Google+ is Google Neutral & Other Random Thoughts From A Sleepless Night

NOTE: I started this post on a day that I had absolutely no sleep whatever. Literally.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor on

NOTE: I started this post on a day that I had absolutely no sleep whatever. Literally.  Which means that its the product of a temporarily feverish mind. Even with that, I'm standing by what I'm saying though the post consists of random thinking.

Google+ is Google Neutral...So Far

Without a doubt the event of the week, was the launch of a "private field test" of Google+, Google's newest attempt at a social network. It even overshadowed the Facebook/Skype partnership that delivered video chat to Facebook.  There is no doubt that there is a lot of buzz about Google+, there is a lot of positive press and a lot of speculation about it. But the questions that remain for me after all is said and done are in the order of least important to most important:

  1. Is it a Facebook killer?
  2. Does it provide a genuine business value?

So far, I'd have to say that the answer to both questions is "no." As of now for #2.
What? Really? REALLY?
Yeah really.  Here's the reason.

  1. It's no Facebook killer because Facebook is already the digital social location of choice for 750 million people for their personal day to day interactions. That's only one thing. Don't forget that Facebook's demographic is now a lot older than it was when it first began. In fact, the second fastest growing segment of Facebook is 55+ as of 2Q 2011. There are, all in all, if you accumulate the many somewhat disparate studies of recent Facebook demographics, roughly 30% of the entire lot that are 40+. Not many on Facebook especially of the let us say more experienced generations really are looking to change locations, making Facebook the one place they hang out on the web.  Why? They already figured out how Facebook works and that's good enough for them.  Don't forget what it took to get them to adopt Facebook to begin with. Asking them to move to Google+ in lieu of Facebook is  kind of like asking a lifelong New Yorker to move to a new town that might become something the size of Chicago. Not gonna happen. Inertia rules here. The psychic cost of switching from Facebook to Google+ is too great. Hell, you haven't even switched airlines yet and you probably hate your airline right? So why are you likely  to do something even less emotionally distracting? Facebook users are already familiar and relatively comfortable with the look, feel, and most importantly, culture of Facebook. They don't need to move over to an unknown location because, well, they don't need to. That's why Google+ ain't a Facebook killer. Google+ is certainly interesting, but not that compelling for a personal user. Which is what it would have to be to kill Facebook.
  2. At the moment, the business value is unclear, which is both a fair and unfair statement. Like Twitter in its early days, when the business value was unclear to many (not me. I got it.), the possibility is there especially given the ease with which you can create groups with privacy controls inside of Google+, the ability to videochat easily through hangouts, etc. Its ties to Gmail, Picasa, etc. are primo moves. But they haven't done the ONE thing that immediately would provide at least some seriously obvious productivity gains - make it integrate with Google Apps.  That is an oversight which I know they are rectifying but it really makes sense to have done that from the beginning. To Google's credit, they  are being clear that this version isn't geared to business and there will be one later this year. Also, based on this article, I found that I can sort of log in via Google apps to my G+ account. It acknowledges the connected circles but doesn't show the streams. So there is something afoot. But this is so early, there is no reason to jump up and down and whoo hoo it.  Promising here, not not ready for prime time for sure. Hey, its a beta still. I'm going to cut them slack because I like it but not jump on the bandwagon yet.  The geeks are jumping all over this to declare it part of Mt. Olympus but not so much for me.

So all in all, I'd say that its wait and see. I like it, but I don't think it destroys its opposition so to speak, but instead becomes another channel that we can use if we care to - and many will. Me? Maybe so. Maybe so.  But I'm stripping the hype away before it even starts.

Social CRM is...a technology?

No it isn't but technology doesn't have the same relationship to Social CRM as it did to CRM. Some of what it does is the same.  Because it's an extension of CRM, it still enables the systems and proceses as it always has. But there is a big difference too.

Much of the newer aspects of SCRM-related technology is built around harnessing the power of communications channels, not driving operational systems.

Traditional CRM technology was a functional enabler. What I mean by a functional enabler is, for example, campaign management in marketing or opportunity management in sales force automation.  The technology automates something - a task or an operation, often supported by a business rule that drives the execution of the operation.

