Monday, September 22, 2008

Browser, Clients, Credit and 2.0

Enterprise2.0 & Office2.0, Clients and Browsers

Phil Wainewright has a truly excellent piece on the use of mashup's on RightNow Technologies. Some of the points I am fascinated with is Phil's contention that in many situations "browser only/ no download" culture of Office2.0 may not actually deliver benefit, and that there remains a role for the lightweight client.

Credit and Collections in The News

The Wall Street Journal reports that credit and collections is now a front and center concern for all US banks. They are focusing on getting in front of customers as soon as their is any indication that they may be struggling; making more offers around helping construct partial payment and late payment plans; and they are using these interactions and incentives to help "renegotiated the debt relationship" they have with the client (i.e. reduce limits, introduce new terms etc.) Interestingly, they are also investing in self service solutions where customers that find themselves in a "bit of trouble", can develop and deploy their own late payment plan entirely on their own and without having to speak to the agent or collections agency.

Oh, and $969bn is the amount on rotating credit, ie outanding on credit cards. Gee, its sounds a lot when you say it like that.

Getting All 2.0 On Your Credit

Another service called BillShrink is also trying to help customers manage their credit card debt (VentureBeat). What I love about this is that the service makes obvious what other benefits might be (i.e. air miles, fees, etc.). It asks you a few simple questions around what your spending is like, and how much your credit limit is, and then gets to making some suggestions.

I sincerely believe that there are opportunities to more accurately asses the true nature of a persons payment risk through higher levels of data granularity; using data from different data pools, and ideas lifted from the world of social media.


To return to the question of "how you spend your money will impact your credit score": from what I remember if you buy groceries with your credit card, this is not good. The credit card company might make some high level assumptions about what this means. But wait.

Techcrunch reports on Expensify, a solution that is a credit card, that allows you to take a picture of your receipt, and file the whole thing. You can then print out your receipts by trip, in order, and attached with proof of payment (this is where I go, OMG, like a 13 year old). They take a 3% fee for doing this (woah.... what? but wait a minute, how much time would you spend doing your expenses, how late are you usually in handing them in, and what is your usual charge on that? yes, it does, it does add up). Of course the real beauty with Expensify is that they could be your "credit information broker", and unlike Billshrink they won't be asking you to guess, you just gave them permission to track your spend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Human - Machine Interaction, When and Why.

A new report from Nortel and BT, "Fragvergence: Changing Consumer Attitudes to Diverse Contact Channels", has found that there is actually a good consumer reaction to getting an automated message, in the right context.

They ran both a quantitative survey of 1,018 on U.S. and U.K. consumers and a qualitative set of in-depth interviews with consumers (how many of those, they don't say in the release, and I am waiting on the full report).

- 71 percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers would be happy to receive a call that used voice recognition to inform them that their plane, train or bus would be late.

- 80 percent reported that they would look favorably on automated calls that informed them of the time of delivery of goods to their homes.

Gee, shock horror. VoiceSage is doing this day in day out for leading brand name companies in the UK right now, today.

The report goes on to say that the end user would be happy for the company to use Voice Recognition if it reduced cost, and of course this cost was passed on to the consumer. Really? Customers are interested in better service at lower cost? I must read on.

They point out that American's are much more likely to like automated IVR, for reasons that remain unexplored in the PR Release, but may, just may have something to do with other research which shows that the American public would rather talk to a machine than someone from the Philippines.

But the report does strike some interesting notes: for instance, many product decisions are now "de-facto" service decisions. When I buy a laptop I am comparing various technical specifications against my belief in the brand, and my expectations as to the probable level of service I will receive if/when something goes wrong. This is an excellent point that is somewhat lost in the overall release.

They also draw our attention to the finding that:

Customers appear to have stark preferences on which channels they wish to use for different services. For financial services, for instance, 56 percent of U.S. respondents and half of U.K. respondents welcomed voice recognition for checking their account balance. Only 12 percent and 13 percent respectively liked the idea of setting up the direct debit using IVR

Now there is a very simple "work around" to that and it is "don't expect completely new to the service customers to sign up on an automated system, but instead, connect them through to an excellent call center agent?" I can also let you in on another little secret, VoiceSage is helping companies (Telco's, Utilities, Financials) to use outbound Interactive Voice Messaging to collect payments every single day, and our customer satisfaction and feedback rates are very positive. 

In fairness Andrew Small, head of CRM capability, BT Global Services, says in the statement "Our research showed that consumer preferences are both particular to the sector and also the application being used.” With this I would agree absolutely, and that is why you should do business with someone who understands that process.

