Posts Tagged ‘CRM Idol’

Still Time To Vote For CRM Idol

Posted: December 4, 2012 in CRM

What are you waiting for???  Just click this link and you’ll be in business.  You only have Till COB on Friday so don’t procrastinate!

You’ll be happy you voted.

I Already Voted — Did You?

Posted: November 26, 2012 in CRM
Tags: ,

All year, it seems like, we’ve been running CRM Idol, the contest started by Paul Greenberg to identify hot emerging companies in the greater CRM space.  We are now down to voting for finalists and this is where you finally get the chance to make your ideas known.  Time to vote.

This year’s crop of contestants, and especially the finalists, was exceptionally strong.  These companies are all well deserving of the venture capital that they’ve already raised as well as what will be showered on them after the voting is over.  We could tell right away that this year’s crop was a cut above last year’s — and they were pretty special, too.  But the companies in this year’s contest really, really get it.  They are laser focused on social and its many tentacles into CRM.

But social is not the only thing on the menu.  We’ve seen an impressive array of automation that goes from various forms of analysis to clever virtual agents.  So, when you vote think about all that and also think about how three of the seven finalists come from parts outside of Norte America.  That’s right, this is a global event these days.

So let’s get to it.  To vote go to the CRM Idol site here and please, s’il vous plait, por favor, puhleeze! watch the video that each company made to describe to you the business problem they solve, how they do it and what customers think of it.  Then read our judges reviews of each company.  Figure you need to spend about 30 minutes to do this job right and we need you to be conscientious about it.

Don’t worry if you can’t get it all done in one sitting, we know what it’s like to live in these distracted times.  But come back if you need to, make some notes to yourself.  Rule some out before making your final selection if it helps (just like taking the SATs).

So, go vote, it will do you some good.  It will show you where the market is moving.  It will also help some very talented emerging companies to sharpen their ideas and offers.  Most importantly, I’ve come to see Idol as the premiere community building activity in the front office.  You don’t see ERP vendors doing this, or HCM or any other branch of software (OK, maybe gamers have something equivalent but that’s not business, it’s entertainment).  It’s one of those things — like Dreamforce — that makes CRM such a hip and vibrant place to hang your hat.  Click here to get going. 

Thanks! Gracias! Prego! Much obliged, pardner.

So, just about a month after Dreamforce, is coming to New York for one of its regional Cloudforce conferences.  The event will be at the Javitz Center in Manhattan on October 19.  Salesforce is expecting six thousand attendees.

The focus of the event is supposed to be on the newly re-announced Marketing Cloud — the amalgamation, so far, of Buddy Media and Radian6.  I will be briefed under NDA about the news to be announced at the event but that hasn’t happened yet so, hey, let’s speculate.

As many of my colleagues have suggested, the Marketing Cloud is a good and important down payment on a full-featured marketing component but it is heavily weighted toward social marketing.  They expect more acquisitions primarily to beef up the Marketing Cloud’s lack of a conventional marketing campaigns element — the kind that runs traditional marketing programs.  I am not so sure.

Salesforce already has a bevy of more or less conventional marketing partners in the AppExchange like Eloqua, Marketo and others.  It’s true that these vendors are not monogamous but so what?  They have good connectors and integration and are doing everything they can to carpet bomb, er, I mean cover, the Salesforce installed base so why buy what’s free?

My instincts (which are right about half the time — and less when I’m driving according to my wife) tell me that Salesforce is going in another direction.  The company has always exhibited a Blue Ocean Strategy approach to its business seeking out niches that haven’t been named and I expect it to do the same in marketing.

That means they’ll concentrate on the myriad ways to market in the social world.  If they make an acquisition — and I bet there’s nothing on the radar right now — it will be to beef up social marketing not conventional stuff.  That would mean companies like HubSpot or Awareness or Nearstream or others (some in the CRM Idol contest) that use a healthy dose of new age thinking and social media to access and communicate with customers.

So, what to look for in New York?  In addition to October baseball, I think you’ll see elaboration of the basic message doled out at Dreamforce.  The San Francisco session was packed with information and image-making and there really wasn’t time to unpack all of what the Marketing Cloud means for customers.  I think Cloudforce is the place where the unpacking will happen.

Salesforce has been great at three-pronged marketing for a long time.  That’s where they tell you what they’re going to tell you, then they tell you and finally the circle back to tell you what they told you.  I think they’re at part two and Cloudforce New York will be more of a deep dive.

I could be very wrong but that’s what it means to speculate.  Right?

I read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in college (yes, in Middle English and no, it wasn’t that long ago) and now every April brings me back to the opening verses about spring time and renewal.  This April was especially memorable in our industry and as the month has just passed I wanted to take a moment to discuss some of the things I witnessed.

Mostly, for me, there was an unmistakable sense of renewal in CRM and in the tech sector more generally.  Facebook continued to primp for its assumed to be historic IPO and bought Instagram, a company with an application for mobile devices and not much more than a website otherwise.  Facebook paid a billion bucks for Instagram, no doubt a sign of the future.  Marketo heading for its own IPO at some point bought Crowd Factory combining marketing solutions into a suite that will offer modern and ultra modern marketing.

