Friday, January 30, 2009

The Problem With Communications Mashups - In the Media At Least

IBM Business Model Transformation

IBM have a lovely new report on Telco2 (oops, Telco with a Focus on Web 2.0) and they immediately draw our attention to the imperative for innovation around the actual core business model of the Telco/ enterprise. Revenue growth also shares significant top of mind, while cost take out takes a back seat.

This is followed up in the media (CNN Money no less) by a joint IBM - Avaya story around the IBM Mashup Centre Capability.

As demonstrated by Avaya, a mashup prototype for field engineering managers enables them to check for new customer problems, assign field engineers, review status of ongoing problems, and, if necessary, contact the assigned engineer or customer using e-mail, short message service (SMS) or click-to-call, all from a single Web page. When contacting the customer by phone, the engineering manager can then click the "add" button to quickly bring other participants into a conference call.

Now I am not blowing our own horn by saying that you can do all this with VoiceSage right now, but what is definitely interesting is that they make such a big deal out of "getting at the enterprise data", previously, so cleverly locked away, (sorry locked down), buy (sorry 'by') the software vendors. They also, clearly "get" that enterprise data, and web-native data, will need to mind-meld. They also "get" that enterprise mashups are going to have "security" front and centre. It all sounds good. Oh, and if you think any of this is divorced from happenings in the world of the iPhone, Nuance and IBM have done a deal in relation to speech recognition and IVR etc. so watch speech recognition and speech navigation enter the on-demand, enterprise mashup toolkit.

Now here's the take away: To do this well IBM-Avaya-Other ecosystem has to completely seek to break out of the silo - websphere support strategy (IHMH). Go to and look at what people are building: let me give you a clue, it involves Google maps and little else. Something is wrong in the world of Mashups and nobody has quite cracked it yet. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says "I really feel like a mashup today", a fry maybe, but not a mashup.

VoiceSage does this Customer Logistics 2.0 piece day in day out, and I can tell you that our customers are definitely concerned with issues such as "number of late deliveries", "number of no shows", but at the end of the day, you do very well indeed to point out 10 fold reduction in costs. Cost Take Out is way, way more important right now than using Enterprise 2.0 for potential revenue generation. I like the idea of integration of enterprise data with web data and I for one look forward to seeing examples of companies going from "no IBM enterprise software", and "No integration partner" in the mainstream media. The IBM approach presented in these instances above seems to me to be more "Enterprise Forklift Upgrade - Engagement Strategy" to be sold to CIO's, than true "E2.0 Thinking".

For a different perspective, and one I think has merit, see WIPRO white paper on it here.

Meanwhile, Somewhere Else in The Cloud

Dion Hinchcliffe (big time HT's this week) points us towards CloudMQ, an enterprise class messaging (queuing) service. Interestingly it sits entirely in Amazon cloud, but I am guessing that like Joyent, these guys are looking to be cloud-platform-agnostic (for complete data and application portability). 

Jim Courtney over at SkypeJournal reports that Lotus Live and Skype partner up for collaboration in the cloud, part of the 'Skype everywhere' strategy. What was neat about this (for me) is that Skype point out that Skype is a great way of working with outsourcers and subcontractors globally. Indeed it is. This makes the integration very interesting. Companies have already adapted their behaviour now all IBM has to do is make Lotus relevant to that workflow. Jim goes on to quote Andy Abramson that  this is "being embedded into an offering that is key to IBM's future success in delivering cloud-based outsourced business services".  Lets look at that again: Skype being embedded into IBM is key to IBM's outsourcing success. On a conference call from eComm09 this week, Skype pointed out that over 10% of their users now use it for Conference calling. That's huge.

So Is Any of This IBM Stuff Actually E2.0-Cool?

