Email Evolution or Revolution – From Goethe to IBM Verse

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Eyes wide open, the two IBM gentlemen look at me. They sit up right. Professional. Spot On. You can feel their enthusiasm, their expectations are high. Both are social collaboration leaders at IBM, evangelizing on the #newwaytowork. That’s how the software technology company hashtags their latest journey to the revolution of the email as they call the launch of their new inbox communication software „IBM Verse“. You can tell how excited the two managers in front of me are to talk about the IBM success story. The launch seemed to have gone well so far.

On my opening question both face each other, not sure who shall answer. They are professionals in communication, they are prepared. „The term Verse is historic for communication and conversation“, replies Dr. Peter Schuett, Leader Social Business Strategy at IBM. „In times of Goethe, when carriers brought people hand-written letters, all the communication that went to and fro was written in verse.“ The answer surprised me as IBM’s development sounds like a trip in the past.

It is not. For the first time, IBM has taken a new development approach. They made their customers think about the new software solution by inviting customer to their labs, by rethinking email, and by thinking design and customer experience first, based on real customer feedback, input and inspiration. Not the cheapest way to innovate. The product development cost 100 Mio. US Dollars according to them. It has got to be effective from a customer perspective.

IBM_Verse_People

For a long time, IBM has been a forerunner in terms of modern workplace technology. Their „Outside the Inbox“ evangelist Luis Suarez has already been preaching for a business world with less emails. We all know the reasons why he was addressing this. People get approximately 127 emails a day. This means emails kills 28% of our daily work-time, and thus of our daily productivity.

With IBM Verse the software technology company wants to shift productivity. Creating a more effective business culture is the aim. From Ed Brill’s perspective, he is IBM’s social business transformation specialist, email should function as a transmitter. Email today should be serving notes like a private letter what Goethe used to do in hand-written form: delivering private information.

„Email is the service forever. But it needs to be a personal service.“ Dr. Peter Schuett, IBM.

Focussing on the new software solution, I brought up the question in which way this is a revolution to email communication. Ed Brill emphasizes that IBM did not want to reinvent the email. IBM wished for a better email. However, IBM wanted to create a new intersection of email, calendar, social media and analytics. That’s what they have done with IBM Verse.

When I showed a bit of my disappointment around the new solution’s capabilities in terms of being an aggregation platform for direct messaging and functionality as an inbox management system in general, Ed Brill rearranges my expectations in bringing the metaphor on suits which might all look different in design but are in a sense all alike from the amount of innovation in style and structure. And by the way, the power users of enterprise email are still personal assistants.

IBM_Verse_Analytics
True, sometimes people forget where they stand in the evolution of modern communication. With their „People“ and „Analytics“ functionality, the modern way of a more personalized communication approach seems to get in that social direction in the future. At least, when we compare IBM Verse and Facebook from a superficial point of view. With IBM Verse people also move into the centre of the communication universe which is meant to map the efficiency form content to people. IBM Verse „People“ learns to show the users dynamically who is important to their communication, by hour, meeting and topic of conversation. Obviously, users can also change that and arrange it according to their premises. The world of communication gets filtered more and more.

Spot On!
IBM Verse is definitely a big evolution step in email communication. Still, they could have made it a bit more of a revolution in delivering a multi-messaging and communication management platform in my eyes which integrates direct communication via Facebook, Twitter and others.

Brill agrees that when CEOs wanted to spread the word around some company, product or people changes in the company, IBM was about to use email for that communication. Today, via IBM Connections -the internal use of their own company community platform- gets 7 Mio. accesses a month, and the CEO messages will reach (and achieve more feedback) more people via internal social messaging than via email in the past.

Nevertheless, the two gentlemen did not want to commit to a statement whether IBM Verse and IBM Connections might become one platform in the future. But the approach to one collaborative workplace platform, serves the option to have fewer apps in the future. But hey, there is hope: „Rome was not build in one day!“ summarizes Schuett in the quick Snapshot video interview in the end of our interview, and smiles.

My quote of the year 2013 – Social Media, Social Networks and Social Business

17.05.2013 von  
Kategorie Daily Top 3

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Credits: © Mirma - Fotolia.com

Credits: © Mirma – Fotolia.com

In 2010, I started pinning down my main message to companies and their C-level managers in one quote. Thereafter, different quotes evolved which I collected in the vision area of the „About“ page.

The value of such a quote is for some managers marginal and for others massive when using it to explain the transformation of the business into a digital community-centric company or brand. Take it for what it is, and for what it’s worth for you, or let’s discuss it.

