesforce.com.

The salesforce.com acquisitions strategy is one that for the most part, really works well as they acquire more and more components for an all-encompassing social enterprise that reaches to all sized businesses. There is one thing I think that they could do better, and it is an odd one.

 I think they could use a somewhat more cohesive narrative around the Social Enterprise. While it’s a compelling vision, I think there are some elements missing in their telling of the story – which I will discuss in the upcoming more detailed “The Acquiring Mind Wants to Know” post. Not because I’m teasing but because I’m still in the investigatory stage about what it should be and what is missing.

One other thing that isn’t the case is that while salesforce.com is still being quite innovative – creating or supporting unique inventions such as Desk.com (from their Assistly acquisition) and Radian6’s Insights Platform (which predates the Radian6 acquisition by salesforce.com), it isn’t disruptive anymore. That isn’t a crime. Not even the world’s biggest deal. They aren’t alone. No one is being disruptive really. Social was disruptive but no one in particular drove the disruption. Salesforce did drive the SaaS and now cloud disruption. They don’t seem to be that kind of force anymore. In fact, their disruption of the market was the last one that you could identify a single specific company as the driver.  At least as far as I can tell.

I’m saying this because I think that market disruption is a necessary facet of advancing business. Salesforce was the last identifiable disrupter of world-class scale – a market changer. Now with their clear-cut acquisition strategy around the social enterprise, they can continue to be one of the market makers.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s highly commented on acquisition of Yammer threw many of us more for the price paid than the actual acquisition. Paying $1.2 billion for a product with a few hundred paying customers and a small amount of discernible revenue, in cash no less, even though it is an industry stalwart, is a wild overpayment.  However, there is a REAL potential lemons to lemonade story in this one.  What makes this acquisition truly interesting and possibly very important is what Microsoft does with it, not what they paid for it. 

Here are the options.

IF Microsoft acquired Yammer as a counter to salesforce.com’ s Chatter collaboration stream, then it was a colossal waste of money because it is a strategically bad move – I’m not comparing products here. There is NO reason to make an acquisition this expensive to compete with something at the product level. None whatever.

However, if Microsoft acquired Yammer as part of their portfolio/ecosystem being built around a strategy to own unified communications, then while I won’t go as far as to say it was a bargain, they just flat out overpaid, it was a potentially great move. 

Why because they have the bulk of the pieces they need to align their products with a strategy to own Unified Communications the way that they owned operating systems and office productivity. 

Just look at the pieces:

  1. Skype
  2. Windows Azure
  3. Lync
  4. SharePoint
  5. Bing
  6. Office365/Office 2013
  7. SkyDrive
  8. Windows Live
  9. The awesome Metro UI which is consistent across all and any devices
  10. Samsung mobile partnership
  11. Windows Phone 7.5 and later
  12. Microsoft Surface Tablets
  13. And of course, Yammer.

I haven’t even included their entire end to end consumer/business capabilities from Xbox to Dynamics CRM which are being fully integrated at one level or another with these capabilities.

What pieces are missing here? They have the infrastructure, the enterprise architecture, the delivery vehicles, the collaboration vehicles, the cloud services, some of the hardware and some of the other pieces through hardware partners, and the all-important interface. All in a potentially nicely framed unified package.

This is what I mean in the beginning by lemonade of out lemons and about the context that the acquisition occurred.

So to reiterate:

Yammer as a counter to Chatter.

Bad.

Yammer as part of a product ecosystem to own Unified Communications.

Good.

The Rest is Yet To Come…

To be discussed in the future post:

  1. KANA acquires Ciboodle;
  2. Oracle acquires much of the known universe; and a couple of others to be revealed at the time.  
  3. Plus more details on each of the aforementioned acquisitions.

The Definition of Things

There are actually ten or so definitions that I’m going to cover in future posts but I’ll throw a piece of one of them into this post.  When the posts come out (a definition at a time), you’ll see my rationale or justification or defense or proof for why I’m defining things the way I am.

I’ll pick one piece at random, excerpt it (the full piece will be more complete) and give you a hint of what I’m going to cover. Lessee….ummmm…..how about…..

Big Data

There is so much conversation, analysis and angst going on around Big Data, that the discussion alone is adding 3 petabytes a day.  That information comes from my annual market research paper, the 2012, “Information I Need to Make Up to Prove My Point” released earlier this year. My point being, that the discussion around Big Data is why we have Big Data.  Because people can’t stop talking about it.

