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Social Business

After some soul searching I've just started updating my various personal profiles around the web to say I'm a social business evangelist rather than saying enterprise 2.0I've got close to this before.  I wanted to explain why now.  For me that terminology change is a big deal because I'm not 100% comfortable with "social business", but it's not me rather the market that decides.  If we move the clock forwards 5 years I'm sure we'll be using different language again, and I believe the way the smart companies use social media and social tools in their businesses today will be as natural and essential to any organisation as a website, email, phones or mobiles (cell phones for my US friends, handys for the Germans - language is so crucial!).  I actually prefer the term "amplified enterprise" because the terms "social business" (as used by the likes of Dachis, Altimeter Group and IBM) or "social enterprise" (as used by Salesforce) are already occupied by a very different idea.  Go ask the average, non-technology oriented bushiness person in the street and see what they say.  Actually my perspective on this topic has 4 dimensions:
  • The social ...
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Twinfield show their vision of the future of accounting

Two weeks ago I was part of a modest International stream as part of  Twinfield's very impressive National Accountancy Day in The Netherlands.  They have been running this Annual event for 6 years and it has grown from 30 attendees back in 2005 to 500 last year, and well over 600 attendees this time, along with an exhibition area where around 40 companies showed their Twinfield connected applications and services.  There was a buzz of excitement, and a feelgood vibe you might expect from a Salesforce event, but not necessarily with a collection of mostly accountants as the audience.

The event was significant, both because of the size and the fact that this was the first event following Wolters Kluwer's takeover of Twinfield earlier this year.  It gave me a chance to gauge the progress they've made and  judge how well Twinfield will thrive under their new parent's regime.  The initial indications are very positive.

The International stream was attended by UK customers like Goodman Jones, CWM, and Wingrave Yeats.  Twinfield's Irish partner presented their Ezora reporting system.  P2D explained their document scanning solution that is now live linking purchase invoice scans ...
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Demystifying the Cloud

How do you spread the word about the benefits of Cloud Computing beyond technology enthusiasts, web "savvy" geeks and industry insiders  to the general business woman and man "in the street"?  The likes of Microsoft and Salesforce are certainly trying to do that with some of their advertising campaigns, but I believe they are missing the target by a mile.  A group of us have got together to try and amplify our voices with an initiative called Cloud Advocates.  Let me explain with a bit of an advert, tell you about our first event and our tie up with Freshbusinessthinking.com.

We are at the stage where Cloud Computing,  from web  based applications to on demand infrastructure, is just moving from being the next big trend to a mainstream technology choice.  There are a plethora of events and announcements around the topic, and just to complicate things every technology provider is redefining whatever offering they've got as a Cloud solution.  In the middle of all this noise  we need some clarity on the topic.  That is why Richard Messik and I decided to pool some of our marketing energy and form Cloud Advocates, an association of ...
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Social CRM - the new rules

There are changes underway across the worlds of social media marketing, social media applied inside business (what some people would call enterprise 2.0) and  where these tools connect (or not) to the business processes in (Cloud based) CRM and ERP systems.   Products like Salesforce are adding Chatter, and Twitter connectivity.  Enterprise 2.0 tools that started as wikis or forums are adding micro-blogging along with more and more social functionality.  Content Management Systems are adding or acquiring a social dimension.  Marketing departments are struggling with, or looking for tools to help with, brand  reputation monitoring and management.  One significant segment of this change just got much clearer with Altimeter Group's R “Ray” Wang and Jeremiah Owyang producing Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management.

R told the Enterprise Irregulars earlier this morning that this report is the culmination of 6 months of research, collaboration, hours of white boarding, phone calls, and skype calls in the early morning and on weekends working with an ecosystem of 42 partners.  The document identifies 18 use cases for Social ...
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Salesforce shows the future of enterprise collaboration - but have they got the branding right?

A month ago on Monday 7 December I was sitting in the London version of the CloudForce2 Partner Summit, and then stricken by a virus overnight, I watched Marc Benioff livestreamed for the 2 hours and 15 minutes of his keynote in the general customer session on the following day.   It sounds like he did a shorter, sharper version than his reported performance at the big Dreamforce show in San Francisco where 19,000 attended.  I've been re-acquainting myself with the Salesforce story, and considering whether my company and our Twinfield colleagues should become part of their partner ecosystem.   The combination of Force.com platform, combined with Salesforce applications, and partner applications makes a strong story.  Benioff was emphasizing companies like FinancialForce.com and Jobpartners who have developed their applications natively using their Cloud technology.  However, the big announcement was their new "Twitter and Facebook" style micro-blogging product and the addition of the Chatter Cloud, alongside the Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Custom Cloud in their presentations and messaging.    I'm impressed by the functionality . ...
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CODA move in to SaaS with Salesforce.com

On Friday my old friends at CODA announced they are developing a new, on-demand, Software as a Service accounting application, and then yesterday they announced a strategic partnership with Salesforce.com.  I reported it on blognation yesterday, and Dennis blogged about it at ZDNet and AccMan

I think this is good news for the online accounting solutions market in the UK, as well as being a smart move for CODA.  Up to this point, none of the mainstream, traditional accounting software providers have had any SaaS based offerings.  Sage offer a hosted version of Sage 50 and Iris have hosted versions of Exchequer, but only companies like Twinfield, Liberty Accounts, WinWeb, Visor or Xero coming in from New Zealand (and a few others) have had proper web based accounting.  CODA's entrance to the market has to be a good thing for all of the online providers, adding legitimacy, creating some buzz, and I'm sure  triggering some of the other significant players to announce their intent.  The market should grow faster for all of us.

