Okay, before I begin, a confession. I just spent 3 days at the Enterprise 2.0 2011 confab in Boston - and didn't attend a single event that I didn't do. But I have several excuses and I think that I'm still qualified to write what I'm about write.
First, I participated in 4 events, the official attendee dinner sponsored by the good folks at Broadvision (who released a Clearvale branded Social CRM product that day), called, to my actual embarrassment (though, of course, being human, my secret delight, despite protestations) "An Evening with Paul Greenberg" (see the video here) (got around 300 people); moderated a panel on the sales and marketing technologies that are out there now - in a progressive way - that is; sat on a panel run by the inestimable Esteban Kolsky, on the customer experience; and sat on a keynote panel moderated by the ubermensch of E20, Andrew McAfee, who turns out to be, in addition to a seminal thinker, an outstanding moderator and a really nice person, despite his Red Sox proclivities.
Additionally, I had 16 meetings with luminaries in the space and representatives of key practitioners and vendors and of course, interacted with dozens to hundreds of people and took their temperature steadily and readily.
Plus, I can read. Yes, despite what you all have been thinking over these past few years due to my somewhat odd writing style, I actually can read. Really. I swear. Consequently, I was able to ascertain a few things from the specific conference landscape and from the general trends out there which makes me think that we are at a nodal point in the E20 and Social CRM universes - which are really a couple of euphemisms for internal workplace performance, productivity and interaction AND customer-centered interactions, respectively. The inside out and the outside in. The back office and the customer facing. The internal and the external.
Whatever. This isn't going to be a debate over what we're calling "it" this week, despite an occasional (to be futile) attempt to continue that discussion. When companies like IBM are transforming their $100 billion, 400,000 employee, 100 year old business into a new business format and when companies like Procter and Gamble, with their 300+ brands, 23 of them worth a billion dollars U.S. or more are engaging their customers to help them meet supply chain KPIs, a terminology fight is a sad digression. To debate terminology when companies are actually trying to figure out how to do these things, is like saying "oh, there is a powerful shift in the business landscape that is having measurable seismic impact. Wonder if we should continue to call it an earthquake. Hmmm, let's argue about it, while everything is shaking, kinda hard actually, around us." So, in order to make sure that you can feel served, feel free to call what's going on, whatever you damn well please. As far as I'm concerned, Esteban Kolsky in his post on E20 puts this definition "thing" to rest.(also read Lee Bryant's comment for a complementary view. Worth it.)
In other words, we are at a point where businesses are going to have to start thinking about how they can accelerate their response to the changes going on because the changes are going on whether or not the business responds at all or quick enough.
So, two things. What are the changes I'm talking about and how did it manifest itself at the conference.
Changes Through the Lens of Real Life
We are dealing with people. First, let me say, forgive me. Since what I'm about to say is literally the most obvious possible things I could say. Here, in a nutshell, is how to view the customer, the employee and the things that have changed - even though you know all of this.
- People go to work, making them employees or self-employed.
- They do a job and are required to varying extents to meet some standard of performance.
- They use tools to do their job in a way that, they hope, will help them meet those standards of performance and also help them to like their job over time.
- At work they talk with others, who may or may not be of help in particular circumstances to that individual. If they are, they sometimes try to write down - either with a pen or a computing device - what that person told them, because the information is useful.
- When work is over, they leave work if they are at an office. Otherwise they are at home or on the road.
- Because they leave a physical workspace doesn't mean that they stop working. They have communication and productivity tools that allow them to continue to work (with others, if need be) if they care to.
- Throughout the day and into the night, those same people are likely to buy something - food, drink, a gadget, a crib for their coming baby, a Ferrari, whatever. They are not only employees, they are customers. Does this make them well-rounded? I wouldn't exactly call it that, but it means they are multifaceted - as all human beings are - and they play many roles and have many different types of interactions.
- But the one thing, all of these individuals are in any role they may assume at any time is self-interested. They pursue their own lives and interact with others in ways that one way or the other benefit them personally.
- All of those interactions with all the individuals and institutions they have them with, have been impacted directly or indirectly by the now irrevocable communications revolution of the past decade or so. Their expectations of how those interactions will occur and the their expectations of the outcome of those interactions have changed. That goes for interactions at work or as a customer. Or, if you prefer, with individuals or organizations/institutions.
- The expectations are that these interactions will have high velocity, rapid response times, will surface the kind of information they need, and will get some quickly redeemable value from its outcome - either directly or indirectly, internal or external.
If you think about this, I haven't done anything but probably insult you by pointing out what you do every day of every week. The first 8 items are what's been done by individuals for the last zillion and a half years. But the last two items are the indicators of the change.
You've heard me say this many times before. We are dealing with a communications revolution that has altered how we communicate, and what we expect, forever. This means regardless of our personal role or the context of our actions at any given time, though the roles and contexts bear on what we expect and how we interact.