For this year the quote will be about social business strategy…

„Social Networking is business intend. Social Media is business duty. Social Business is business freestyle.“

Just before you start asking… By „business freestlye“, I address all departments in your company (like marketing, sales, customer service, HR, or other) that are responsible for planning, using, handling, and organizing the business tactics and strategy around the brand, product line or service offering of business relevance.

Some facts that might be interesting for each one of those..
Social Networks – Which are growing fastest?
Social Media – Facts, Figures and Stats 2013
Social Business – Some Facts 2013

PS: If you do it right, your workforce will freak out like the guy in this post. Believe me…!

How the Edgerank drives your Facebook marketing (Infographic)

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Many people might have heard about the EdgeRank that drives the Facebook algorithm. It is the basis for the relevance of accounts and status updates, and yes obviously the users. However, how does it work is still an unchallenged question…

The aim of the Facebook Edgerank is to detect the updates people are most likely to engage with. One of the reasons why we sometimes don’t see our friends but those who are sharing updates that other people might like a bit more than others.

Some social experts suggest different types of posts that generate most traffic and engagement. Some believe in video, some in photo, and again others think that pure text is driving the algorythm most. Or is it the color that drives the customer? So, what is right? The answer is, only some people inside Facebook probably know that. It appears to be one of the well-protected next „Coca-Cola-like“ secrets…

In the end, the only answer that we see is the quality of posts. They might be short or long, with or without audio-video content, and also might have a picture, or not. Not the type of post makes the difference. It’s the understanding of your audience, and there social media monitoring is the key to all social business strategy as these will lead to your success.

PostRocket just recently published a detailed infographic on the Edgerank topic. It is nicely explaining how this algorithm drives your Facebook marketing.

PostRocket 102

Innovation study: Is culture or strategy the key to success?

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Obviously, the headline question is not easy to answer. Both elements have their impact on business success. At this years IBM JamCamp, we could hear many presentations why „culture eats strategy for breakfast“, and how to turn your business into a social business (i.e. Sandy Carter’s speech) that will drive innovation to new dimensions (and here is some hint how companies might get huge investments for social business realization).

A new study by Strategy& also shows that spending more on R&D won’t drive results. The results from the study illustrate that the most crucial factors are strategic alignment and a culture that supports innovation. The study surveyed almost 600 innovation leaders in companies around the world, large and small, in every major industry sector.

So what makes a truly innovative company? For sure, a focused innovation strategy, a compelling business strategy, deep customer insight, intelligent networking, as well as a splendid set of bright tactics. These are all elements that help giving your company an innovation boost. Still, the study states that corporate culture ties everything together — the organization’s self-sustaining patterns of behaving, feeling, thinking, and believing.

Still, the results of this year’s Global Innovation 1000 study make clear that only about half of all companies say their corporate culture robustly supports their innovation strategy. Moreover, about the same proportion say their innovation strategy is inadequately aligned with their overall corporate strategy. And although entire industries, such as pharmaceuticals, continue to devote relatively large shares of their resources to innovation, the results are much less successful than they and their stakeholders might hope for.

What I like about this study is that it supports my assumptions and thoughts of the Community Centric Strategy model. Across the board respondents identified „superior product performance“ and „superior product quality“ as their top strategic goals. And their two most important cultural attributes were „strong identification with the consumer/customer experience“ and a „passion/pride in products“.

Statements like the following from the study could be taken as a proof for the future development towards a more cultural business attitude that puts the consumer in the middle of your innovation efforts…

„Our goal is to include the voice of the customer at the basic research level and throughout the product development cycle, to enable our technical people to actually see how their technologies work in various market conditions.“ Fred Palensky, Executive Vice President of R&D and CTO, 3M Company

In my presentation at the IBM JamCamp 2011 I made clear that companies and brands need to close the perception gap between consumer’s demand and company goals. If companies don’t respect the 5 C engines of the Community Centric Strategy these two expectations cannot be aligned. We will continue to talk of target-groups instead of consumers that are grouping together in „community centers“. This is more of a cultural development companies need to go through than definable strategic capabillities by companies to drive innovations. By closing both the strategic alignment and culture gaps, companies and brands will better realize their goals and attributes.