It's a bold move for CODA, adding a more complete solution for their target market, but it comes with some risk.  This is the first new, green field development they have done in 15 years, and they are doing it on Force.com, the renamed Salesforce Apex platfrom (which before that was the AppExchange platform).  Apart from Salesforce's own applications, I don't know of any previous developments of this level of functionality using Force.com.  As well as choosing a new development platform, CODA will be deploying a new business model alongside their traditional software business - that's 3 new topics combined. 

I worked with CODA as a partner for many years, and then directly for 5 years.  As I said earlier, I think this is a very good move for them - the best strategic decision they've made since the  release of e-Finance in the Baan era of the late 90s.  For Salesforce it also makes very good sense - as Dennis says:

"It makes SFdC look like it's on the road to having a credible ERP style platform even though it will be riffed as a best of breed play, while at the same time leaving the development risk in CODA's hands."

This announcement, combined with tomorrow's SAP announcements on A1S mean there will be a lot more focus on the SaaS topic in the mid market here in the UK in the coming months. 

Disclosure:  As mentioned above, I worked for CODA for 5 years, and my consulting company is the UK partner for Twinfield.

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SAP's A1S and Community should make a game changing combination

Bloggers, analysts and the press were hosted in the same area of the mega SAPPHIRE 07 show last week, although there was limited mixing of the 3 communities, even though we attended many of the briefings together. Duncan Jones, a senior analyst with Forrester stumbled upon the Bloggers corner in search of a compatible power supply for his laptop, started chatting with us and took the trouble to read a few of our posts. He just sent over his commentary on the show. I like the way he's woven in The Third Man (one of my favourites) to his piece, although that makes it even more ironic that he doesn't mention us bloggers being around - kind of the opposite to Harry Lime, who is talked about all the time in the movie but almost doesn't appear. We bloggers were very vocal in our questioning, and making a positive (constructive) nuisance of ourselves, way beyond our team size. Duncan cleverly references the waltz and picks up on a Freudian slip in a press release, but reading his analysis highlights the lack of headline news emanating from the show. Even though there was little new talked about, I actually believe there is something potentially game changing going on.

L to R - Dennis Moore talking to Craig Cmehil, Sig Rinde, Bruno Haid and the BloggersBefore I get to that, let me say there is plenty to be critical about. I know if our friend Vinnie had been with us, he would have pressed them on the cost of maintenance and length of typical implementations, but we heard nothing new on that score. Dennis Moore, Senior VP of the Imagineering team, dropped by Bloggers Corner and talked about the cool things they are doing with widgets, scripting language and Duet - SAP's product that integrates Microsoft Office with the ERP system. The functionality and the interface look great, but when you hear that there are only 300 customers, out of an SAP customer set of 39,000, it is hardly mass adoption. In fact Dennis thought that 1000 customers would be huge adoption of an SAP product or idea, or talking about their scripting language environment:

"If 1% of the 4000 people who downloaded it actually uses it, that will be rapid take up."

There's not a lot you can say to that! And that connects with a cool, web 2.0 style collaboration demo Ian Kimbell added in to Henning Kagermann's keynote. It looked great, but I can't help feeling it was the result of weeks of development effort, rather than the hours (or minutes!) required by so many of the current tools available. Similarly, SAP missed a big trick by not showing more of their new mid-range product, code-names A1S. If it really is currently installed in 150 customers, they can surely do more than a 3 minute show of a few screens, that might as well have been mock-ups on PowerPoint. Not giving a proper demo just leads us to think they have something to hide.

In the Dennis Moore session he was asked about the Oracle culture versus SAP, as he has experienced both. He was pretty scathing about the command and control nature of Oracle, set against the consensus culture of SAP. I have to say, having

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SAP's mid market strategy with SaaS

Pascal Brosset talking to the bloggers corner - back right, glasses and grey jacketOne of the most refreshing sessions we had at SAPPHIRE 07 was when SAP's Senior VP of Market Strategy, Pascal Brosset, dropped by the Bloggers corner. Pascal is a straight talking Frenchman, who SAP need to put in front of more people, because he absolutely understands the Software as a Service market, and did a great job of explaining SAP's strategy in the sector. Oh, and by the way, he is the first senior SAP executive I've heard use the term SaaS.

