Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Striving For The Perfect Customer Relationship

For a company to continuously improve, it needs to strive for the perfect customer relationships and that is where CRM systems can give you a competitive advantage.  Traditionally, CRM systems have been used by sales and marketing teams to create leads and manage sales pipelines.  Realistically CRM should be used company wide to record all interactions with your customers and gather salient information that are jigsaw pieces in the complete picture of your customer relationships.

I was lucky enough to attend an IBM partner event today and listen to a presentation by 2010 Winter Olympic Skeleton gold medallist Amy Williams

Amy talked to us about what she had to do in achieving a lifetime goal of winning an Olympic gold medal. She talked about the level of detail all athletes go into to understand their performance on a continuous basis, and also in an annual review at the end of the season. This review is undertaken by all the people in the team; physiotherapists, psychologists, coaches, technicians, etc. The analysis of which determines the team's approach to the next season.
For Amy she had to put her trust into all the people who were supporting the British Skeleton team, and then with all the feedback and intelligence to turn that knowledge into a medal winning performance.

What I took from the talk was that in order to continuously improve your performance you need to understand everything about what you are doing.  Because even an insignificant detail can give an unexpected insight that can dramatically improve your performance.

So, take a look at your CRM solution and ask yourself what it really tells you about your customers?  Do you know what assets they have, what training courses they've booked with you, how many customer service issues there are (if any), their credit situation, who are the decision makers, etc.?  If you don't have such insights how can you develop your company to win?

Monday, 1 November 2010

IBM revamps it’s Cloud strategy

The Financial Times reports that IBM is to revamp it’s Cloud computing strategy. Having worked in IBM, handing such an area of business over to IBM Global Services will not be a fix to it developing an impetus to it’s Cloud computing business.

One interesting comment made by their head of Cloud computing business- Erich Clementi, was that there were as many opinions about their Cloud computing strategy as there were people.

IBM Global Services is a major outsourcer, and in my humble opinion, having to handle a Cloud Computing strategy alongside their existing business model is too contentious.

The IBM Software business has created SaaS products such as LotusLive, but this does not seem to be making an impact in the market place yet.

Whereas in previous era’s IBM has realigned itself just in time to continue to be a major force in the market.  I worry that in this new rapidly (not fast, but rapid) moving Cloud computing space, if they cannot sort out a cohesive strategy soon they may be usurped by new players.

Microsoft got the message in time and again in my opinion, realigned their business to meet the threat of disruptive market players like Google, head on.

I wonder what IBM customers must be thinking right now?

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Email is dead, long live social networking

This year saw a major milestone in the evolution of information technology. Social networking traffic exceeded that of email.
Software technology and the Internet have also evolved to the point where integration is almost an open standard and applications now work together seamlessly, with little or no development effort.

The evolution has potentially achieved the holy grail of most software vendors, of true collaboration capability.

I would suggest that the traditional concept of collaboration is also changing. Traditional in the sense that, collaborative spaces are created and updates are notified by email for the user to then go elsewhere to collaborate. With email you address individuals or groups, and if you aren’t part of the crowd you are left in the dark. You don’t broadcast emails to all and sundry to let people know what you are doing.

A new form of collaboration is evolving known as social media. The term is stereotypically associated with the likes of Facebook, Twitter and other such social networking sites. To many in business this is seen as personal social networking. To continue with that perception will have dangerous repercussions because this form of communication is the new email. What the social networking sites have done is identify the new way which people now wish to communicate and collaborate. Now you broadcast, and if people have chosen to ‘listen’ to broadcasts and they like what they ‘hear’ they can follow you. If they don’t listen to broadcasts then they search for content they are interested in, and if they like what they see the follow the content also.

People talk about, that having started to use Facebook they can find out more about their family, friends and relatives than from meeting up with them periodically. Because they have been allowed, they can see all the ‘conversations’ and ‘broadcasts’ and again if they choose can join in or even create a new conversation.
Software vendors, because of open standards are now easily able to integrate this type of social media interface to their applications and suddenly collaboration and productivity levels are improving dramatically and increasing the performance of most company metrics – sales, cost reduction, customer satisfaction and ultimately profitability. It has enabled companies who have enabled this capability to do much more with less.

When senior executives tap in to this new social media in their business new insights about how the company is actually working become apparent quickly, hidden knowledge experts are seen and the substantial value they add to the organisation. Marc Benioff CEO of recently commented that in switching on the Chatter solution, made him change his perspective on how to recognise people in the organisation. A meritocracy could be created, as individuals value-add could be seen at first hand.
Social media can be switched on to broadcast activities not just peoples statuses, so people can follow contacts, accounts, opportunities, cases and anything else an organisation would like to enable.

What people ‘follow’ is entirely personal preference, so information is better filtered to your immediate needs and provided in real-time rather than cluttering up your email inbox.