C'mon, it's IBM and Avaya and their are very smart cookies working there (sic). Bruce McVarish points out to "IBM's Social Networks & Discovery (SaND) research and their focus on filter improvements to identify contextually relevant people, documents and expertise within the enterprise". Basically, the system enables you to see the relationships between people, tags, and documents (i.e. is socially aware). More here. So imagine you are on a Skype call to India with a software contractor, and you can hover over the name, and see others in your social network that have recommended that person, or hover over the link to the document they are sending you to see other documents or presentations that might be useful to you? Oh, yeah you can already do some of that through the LinkedIn integration but its all that stuff locked up behind the firewall that you are trying to get at (if you are a big organisation). So all this "context" stuff and "sensing" is going to be important? :)

And Back To The Business Model

So where did we start this, oh yeah, Business Model Innovation. To be truly innovative companies need to find new ways of generating value, not of shifting value along the value chain (in the case of developer channel decimation in the face of mashup potential, and for Telco's minutes calling revenues in the case of international calling). If you are an integrator, you will not be able to charge what you were charging before. The "value proposition" was in the fact that their was friction between systems, and you had to be trained, and experienced in dealing with them. I suspect Integrators will extract 1/10th of the value they previously did from enterprise integrations. So this is value destruction for Systems Integrators. Calling from Skype to Skype, SkypeOut, Skype Conference Calling is value destruction for Telco's, premier Conferencing providers, and potentially for Unified Communications Providers. There is no longer "special sauce" involved in making all these systems gel together.

Generating new value is where the real strategic challenge is, and this means tapping into global social change. Here's some companies that are in strategic decay because they are demonstrating a lack of purpose. Here's one example from that list - The Swiss company Roche makes a range of HIV-related drugs:

Roche charges $25,000 a year for Fuzeon. It does not offer a discount price for developing countries. Like most industrialized countries, South Korea maintains a form of price controls. The national health insurance program sets prices for medicines, and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs listed Fuzeon at $18,000 a year. South Korea’s per capita income is roughly half that of the United States. Instead of providing Fuzeon at South Korea’s listed level—and still turning a profit—Roche refuses to make the drug available in South Korea. South Korean activists report that the head of Roche Korea told them, “We are not in business to save lives, but to make money. Saving lives is not our business.”

Lovely. And guess what, we Trust companies, governments and institutions less than ever. A "catastrophic decline" in the USA, but higher levels of trust emerging in the developing economics (BRIC). In Europe Finance, Auto, Utilities are particularly badly hit. Perhaps, activities designed to build trust relationships will be the true corporate asset of the future, and perhaps, how we use technology and communications to build these trust relationships, would be an interesting starting place.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

IGO People - IGO Here


I've been in conversation with the IGOPeople people for a while now and their site launch has impressed me for a number of reasons. But first, the strategic positioning: IGOPeople is a space where conversations between individuals, groups, and organisations can be seen, and followed, and published. In my opinion, its part of this new social media / CRM2.0/ Social CRM thing. As I said, I've spoken with the IGO-Peeps and they have a pretty deep vision for the site. Here's what has impressed me to date:

- It looks pretty damn good and its damned easy to sign up and get started (low adoption friction);

- Conversations are flows;

- Conversations are facilitated from within IGO, or can flow from "outside-into-IGO". Loads of examples of from Twitter to IGO and IGO out to Twitter (DellCamp being one example);

- They have managed to entice some pretty major companies to try out this "new type of conversation" and they are obviously experimenting with different engagement models;

- They have "Individual's" conversation flows going, and that's pretty hard to do (HT to Campbell Scott for making that happen).

Best of Luck to Them. You have to ask yourself why a company wouldn't want to at least experiment with this.

Monday, January 26, 2009

eComm09 - Going, Going, Going...

Little Company Big Threat

Prompted by Alan Quayle here I thought I'd put up a few reasons we are interested in going to eComm09 in March.

Ed Fontana of the Android Developer, Commuter Community Android App is speaking about "Intervals of Interest" and how it affects the design of mobile applications. I have a background (both practical and research based) in the Lean Production values of the Automotive industry, so I think this talk should be fascinating because it has as its centre the concept of reducing friction in social interactions.