What's this mean for the bigger picture as we move through 2011? For the last several years while we've seen enormous changes in how people trust in the consumer marketplace (e.g. review sites, complaints via Twitter, Facebook messages, wall postings etc. in conjunction with traditional means of communication - phones, email, even direct mail, and of course, face to face) - and how businesses respond to that (e.g. a Twitter customer service channel, social media monitoring, the growth of feedback and increased interest in analytics for insight, cultural reorganizations in businesses that lead to redefined and new job roles, etc.). Things have come so far that we use terms to describe the new social channels as part of our language - tweeting, googling,
For example, last Sunday, I was watching the Yankees Old Timers Day event, something that I love seeing where the former Yankees from the 1940s on through the near past, gather at the Yankees expense at Yankee Stadium where they are honored by the team and the fans. A fantastic and moving tradition, that always makes me tear up. Always. In any case, Tino Martinez, Yankees first baseman in the late 90's and early part of the 21st century - and one of my favorite players ever - hit a home run in the mock Old Timer's game that they play. Michael Kay, one of the Yankees broadcasters announced within a minute or so of that happening that "Hey, Tino is trending on Twitter!" (which he was BTW, both in NY and nationally). The very fact that this meant something tells you something of how:
1. Communications has changed with the addition of these social channels.
2. Twitter is now an ordinary part of mainstream language
3. Important this social channel has become - i.e. trending on Twitter is something to note for branding power.
Of course, the purpose of this incredibly long winded and roundabout way to get to the E20 conference is that businesses, which are made of these people in these institutions, need to respond with a coherent combined internal and external strategy because they are being compelled to by pressure from the ground up as their customers and employees increasingly use these new channels to interact. Compelled to, not optionally lazily respond whenever the spirit moves them.
But the businesses still have their own operational requirements, their need to capture transaction data for the record -not just for insight, but for compliance, regulation and management of their business. They need to set objectives because they are still beholden to stockholders, even though they should feel beholden more to stakeholders than just stockholders. They need to answer to their own institutional needs which can feel and even be greater than the needs of an individual within the institution.
That's why you often see the conflict between business and individual employee and business and individual customer. That's why businesses have such a hard time meeting the demands of their own employees and their customers - each of the individuals is self-interested. The business responsibility is now how to create a commonwealth of self-interest while being able to satisfy its own goals. A tough job indeed. And one that never will have a perfect result.
So given all the changes going on now, we see the transformations in large and small business environments toward a more "social business." They are often tentative attempts to try to appeal to the new breed of employee coming into the workforce and the new breed of customer who is interested in purchasing the goods and services that the company provides. Given the expectations driven by the communications transformation, this means new ways of operating by these business.
Historically, though the history is short, we've seen this split into two different components. Internal collaboration, called Enterprise 2.0, thanks to Andrew McAfee, addressed the need in the workplace to improve productivity, increase efficiencies, and acknowledge the new set of expectations that the contemporary workforce has. It has been driven by the use of collaborative workspaces and other appropriate tools and a culture of collaboration, which is leading to the evolution of E20 to the empowering of employees to take action on behalf of the business, superseding the traditional hierarchies that have been required to get anything done.
The second component has been Social CRM, which followed on the heels of Enterprise 2.0 and is still somewhat less mature in execution. While created on the back of traditional CRM, it demands a significant change by businesses because its foundation is customer engagement rather than management. The implications mean greater transparency so that the customer can have access to the information that he or she needs to make an intelligent decision on how they want to interact with a business. It involves, in more advanced stages, collaboration with the customer to either improve the products being sold or fix problems or something through feedback mechanisms. Or, if you're really rolling, it means collaboration on product development directly with the customers. All in all though, it means new customer inputs via communities for example; new customer outreach into channels like Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook or via blogs - and new protocols for dealing with them - and it means the provision of tools and consumable experiences to those customers so they can control how they interact with the company.
When combined in a way that there is a whole greater than the sum of its parts - it is what is now being called "social business" and in a few years will be called "business," the same way "social CRM" will be "CRM."
What makes social business greater than the sum of its part is also why it needs both parts to work seamlessly inside out and outside in. Customers and the need to acquire and retain customers are driving it. It is being driven by the same imperative of business that has driven business since its inception, But it is being driven by the changed expectations of those customers.
What that means is that not only do we now need not just an enterprise value chain, but a collaborative value chain that engages customers who we know enough about to keep engaged, but that the employees of the companies that are trying to reform and restructure what they do are empowered to act both internally and externally to do something about it. Like the businesses of the past, there are still going to be people in management. This isn't so democratizing that we have some entirely level, non-hierarchical organization as a result - nor do we need to. But it will and does require a level of empowerment of the employees and participation of the customers that business management has been very uncomfortable with in the past.
IBM is of course the largest of the companies making this transformation. They are becoming a social business, which means in part, empowering and incentivizing their employees to act on things that they historically had neither the power nor the incentive to act on. This isn't just an internal effort. They are making every attempt to overcome their historic deficiency with CRM by doing the research, creating the practices and identifying the products that Social CRM provides, so that they can not only sell the stuff, but also actually use the tools, products, services and experiences internally to reach out to customers externally.
So what does all this longwinded pontificating have to do with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston last week? Let me ‘splain.
