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The Story of Stories: Enterasys Thinks So 21st Century

About 2 months ago, thought leader and friend, Michael Krigsman (read his always incredible ZDNet blog here), introduced me to Vala Afshar, the Chief Customer Officer of Enterasys Networks - a Siemens' owned enterprise level secure networks hardware (and software) provider.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

About 2 months ago, thought leader and friend, Michael Krigsman (read his always incredible ZDNet blog here), introduced me to Vala Afshar, the Chief Customer Officer of Enterasys Networks - a Siemens' owned enterprise level secure networks hardware (and software) provider.  Aside from the fact that I really, really liked this guy, I heard a story that was totally amazing when it came to an actually rational approach to transforming a business to what we've all called (at least there's one thing we can all agree on) a truly customer-centric and humanized model. This is a long term (9 years so far) transformation, it treats social as a channel and a set of options for the customers rather than a hyped up steroids induced fantasy and the results are measured to see how successful they are going to be with a lot of thinking and experimentation and tweaking going on within the more strategic initiatives that they launched.

I was so impressed with this approach and story I decided to let Vala, who led the effort for the most part, tell the story to you. Okay, they are a vendor. So?  This is a great story of a very smart approach to the 21st century business models that need to be considered by a business and its evangelists.  So listen up. I think that you're going to get a lot from this.

Vala, take it away, dude. Your stage.


The more I speak to CIOs and IT leaders, the more I appreciate the importance of customer experience. I am always thinking about how we can leverage technology to help us move from transactions to engagements. Luckily, one of the advantages of a company with only a thousand employees is our ability to rapidly research and deploy new business enabling technologies. I find it refreshing to be able to work closely with sales, marketing, services, engineering and other key line of business owners to determine how  we can compete smartly against competitors who are mostly much larger than Enterasys.

Certainly technology is a key success factor but in terms of priorities it follows culture, people and process. That said, I feel that a customer-focused culture emphasizes a pragmatic and innovative mindset that emphasizes value and execution velocity as part of the technology evaluation and adoption processes. Since 2003 my company has been on a path to becoming a much more agile business through the use of cloud, mobile, and social technologies.  Throughout this transformation I have seen our customer-first focus as the driving force. I'd like to share my company's own evolution as an example for others looking to make the transition to more customer-focused approach.

Cloud Computing - 2003

In 2003, I saw us migrate from an on premise to a software-as-a-service cloud-based solution, developed by Salesforce.com, to manage our global sales and services operation. Internal discussions to leverage cloud computing technologies for our customer relationship management (CRM) tool were extensive but ultimately business agility and customer focus drove decision-making. Fast forward 9 years and today I see the benefits of  being a ‘cloud first' company - meaning that cloud based applications are the first option when it comes to introducing new tools into the business - resulting in increased agility and responsiveness to customers.

Culture of Transparency & Value Added Services - 2006

n 2006 the next steps involved:
  • Developing a single pane of glass view of all customer contact and integrated all sales, engineering, supply chain and services data in order for the services organization to deliver value-added services to the other lines of business.
  • Correlating sales forecasts and mapping potential business to open contact center tickets
  • Delivering automated sales and services dashboards to sales leadership, so that they can develop risk mitigation strategies and better manage their sales pipeline.

Gamification - 2007

In 2007 I helped introduce gamification concepts within our services organization by leveraging our CRM solution to build ‘balanced performance scorecards.' I'm a big Boston sports fan and loved the idea of creating a fun but competitive atmosphere for our services team.  Service professionals are treated like professional athletes - meaning they are categorized as Hall of Famers, All-Stars, Starters, Bench, and Minor Leaguers. Why professional athletes? Because the highest level of accountability is at the professional arena - athletes are diving, risking injuries, sweat and blood, in order to help their team win. Why? Because there is a scoreboard and everyone is aware of everyone else's performance and contribution towards the win, or loss. Contact center and engineering staff can access real-time benchmarking data and compare their performance against group average and group best results across all key performance indicators (KPIs). There are CRM integrated balanced performance scorecards - about a dozen KPIs - for every service employee and our overall services organization. Hall of Fame, All-Star and Starters are recognized and rewarded based on their performance achievements. We use the same scoring methodology - based on weighted-sum algorithm - to manage open case backlog inventory and sales opportunity pipeline.

Taking the Customer's Temperature - 2009

In 2009 we developed CRM based predictive analytics capabilities in order to determine customer temperature. Customer contact is profiled and using a specific set of parameters - hardware defective returns, software errors, customer satisfaction survey results, etc. - a customers' temperatures can be forecast, ranging from cool to hot. Contact center professionals can see the ‘customer temperature gauge' embedded in the CRM solution. From there are developed and managed escalation workflows and automated service level agreement (SLA) conformance measures based on customer predictions. Most important benefit is that being able to proactively contact customers when predictions point to warm-to-hot temperatures in order to prevent dissatisfaction. I believe the definition of quality is customer perception. Successful service organizations must leverage predictive analytics to shift from a defensive mindset (wait for customer contact to deliver value) to preventative, offensive mindset. That's a ‘customer for life' service methodology.