Monday, September 15, 2008

E.2 Barriers To Adoption


Why Senior Management Invest In Enterprise 2.0

Here's a little conundrum: all project management and product development books will tell you top team sponsorship is essential for success. So why are all the Analysts saying that "enterprise 2.0 is under the radar", its "user generated", its wild-fire? Well, because that's what happened with Web2.0 Retail. Companies that spent a fortune gaining first position in their vertical were overcome by new 2.0 players, often within a 12-18 month time frame. (see UK real estate players for examples). But me-thinks Enterprise is a bit different.

Bill Ives on The FastForwardBlog says there are four business reasons for adopting enterprise 2.0 that got senior execs excited.

1. As company grew there was an increasing need to collaborate across time zones. This became apparent as they made more acquisitions and at first, had difficulty just going across one time zone. The enterprise 2.0 tools addressed this issue.

2. When they were a regional bank, the bank found that company events (picnics) and activities (softball league) helped build commitment. Now they saw the need to build a similar sense of community and commitment on a global basis with the new enterprise 2.0 tools.

3. Like many companies they have maturing workforce and were concerned with the lose of knowledge. Now with enterprise 2.0 tools they are capturing knowledge in the process of work through wikis, blogs, and similar means.

4. They saw the need to engage generation y workers. This caught imagination of senior executives when their research showed that generation y workers come with greater engagement but within a year they dropped to below average on engagement because there were no tools for engagement. The new employees were also driven down by the hierarchy. Enterprise 2.0 tools provide the means of engagement with tools they are used to using that allow for participation

So, Senior Management are concerned about Motivating and Retaining their young talent; they want to try to capture tacit knowledge, routines, and relationships; they want to build team spirit and feeling of "company belonging"; and they wanted to enable people to find others in their company, even across timezones. So far, so 1987.

More on The Adoption of Enterprise2.0 From Office 2.0

The Office2.0 Conference guys noticed 5 categories of barriers:

(1) Culture: resistance to change, resistance to new tools, familiarity with current environment, lack of rewards

(2) Awareness: lack of awareness of what the tools are. At client site, I was talking about twitter and a business problem we were working on, and using twitter to get some ideas. For the client, the firewall prevented them from using it. Most people know about LinkedIn and Facebook, but there is a lack of awareness beyond that.

(3) Technology: concerns about privacy, security, protection, particularly in financial services. Hospital argument — spend money in case someone might die. Same thing with security

(4) Security: privacy protection, etc.

(5) Generational differences: if the organization doesn’t have a lot of younger workers, there seems to be no acceptance. Many companies are not worried about the younger generation.

So again, Culture, Reward Structures for Desired Behaviors, Clear understanding of Security and Governance, i.e. who is in charge, and who is responsible for the implementation and its deliverables. Gosh, I sound so old school here.

Getting Over The Barriers

(1) Get upper management to use tools themselves

(2) Show use one small tool to solve one problem (reduce complexity and make benefit clear).

(3) Build on successes.  Let others see that their peers are having success and they will want to follow suit.

(4) Build group and let others see that others are using IT—peers using it

(5) Use new system in parallel with traditional collaboration processes so they can see the benefits Ex: email vs banned email

(6) Build support processes at the same time as introducing the new tool (remember individuals can change tools, but the organization changes very slowly).

(7) Build/engage culture where it's ok to experiment/take risks

(8) "Social media policy' you represent the company so 'be an adult'

(9) Use summer interns to bring in new technologies.  Are you a “stock” or a “Bond” (or maybe an “option”)- let someone else take the risk

(10) Kill the old systems so the new system is the only option

(11) Provide “guide on the side” training environment. Staff the role of community manager with the right person to engage others and teach others and manage content to get networking site going

(12) Start by addressing a business problem, not just bring in the tool.  When the business problem has been successfully addressed, then collaboration can be seen as a nice 'byproduct' of the solution.

From where I stand, this makes a lot of sense. And from where I stand if you had a plan to implement a "2.0" strategy and had a 12 step plan to overcome barriers to adoption, and you had worked out a clear business case for using it, well, you probably wouldn't have to use the phrase "2.0" at all.:)

Update: Dion has a massive post on getting 2.0 into the enterpise. It takes a different tack to the "traditional approach", and its well worth the read. Dion's take (IMHO) is that you need to "break the china" and go big with the big commitment to 2.0.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Big Theme, Little Theme

Big Theme: Serendipity, Patterns of Interaction, Culture.