Enterprise 2.0 - Convergence Continues
I begin with 2 brief stories.
- Brent Leary and I were having a conversation a coupla days ago and Brent brought up the fact that at the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference in 2009, the only mention of CRM in entire conference, much less Social CRM was by the Blue States Digital guy in his keynote - and that was once. The ONLY mention. This year the conversations and discussion on Social CRM were everywhere.
- As I walked from the Sheraton Hotel to the Hynes Convention Center, I saw a big banner draped in a hallway that said, "E20 - The #1 Social Business Conference." Hmmm.
What we are beginning to see is that convergence has gone beyond a neat discussion and is now something far more serious - a practical necessity as the social customer base evolves. Make no mistake about it, this is all being driven by ground up pressure from increasingly savvy and demanding customers who want a valuable experience with the companies that they choose to interact with - and will voice their displeasure if they don't get it to potentially vast numbers of people who they think will listen to them - and, who very well might. That means that in the workplace, the enterprise value chain has to work seamlessly - the employees, suppliers/vendors, partners/channel all need to provide the experience that the customer feels is excellent. But from the outside-in there is another dimension, the collaborative value chain. The customers become a part of the overall value chain - extending what has been the enterprise value chain into something different - because customer feedback is involved. So the issues of productivity of the workforce, cultural transformation, partner ecosystems, supplier/vendors as collaborators not just clientele and of course, customers interacting with the organization, all are part of social businesses driven by customer experience.
This is clearly becoming a major part of how the E20 world is starting to see its evolution, if the conference is any reflection of that. To follow up on the Brent Leary observation, last year at the Santa Clara E20 event, Social CRM was "tested" for the first time as superstar conference chair and driving force, Techweb's Steve Wiley put it. That was reflected by a 35 minute keynote from me, and a Social CRM track run by crossover star Sameer Patel, a thought leader in the E20 space who was foresighted enough to see the value of Social CRM and has now become a thought leader in the SCRM world. I call him part of "The Carrie Underwood Group" (get it? Crossover country into popular...Sigh. It's why I'd never do well at standup). He ran the track.
This year, it was noticeable how many of the CRM/SCRM crowd was at this conference. Aside from me and Sameer, the heavy hitters like Esteban Kolsky, and Brent Leary, Brian Vellmure, Mitch Lieberman, Michael Krigsman, Charlie Isaacs, and a myriad of other CRM leading luminaries either spoke, moderated or sat on panels throughout the conference. I was honored by being asked to sit on the E20 Board of Advisors and participated in 4 events, speaking at the Broadvision/Clearvale sponsored official Attendee Dinner, moderated a panel on sales and marketing technology, and sat on two panels - one on the Customer Experience moderated by Esteban Kolsky and another on Emergent Business Leadership moderated by Andrew McAfee.
Aside from my exhausting participation, the signs that convergence to social business is a practical and necessary matter were everywhere - as was the discussion on Social CRM. What was apparent is that Social CRM and E20 are now married, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health and are combining into a coherent whole that is being labeled "social business."
The evidence of all of this was prevalent at the conference. If you look at the titles of the events/tracks etc. what was apparent was that the customer was a dominant force and theme throughout. Examples:
1. Customer 2.0: Innovate around People or Perish
2. Did We Forget the ‘R' In CRM (this was Sameer's keynote)
3. Pulling It Together: Connecting External Activities with Internal Conversations
4. Deus Ex Machina: Taking Complexity out the of the Customer Experience
5. Why Supporting Customers is the New Marketing
6. The Vendor Landscape for Sales & Marketing Technology
7. SocialMedia and Social Networking: Some Cautionary Tales
8. Mobile, Social, Local
9. Engaging and Servicing B2B Customers
10. Creating Unified Customer Experiences
There were considerably more than that. Plus about 15 tracks that were devoted to some form of social business and for the most part using the term.
The conversations going on among the audience were a combination of what you would hear at E20 conferences past - "what are some of the newer applications of employee management theory that are suggested by internal collaboration?" to something that even last year would have been notable by its scarcity - "what is the best way to bring Social CRM into practice in an organization - with executive buy in or without it?" Those two questions at two of the events I was involved in - encapsulates what I heard in one form or another over and over again at this conference.
Enterprise 2.0 is a bellwether conference. Not only is it a cauldron of serious discussion about progressive business ideas and their applicability at the workplace, but also it's a reflection of the greater changes going on in business and how they are being reproduced in the corporate boardroom and the hallways where employees congregate and the places that customers buy. That's why there were 1600 people there to get information - many who have been coming year in and year out - about how to think about what to do - and sometimes, more explicitly what to do. For the first time, the convergence of enterprise 2.0 and social CRM wasn't a theme - it just was the conference. The changes we see in the institution of business, where employees who are work are also customers who buy and the pressure to understand the consumerization of business, are also bringing this conference into alignment with the new reality that companies like IBM and Procter and Gamble are acting on. Next year, or maybe even this year in Santa Clara, that big banner I saw "#1 Conference Social Business" will be more than a banner - and more than E20 and SCRM combined.