In Social CRM we are looking at technology that enables an outcome. It doesn't just automate an operation. It helps you do a job. More often than not, it takes a combination of technologies to support the achievement of that outcome. To paint a simple picture, let's take Twitter, a communications channel if there ever was one. The scenario is common.

If I am using a social media monitoring tool to help me "listen" to the conversations of customers and I surface a complaint on Twitter from the monitoring process, I need to respond to that complaint. If I am using sentiment analysis with the tool, I can get an idea of how negative this complaint really is (no statement being made on accuracy of the sentiment here). Based on a combination of text and sentiment analysis (which, to keep the terminological record straight, is actually a form of text analysis too), I can use a workflow that is tied to a business rules engine that automatically routes the tweet to a specified customer service representative.  Then that CSR can respond via the same communications channel i.e. Twitter, using a technology tool that could be accessed through a CRM system or independently via an enterprise grade client that allows me to respond to the specific tweet. The activity on the opened case (from the tweet) is captured and placed inside a customer record, if identifiable, in a CRM system.  Or a new record can be created for the person that is something akin to a case or a lead. Possibly.

In other words, technology in SCRM enables outcomes, not operations. Or should if its doing what it's supposed to do.  This is a more powerful use of technology than in the past. The use of this technology matrix to some extent is helping to drive the popularity of SCRM, though, make no mistake about it, technology remains an enabler, not a true driver of SCRM - which, like its ancestor remains a strategy, and business philosophy and a program primarily. As it always has been.

More on this in a future post.

Simply Put - Another Mantra I Live By

Some of you read my post a few weeks ago on one of my several mantras - "Always be patient, but never lose your impatience" so I won't reiterate its meaning here.

But there are several other simple statements that pretty much govern my life. What makes them amazing to me is that they are simple. You've read my stuff, right? Is it EVER simple?  Or not verbose?


So here is one more. These mantras truly govern my life. I don't know how much they can mean to yours. But, hey, they're free.

You can't lose what you don't have.

This may not seem to be that much, but it is. This is why I don't stress over deals or money or things that aren't in my hands now. This is why I am willing to take risks (calculated ones, but risks) when it makes sense to me to do so.

Its simple. Why worry about the things that you haven't achieved or the business deals that are in progress but not complete. For me, I know that as long as I put forth the effort that I planned on, and do the things that I think are right for the moment or the long term, then I've done what I can to optimize my chances for success. The plans and efforts remain in my hands. The results aren't entirely in my hands. So I do what I can do that I control and the best result will occur - even if its not always the result I want.

For example,  a couple of years ago, I had a six-figure deal in progress. Since I'm a one man show, that is a significant dollar size for me.  It was long and drawn out - took 3 months to complete. I didn't stress for one second. I got the deal.

This year, I had a smaller yet still significant deal in the works with another vendor company. The contract was signed, the deal set in January.  But here it was June and I realized, "wait a minute, this hasn't happened yet." Now, normally, I leave time for each signed contract and don't do something else so that I can fulfill my end of the bargain.  Which I had done for this. But the vendor had gone radio silent.  I pursued them to find out the status and found out they had changed direction in February and neglected to tell me.  Meaning, at least for now, this wasn't going to happen - even with a signed contract.  IF I was someone who stressed over this things, I would have been angry. But instead, my attitude was simple. You can't lose what you don't have.  So I voided the contract proactively and let them off the hook.  Will something happen next year? Maybe.  But I just don't want to waste my energy, time and psychic good will on things that I don't have.

So I don't.