When John Hagel speaks, I listen. Today he posted about "The Big Sort" and "The Difference", and the role of cultural diversity in creating "productive friction", which in turn enables long term innovation. While many theorist have pointed out that the urban flows (of traffic, of housing, and retail / commercial districts) set up a little "social tube" that we move around without really reflecting on it, I think not enough attention has been paid to "interaction styles" and culture. We can all pass each other in the street and say "good day, nice weather, I hope it holds", God knows, in Ireland the weather is always an occasion for conversation. But its a known pattern that isn't deviated from often. I am sure that just as many "known patterns of interaction" take part every day when a sales person is speaking with a customer, or a customer care agent is dealing with a call. The "formula" enables you to get through the interaction predictably and without offence. But it doesn't create the opportunity for insight. It doesn't help you understand "what else is going on around here" that could be influencing this interaction.

Little Theme :) Cumulative Benefits

Companies are now starting up to compete with SpinVox and the heavily funded Speech to Text product companies. Speech to Text means that you can dial a number, say what you want to do, or say a message, and have it delivered to a number of media or modes (i.e. email, SMS, etc.). VentureBeat reports on MessageSling which allows you to send a message to a group in any mode on any network. The article points out that you can do any network messaging on from SpinVox through uReach. I can also point out that has a speech to text engine. Yesterday ReadWriteWeb had a piece on using the iPhone as a satnav type offering. The opportunity to create applications and services that are a mix and match, a mashup, of various other platforms can often be a problem too, inthat the start up hasn't really thought about cumulative "lock in's" that discourage the user from leaving for another service.

Getting With The Big Themes: SaaS and Media Consumption

TechCrunch carried the piece that Joost would move to entirely browser based delivery. The even bigger news was that the social consumption aspect of the service would now be much more prominent. I always thought that joost should be the "virtual couch" where you and your friends could watch TV, Media, Games, and then just comment, show other related clips etc. You could say to your friends "hey, wanna watch CSI tonight at 10.00?". Others say that Joost just didn't have the compelling content it needed to draw users in. I learned a lot from my trial of the alpha service. It has great player, loads of content, clean interface. What I missed about my lastfm was serendipity. And that is what John Hagel was talking about.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Appointments 2.0: A specific instance of "micro-process" drags.

Kristen Nicole at Mashable brings us news that HeyCosmo brings the world a service that uses the phone to help schedule your life.  You could use the Concierge service to phone the HeyCosmo number and ask it to phone all the restaurants in a particular area and see if they have a table for 7pm. One presumes that who ever picks up the phone and confirms that they have a table will then be connected back to you.. It sounds nice but you will never ever use this service unless it is connected to an accurate and useful store of directory assets, or social network ratings, etc. I must admit Ijust don't see these guys being architected to do this. HeyCosmo reportedly has plans to expand into a kind of referral based service based on Geo-location/ local data. With 11 staff and Silicon Valley based, it can't be a cheap start up either.

Update: RWW thinks HeyCosmo needs more emphasis on the receiver's experience. Bang On Assessment in my view.

Presdo (as in "press-do") are another 2.0 start up that enable you to invite people to events "on the fly". Drag a link to your toolbar and start booking events with friends and colleagues. This service is email driven and very "gooleicious". Which leads me to Google Calendar. Use Gmail and Calendar, hey even stick an SMS reminder into the routine, and your good to go. And with Google Gears for Calendar about to debut you have even more reason to use it.

TimeBridge on the other hand have a brief "negotiation" capability in that the initiator can choose 5 potential meeting times, and the recipients choose "best, available, not good" for each of the times, and then an email negotiation is entered into. It also synchs with  all the available calendaring softwares. The key pieces here are "installed software base", and "negotiation". If the negotiating service was also "aware" of some of your meeting habits, relationship strengths, and work priorities, then it might actually become effective. These are key "micro-process" drags based on problems of co-ordination and communication.

Phil Wolff of SkypeJournal totally nailed it this week with this posting.


While the diagram above is an obvious reference to Alex Saunders "Presence 2.0" it illustrates how much deeper the conversation has to go to actually solve something as "simple" as an appointment routine. If you think of an appointment setting in your outlook as an "object", you may wish to see notes on the conference call, attached to-do's, products referenced in the call, etc. As your organisation scales in number, and the number of interactions / appointments between you and the customer scale, the issue becomes non-trivial.

Imagine: you have an appointment with an installer from BT, who said they would be at your house by 10.30. Why not go to the calendar page he emailed you as part of the confirmation cycle, hover over it, and it shows you on a map, where he is right now, and how long it will take to "next appointment"? Think of it as a FexEx for Everybody in your always live calendar. There is a opportunity to solve a real problem here, but we're all a bit away from having the social and technical infrastructure in place to crack it on a large scale. (IMHO)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Batch and Weave

Micro-Processes , Structural Processes, and Shorter  Product Development Times

The theme is well understood at this point: those that can sense and respond to market needs and demands, and can iterate their products, designs, features etc. faster than the competition, eventually "out evolve" them. I saw this years ago in Japanese manufacturing strategy called lean production.

