The future death of social networking

The future death of social networking

Social networking is going to die.  This article is about how it will happen.

The focus for this article will be business social networking.  If you are worried about your Facebook friends and photos and the life sucking that goes on in personal social networks, don’t worry, they will be around for awhile.  They will be dying a totally different death.  That will have to be a future blog posting.  Ask me over a beer and I will explain it.

Ask three people to define business social networking and you will get three different answers.  Try it. Going even further, I hypothesized that you ask ten different people about the benefits of business social networking, you will get ten different answers.  I was recently inspired by a quote attributed to Steve Jobs about dogma as “Being satisfied with the results of other peoples thinking.”  This article will be as dogma free as possible.  While I can’t help being influenced by everything that is being written about social networking, I have come up a few unique conclusions.

1.  LinkedIn is not a social network. Most of my contacts are either in a sales or recruiting role.  In the early days, the premise behind LinkedIn was that you can connect to many people through a chain of trusted referrals. It does not matter what the creators of LinkedIn claim it to be.  LinkedIn was founded on the idea that you can go through a series of trusted connections to network with a target person.  It was a noble idea, however, LinkedIn is now controlled by the mob.  The real question is… how are the majority of people using LinkedIn?   The answer:  Get as many connections as possible, build as big a network as possible.  Next, when you find someone in LinkedIn that you want to connect with, read their background and connect directly.

LinkedIN is a social database.

2.  Social CRM is a buzz word.

The community aspect of SocialCRM is aptly named.  Unfortunately, the average person confuses the community, group and collaboration aspects of SocialCRM with popular social networking sites like LinkedIn. They are different.

SocialCRM is not concisely defined.

When everyone is copying what everyone else is thinking, you get a buzz word.  Fun to report, you don’t need to think too much to find other articles to read, alter and republish.  Read about Social CRM and then write about Social Recruiting. It goes both ways.  But what is Social CRM?  SOCIAL is the base part of the equation.

Unfortunately SocialCRM is being used as a catch-all phrase and it is confusing the consumer. For clarity,  SocialCRM should be broken into 2 distinct terms.  Here is a way to clarify thinking and talking about it.

CollaborationCRM – Denoting the functions within a CRM that allow group collaboration, community connection and project sharing.  Salesforce chatter is a good example.

SocialCRM –  Connectivity to existing social networks like LinkedIn.  This is the definition, when polled,  that most people believe social CRM to be.  (Straw poll yielded 9 out of 10 assuming this definition).

Social Linkage – defined below

The current implementions of Social CRM (as defined above) defeat the purpose of having a CRM.  The best implementation of a CRM is when the CRM is self-contained.  Art Papas, CEO of Bullhorn, an Applicant Tracking System (recruiter CRM) describes it well.  “Our clients live inside Bullhorn”.   The best CRM should have everything the users need, inside the CRM.

Example: you click on a LinkedIN link next to a contact record in your CRM.  What happens?  A browser page opens and you are in a separate web page, disconnected technology, outside your CRM.  This is Social Linkage, not social CRM.  Bad process.

If a CRM is implemented correctly, you should not have to leave the CRM to perform important tasks.

Most of what is touted as Social CRM today is simply Social Linkage.  Social CRM sounds better, sounds integrated, but in every case I have seen…it is not.   What is the challenge here?  Until LinkedIN and Facebook and all the other networks allow tighter integrations,  social linkage will be all that we have.   LinkedIN wants you to stay on LinkedIN,  Facebook wants you on Facebook.  Salesforce wants to be able to say they have connection to LinkedIN.

3. Marketing, not sales, is driving “the idea” of Social CRM

If you look at who is pushing the SocialCRM idea, it is marketing.  The dream:  Having EVERY contact in your CRM mashed up with all social network information.  This would be great for marketing and market segmentation, but unnecessary for sales.   The Reality:  Click, click, and more clicks.  The current state of SocialCRM is, at best, Social Linkage.  The reality does not match the dream.  Marketing is pushes the dream and leaves sales stuck with the reality.

If you have a question about what sales thinks about “Social CRM” as it relates to social network data, look at the ratings The LinkedIn plugin got on salesforce CRM.   Don’t get me wrong,  I am a fan on LinkedIN.  Visionary concept, great source of data, however, it is not seamless with CRM.  If anything the combination is anti-social CRM.