Social Collaboration - 2010

In 2010, we introduced enterprise social networking by implementing Salesforce.com Chatter throughout our business, creating chatter accounts for every single employee - 1,000+ - and instantly collaborating from the top down. My boss (our CEO) and all of his direct reports began sharing via Chatter, with the objective to help humanize our business and help expand the company's reach, especially field functions (sales and services) to headquarter operations. This type of collaboration is a very important step for any business in terms of connecting thought leaders - mostly single contributors - to boost the ability to respond to customers and partners. The inherent benefit of social collaboration is to promote departments, employees and major initiatives throughout the organization. In my own company, we have 75+ Chatter groups, some private, some public that are highly active and used daily to cultivate a culture of transparency and togetherness.

Social Products - 2011

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein

Now imagine a world when your information technology administrators can securely communicate to the enterprise from anywhere using the tools that they know best. Today, social media is everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Salesforce.com's Chatter are examples of pervasive, simple and easy to use methods of human networking. More than one sixth of humanity is leveraging social media to network. Most are using mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In fact, today, mobile devices are the number one method of connecting to the Internet. On top of that, growth of cloud computing is delivering flexible consumption models with unparalleled scale and user adoption trajectories.

Keep imagining the possibility of increasing IT management efficiency by providing ubiquitous secure access, with a customizable natural and local language, using a social media interface that invites and connects the human to machine, machine to human, and then to the world. Imagine reducing complexity with minimal training needed for your IT staff. Gartner recently noted that by 2014, more effort will go into redesigning existing applications to make them social than deploying social software products. Can we ‘friend' our network? Can we ‘tweet' to our enterprise IP infrastructure and have the machines ‘tweet' us back? Can we ‘chat' via enterprise class social media using Salesforce.com? Can we do this securely? Are we at a point in time whereby ‘Consumerization of IT' has led to a fusion of all the key information technology megatrends: social media, cloud computing, mobility, ubiquitous management, flexible deployments? The answer to all of these questions is ‘yes'.

In 2011, social networking for Enterasys took a whole new step towards a very blue ocean. It was important for every information source to be invited to the network social graph, including products. The true social enterprise is both people and machines. So we invented a social media translator and called it ‘isaac' - intelligent socially aware and automated communication - that would securely translate traditional enterprise IP-based machine network management and visibility language - system logging, command line interface (CLI), simple network management protocol (SNMP) - to social languages (Twitter tweets, Facebook messages or Salesforce.com chats). Yes, follow your network, friend your network or chat to your network. I was joined by IDC's chief analyst Crawford Del Prete (@craw) on a Network World (@networkworld) webcast and spoke about the benefits of social products https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL804516C2F5B2B5B5. To have mobile users leverage a language and user interface they know (social media) to connect to IP-based machines for real-time management and control is clearly in our future - remember gravity.

In 2011, our CEO Chis Crowell contributed his thoughts to Forbes Magazine regarding the impact of social media in the enterprise in a piece called: ‘How Social Media Can Mesh with Traditional Corporate IT' - http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2011/09/01/how-social-media-can-mesh-with-traditional-corporate-it/. Chris' summary captured our vision very nicely.

Social Products and the User Experience - 2012

Today, mobile users receive chats from the network telling them when wireless connectivity is sub-optimal. We started in 2010 with people-to-people social collaboration and then in 2011 we invited machines and began social collaboration with machines. Now in 2012, there is machine-to-machine collaboration via social. Allow me to explain a specific case study. Using Salesforce.com Chatter technology and our network management software we monitor for mobile users and look for signal strength of the wireless connected user. When our network management system detects a system log that indicates poor wireless connectivity we chat to our infrastructure product asking for location and identity of said user. The machines chat back the details to our services cloud, where our CRM solutions sits (this is all in Salesforce.com). The chat from the machines automatically create a services case - with user identity, location, and an incredible set of forensics to begin diagnosis - all auto populated in the appropriate case fields. Our existing CRM automated workflows then push the case information to the affected end user and the skilled engineer responsible for resolution development. The notifications are chats! A traditional contact lifecycle of a poorly connected mobile user contacting help desk and then help desk routing to skilled engineer is now completely automated. Yes, machines are doing 100% of the work - delivering actionable data to the stakeholders via social media. Can you see the positive impact this will have on the user experience?  It results in faster identification, notification and resolution because machines and humans are connected via social channels in a dynamic and integrated CRM framework.

In 2003, adoption of cloud based CRM was considered fairly innovative. In 2005, the concept of gamification in the enterprise was also innovative. Leveraging predictive analytics and removing inter-departmental boundaries via a single pane glass view of the business, powered by CRM delivered value-added services, was also slightly ahead of the curve. In 2011, collaboration extended to invite machines to the network graph and now machine-to-machine communication via social media has us swimming in blue waters.

Beyond 2012 - What's next?

"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." -Albert Einstein.

I certainly recognize that transformation of businesses to a social enterprise is in its infancy and I want to work closely with our customers to help guide them along the way. I am excited to be working with Mr. Michael Krigsman to connect with industry CIO thought leaders to help guide this transformation. Can we develop a blue print that speaks to best practice implementation and adoption of cloud computing, social collaboration, consumerized IT and mobility? I believe that what we have accomplished and the benefits recognized are something that should be shared with our customers and partners. So what's next? Well, there is something I think can potentially transform our industry but the details will have to wait for future posts. But imagine if machines could proactively communicate recommendations that would further optimize the user experience in a self-correcting, adaptive model? Imagine if the consumption gap (product capability versus product usage) could be reduced with intelligence as a service? You won't have to imagine for long - we can demo this today!

Humanizing the enterprise... that's our future.


A round of applause for this man - and this company.  Now THAT'S a story.

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