Okay, so I made all of that up – you saw the name of my annual survey didn’t you?  But there is an irrefutable point – Big data is on the mind of a large part of the business community – as much out of fear as opportunity. But the question remains, is it worth dealing with and should you be afraid of it.

I addressed a little of this in an article I did for CRM Magazine’s June 2012 issue but I’m going to take that considerably further here.  First, yes – it is worth dealing with and second – no, you shouldn’t be afraid of it.

Look, first thing, think about the fact at hand that support the idea that Big Data is here – which is that we are producing prodigious amounts of structured and especially unstructured data every day. According to IDC, who typically give us the biggest numbers for all things in the technology world, in 2011, the universe as we know it produced 1.8 zettabytes (that would be 1021 for the non-cognoscenti amongst you) and by 2020 will have produced a total of 35 zettabytes.  That is a lot of data.  We can throw up (a careful choice of words) more salient facts, as many as we want:

  1. Walmart handles more than 1 million customer transactions every hour, imported into databases estimated to contain more than 2.5 petabytes of data - the equivalent of 167 times the information contained in the combined total of books in the US Library of Congress.
  2. Dave Turek, in charge of supercomputer development for IBM says this: “From the beginning of recorded time until 2003, humans created five billion gigabytes of information (five exabytes). Last year, the same amount of information was created every two days. By next year, IBM and others expect that interval to shrink to every 10 minutes.”
  3. And winner of the “impressive-sounding-but-probably-meaningless” Big Data fact:  The average number of “likes” and “comments” posted on Facebook daily is 2.7 billion.

 

That certainly drives the point home doesn’t it?  What it says is we have lots of data, so much in fact, that it is overwhelming and there is even more coming - fast.  But, that said, is that really the point? Unless put in context, it’s either kind of a “so what?” to anyone but IT guys whose systems are strained – both the software and hardware systems and their nervous systems – by the sheer volume of data that they are likely either storing or at least accessing in a given day. Or it’s an “Oh god! It’s a tsunami! I hope I survive, because I can do nothing about it.”

But that’s not true.

So let’s start with the definition of Big Data, then, though I think that you can kind of see it.  As I put it in my CRM Magazine article – “…the name given to the prodigious amounts of fast moving data that typically can’t be handled by existing data tools.”

Two more definitions:

“We can safely say that big data is about the technologies and practice of handling data sets so large that conventional database management systems cannot handle them efficiently and sometimes cannot handle them at all.” (Andrew Brust, ZDNet blogger)

 

And

“…Big Data describes a volume, variety and velocity of data that is beyond the scope of legacy vendors managing traditional operational data like ERP data sets. “ (Peter Goldmacher & Joe del Callar, Cowen & Co., “Big Data Day 2”)

 

Okay, we are now at the tipping point of this post. ‘Cuz all I’ve done so far is throw data at you.  Now comes context and, as they say on Jeopardy, it’s going to be in the form of a question.

Is the right question, how do you handle this incredibly high volume of data?

The answer is worthy of a consultant – yes and no.

In the right context, the velocity of the data is more of a concern than the volume of the data.  But the salient question to ask here is “what insights can I glean from this massively increased, always moving, increasingly large amount of data? How can I get them in as close to real time as possible?”  

Yeah, I noticed that was two questions.

The reality of Big Data is that it is useless without a proper framework, the right questions being asked about it and intent to garner insights from it.  Just having it to store, while possibly useful for future insights, is otherwise nothing more than a growing cost with a high TCO and no real return of any value in sight. (not insight).

What that means is that there is an opportunity given that you meet the criteria of framework, right questions, intent of insight, you’ll be able to gain some either competitive advantage, a better knowledge of what to do with your customers or find some margin of useful utility in your results. But your focus needs to be on how to surface, organize, analyze the fast-moving high volumes of data and then apply the insights that you’ve gathered.  Plus you have to do this in pretty much real time.

In the Big Data “Definitions” Post (I am such a tease) I will continue with…

The Myth

Handling Big Data is a gigantic problem – but there are technologies that exist that can handle the scale – Hadoop, Oracle, SAP (in memory computing for velocity), Infor and Epiphany interaction engine, among others.

The Framework

I’ll discuss Big Data in terms of context, relevance, real time responsiveness

Asking the Right Questions

What is the nature of small insights from Big Data? What is the intent of insight? How do you go about setting all this up so that the right questions are asked and the insights that are produced from the results are valuable?

Getting the Right Answers

I’ll be briefly discussing the application of predictive models to Big Data.

Where is the Immediate Opportunity?