Attn marketers: Your focus should be social media, let sales people worry about and define SocialCRM

4.  Social Agents will replace Social CRM. Social CRM/Social Linkage tries to solve the problem of having “an answer” for every contact in your CRM.  Every contact that you can view in your CRM will, if available, have a link to external social network profile(s).  Services like RapLeaf aggregate multiple social network links associated with a specific person.  Due to the sheer volume of information, mashups are not always correct due to the ambiguous nature of contact information.  The end result:  You click on multiple different links in your CRM and open multiple disparate sources of information.  Even when the links are correct you get Another Bad process.

Enter social agents.

The best products are built from dreaming an ultimate scenario.  Then, working backwards to what is possible.  If there were no constraints…What is the ultimate potential of Social CRM?  Answer:  Every CRM contact has real-time social network information from all social networks.  This information would not be linked, but mashed up inside the CRM.  This is not happening.  Why?  (1) It is not in the interest in the Social Network (really social database) to make the information free and fully available.  (2)  The incentive chain of $ is not there.

So if it is a bad idea to pre-populate social network information for every contact in your CRM, what should be done?  On demand, social agents.

The average sales rep engages 10-20 contacts per day.  A real-time, on-demand social agent is fully capable of making a real time extraction of social network information, mashing that information up inside the CRM and presenting it in a usable format for a sales rep.   This is what sales wants.

Conversely, I have seen a sales reps presented with a CRM that has Linkage to social networks.  While the potential is exciting to the sale rep, they are fired up about the available information available, usage drops off dramatically.

As soon as marketing starts thinking and stops listening to reporters & consultants (who listen to reporters), demand for social agents will proliferate.

5. Social Data comes in 2 distinct flavors

Where someone went to college will never change.  It is a fact, fixed in time.  Where someone currently works is a fluid social data point.   A fixed social data point only needs to be found and stored once in a CRM, whereas fluid data points require social agents to keep them updated.

Fixed and fluid social data points should be treated differently.  Why is this important to understand?  Treating  fluid and fixed data points, with different agents reduces the refresh and load on the technology infrastructure that empowers social agents.  In addition, what can be done with the result of social agents varies based on the information being fixed or fluid.

Last thought. Adding a human-verification element, to cement data accuracy, is realistic on a fixed data point.  Scan once, verify and store forever.

6.  Social Intuition will evolve from social agents

Once we have on-demand social agents, then what?  Take a mind walk:  We now have a CRM, where, on-demand, or slightly before  (predictive system)  social network information is extracted, parsed and mashed up inside the CRM.  No need to live anywhere but the CRM.  A dream of efficiency.

Now that I have all this information about someone.  How do I leverage it?  The fact that someone went to the University of Miami (The Hurricanes) is something that would be in social network profile.  Thus, via a social agent, I would have the University of Miami as a data point in the CRM.  However, would I know the UM mascot is the Hurricanes?  Would I know the score from the football team the night before?  Would I know the weather in Miami that day?   The answer to all these questions is no.

Enter Social Intuition

Social intuition is a combination of social network data points combined with real-time agents to gather additional talking points.   The prerequisite for performing this type of mash-up is (1) Aggregated & scored data from Social Networks (2) Highly accurate fixed data points (i.e.  Mascots for every college)  and (3) Intelligent agents that leverage, fixed data points with social data points to “intuit” additional information.

7.  Company-centric (NOT contact-centric) social mash-ups will prevail

Even with the proliferation of social networks, the average person has just a few, if any data points about them.  Multiply that by the number of people at a company and patterns emerge.  Patterns that would not be apparent in the microcosm of one person.  The best approach in sales is to engage multiple points of contact (people) at a company on the onset of first contact.  This approach is called Sphere of Influence Selling and is well documented in The Sphere of Influence Selling webinar.

Remember:  You talk to people, but the company writes the check.

8.  CRM Socialbases become the ultimate silos

The most valuable list is the list that no one else has.  Think about it.

The most unique set of data is inside your CRM.  Don’t worry about the world,  just about your clients and the companies you want to sell to.  Gather rich data from social networks and other sources and combine it with your CRM.  The future king of all data sets will not be inside social networks.  Companies will mash data from social networks and combine it with conversation history, notes, purchasing habits, etc.

