Posts Tagged ‘big data’


Everybody has a year-end synopsis these days and it’s fun to see what each person deemed important.  Sometimes you wonder if you lived through the same experiences but it’s a good thing to recall everything one more time and maybe reconsider how you’ll remember each.  Here’s my synopsis which is no more or less valid than anyone else’s.

Marketing’s resurgence might be the most interesting development of ‘12 for several reasons.  First, the switch to marketing from other areas of emphasis (like service) shows that many people in the CRM universe feel that the economy is not only healing but returning to form.  In the last few years, social and service, and often the two together, were the CRM market drivers but with marketing showing new vigor, it suggests to me that next year will see business accelerate.  Maybe that won’t take us all the way back to 2008 but what it will be an improvement.

Also, marketing’s renaissance comes via a social salient, especially in using analytics to better understand and segment markets.  Analytics tells me that vendors need ultra low cost ways to get to their customers because the economy is still weak and no one wants to hire people so they’re going for automation and software.  That’s just the new reality and I hate to be bringing the news.  Many markets are price driven — as opposed to quality or service driven — and companies are trying to give customers what they want.

And speaking of price driven and automation, there’s been a nice uptick in the number of vendors offering software robots that can at least triage a service call.  That includes VirtuOz, a CRM Idol finalist and personal favorite.

Big Data hit CRM through the link to analytics and marketing and companies like Dun and Bradstreet, Lattice Engines and InsideView are all taking a cut at this important space.  Another one worth checking out is Awareness, another CRM Idol finalist.  They do cool stuff in applying analytics to the big data pile captured with social media.  In all, social and analytics have shown us that there’s more to social marketing than sentiment analysis which can only be good for the future of the market.

If marketing is becoming automated and socialized, a similar thing is happening in human resources.  Many an HR software vendor has made the leap to the cloud and also to social.  The two will radically transform HR from a back office preserve to something much more front office in its orientation.  HR is rapidly becoming a specialized case of social front office application with important contributions from Work.com, Jobscience, Vana and lots more.

Also, despite what Gartner said in its recent gamification report, I think the future is largely positive in that market.  The major analyst firms put out reports that spell doom when it becomes clear that an early market has gotten frothy and no one in their right minds can reasonably expect the new thing to live up to all the, well, hype.

But the good news about gamification is that it is reaching its adolescence, a time when some of its early adopters will harness it and make it successful.  So the good news I see is that the vendors and customers who do it right will be fine and it will be clear who has the goods next year.

Then there’s mobile, mobile, mobile or browser apps, native apps and always connected native apps.  Making mobile work this year was the result of a collaboration of infrastructure vendors and people who make the applications.  I have noticed recently that wireless vendors are getting aggressive about offering tablet packages for only ten bucks a month to users who subscribe for other devices.  Ten bucks is important as it represents a manageable fee so I look for mobile adoption to accelerate now that all the pieces seem to be in place.

Mobile infrastructure comes at the right time also because numerous vendors have put significant development resources into moving their applications to the tablet.  HTML5 is robust and popular but so are new CRM applications that run natively adopting all of the pinches and swipes that people like about tablets.  Salesforce has a decent solution in Touch and I think we’ll see more vendors produce “develop once, deploy on many devices” solution sets in the year ahead.  Over the last couple of years we’ve watched the early stages of PC and Laptop sales tanking and the hockey stickomatic rise of the tablet and the handheld and next year will be the time when mobile puts its foot down on the accelerator.

With mobile’s arrival as a more or less equal in the platform wars we will be witnessing the first true global platform that I have been talking about.  A global platform means adding millions of new users and customers to the ranks all at once—ok not ALL, all at once but enough to make you notice.  I have a feeling that while a significant portion of those new users will have a good grasp of English, companies that offer bi-lingual interfaces will be the early leaders.  The first step will, of course, be to analyze where your traffic comes from and then maybe to pilot a few pages.  All this may suggest an opportunity for translation services short term.

But that’s next year.  For now, thanks for continuing to read this space and please come back in 2013.

Think Bigger

Posted: February 22, 2012 in CRM
Tags: , , , , ,

I spent the best part of last week cruising up and down Silicon Valley checking in with customers and would be clients.  The consensus from this non-scientific survey is that business is better than OK and most people are expecting this year to be the best in a while.  Of course there is a cloud—literal and figuratively—to go with that silver lining.  After all, we’re bouncing off a long fall to what’s still a soft bottom.

Business is good enough out there that many companies can’t find enough qualified people.  Ted Elliott, CEO of Jobscience, sometimes refers to it as a skills gap with many older workers not having all of the skills that newer companies seek.  People with all the requisite skills are rare and valuable and Elliott refers to them as “unicorns” because they’re so hard to find and, yes, he’s got and app for that.

While you might say that such gaps are generational and common it’s still noteworthy that a generation ago the gap was between laid off steel workers and service sector job requirements.  Today it’s between laid off tech workers and new tech job openings.

Interestingly, if you have a Ph.D. especially in a science or math, there’s no job shortage especially if you like to work at IBM.  A recent story in the New York Times said that IBM hires more math Ph.D.s than anyone else in the world.  You could have figured that out from all of the patent applications they file.

What’s been interesting to me in the last couple of weeks has been the intersection of big data, IBM’s quest for brains and a recent report from Forrester Research.  The report in question is a project led by Phil Murphy titled: “BT 2020: To Thrive In The Empowered Era, You’ll Need Software, Software Everywhere.”  I can’t critique it because I don’t have the $499 necessary to read it but I also happen to think that’s right, but what kind of software?

The report talks about the coming reality that software is and will be even more ubiquitous in the future and interestingly it posits the emergence (according to Forrester) of “cloud cartels”—large corporations dedicated to serving the processing and storage needs of the future.  We’re talking more about big data than about running ERP in the cloud.  With some 22 billion attached devices by 2020 (also according to the report) spitting out second by second data, a lot of processing and storage will go to machines understanding machines.

I can buy all that but what I find harder to internalize is that the short list of winners quoted in the Times story about the report includes “Amazon, Cisco Systems, Google, I.B.M., Microsoft, Oracle and a few competitors.”

While those are all good names the list fails to mention any of the companies that started it all such as Salesforce.com.  The report reveals an assumption that though the data center might be moving to the cloud the fundamental software paradigm isn’t changing.  But I disagree.  In my little corner of reality I think about things that haven’t been invented yet that are going to need all of that processing horsepower.  Many of the companies not making the short list have a foot on the ground in the Valley and they are exciting for the novelty of the solutions they envision.

The Times article, and to a degree the report, support the kind of linear thinking that I have always criticized because the forecast looks more like a scientific experiment that keeps all variables constant save one.  But in the real world systems are dynamic (yes, IT is a system) and change cascades through systems leaving no stone unturned—exactly the opposite of straight line forecasting.

If Forrester is right, and I think they are but perhaps for different reasons, then much of the processing power in the cloud will not be taken up by mundane ERP and CRM applications but by applications demanding computational answers to figure out what people want and need and what the connected devices need as well.

I am certain that the actual processing will be as different from that conducted by today’s applications as a fish swimming is different from a bird flying.  I’ve lately been reading Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” with great interest in the emphasis that Jobs put on the customer experience.  Interestingly, while the book spends a great deal of time on the customer experience it is almost mute about loyalty and promoting it.  Not that it matters—Jobs fixated on the customer and got loyalty and then some.  Yes, we need more software in our civilization but it’s time not just to think different but to think bigger, if you ask me.