Pascal explained his view that SAP's A1S, SaaS based, configurable product approach is an absolutely welcome development, as deeply modifying applications is not particularly good for anyone. He said that SAP in the past were good at focussing on processes, and not so good at focussing on people. The new product brings back the balance. He also thought it was a welcome change to be thinking about business and not three letter acronyms like CRM. When we quizzed him about how fast it will be adopted, or how applicable A1S will be to higher end customers, he gave a Gallic shrug and said:

"The market will decide"

Pascal Brosset, SAP's SVP Market StrategyOut of the box the product is more restricted in terms of the functionality available compared to other SAP products, but in return you get better TCO. When asked about deployment options for A1S he said:

"I'm not saying A1S will be on premise, but we believe SaaS has tons of advantages"

At this point I checked his business card to make sure we weren't talking to someone who'd slipped in to the conference from another company. He went on to say that the A1S approach would:

"Bridge the fundamental divide between efficiency versus flexibility."

Obviously with A1S customers cannot modify the code, but the leading partners will realise they can still make money advising customers on their business and building composite applications which can connect to and enhance the product. Pascal said that it is SAP's intention to prove SaaS can work, and he went on to say that he was:

"religious about making SaaS happen."

Next he discussed that fact that a ratio of 1 to 10 of software to implementation services is not right, and he talked about how NetWeaver was integral to SAP's approach of being a good citizen to make their platform as open and easy to integrate with as possible.

Henning Kagermann, SAP CEOLater on Tuesday, I was one of 5 bloggers granted an audience with Henning Kagermann, which in itself highlights how different SAP's attitude is to community and the new web 2.0 world compared to other big software players (or even some of the medium sized ones). I told Henning that I assumed they had considered separati

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Salesforce corals unstructured content with Koral

ZDNet, the WSJ and others are reporting a very interesting move by Salesforce.com. They've acquired a 9 person web 2.0 firm called Koral that I met at last year's Office 2.0 conference. Mark Suster, their founder and CEO has become General Manager of Salesforce Content in the move.

When I saw it last year I said:

"Koral is a content collaboration environment for business. Their intention is to make it "painfully easy" for people to collaborate with a nice drag and drop, widget based interface. Rather than store things in nested folders, where you can never find anything, their system has tag, folksonomy based approach. They don't integrate with e-mail systems yet, but they provide an excellent repository, with mechanisms to push information out to the user with e-mail alerts and RSS. The pricing starts at $9.95 a month, with an Enterprise edition at $30 a month."

I'm sure the product has moved on since then, and I know it's been available on AppExchange for some months. Now called the ContentExchange platform, here's what the Salesforce top man has to say:

"We are another step towards our vision of managing all information on demand," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO, salesforce.com. "Now, with Salesforce Content we not only manage a company's traditional structured information, but their unstructured information as well. And, best of all, we use the power of Web 2.0 to make it all possible."

I remember that Koral handles version control, and check-in and check-out of documents while they are being edited really well. The system allows you to rate documents, and to subscribe to documents so you are informed when they've been updated. Bringing all of this technology through to the new platform will provide the kind of tools that will help organisations manage their content much better than traditional document management systems.

I'm hoping they'll get the new pricing structure right, so they get healthy adoption. I'm looking forward to seeing more detail, but I think this is a very good move by Salesforce.com in to unstructured content management that will compliment the rest of their application and platform functionality very well.

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CRM is a state of mind

In a post over this Easter weekend, Vinnie related some of some of his 1:1 Customer Service experiences and said:

"Most marketing books focus on the first 1: the customer. 3 recent customer service experiences brought home to me that the second 1: the individual provider is probably even more important. In our rush to apply technology to customer service, we have neglected that in the end it comes down to the individual service provider."

He highlighted one positive experience at his local Blockbuster and two not so good examples. That got me thinking about the fact that CRM isn't a product or set of processes, it's a state of mind, but that the state of mind needs to be communicated throughout the company.

One of my favourite places to grab a sandwich and a cappuccino is the "Pret A Manger" chain, and not just because it's probably the best value in a crowded market here in the UK. Pret was started back in 1986 by Sinclair Beecham and Julian Metcalfe as one shop near the Elephant & Castle, and has steadily grown to 150 shops nationwide. There's plenty to write about in their approach, products and style, but I'd just like to focus on one aspect. In over twenty years I've never been in a Pret branch where the person serving me the coffee didn't look like they were really enjoying their job, and were courteous and efficient in getting it done. That kind of customer relationship orientation has to come from the top, and has to be communicated at all levels within an organisation to make it work so uniformly - it's become part of the company culture. I'm sure Julian and Sinclair regularly come out to the sharp end. It's why Capital One senior executives regularly man the customer service lines, why Cadillac's Head of Design rides with Escalade-driving inner city customers in Detroit, and why Continental's CEO always flies economy - to understand the customer experience directly. But once you've done that, you've got to have the management culture in place to get the right attitude and values communicated throughout the organisation. The companies that do that set themselves apart.