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AI and Customer Loyalty
October 19, 2016
AI and machine learning have taken the industry by storm. Some say they will usher in a new age of better business processes and customer orientation, while others fret that automation will kill jobs. There definitely will be jobs that no longer make sense for humans to do, thanks to automation. However, there are some neglected business processes where AI and ML could make real contributions.
Dreamforce Redux
October 12, 2016
Dreamforce for many years has been too big for a single person to cover. While I participate in covering events like this, inevitably I am reduced to the story of the three blind people and the elephant. You can't experience enough of the elephant to describe it unless you can see it. Using your hands leaves you frustrated. In the case of Dreamforce, you can't go to all of the sessions.
AI's Moment
October 7, 2016
There recently has been an increase in the talk -- pro and con -- about bots, AI and intelligent assistants. A lot of this talk has been percolating around the industry for decades. Silicon Collar, a book by Vinnie Mirchandani, a friend and truly gifted analyst, accepts that automation might be eliminating jobs, but it optimistically holds out for the silver lining.
What to Expect at Dreamforce 16
September 30, 2016
Something tells me that if Salesforce already leaked news about its new AI product, Einstein, that it might not be the biggest news that will emerge from Dreamforce next week. However, I also think Einstein will be involved in whatever is the big takeaway. Salesforce has become rather large, with $8 billion-plus in revenue. A member of the Fortune 500, it still tries to be nimble.
Oracle OpenWorld
September 29, 2016
Larry Ellison was having too much fun. In his second keynote of this year's Oracle OpenWorld user conference, he was talking about his company's database, Oracle 12c, and comparing it highly favorably to Amazon's competing databases. It seems Ellison always has fun, which is one likely reason that the 72 year-old CTO and executive chairman of the board, looks 52, sounds 42, and probably feels 32.
Work in a New Automation Era
September 22, 2016
Automation has a habit of killing jobs, which has been true since the Industrial Revolution. However, it seems that we're discovering this truth all over again. We easily forget when we focus only on the job-creation aspects of automation, and that usually gets us in trouble. Since the IR, there have been five distinct economic waves lasting between 50 and 60 years.
Oracle Does the Cloud Dance
September 19, 2016
Sunday's Oracle OpenWorld keynotes were good -- especially compared with prior years -- but they still suffered from the perennial problem of trying to stuff too much content into a two-hour event. Diane Bryant, SVP at Intel and a big Oracle partner, spent an hour covering a very broad landscape. Perhaps the most interesting information in Bryant's presentation concerned Intel's new line of chips.
Oracle's Earnings Call
September 16, 2016
Oracle is flying high as it goes into its annual Oracle OpenWorld customer conference, based on the news from its earnings call on Thursday. It's clear that the company has succeeded in pivoting from on-premises to cloud software offerings. The revenue acceleration from cloud products and services suggests that Oracle will derive an increasing share of its future revenues from cloud solutions.
Business Agility and the Platform
September 14, 2016
A common perception of business agility is that it revolves around quickness, especially quickness in the service of accelerating a deal or transaction. That's a good starting point, but agility actually goes deeper -- especially now that so many structural changes, like cloud computing and subscriptions, have turned up the dial on everyday business.
Dreaming Up Einstein
September 10, 2016
Salesforce isn't waiting for Dreamforce to begin the drumbeat over its AI offering called "Einstein." There is so much to discuss about this turn of events that it's hard to begin, so rather than starting at a conventional jumping-off point I'll start with the name. You couldn't have lived at any point in the 20th century and not have some idea of who Albert Einstein was.
Harlequin Romances Customers
September 6, 2016
I recently read a user story about how Harlequin -- a publisher of romance novels -- keeps its customers loyal. It has embraced several ideas that work really well, including emphasizing a consciousness of customer loyalty, keeping things simple, and focusing on personalizing relationships and engagement. Consciousness is relatively easy, but someone high on the org chart has to promote it.
American Breaks People
August 30, 2016
It's easy to lose sight of people in a CRM discussion, focusing instead on the great technology and what it does under optimum circumstances. We should keep the customer in mind at all times, however, for without them what are we? Forgetting the customer is dangerous both for customers and vendors in this social age. Far from being a universal good, automation can obstruct human interactions.
In a Political Season
August 24, 2016
Many, if not most, people I know don't want to talk about it -- the election, that is. Lots of them have views but they don't want to share them, based on a dislike of contentiousness. Who likes conflict? There is an article floating around the Internet that I lost track of that says nobody's mind ever changes in a heated debate about something so vital, so why engage?
Enterprise Software's Future
August 19, 2016
What's the direction of the software industry? I'm not indulging in idle curiosity -- things are changing, and today's events are signaling a significant shift. The rollout of Software as a Service and the emergence of relatively good platforms -- which will only get better -- suggest to me that the software industry of 2000, in which cloud and SaaS began to emerge, is now well in the past.
The 4 Fundamental Attributes of Customer Loyalty, Part 4
August 10, 2016
If you want to succeed at engaging customers, or anyone else for that matter, it helps to have a model of what success looks like. This idea isn't new. Elite athletes train themselves to see a perfect race in their mind's eye, or to imagine the arc of a ball to its flawless conclusion. Scientists model physical and chemical reactions that occur at a scale too small to view directly.