Spot On!
The study results show that companies and brands should rethink the way they drive their innovation strategy. It suggests that the ways R&D managers and corporate decision makers think about their new products and services are critical for success. This includes all aspects how they feel about intangibles such as risk, creativity, openness, and collaboration. When nearly 20% of companies said they didn’t have a well-defined innovation strategy at all, it offers the chance to start anew and with the right approach. The Community Centric Strategy might be one solution for companies to evaluate culture as one of the main drivers to achieve your strategic goals in a modern way of doing business.

Study: C-level executives still unsure how to leverage Social Media for business growth

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It seems to be a love and hate relationship: Executives and Social Media. On the one hand, companies see how critical a social business strategy is for their business. On the other, they still don’t know how to harness the value of the new modern media landscape and the feedback channel online world. This is the insight we get from a survey of C-level executives conducted by Harris Interactive for Capgemini.

The findings, which are part of Capgemini’s Executive Outsourcing Survey, were published with their launch of the social media management service. The survey asked 302 senior executives at Fortune 1000 companies.

The question where to position Social Media inside the company seems to be omnipresent: Marketing? Customer Service? Corporate Communications? Or really change the company to become a social business operation? Does someone have a crystal ball? More than half say that Social Media is a part of their company’s customer care operations. However, 64% of those responded that it is a pure responsibility of their social media marketing department.

Surprisingly enough, 74% executives stated in the study they were not even sure how many employees are dedicated to customer care via the Social Web activities of the company. The value of Social Media can be seen by 57% of responding executives who think that it is „inviting customer input on product and services, lead generation, responding to complaints, internal reporting, and measuring customer satisfaction.“

And it is best to forget the 13% who still believe that Social Media is not important for future success of the company.

Spot On!
The attitude from executives towards Social Media also describes the fact that less than half of executives (41%) are monitoring online conversations about their brand, product and/or services. They only respond to an online conversation when a customer poses a direct question, representing a significant missed opportunity for companies to proactively solicit feedback and enhance the customer experience. The ooportunity to engage with the customer is there but executives (and probably their management teams) need to embrace the opportunity and change their business into a social business strategy and align it with their web strategy team.

Study: Social Business is critical to future success

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Jive Software recently published a study that unveils how social software is increasingly perceived as a strategic executive imperative in the enterprise. Surprise? No. Jive is a provider of social business technology and commissioned the study, which was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland and asked 902 U.S.-based knowledge workers.

The three key finding can be summarized as…
– Social strategy will be critical to the future success of businesses.
– App Stores are gaining traction in the enterprise
– Email usage is growing but is not solving communication challenges in the enterprise

So, what are essential facts from the study…?

Enthusiasm for social software in enterprise is high according to the study. 96% stated that social software adds value to at least one key performance indicator with 67% claiming it would improve customer engagement. 57% even believing it would increase sales or revenue. Two-thirds (66%) of executives responded social software represents a fundamental shift in how companies work and engage with customers.
However, only 17% of the same executives reported being ahead of the curve in this area. So, obviously web business strategy is not where executives think corporate culture should be. And that is although 83% of executives leverage at least one social network for work use.

Reference marketing is becoming essential and social software will play a big role in the future of purchase decisions. 54% of millennials said that they are more likely to rely on and make purchase decisions from information shared via personal contacts in online communities versus 33% more likely to use information from „official“ company sources.

Obviously the study also finds that mobile is growing. App stores are gaining tracion in the enterprise and 74% of executives are indicating interest. The reason i salso mentioned in the study. 92% of executives and 82% of millennials believe that work-related web-based apps greatly or somewhat increased their productivity.

As a final finding, the study states the growing use of email which the bloggosphere is evaluating as a weak collaboration tool for a while. The study agrees here. 89% of executives, 88% of millennials and 76% of general knowledge workers believe that they and their teams would be more productive if they could dramatically reduce the time spent writing and reading emails. Seventy-three percent of executives, 73 percent of millennials and 64% of general knowledge workers agree that social platforms will fundamentally change the way people share, connect and learn at work and with companies.

Spot On!
The study obviously favors the benefits of social software (it is a Jive USP). Some weeks ago, an IBM study took a step ahead and looked at the way executives have to challenge SocialCRM in the future and what their main fields of activity are at the moment.

So, if knowledge management in companies via social software is seen to have client engagement potential to improve business objectives, executives should have a close look at the following numbers and think about how (and how long to wait) to implement social software in their business processes: 73% of execs and millennials and 64% of general knowledge workers agree that social platforms will fundamentally change the way people share, connect and learn at work and with companies.