I’m being a bit harsh to say that email is dead, but it has certainly moved on. The important thing for you and your business is to move on also.

Things to do;
• Find out about social media and how it could become part of your business strategy
• Determine how your applications work today and how you could integrate social media capabilities to improve your business.
• Identify a partner who can help you exploit Software-as-a-Service solutions to make the changes to you business.
• Get the Finance director to revamp his CapEx budget downwards in favour of OpEx, because you are exploiting SaaS technology and Cloud computing.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The Devil Is In The Detail

As we engage on another customer project for, we are ever mindful that we are not simply implementing a new solution, but delivering a new tool to make people more productive, improve their morale and deliver improved sales, customer satisfaction and profitability to the organisation in question.

If you leave out the people in a new implementation, it doesn't matter how well you think you've designed the system, if it doesn't 'fit' the users then you are on a sure course for failure.  Change management is a serious consideration for any project.  You can't please all of the people all of the time, the saying goes.  That may be true, but if you show that you have listened and will continue to listen, there will be greater tolerance to work things through.  People are only human!

We encourage our customers to walk through the solution with their users and try and shape the system to work for them, whilst still achieving the desired objectives for the business.  You would be amazed at how many different features people use, compared to each other.  We all have our own way of doing things, so if the system allows users to do the same thing differently, then let them do it.  (Did you know you can send an Email three different ways in

Considering your people puts the human element into a solution, and so long as that helps productivity, customer satisfaction, sales and profitability, who cares how they go about it. 

Get the details right, and the results will be positive and naturally occurring.  So, don't worry about getting a new system online1 quickly, worry about getting it online first time at the right time.

1. The beauty about Software-as-a-Service is that it is online and ready-to-go.  So, you are able to spend more time thinking about your people, workflow and processes.  You can try things out in real-time without the risk and worry of hardware, set-up and consultancy costs.

Monday, 4 January 2010

How Clean is Your Data?

In a recent client engagement, I was amazed at the quality of data that had apparently been cleaned and verified.

In preparing the data for import to the platform, it was very clear that the companies that had cleansed the data, did nothing to prepare the data in a manner that could be easily managed in a proper database. They had merely validated details.

If you have old data that you want to re-qualify and re-use, having an understanding of some simple data principles will guide you to a correct choice of provider for your data cleansing. Ask to see a sample of the format of data to be returned, and if necessary specify the field structure you want the data returned in. Remember, as soon as the data is recorded it starts to age, so you want to be able to import and use that data ASAP and start to make it deliver value to your organisation.

Some Simple Actions Will Deliver Great Value

You should take care of your data and the way in which it is structured. When data is managed correctly it can be manipulated and analysed to deliver tangible and reliable results that enable sound decisions and actions to be taken. Many organisations spend a small fortune on solutions to record customer information but where they fail is in training users in the basic principles of databases and data entry.

Here is my take on some of the fundamental principles you and your staff should understand about data.
  1. Decide on the purpose of each piece of data to be recorded. Why do you need it and what do you want to be able to do with it? (Think - billing, segmentation, forecasting, performance - to name a few.)
  2. How do you want to record that data? It is fixed or variable? This will increase the accuracy of your data. For example, there are only so many salutations (Mr, Ms, Miss, Mrs, Dr, etc..), so a fixed picklist list of all the potential variables can be used, whereas, last names will be different, so a variable field would be used to record this data.
  3. Do you need mandatory data? Some data is useless unless other data is also recorded - there is no use in just recording a first name and not a last name. (Have you ever had the classic sticky note 'call John' with no other detail?). If you need certain data to be mandatory, justify it to the users either in training or in help scripting. Conversely, too much mandatory data requirements will affect user adoption and usage. (You can complete a mandatory field just by putting in a full stop!)
  4. Data ages from the moment it is recorded. Adopt a policy with users to continuously update data as a matter of habit, not as a matter of frequency. If a system is used continuously with information updated as it is discovered in the course of doing business, it will continuously deliver value. (e.g. - update a job title if someone gets promoted, or change their company name if they have changed jobs).
  5. Purge your data with a vengeance! Sometimes we need to record data that is very specific and time related for a campaign. Once you have finished with data recorded for an old campaign, etc. delete it out of your pick lists and product tables. (e.g. - Product interest in Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics apparel, will not be relevant in March 2010 necessarily)
So, to your users, engender them to understand the purpose of each data field and how it should be completed. (Don't cram an entire address into the first field. This will prevent you searching and segmenting your data accurately). Get them to understand that even when they are creating a simple adhoc data collection spreadsheet, to record the data in a structured format, so that it can be manipulated and used easily for other purposes.

Whether you are managing a spreadsheet database or a major ERP or CRM application, data accuracy is king. Keep it clean and keep it tidy - it's everyone's responsibility, not the IT or database manager's.

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