A key part of this "lean" was the ability to turn production processes away from "long lines" to "flexible cells". Then, within each cell there was (usually) a key machine that had a "set up & turnaround time". This was a key constraint. But here is something you probably didn't know: operators of these machines kept very detailed log books of how the machine operated in reality, and issues that effected its performance. We are talking a "log book on a string" here. These books would provide details of real "constraints" in the production process so designers could see that their design changes would have key impacts on the production line. Underpinning the systems thinking here, was a clear culture that understood the upstream and downstream impacts of their performance and failures. Micro-processes (Machine Set Up Constraint) fit seamlessly into Macro-Processes (Product Development Process).

For all the talk about Lean Production & Agile Enterprise we still don't seem to be doing a great job of this in the last 20 years. What strikes me here, again, is that there are many Micro-Processes that an individual can capture, and these will matter in themselves to the individual capturing them, and in aggregate to those involved in strategy, finance and marketing. This is one theme of the Enterprise 2.0 debate that isn't really being brought forward enough.

CEBP (communications enabled business processes) are one way of unlocking some of those key constraints, but perhaps there are very many other opportunities to capture and share micro-processes. I am sure that a lot more could and will be done with CEBP and internal organisational efficiencies.

 Costs and How To Curtail Them

Denis Howlett has a posting on how to look at costs a bit more closely: a lot of smaller companies don't have a formal review process for this, but just by asking existing service providers to re-tender you can regularly attain decent cost savings. Denis does recommend that companies also look to see how they can refocus from offline to online marketing. At VoiceSage we attend quite a few conferences but we also do quite a bit of our work through "teleweb". Of course a core part of what we do around here is help companies bring in their outstanding debtor days/ sales days outstanding by using Interactive Voice Messaging (IVM). One of our Clients is a Catalogue company called Otto, and it brought in its money twice as fast using VoiceSage. But there are add on points to this: we know that companies can reduce their outstanding debt by Communications Enabling the Credit and Collections cycle. But have you traced all the upstream and downstream benefits of being more in control of this process?

 Telco2 Themes: The Continued Importance of CEBP

Telco2 Themes

The guys at Telco2 continue to show the way in terms of what is possible for all parties in the new CEBP marketplace. looks like another good line up for the November Brainstorm. Let me throw a theme into the hat: "What enables you to create a platform of availability"?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Follow Up On Last Post: micro-processes

Are Conversations The Missing Piece Around Micro-Processes?

The ever excellent PersonalInfocloud comes forward with some interesting comments around Enterprise 2.0 and why it might be a bit different from Web 2.0. The bits that particularly caught my attention were that many of the micro-processes (my term) were not captured in an organisation, and information around even well defined processes were also not caught and captured and thus saved to "organisation memory".

Enterprise has gone through its phases of knowledge management tools, from forms for capturing information, forums for sharing, and up to enterprise content management systems (ECM) that encompass document management, content management, knowledge management, and information harvesting. But, the gaps still exist.

These existing gaps are around conversations not being captured (the walls of the halls have no memory (well today they do not)) and increasingly the ubiquitous communication channel in organizations, e-mail, is being worked around. Quick decisions are not being documented as it is not enough for a document or worth completing a form. As the iterative processes of development, design, and solution engineering are happening at quicker and smaller increments the intelligence behind the decisions is not being captured or shared. This is largely because of the tools.

How Would You Get Those Micro-Processes Out of Company?

TechCrunch reports on Worklight, a server based application that sits behind the firewall of the corporate and then enables corporate information to be "widge-fied" a la iGoogle. So, you see you're stock levels, your delivery times, etc. etc. I think this is a great idea and just know that this is the way all corporate interactions will move, both for internal employees, and for company customer interactions. The only "vision thing" I would ponder is shouldn't the server be hosted somewhere?

That Sounds Cool: Could We Do This On Some Web2.0 Stuff?

For those of you thinking that "our product would really sell well into large corporate users", beware. Its a serious commitment as a sales and marketing strategy, and needs good capitalisation. Ed Sims has more here.  In a related point Tom Evslin asks can you have a strategy for a start up if there is no revenue plan? Yes, you can, if you have a lot of personal money, a low personal burn rate, and the frame of mind to do it :) For those who are used to selling into large enterprises, expect "higher than web2.0 rates of friction".

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