CRM Socialbases will be built on a combination of Fixed and Fluid social data points.

The value of any list can be scored based on data quality & competitive advantage.  For example, LinkedIN has great data, but it is it exclusive?  No.  Anyone with a bunch of connection can get to the names of almost everyone.

9.  Things to watch

Bleeding edge: Watson.  An IBM supercomputer that will, in the coming months, be competing with top Jeopardy players.  In initial testing, it beat the average player, that were winners, on the Jeopardy TV show.  5 years ago this was not possible.   Watson is an answer machine.   What happens when you connect an answer machine with your CRM SocialBase?

Hot: Salesforce chatter: I like this technology.  Nothing that can’t be copied.  Expect to see it in every CRM within a few years. Brings another aspect of social into CRM, in terms of work teams and projects.

Fun: Proximity based social networks – Not a primary technology, but something that should be eventually mashed up. FourSquare is a good example.   (Yes, I am the mayor of Broadlook).

Practical: CRM Profiler – The next iteration of the technology is cloud-based, lives inside the CRM, jumps over social linkage and includes social agents.  Build your own social knowledge-base.


10.  Black swans emerging?

Black swan theory Something that changes everything in a space.  Denotes an occurrence that no one though of.

LinkedIn CRM – It makes sense, but would they alienate CRM’s that currently mash up with them?  It has happened before.  In the recruiting space, AIRS, a recruiter add on tool, created their own applicant tracking system.  Guess who integrates with AIRS today?  Nothing of importance.  Next AIRS was acquired by a RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) company… how many competing RPO’s will continue to use them?  The number is declining.

Facebook CRM – That would be real scary, however, a spin-off without the facebook label might fly.  The yo-yo ethics of their privacy policy is comical.  Can’t ignore them.

Salesforce acquisition of LinkedIn:  More likely to be Oracle, SAP, Microsoft or a company that has deep pockets.  Salesforce already acquired Jigsaw.

Scariest combo:  Google Acquires LinkedIn, creates the Google CRM and makes it free.  It actually makes total sense.  If Google wants to push ads all day long, while people are at work.  This is the way.  Gmail is already the best web-based email system.  They have google docs.  They have a mobile platform.  All the components are there.  If you take a step further and look at the talent they have hired, patterns emerge.   Nuff said.

Recap:

Social Network -> Social Database -> Social CRM  ->  Social Linkage -> Social Agents -> CRM SocialBase.

You heard it here first!

Is Your CRM at Risk?

Is Your CRM at Risk?

Is your CRM Normal?

Warning:  This Article is not for tech guys!

When it comes to your CRM, being “Normal” is a fabulously good thing.  Most  CRM contain over 30% of duplicate data. Not only is that ugly, but  it causes problems for your sales team and costs your company revenue.

In simple terms, I’m talking about Clean CRM Data.  If you asked your tech guy, he would call it “Data Normalization”.  If you are a tech guy, we covered this…come up, stop reading!

Understanding the problem

Nearly every CRM company and internal corporate IT department has taken a stab at solving the problem of data normalization.  Unfortunately, no one has done it right!  Why?  Think about it: when you buy a CRM it is usually empty.  If you import dirty data from an old CRM, the new CRM will be dirty.
Normalization cannot be dictated at the vendor level

CRM systems are not designed to normalize data.  Why?  A good CRM must deliver flexibility to each client implementation;  normalization cannot be dictated at the vendor level.  Therefore, it is left to each individual customer and each individual user to enter and import data in the way that they see fit.   For the CRM vendor it is a lose-lose scenario. If they dictate a data format, whichever format they choose, be it verbose or abbreviated, someone will not be happy.

Massive duplicates and miskeyed data does not become a problem until after you start to use a CRM.   About a year after the CRM is implemented is typically when the buyer realizes there is a huge problem with the information.  Without some systematic way to start with and keep information clean, duplicates will be introduced and someone has an opportunity to make more $$ on professional services.

Dirty data is a profit center.

While dirty data can lose you revenue, it is  good for service providers; you store more due to duplicates and eventually someone will need to clean that data.