How Cisco’s SocialMiner helps improve the conversation with customers (a John Hernandez interview)

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One-on-one interview with John Hernandez

John Hernandez is General Manager of the Customer Collaboration Business Unit (CCBU) at Cisco, which provides contact center and interactive voice applications to enterprises and service providers. In this capacity he oversees product and market development, and is closely involved in the business with the Cisco sales force and partners.

The Strategy Web spoke with him about the launch and benefits of their new customer care product SocialMiner.

What were Cisco’s most successful social medias tactics in the last 2 years? How did Cisco came across the new solution SocialMiner? Why is social media monitoring so important from a strategic point of view for businesses?

Cisco is very active in social media. Our employees were some of the earliest adopters of Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social sites. We have tens of thousands of active social media users in our company, as well as a robust and vibrant corporate presence on the social web.

Social media monitoring can become a key strategic advantage for businesses. From a contact center perspective, social media could be treated as „just another channel“ in a multichannel approach. However, the public nature of social media, along with the sheer volume of social media postings, makes social media as much a business intelligence tool as a new way to engage with customers. Cisco believes that proactive social media customer care will have a transformative impact on how companies engage and serve their customers.

The concept of the SocialMiner product came from our observation of the changing communication habits and Internet usage of consumers. As consumers have adopted social media channels for their individual communications on an ever-increasing basis over the past couple years, it is only natural that they would consider interacting with a business via social media. This concept of social impacting customer relationships is a very active topic within the emerging „Social CRM“ community.

Is SocialMiner just a Customer Service product? Bearing in mind that social conversations on the web affects the whole business…

Cisco SocialMiner is an engagement product, not a „listening product.“ SocialMiner is designed to scale the quality and quantity of social media interactions performed by a business. SocialMiner can be used for a variety of business functions such as Support or Sales, but we believe the customers that derive the most value from social media will also use these engagements to drive business process change. For example, an organization could use SocialMiner as a source of business intelligence to provide real-time customer appreciation or criticism of a product or service (or of a competitors’ product/service). Social media can direct their business strategy. Cisco believes that companies that learn from social media will become closer to meeting their customers’ expectations and this will drive overall business success.

Which three benefits do business users have using SocialMiner compared to other tools in the market (Radian6, Alterian, etc.)

1. Cisco SocialMiner is complementary to brand monitoring dashboard solutions. It is designed to support scaling social media by leveraging the best practices from contact center type operational models: Queuing, Service Level Metrics (Average Speed of Answer), and productivity metrics for users. By contrast, many of the brand monitoring dashboards have pieces of workflow capability, but these capabilities are either relatively limited or recently introduced functions.

2. Cisco SocialMiner is a component of the Cisco contact center portfolio which currently includes an installed base of over 10,000 customers. SocialMiner is packaged, priced, and delivered along with Cisco Unified Contact Center Express and Cisco Unified Contact Center Enterprise solutions, and therefore it supports the same installation, deployment, serviceability, and user experience as these other Cisco collaboration solutions.

3. Cisco SocialMiner is a very easy to install and operate software appliance. It runs on premise or in a customer controlled data-center hosting facility and offers unlimited capture capability. Cisco SocialMiner is an API-first product with 100% of functionality available via REST API’s and all user interface delivered as OpenSocial gadgets with documented source that can be modified by Cisco channel or customers. This model supports the preferred consumption model of most enterprise organizations along with a broad customization capability.

Can it be used as a stand-alone product or only in combination with other Cisco products for customer service? Do you have any case studies of success?

Cisco SocialMiner can be used as a stand-alone solution. We have several case studies that illustrate SocialMiner’s success. Zone Labs is one of them. The small wellness company was looking to accelerate revenues & grow 1000% in next 3 years, implemented Cisco SocialMiner to increase customer engagement, customer satisfaction and sales. Zone Labs started developing social communities on their own website as well as Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. They used Cisco SocialMiner to route and queue contacts to experts within their organization.

Using SocialMiner, experts were able to proactively answer health and wellness questions via Twitter, providing encouragement to consumers on the Zone Diet, customer service and expert advice on questions such as vitamins and healthy recipes. Zone Labs saw improved agent productivity by automating capturing and responding to social media posts (currently estimated at ~10x). They gained greater customer satisfaction & brand mind-share from faster first inquiry resolution on the web, and were able to compete on comparable scale with larger companies. Their social media activity reduced their customer acquisition cost and created a larger funnel with more leads, that were converted more easily and more quickly than before.

