Vendors Who Get The Social Thing - Oh, And I've Ordered An iPad

First Things FirstI ordered an iPad last Friday right after Apple finished updating their site so that I could.  Just to set the record straight, I'm not a fanboy though I have 2 iMacs, an iPhone and a Macbook Pro 13" with a solid state drive.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

First Things First

I ordered an iPad last Friday right after Apple finished updating their site so that I could.  Just to set the record straight, I'm not a fanboy though I have 2 iMacs, an iPhone and a Macbook Pro 13" with a solid state drive. But, then again, I'm writing this post on a quadcore HP PC and I'm totally happy with it and with....with.....fanboys lay off me....Windows 7 Ultimate. Yes, I LIKE Windows 7 Ultimate.

Even though the iPad has limited functionality, it's got enough to handle netbookish stuff that I have to do and its just so cool as an entertainment media/web browsing device that I gotsta have it. What drives it, as well as what drives the iPhone isn't just the Jetson-like look it has but the software that's being made available. If I'm to be ruthlessly honest with myself, I'm buying it to watch the Yankees when I travel on a really good screen using the MLB app that's being developed for the iPad.   The business appeal is use of Keynote for presentations so that I can do the Madden draw thing on the presentations among other things. Hey, given how many I give, I need to be entertained by my presenting too.

In any case, its now ordered and I'll have it on April 3.  Watch for my review. (Update: I got the 64gb version with VGA connector for presentations. Will get other accessories later and case from someone else. TIp: Use the Verizon MIFi or Sprint equivalent as a substitute for 3G from AT&T. Will save you $130 plus no need for new AT&T data plan)

Now to the Meat

Michael Krigsman's enthusiastic post about Oracle CRM Senior Director Steve Diamond's response to his post on Six Ways CRM Projects Go Wrong got me thinking even further about vendors then I have in my post on PGreenblog last week...well, rant on PGreenblog, anyway.  Often I hear people talking about vendors that they think do things wrong or vendors who should eat their own dog food.  But what they mean by the latter is usually use their own software - which is a ridiculous criterion as far as I'm concerned.  For example, why should a small company that is developing software for the enterprise be "obligated" by the powers-that-be to use that software?  They're not an enterprise. It doesn't indicate a lack of understanding to not use it.

But there is something that vendors could do that would be beneficial to them and at the same time benefit the market and the practitioners who are interested in them.  That would be do something in the world of thought leadership - where the representatives of the vendors could do fair, honest, agnostic assessments and presentations of idea and participate in the debate, discussion, conversation, whatever you feel like calling it without pushing their agenda in the face of people - meaning without traditional marketing approaches.

This is a subtle art.  Thought leadership is based on ideas propagated into the marketplace. I thought I'd look at a few of the vendors here that are doing it right and should be applauded for this - maybe not for other things in some cases - but for this.  I have 3 in mind who's agnostic approach to thought leadership in some areas is actually refreshing enough to make you want to go "Yeaaahh. That's what I'm talkin' about."

Forecasting Clouds - Chris Bucholz - Aplicor

For those of you who don't know Chris Bucholz, you should.  He was a superstar at InsideCRM, one of the most astute writers in the industry and funny as hell too.  He is now at Aplicor doing Forecasting Clouds and remains not only a superstar and astute, but funny as hell.

The idea behind Forecasting Clouds is that it operates as a daily for the most part agnostic aggregator pulling the best of....from blogs all over the ether and additionally providing original content written by Chris and other contributors.  The aggregation of articles and the original content is all great stuff aimed in and around thought leadership.  The one place where the agnosticism fails is understandable. You don't find competitive vendor's content or discussions about competitive vendors (or any vendors) from independent bloggers.  I think I'd loosen that up a little bit but maybe not totally. The independent bloggers takes on some of the vendors stuff is valuable - but I'll understand if they don't.

CRM Outsider - Martin Schneider - SugarCRM

Martin Schneider, before SugarCRM, worked for the 451 Group as a brilliant analyst.  Now he's at SugarCRM and guess what? He's taken his analyst skills and honed them into a Sugar-compliant message but one that remains subtle and valuable.

Why is that? Because in the CRM Outsider - a blog that SugarCRM lets him write with freedom - he takes on important issues and muses about important subjects.  That could range from a post on Trust v. Attention as the Prime Currency of the Social CRM Economy to a guest post by Mitch Lieberman, VP of SugarCRM and thinker extraordinare on The Consumerization of the Enterprise, where Mitch suggested in a positive way that he and Marc Benioff agreed on something.

There is a lot of SugarCRM direct content marbled throughout the weeks of blog postings but it is a vendor's blog. Martin is savvy enough to keep the thought leadership separate from the marketing which makes for a really excellent blog.

Using External Sources - Varying Folks - SAP

I can't say that SAP has a blog that is visible to world as an SAP blog. But what they do artfully is to utilize external properties such as The Customer Collective, The Social Customer and Social Media Today, all part of Robin Carey's social media bag of goodies to not only do their own blogging on subjects that are thought leader worthy like this post from Peter Auditore, one of the jefes of the SAP Business Influencer Group on "I am a Social Customer" in January on The Social Customer. But by supporting the sites they support the thinking of key other influencers without being obtrusive so that instead, they are genuinely helpful.   Could they do other things that might be valuable in an agnostic way.  Probably take a lesson from Martin Schneider in particular.  But what they got going is someone and more so than most.

So kudos to those three vendors. They are the best exceptions to a fast decaying rule - that vendors must produce collateral. They can produce thoughts of value too and in the case of these three vendors, they are each uniquely doing it right.

I'd love to show you all of this on my iPad.  Damn. Three more weeks.  And even better, the baseball season opens the next night - Yankees v. Red Sox. Now, I can watch it on my 65" screen, AND my iPad.  Just kidding...maybe

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