Random Vendor Thoughts

  • Got a demo of Telligent's Enterprise 6.0 platform. Very impressive. Major league customization depth at a fraction of the difficulty. Liked it more than I even expected - and I expected to like it.  I'm going to be curious as to their messaging/marketing/PR/AR strategy. I don't have a handle on that yet. Didn't get a feel for that in the demo which is a little surprising
  • I like the improvements in Pegasystems CRM product. As it always has been,  it is strongly process focused, but there is the flexibility built in that allows a significant level of control and guidance when it comes to how agents are going to interact with the customers. It allows for handling the ordinary and for the exceptions to the ordinary.  It could use some interface tweaks, though by no means is it a bad interface. The social features are there, but pretty much at the table stakes level and not beyond that.  But all in all, I'm pleasantly surprised at the improvements.
  • SAP is actually going to be able to play in the SaaS space re: Sales on Demand. They have Customer Service on Demand up next.  Despite the Business By Design product sucking (and continuing to do so), the Business By Design platform, which the Sales product was built on, is actually damned good.
  • Its astonishing to see how many of the vendors have decided to go up market from the midmarket or below. Almost all of them to be honest and all this year if they haven't already. The only major one that are sticking to their SMB/midmarket targets is Sage. Any other ones come to mind. Major ones.  But this year, NetSuite, Infor, and many others, some of whom scale already, some don't; have decided that the enterprise is their prime focus.  We shall see how well they do. That isn't as easy as a transition as it sounds. Culture of midmarket is very different than culture of the enterprise, for the most part.
  • The other thing that is apparent to me is that several companies of major note, who I can't specify for varying reasons, are beginning to re-emerge after long hibernation.  You'll guess on these soon. They're gearing up for big changes and pushes into the markets that they have been major players in for a long while but had inexplicably pulled back.
  • I have this theory. It stems from the Microsoft purchase of Skype, the existence of their top-flight IaaS cloud platform - Azure; the decent results they have gotten from Windows Phone 7 (though not market share, or presence); the push toward their cloud offerings for business; the release of Office 365, which is more of a platform for productivity and communications, unlike the past when Office was a productivity apps suite.   I think that Microsoft, the same way they went for the operating system market, is going to try to own Unified Communications.  I don't have definitive proof. Its really more of an hypothesis than a theory, now that I think of it.  But I think its valid.  The pieces are there for them to do something. No reason why they shouldn't go for it.  Their problem, even if they do take a shot, will be to lose the market impact of the move shortly after they make an imprint.  That is their albatross around the neck.  They can't seem to sustain good buzz.  Look at Microsoft Surface - a touchscreen device in 2007 ahead of even Apple at the time. Did you know that?  I rest my case.

Cynicism, Typecasting, etc. Ugh.

In the last several months, there has been both a current and undercurrent of the most incredibly cynical kind that has shown its "Dorian-Gray-after-the-portrait-was-destroyed" ugly face.  Its taken many forms. The most public two currents have been:

  1. Constantly cynical references to "analysts" or "pundits."
  2. The denigration of software vendors who are contrasted with practitioners from the standpoint of purity, not purpose.

I'll address both by number.

  1. Even though I'm not either an analyst nor do I consider myself a pundit, I'm getting really tired of the people who go around denigrating analysts and pundits as a category. They typecast all of them and find them useless and basically throw them into a scrapheap.  Reality is a lot different. Some analysts are great, some not as great, some poor, some horrible. Like anything else, if you're making an assumption for a single category from some intellectual or moral supposed high ground, then its arrogance, not intelligence. You want to find them valueless? Fine, that's your right, but your cynicism isn't appreciated by anyone with a reasonable human outlook.  Or at least I don't.  Cut it out and try to make decisions on what the individual says, not the category.
  2. Software technology vendors are as important to the CRM world as the strategists, as the business process experts, as the thought leaders, as the consultants and as the practitioners who are using all these services to support their CRM programs.  They are not evil, they are not gods, they are businesses trying to succeed, sometimes with policies that are head scratching, other times with brilliance and most of the time in between. And guess what? Practitioners are exactly the same thing. Businesses trying to succeed.  They are not the "real idols" any more than a software provider is; they are not any more objects of worship or disdain than a vendor is.  All of them, vendors or the practitioners that they sell to, are selling products and services to someone.  Period.  So those of you who show nothing but disdain for vendors and technologists, stop treating vendors like lepers with money that you seem so willing to take. Like any other company in the world, it consist of human beings, who have possibly great ideas on how to do or think about something.  Meaning, you treat them as institutions that are comprised of humans who are out to do the same thing you are - lead a good life.  Some may be venal and deserve scorn for what they do - fine. Nail 'em to the wall. I do that when necessary as you all know. But most are honest and hardworking and the companies they represent are just companies.

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