Heating Up the Platform Wars
August 4, 2016
We've seen a rapid progression from conventional licensed software to cloud-based solutions that sell for a song -- and in theory could sell through barter at some point. I am not a big fan of zero marginal cost economics, in which prices drop to zip because buyers take into account only the cost of the good and not the time, effort, and other resources that went into making it No. 1.
The 4 Fundamental Attributes of Customer Loyalty, Part 3
July 29, 2016
Dealing with customers in context can equate with personalization, as many define it. Or it can refer to enabling customers to jump out of a largely automated customer-facing process to deal with a company representative. Additionally, it can mean getting down in the weeds of some hyper-specific aspect of a customer's issue. A lot depends on what the vendor and customer are trying to accomplish.
Platform as a Platform
July 20, 2016
The platform land rush is definitely on. You can't swing a dead cat, as the saying goes, without finding an announcement about some new platform or some established vendor's attempt to enhance its existing platform. Some sorting out seems to be in order. What's not a platform these days? Well, if it's easy to substitute the word "application" for "platform," then you should use "application."
The 4 Fundamental Attributes of Customer Loyalty, Part 2
July 14, 2016
Lots of CRM vendors talk about personalization, but their idea of how to do it leaves much to be desired. They address personalization very late, using a just-in-time approach to accessing customer data to support a sales or service encounter in the moment. This certainly is important, and it achieves the goal of personalizing the encounter by producing a catalog of data points.
Learning Something CRM-ish From Brexit
July 6, 2016
This summer has started out to be anything but a somnolent day at the beach. The Brexit vote for the UK to leave the EU is enough to disturb your slumber. To be frank, it appears we are at one of those major historical transition points that might happen a few times in any of our lives. Without stirring up a hornet's nest, I would like to discuss CRM in all of this.
The 4 Fundamental Attributes of Customer Loyalty, Part 1
June 29, 2016
As I see it, there are four basic capabilities, or attributes, needed to build better customer loyalty. I learned about them from two McKinsey researchers. Those attributes, according to David C. Edelman and Marc Singer -- and I agree -- are the following: automation, proactive personalization, contextual interaction and journey mapping.
Social's Turning Point
June 24, 2016
Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn for more than $26 billion has created quite a stir -- at least in my world. The deal can boast a number of superlatives: the largest sale of a consumer Internet company in history; the largest sale of an enterprise software/cloud company in history; the third-largest sale of a technology company since 2001; and the largest Microsoft acquisition ever.
Salesforce's TrailheaDX
June 17, 2016
Salesforce held TrailheaDX last week -- its first event just for software developers. It previously relied on special sessions at events such as Dreamforce to educate developers, but its declared intention to train up to 100 million of them in its Lightning development environment dictated taking additional action. Anyone should be able to learn development skills, Salesforce contends.
The Marginal Customer
June 10, 2016
I start a lot of client engagements with a simple question: Who's the customer? It's amazing the answers that I get. Some people know the customer's demographic and business or personal needs, and they focus on those things. Others don't even grasp the difference between a customer and a consumer. You might expect this if you are working in the B2C rather than B2B space.
Loyalty Failures
June 3, 2016
Software vendors and their business customers have tried many things to increase customer loyalty, but they have been disappointed more often than not. Rewards, delight, and daily deals were good ideas to help spur customer loyalty. Unfortunately, they weren't enough to move the loyalty needle in today's highly competitive markets. That's because rewards programs often reward the wrong thing.
The Traction Gap
May 26, 2016
My friend and a partner at Wildcat Venture Partners, Bruce Cleveland, along with his associates, has come up with an idea that helps explain why some early-stage companies thrive and thus raise more capital, while others die on the vine. As a venture capitalist, he is always trying to figure this out, trying to determine who gets another round of funding and who doesn't.
Deeper Connections
May 23, 2016
Salesforce held its Connections 2016 user event in Atlanta earlier this month. About 7,000 people attended, but in the Georgia World Congress Center and airplane hangar, attendance seemed smallish. Attendance might have been held down by Gov. Nathan Deal's slow response to vetoing a religious freedom law largely seen as discriminating against the LGBT community.
Marketing and Loyalty
May 17, 2016
The CRM industry is shining a bright light on digital marketing, and it is a sign of how early we are in the digital marketing boom that few vendors are championing the idea of using marketing in any way other than for driving sales. Based on recent events by Oracle and Salesforce, it appears that the focus on driving more sales makes perfect sense for organizations just getting their feet wet.
The Why of Customers
May 13, 2016
SAS Institute introduced SAS Customer Intelligence 360 at its recent Global Forum meeting. Intelligence 360 has some good ideas baked in, though some of the messaging I heard wasn't up to the level of the product or at least its intention. I suspect that will come, and it's an easy fix. The product set is divided into two major components, Discover and Engage.
Bill Gates' Open Letter
May 10, 2016
It has been 40 years since Bill Gates wrote his open letter to the software industry complaining that computer hobbyists were stealing his BASIC program. That was so long ago that Wikipedia has a picture of the source code for "Micro-Soft" BASIC on paper tape. A lot of things have changed since then. In the 1970s when Microsoft was getting started, it was common for people to copy, swap or donate software simply because they could.
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