An unending cycle

You recently made the investment and spent the money to have your data cleaned. Now what?  Unless you have an enforceable, real-time strategy to keep your data clean, the cycle will continue.  Six months to a year after “cleaning” your data, it will go from pristine to ugly again and the cycle will continue. Efficiency, revenue and opportunity will be diminished.

How does data get dirty? Who is responsible?

There are 3 ways information enters a CRM.

Hand entered. This is a common method that takes place literally every day.  Did you know there are over 20 ways of writing the company name “The Container Company Corporation”?   Some people are verbose and will type out the entire company name, other will take shortcuts or just mis-key the information.  We are all unique, and unfortunately for your CRM, that can lead to 20 instances or more of the same company in your CRM.

Product Imported. Many Software products have the capability to directly imported data into a CRM.  What rules do those products obey?  Do the rules that they use match your company rules?  Do you even have a set of rules that your company follows? What happens when a duplicate is encountered?  Unfortunately, most of these questions are never asked.  The result: more ugly data.

Mass Imported. While Product imports are done external to the CRM, Mass imports are done within the CRM.  Mass imports are typically done by the IT department or your CRM vendor.  Guess what?  Mass imports can be the worst offenders.  In some cases, the person charged with doing the import is exceptional and it is done correctly, however, this is typically the exception.   In most cases, vendors doing imports and data migration don’t  have the proper tool sets to get the job done.  Even more importantly, they have not coached their clients or asked the proper questions to assure success.

I contend that most imports that are generally considered successful would get a flat “D” on my score card.  If you think your process was good, read on.

Establishing a lasting solution

Solve a problem at its source and you solve it for good.  The best way to get control of your CRM is to create and enforce a Data-Plan.  This is not a minor undertaking, however, for any sales team more than a few people it is critical.  The quiz below is dual-purpose, it will teach you what you need to do and give you a score-card of where are now.
Is your company at Risk?  Take the Broadlook “Are you Normal”  QUIZ:

So, where does your company is rank in terms of the sources and impacts of duplicate data?  Take a moment to take the quiz below.  Good luck.  Be honest!

The Dirty Data Quiz: Is Your CRM at Risk?

Data Plan. 15 points. Does your company have a standard format for CRM data?  If you don’t, this is where you start the entire process.  To comply with best practices, your Data-Plan should be centrally stored, accessible by anyone who enters data into your CRM.  In essence, the Data-Plan acts as a single-point-of-truth for your company and how it treats data.  Your points: ______

Staff Training. 5 points. Has your staff has been trained on your Data-Plan and it is easily accessible?  While this is a great step, it is not as important as making the CRM enforce your data plan automatically.  If your CRM does offer a feature like this, the training is most important for your IT department who can circumvent the constraints put on the average user.  Your points: ______

CRM Cleaned. 5 points. Has your CRM gone through a full Normalization and de-duplication process?  Once you have your Data-Plan developed, you need to ensure that the data you have meets the plan.  Why only 5 points?  A one-time cleaning does not solve the long term problem.  Don’t pat yourself on the back for this,  if this is all you do, you will have one month per year of clean data.  Your points: ______

CRM Enforcement. 20 points. Is your data plan enforced by your CRM?  This is tremendously important. The reality is that not one CRM provider (that I have seen) has a detailed data normalizer that can enforce your data plan like like Broadlook’s CRMShield™.  If your provider does not have this feature, it means you must either build or find an add-on to your CRM.  An even better option is to would be to provide all users to the CRM a tool like Broadlook’s Contact Capture to enter contacts into your CRM.  Contact Capture is FREE (not trying to sell anything here).  Your points: ______

Product/Integration Enforcement. 10 points. Do other products that bring information into your CRM adhere to your Data-Plan?  Beware of products that dump data to a Excel or CSV file.  Sometimes it is unavoidable, however, direct exporting systems that comply with your Data-Plan and do de-duplication in real-time are always a superior choice.  Your points: ______

Vendor Enforcement. 10 Points. Do vendors that provide you with list data deliver it in compliance with your Data-Plan?  Some vendors may push back at first; however, it has been my experience that the entire process will go smoother if the vendor complies to the Data-Plan.  Hold your ground and remember that list providers want your business.  Show them the format that you want your data …and don’t compromise. Your points: ______