Shai Berger from Fonolo will be looking back on a year of "deep dialing" . Fonolo is a great favourite with the guys from Telco2.0 because it also "reduced friction" in the interaction. The problem is kind-of simple (which all great problems are): you want to speak to a particular part of the customer service organisation, but you have to go through all the IVR menu's to get there. Fonolo enables you to direct dial the desired destination because they have mapped that company's system.  At VoiceSage we've taken advantage of this kind of thinking as well because when we map out a process (or more to the point, when you map out your own process) you can assign a deep dial as one of the process steps. One instance where this is used is where a person has been called and asked if they wish to make a payment as part of a process. Previous steps may have specified how much that person wishes to pay, their account details, or the currency etc. When linking to an Autopay solution we "deep dial" that IVR and forward the relevant details so you don't have to ask for them again.

Irv Shapiro of IfByPhone will be speaking about Voice Services in the cloud. IfByPhone grabbed some attention last year by integrating their click2call capability with Google Analytics so that you could evaluate the ultimate effectiveness of your click strategy. Irv will be demonstrating some of his business cases and speaking about the technology architecture.

There are some "hardcore network" sessions and some pretty cutting edge ones on mobile wireless that I would love to sit in on, and mostly not understand. One good reason why we are sending our CTO Graham Brierton to the conference where he will be giving a very, very interesting talk on some of our next generation thinking.

The Picture?: If you are wondering what the picture is about, some of the things you will see at eComm09 are the early evidence of some big shifts that are lurking their under the Telco waters....

Monday, January 05, 2009

Welcome 2009

symbolic consumption

Quick Note

Let me begin by saying a quick thanks to all of you that read this blog. 2008 was a great year for VoiceSage. We have many new clients on board and I hope to be able to bring you some stories and research based on their experiences to date. We will also be running a series of webinars and conference calls to discuss issues relating to how you can get even more from the VoiceSage service, so if any of you reading this are interested, why not drop us an email or phone call and we will see what we can do to fit you in.

Credit Crunch To Precipitate Change In Buying Behaviour?

Jeff Nolan over on Venture Chronicles makes a good point about 2009 and the effect of the credit crunch: people behave differently when spending their own saved cash than when spending on credit. This will result in people turning to Utility in their purchasing. Although my head tells me "true", another older, atavistic, marketing brain tells me, if so, why are people still buying Fendi handbags? I think that marketing and customer service people are going to have to embrace the concepts of connectiveness and social media even more when its not the price that matters, its your confidence that this is the right price. Thus, I think we will see more use of (mobile) coupons, we will see more use of iPhone/N95/Blackberry applications that scan a barcode and compare prices/ tell you what friends bought this/ etc. etc.

Credit Card Fraud: Get Pro-Active

Not that I think crime is a direct substitute product for work but there is no denying that as times get harder, crime rates will rise, and we will see increased fraud attempts. There are some super practical tips on protecting yourself from Credit Card Fraud from Light Blue Touchpaper. I found one or two of the comments especially interesting: (1) If you can personalise your card, or you get a card that is designed to demonstrate success, are you signaling that this is a good card to target? (2) If you are a particular type of person, or travelling in a dodgy area, why can't you elect to get a phone verification on every purchase?

The Future is Social (and Green, and Friendly, and all That)

Paul Greenberg has a great end of year review of CRM, where he points out InsideView and Landslide. What I love about InsideView is that its liked a "link-weighted" search strategy for people (uh, yeah, what LinkedIn should have). Paul also points out HelpStream which he reckons is the prime example of a CRM 2.0 play that truly gets it. It makes total sense as long as you understand that not all the information pertinent to every decision you make resides within your own organisation. It also makes sense that not all the knowledge/ skills you need to service your customers might reside within your organisation. And as it happens there is no need to throw my two pence/ cent/ cents worth into this, because a recent series of posts by Bruce McVarish does it all so well.  Enjoy.

I picked up New Scientist this month and its theme of your social network influences you more than you know caught my eye (and reverberated with a RWW article on how smiling Facebook photo may indicated you may have more friends, and that happiness clusters). If it can be scientifically shown that 1st, 2nd and 3rd order contacts can actually influence our mood, and propensity for happiness, those that are able to attract the network to them and act as a co-coordinating node, will be those that succeed.

Note On Image: Symbolic Consumption will remain as strong an influence as ever in 2009 and beyond.

Get your twitter mosaic here.