Why in fact Social CRM is being seen as the pre-eminent Big Data opportunity. I swear that’s not me saying it. Though I am saying it, but there are many others too.

The Others to Expect (with Surprises)

The other definitions covered in individual posts will be:

  1. CRM/SCRM
  2. Customer Experience
  3. Customer Engagement
  4. Social Enterprise
  5. Social Business
  6. Collaborative Value Chain
  7. Actionable Insights (Insight Solutions)
  8. Enterprise Feedback

Things You Should Know About And Get Involved With.

There are some major initiatives that I think that you should get yourself involved with if you are into Social CRM in any way.

CRM Idol – this is an annual contest, started in 2011, that has been put together to provide a showcase and a learning environment, along with amazing prizes, for small, emerging companies in the Social CRM(ish) space. It involves many of the influencers who are the industries leaders giving up time to help these companies. There is an active community and a site for the companies to peddle their wares so to speak. A great place to discover new exciting technology companies that are being vetted by the industry’s best vetters. If you want to see this year’s competition, which is in progress, click here. If you want to see last years, click here.

CRM Watchlist – This is a 4 year old annual award that I give out for companies in the Social CRM(ish) space who are most likely to make an impact in the award year. It usually starts with a list of 200 plus potential “nominees” is whittled down to about 70 or so and then a rigorous scoring is done of each – both objective (subjective) and subjective. Usually about 30 of the industry’s impact players are chosen. Each of them is given a thorough written review with why they are there and what they need to do. If you’re interested, rather than me giving you the almost a dozen links to the CRM Watchlist 2012.  Instead there is a CRM Watchlist 2012 Yearbook. Email me at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com and I’ll email it to you in PDF form. It’s about 110 pages so beware. Lots of industry technology company coverage.  Here’s one link to the winners in 2012. You’ll note that there are a number of companies listed as those to re-examine in 6 months.  That will be beginning soon.

Beagle Research (Denis Pombriant) and Thinkjar (Esteban Kolsky) social research initiative – this is a major study that you should participate in. Its run by two of the industry’s most veteran and respected thought leaders and has the chance to be a groundbreaking study on the impact of social in business.   Here is a link to a post by Denis on it. Here is a link to a post by Esteban on it. Here is a link to the survey itself.  Do it.

CRM Evolution 2012 – There is no doubt at all in my mind that this is the pre-eminent CRM conference. The only CRM conference that brings together customers, influencers from multiple organizations, all the major vendors and just about all the most important folks in CRM to 2.5 days of both knowledge and networking.  In the interests of disclosure, I chair this puppy and I love doing it. Its August 13-15 at the Marriott Marquis in NYC.  If you’re interested you can register here or if not sure, here’s the conference information.  If not interested, shame on you.

CRM Bus Tour – This is arguably the coolest thing going in CRM this year.  DRI, a Portuguese company that is a strategy consulting/systems integration leader, based in Lisbon, is the company that is doing the CRM Idol website and is one of my favorite companies ever, had this idea to do a big bus tour through Europe in the fall with several of the CRM world’s most interesting thought leaders.  They got me, Esteban Kolsky, Denis Pombriant and Brent Leary.  Go team!  This would be a 12 day 4 city (with side stops) tour from Stockholm to Amsterdam to Madrid to Lisbon, each day punctuated with an event, a party/dinner and media stuff, plus other things. We’ll be doing stuff on the bus too that will be posted continuously on the bus tour website. For more info on this (and if you want to sponsor too) go to the CRM Bus Tour website. This is just awesome.

Brent Leary’s Technology for Business Sake – I presume y’all know Brent Leary, one of my closest friends, the most significant small business influencer in things CRM and social       and my partner in CRM Playaz.  He’s got this show that airs on the radio in Atlanta and via the web that covers the technologies that are driving small businesses. Totally contemporary, totally valuable and genuinely fun to listen to.  Get involved here.

Watching Yankees Games All Summer – if I have to explain why you should do this, then you shouldn’t.

I hope this keeps you satisfied for a bit until I can get out the posts that I need to later. I’m sorry for the hiatus. I felt crappy not actually writing at all for a month.  Please accept my apologies. I’ve forgiven me. I hope that you will. If it matters at all.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Cloud, Data Management, Emerging Tech, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Samsung

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Engagedots CRM

    Through CRM software, business can evolve many more things. Its a strong basement to bring in leads. CRM is a multi channeled thing focuses on customer relationship, managing records, organizing business, as well improves the sales too.
    Engagedots CRM