Import Enforcement, by culture. 5 points. Does the IT staff buy-in to following the Data-Plan?  The best way to make this happen is include the IT department in the development of the Data-Plan.  Your points: ______

Import Enforcement, by technology.  15 points. Is your IT staff prevented from circumventing a Data-Plan by rights management?  Everyone must obey the Data-Plan. If your IT staff can circumvent best practices established by management, problems will arise.  It the IT staff disagrees with a Data-Plan, best practice dictates that the Data-Plan reviewed, discussed and potentially revised. Again, this maintains the single point of truth and enforceability to make your Data Plan work.  Your points: ______

URL Enforcement. 20 points. Do you have a URL (website) field for each company in your CRM.? The URL of a company is more important than a DUNS number, location or anything else.  It is the single best piece of company-centric information that can be used to update the CRM over time.  The URL can be used to update and add contacts to your CRM with tools like Broadlook’s Profiler.  Your points: ______

How did you do? I want to hear from you! Send how you did to Donato Diorio (ddiorio@broadlook.com).

SCORE GRADE
<20 F
40 D
60 C
80 B
100 A
Your score: __________

Understand how your data and your processes rank is paramount.  Dirty CRM data is a huge problem with sales force efficiency.  You may think that cleaning your CRM data on a regular cycle is a good thing.  Don’t pat yourself on the back just yet;  cleaning CRM data on a cycle is treating a symptom.  Just like good physical health,  the best solution to eradicate dirty CRM data is prevention.  Prevent dirty data from getting into your CRM and your CRM be clean and health.  You may even enjoy using it again.

After thought:

Broadlook has just completed developing a new, revolutionary tool to empower the CRM experts, consultants and the users that they support.  It is called CRMShield™.  CRMShield solves a serious issue faced by every business that uses a CRM; data duplication. One piece of the CRMShield technology,  “The Normalizer” will be shipped in June and is included free in every Broadlook product that works with contact information.  I thought I would share some of my excitement about it.

Are mobile Sales & Recruiting apps for real?

Are mobile Sales & Recruiting apps for real?

The Stage

The Apple AppStore has over 100,000 iPhone applications.  Verizon’s Droid is a a few months old and Google just launched the Nexus One.  Microsoft has Windows Mobile and the Palm has the hot new Palm Pre.  The current king of Mobile Business is the Blackberry (RIM),  but it is losing ground fast.  Apple, Microsoft, Google, Palm, Verizon & RIM all going   after the same market and that makes for great headlines.

The Hype

Articles are starting to appear talking about the mobile replacing desktop as a work environment.  For the most part, this is bunk; A symptom of someone looking for a headline, but not thinking.  When I see an interesting article about a controversial topic, I like to first look at the last 2-3 headlines by that author.  If last week they were talking about global warming, the week before about cyber-crime and this week about mobile technology replacing the desktop; I classify them as “reporter”.  Reporter does not equal expert.  While reporters are absolutely essential to get a pulse on minor variations on trends,  I prefer to seek the experts to get a deep understanding of a new technology.   Even better is to immerse yourself and get first-hand experience.  Most of the buzz today is reporter, not expert created.

Definitions

To better understand if/when/why mobile will or will not replace the desktop, definitions are in order:  Desktop refers to the hardware, be it PC, Mac, Linux, either desktop or laptop.  This desktop can be running any form of software including installed, Client-Server, SaaS and browser based.  Mobile is the generally understood concept of a smart-phone like a Blackberry or iPhone.

Mobile vs. Desktop

So will “mobile” business application replace the “desktop”?  Yes and No.  The first Hurtle for Mobile to replace Desktop is CPU & Memory. Over the next decade, mobile form factor devices will have the processor and memory of today’s desktops.  So throw out processing power as a differentiator.  Mobile will catch up.  In fact, most applications today, especially SaaS applications only take up a small amount of CPU and memory on the desktop.

What else constitutes a desktop environment?   Input and output devices.  This is the big one.  I personally have both Mac and PC setups, each with a bunch of big monitors. Besides the large monitors, I use full size keyboards, and a laser mouse.

My Mac & PC workstations

Big ideas need big work spaces.  When I first realized that my iPhone was actually a mobile computer, I tested the limits.  Doing basic operations like reading email works fine.  What about spreadsheets I thought?