Within 4 months of using SocialMiner, Zone Labs saw tremendous results:
– Web site transactions up 189%
– Revenue up 203%
– 202% increase in total visitors to www.zonediet.com

Thank you for your time, John. And by the way: I like your commercial for the product…

Book Review – Marketing in the Age of Google

19.11.2010 von  
Kategorie SEO

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When somebody used to work for Google there is a lot of knowedge to be shared. And I thought, I could learn more about SEO techniques and tactics. Vanessa Fox did work for Google (apart from inventing Webmaster Central), and so I thought, I need to read the book Marketing in the Age of Google. As a web-strategist I should know the secrets of ranking high on Google for my clients.

Getting Vanessa’s inside view on how Google and their search technology operates, gives an aggregated insight on the evolution of search topics. It is saving time and presumingly more efficient than following or reading many SEO experts thoughts. And then let’s help clients to optimize their site fropm a SEO point of view.

To write a review is a challenge. As I follow some of the most interesting SEO cracks, I knew some content topics already. But there is much more quality thoughts and knowledge in it that makes the book worth reading. If companies want to optimize their top rankings, the book offers good tactical approaches and a clear structure how to start and evolve your content strategy as well as how to conquer the top positions in Google. 

Having said this, the book is based on the theory of having a web-strategy in place that is aligned to the company’s business strategy. If your company has the consumer approach understanding the needs, desires and motivation why consumers go online to evaluate products and services, then the book is a must read.

The way people used search engines has changed in the last years as the web has become mature from an information platform to a consumer generated content base. It is not about what the company spreads but what the users are looking for and the content they share and create. People hear something about a person, a brand or a campaign and instandly start going to search for more information. Not seldomly they are finding consumer input. And often the initial search entry point starts with offline marketing, PR or customer service conversation – in print ads, TV commercials or an wallpapers.

Business that know how to connect offline and online efforts will succeed in the future. Happy that this was my main claim when I started this blog and thus gets now backed up by a Google specialist… Thanks Vanessa!
 
Spot On!
The amount of input the book Marketing in the Age of Google offers is probably only handable for a SEO specialist. And this person has to have the buy in from the C-level to manage the online strategy accordingly. A lot of the strategy is based on content creation and content framework which is a PR, marketing, HR, R&D and Customer Service topic in the future in my eyes. These departments need to learn how to place content effectively in the search world. It will affect the way peope perceive the business strategy of a company and the way the companies and brands interact with their clients, partners and employees. What I missed was the effect taxonomies and social tagging might have on search in the future but maybe this comes with the next update. 

Is customer-centric business the future?

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In the last 12 years, the credo of my business life was „Customer First!“. It surprises and disappoints me when I experience poor customer service. Or when I hear from unhappy friends, colleagues or relatives telling me stories about how companies treat the centre of their business: customers.

Last week, when I was thinking about how to leverage this to a higher level, I came across a modern business strategy vision by Ranjay Gulati, Harvard Business School professor and author of the book „Reorganize for Resilience: Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business„. In the following video Gulati tells us how to deliver what customers really want.

Reorienting vs. Reorganizing
Ranjay Gulati sees the fundamental changes appropriate for some movement in company processes. Customers have more information, more choices on products while companies are facing global competition. So, businesses have to think about their business (not only marketing or sales efforts!) and how it operates.

Redefining vs. Reinventing
The analysis of the customer base might show that the website is designed for male while the majority of the users might be female. So, we need to ask questions like „Who are my customers?“, „How do my customers shop?“, or „What do they really want?“.

Gulati explains with the latest success of Best Buy how women and men shop. At that point, he also hints to the upsale opportunity of recommendations.

Success for businesses, he believes, comes from „Inside-Out-Perspective“. Companies don’t have to produce everything themselves but need to make the client happy like Apple with the iPhone. 90% of the inputs are not made by Apple. The same occurs to the apps in the Apple store where Apple basically just orchestrates the customers wishes.

„Make this identity shift. I am not here to sell what I produce – I am here to solve a set of customer problems (…) and actually acting on that!“

How to get to a customer-centric business…
1. Shifting mindset: the intention to solve customer problems.
2. Sense of curiosity and humility: the wish to understand your customers.
3. Make a creative leap: the will to understand their needs.
4. Align the elements in the organization: the motivation to live the customer-centric business.

Spot On!
Interested to get your view on this modern business strategy. Let us know what you think about customer-centric business. Or do you think the social web will be leading us towards this business process anyway?