• June 17, 2010
  • Enterprise 2.0 came to Boston this week and that made me happy because it is one of a very small number of events that I don’t fly to.  Being a native it’s nice to take the train into the city and to be able to sleep at home.  Despite this convenience I was only able to attend on Tuesday and I concentrated on the vendor show floor at the expense of missing some very good keynotes and sessions.

    The single session I attended focused on the emerging importance of video as a content medium in the enterprise and it was good.  Video as a content medium encapsulates what’s good and interesting about the offerings in a space that is still in its early days, still looking for its voice.  That voice gets clearer and stronger each year and many people, myself included, thought that this year’s edition of the show had more vigor and was more interesting than last.  Given the recession hanging over everything in 2009 perhaps that is not surprising.

    Many, if not most, of the business processes that vendors offered support for involved some form of crowdsourcing to capture information from the broad market as well as for capturing ideas from employees.  Some capture customer data, others employee data and still others focused on the channel.  The result is some form of insight into the target population and collaboration that can be used to advance a company’s mission either internally or by way of servicing and selling to customers.

    All that is good and an advance over simply using social media as a tool to indiscriminately blast a sales pitch to the world but I also think there is more that we can do.  I think a new paradigm that Enterprise 2.0 and social CRM are an ideal fit for is a world that demands greater sustainability in its business processes and that day is just dawning.  Sustainability can take many forms and they are not necessarily what you might think.  For instance, customers are a sustainable resource, ever think of that?  You do when your market is saturated.  In that context social technology is a no brainer but we need to find even better ways to use it.

    There’s a more conventional definition of sustainability that we should all remain aware of too.  At the same time that the show attendees were cruising Boston Harbor, the president was addressing the nation regarding the geyser in the gulf.  In part he said,

    “Drilling for oil these days entails greater risk. After all, oil is a finite resource. We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.  And that’s part of the reason oil companies are drilling a mile beneath the surface of the ocean — because we’re running out of places to drill on land and in shallow water. For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.

    There, he said it.  Finite.  Demand isn’t finite though, it grows and in such situations limited supply always leads to higher prices.  What does this mean to your business processes that use travel?

    The most obvious is the green angle is one in which companies use new technologies that help reduce travel overhead while still being able to interact with customers to do business.  In that definition of sustainability many of the companies and products straining to get your attention at events like Enterprise 2.0 gain significance.  One of my favorites is new video technology.  Condensing ideas from a document or slide presentation into short, snappy video that customers can access from their desktops may be the most important growth area in the front office.  Altus, Saba and several other companies had booths at the conference and their offerings are impressive.

    Another growth area is on-line meetings and conferences.  We’re all old hands at this point at using Web meeting applications.  I use the various products several times each week to take briefings for instance.  Web meetings are a great way to foster collaboration within an organization and with customers.  But these one off meetings can only take you so far which is why I am so interested in the next level, the Web conference.

    Relatively few people have experienced the power of a Web conference in which thousands of customers use through their desktops to attend sessions, network and interact in ways similar to the live thing.  The difference is that everyone saves big bucks on travel and entertainment not to mention wear and tear on the travelers.  Already companies like Oracle and Salesforce.com are using Web meetings for internal activities and I have seen Oracle and others attempt these forums for customers.  Companies in the space include ON24, Unisfair and Social27 and there are more.

    If I had to say what the theme of Enterprise 2.0 — the movement not the conference — it would be this idea of a new paradigm, of sustainability in business.  More than simply doing more with less, sustainability is about doing better and different.  I can’t wait to see how this plays out.

    Published: 13 years ago

    Using emerging technologies to foster more sustainable front office business processes.

    Sustainability might be the next big thing in CRM.  I’m betting it is and Beagle Research is initiating an award for sustainability in CRM.  Today.  Now.

    Everywhere we look we see not just an industry but also a civilization straining under the demands of growth.  Now, growth is generally a good thing for an economy but one of its hidden characteristics is that it periodically forces us to change the way we do things.  What is affordable and practical one day can become expensive and cumbersome overnight.  We’re living in one of those times.  The solution to such challenges is to find ways to make what we do more sustainable, to substitute, change and innovate new and better ways of doing things.  In business that means our processes and then some.

    The things we take for granted in our business dealings are becoming less constant.  Customers are tapped out, the new product engine has stalled and travel is becoming so expensive that it may soon squeeze margins and affect our ability to meet with people.  Some of this is blowback from the recession but other aspects may be a long-term trend forming.  Regardless of the causes, as business people we need to discover and develop solutions that mitigate these influences so that we can continue doing business.

    We’ve given these issues considerable thought and in response, today, Beagle Research introduces a new award and report focusing on sustainability and the things that CRM can do to help every business to become more sustainable.

    The award and report are called ThinkForwardä.  We borrowed the idea of “think” from Thomas Watson, Sr. of IBM fame and from Steve Jobs each of whom asked us to think and then think differently at critical points in the evolution of our industry.

    We believe it’s time to think again but this time we need to think ahead about a world that will be resource constrained in many dimensions.  The conditions we watch and write about in the report show slower growth and rising transportation costs coupled with a customer-base that is growing less interested in absorbing more goods.

    Just in time, we also see a market brimming with front office technologies that help vendors and customers to identify opportunities and satisfy them with maximum efficiency, using resources wisely.  We think sustainability provides the organizing principle for the next phase of CRM, a phase filled with opportunity if we focus on crowdsourcing, social media and strategies for substituting intelligent technologies for travel.

    We see numerous front office software companies bringing products to market that by themselves may not garner a great deal of attention from the mainstream market but we also see these solutions as keys to a more sustainable business environment.

    The ThinkForward report identifies seven companies whose solutions typify the kinds of solutions that, in some cases, may not be core to CRM today but which will be essential in the future.  In one way or another these companies evidence solutions that help vendors better understand and target opportunities, marshal resources and engage customers in new and more sustainable ways.

    The award winners include Brainshark, Cloud9 Analytics, Communispace, iCentera, Kadient, Salesforce.com, Unisfair and Zuora.  As our report documents, each of these vendors offers solutions that help their customers to do business in more sustainable ways either by treating customers more like renewable resources, reducing the travel and energy requirements of many front office processes, or by capturing and leveraging crowd wisdom to enable companies to better hone products and messages.

    We salute these pioneers and encourage you to consider how making your businesses more sustainable can help drive new revenues and profits as the world continues to change around us.

    Published: 14 years ago