Designing a spreadsheet on a mobile device is possible, but very, very inefficient.  I tried it and it’s infuriating.  However, using an already designed spreadsheet on mobile device is realistic.  Reading email; easy.  Writing email; possible, but not as easy as using a full size keyboard.

This is where I had my epiphany that would steer the mobile strategy for Broadlook.

Mobile Technology is an extension of and not a replacement for PC-based business applications.

Why?  Desktop business applications have evolved over the years to take advantage of everything possible.  Case in point, at Broadlook, we switched to the Microsoft Dynamics CRM.  The default setup did not fit our selling model, so we modified Dynamics to fit our business process.  Dynamics is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) environment; a base of CRM functionality which each business can build on.  Our modifications to Dynamics CRM included data points that most companies don’t have access to (unless they are Broadlook customers).  Simply put, the average screen was too small to get all the data on it that we needed.  We could have created a system where everything was accessible in a drill-down fashion (click, click, click).  However, this included too many clicks to be efficient.  I can’t stand having to click 3-4 times to get to data that should be there.  The answer: bigger monitors.  Standard at Broadlook, we now have 24 inch monitors with 1920×1200 resolution.  The things that most people have to click 2-3 extra times to get to their CRM, we have on the first screen.  Simple things like having all the contact info points in the initial search grid.


Broadlook’s Leads Screen in MS Dynamics CRM on a 24 inch monitor.  All info points are available so a sales rep can take action from the first screen.  A typical implementation of SalesForce.com or MS CRM would require you to click 2-3 times to get at all the information on this screen.

As a side note.  These monitors are about $250.  Picking up 50 of these monitors was many many more times cheaper than wasting the time of a sales rep in click-click hell.  In addition developing with the large monitors in mind is much more forgiving than having limited screen real estate and making a design decision that makes 1/2 the people happy and 1/2 ticked off.

How would this business process, which depends on “big hardware” translate to a 4 inch mobile screen?

It won’t.

No way, no how. This is why we won’t see CRM for mobile replacing CRM on the desktop/laptop.  I’ve seen a few mobile “stand-alone” CRM’s on both the sales and recruiting sides.  They are a joke.  An absolute productivity waste.  What works with mobile CRM is when it is used to enhance the desktop experience.  Salesforce has done a good job of it, as have several others.  If your mobile can access your CRM, you can look up a contact, review notes, or line up a few calls for when you are on the road or after hours.  Mobile CRM as a value add to your CRM is an absolute must-have.

What about applications like social networking?  LinkedIN is a good example.  LinkedIN for iPhone is great, I’m looking forward to when LinkedIN or Facebook adds a practical proximity alert to your social network.  That would be something that the desktop or even laptop would not be practical for.   This leads me into the areas that mobile will dominate and why.

For those existing business applications that have evolved on the desktop, mobile will add additional value.  However, for the new frontiers, areas that were birthed in mobile, those will be the areas where mobile can stand alone. It is the same concept which allowed desktop applications to evolve.  You develop to the potential of the environment.  CPU, memory, screen size, input devices, always on (yes/no), network connectivity, battery life.  All of these are the factors that effect Darwinism on both the desktop and mobile device.

Today, most of the successful mobile applications are consumer-based.   As of this writing, none of the top 25 apps in the iPhone AppStore were business apps.  Blackberry pundits:  only 2 of the top 25 for Blackberry were business apps.

So where does this leave us?

  • For business applications that evolved on larger form factor systems such as CRM and  Spreadsheets, mobile will be a value-add, but not a replacement.  If someone is promising CRM on your mobile to replace your desktop, run like hell or carry a 12 year old with tiny fingers to type for you everywhere you go.
  • New and currently undiscovered business applications that are born and evolve on the mobile will rule the mobile.

2010 is going to be a fantastic year for mobile! I am excited and personally committed to developing on mobile.

Caveats:  (1) When mobile becomes a conduit to work with outside peripherals such as an wall screens and video goggles, then mobile could replace the desktop, however, what is really being accomplished here is emulating the functions of a full form factor desktop & monitor. (2) Seamless voice recognition can get around the problems with small form factor keyboards.  I have not seen voice recognition that is worth it’s salt.  I tell my car “Radio Off” and it says “Please say the name of the street you want to navigate to”.