Thankfully, there was more innovation than just the M&A variety.  I went to a couple of analyst briefing sessions that were interesting for different reasons and I will have to assume that the events I couldn’t fit in were much the same.  Oracle held a deep briefing to show off progress on all fronts.  The event made me a believer that they have a plan or plans that merge into a powerful vision of engineered systems and software that meets some of the challenges of the social/mobile/analytic/big data world we’re moving into at light speed.

SugarCRM raised the bar and showed the world that it is growing rapidly and that its open source approach to business is very much in the mainstream along with operating system, server and database open source projects that support, in one way or another, the innovations in the rest of the industry.  It looks to me like Sugar is becoming the go to CRM that everyone has to include on the shopping list.  Open source might not be for everybody, but then again Sugar’s growth numbers and recent capital round indicate they just might be.

Salesforce announced its Government Cloud in an effort to capture some of the new business likely to come out of local, state and federal initiatives to cut IT costs and improve constituent service.  When government becomes an adopter of a new technology like cloud computing it’s safe to say that it’s not a radical departure anymore.

But that doesn’t mean we stop innovating.  As the Salesforce announcement made clear, the big issue for government will be security and, I would add, up time.  So I look for a new era of innovation around both security and fault tolerance as cloud computing works to measure up to a nine nines reliability standard found in other utilities.

Finally, sneaking in just under the wire, on April 30, Paul Greenberg announced the second season of CRM Idol, the competition that seeks to discover hot emerging companies with great technology ideas in our space.  Full disclosure, I am Paul’s friend, but that category includes about half the world.  Last year, Idol’s first, was a great learning experiment.  As one of the founding primary judges (others in the U.S. are Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, Jesus Hoyos) I was present for all of it and I can say we learned a lot.

We got a stellar crop of finalists last year (both in the U.S. and Europe) including Crowd Factory, Stone Cobra, Assistly and Get Satisfaction, which won the contest.  Two of the four were bought — Assistly mid-way through the competition and Crowd Factory last month.

We are expecting big things from this year’s group of contestants too.  The announcement by Greenberg on Monday is the opening of the season and companies interested in participating should visit the Idol website for details.  There are a few rules that make this a real competition among emerging companies — you can’t be too old or too rich for example — so check it out.

Being a software entrepreneur is not easy.  While you might think that venture funding has eased many of the burdens, raising capital is not easy though it can be insightful.  VC’s look not just for new companies or new solutions but new categories.  And what looked hot last year may no longer be attractive.  They’re always looking for something that has never been seen before that nonetheless sparks interest and fills a need.  CRM Idol is like that.  The companies that do best are those that don’t conform to a pattern but instead break new ground.

If you pay attention to Idol you might get an idea of the future of CRM and possibly other things.  Just looking at the Instagram deal tells me potentially that the hottest new companies might be those writing for the smartphone market.  That, of course, would be a significant finding — the kind of thing that will make future Aprils so interesting.

Well, this is interesting.  On the very day that CRM Idol launches its second season, last year’s winner is launching a passel of new products.  It’s just coincidence, you can’t plan something like this.

The new Get Satisfaction widgets are interesting for many reasons.  First, they’re widgets, little bits of applications designed to be embedded in a company’s web outreach to its customers.  They are not websites that link to your web properties, just things that make your existing properties better for your customers.

As Wendy Lea, CEO, Get Satisfaction said, “For the first time, companies now can blend social conversations anywhere on their website instead of relegating social to separate ‘destination channels’ such as Facebook or forums.”  I agree, I think this idea has legs.

So what do these widgets do?  All kinds of things.  I count ten capabilities including self-service, social marketing, e-commerce and product development.  In other words, something for everyone with the focus on leveraging the community to crowd source great ideas.

To me, this is the promise of social media in business.  It provides the ability to have social conversations without necessarily getting off topic and discussing weekend plans.  And unlike other products that have an in-house collaboration slant, this solution set is all about giving customers access to processes that are increasingly collaborative but which not too long ago were closely held by the vendor.  So, good luck to Get Satisfaction on the new products.

What a difference a year makes!

Bells Peel, Angels Sing, Idol Is Back

Posted: May 1, 2012 in CRM

Just as sure as baseball starts anew in the spring, so does CRM idol, though we wait for better weather.  Today Idol kicked off its second season with many additions.  There will be more regions, more awards, more contestants and, thankfully, more judges.

The objective is the same, to find a new crop of kick-ass front office software companies that not only get it but that have defined new ways to do business.  If you are one of them or you know someone who is, get your stick and get into the surf dude!

Go here and get an application.

Every year around this time I write two columns one on the year that was and another on what I expect the new year to bring.  There is no methodology for this process and I believe this lack of method is important.  I take a blank screen and fill it up with what has been on my mind for the last year and what made it out through my posts.  Here are a few ideas that bubbled up.

Steve Jobs

We lost Steve this year and the outpouring in the media was inspiring.  For some reason, many people felt the need to try to reconcile Jobs’ fastidious and demanding personality with the beautiful products he inspired.  One who did not was Malcolm Gladwell who placed Jobs in a long continuum of people who did not invent original products but who tinkered with and improved them significantly.  The world needs all kinds.  That might have been true for the GUI but Jobs still gets high marks for things like iPod (an improvement on Walkman) and especially iPad, iTunes and the store for which there was little if any precursor.

A quote from a Time Magazine (July 10, 2011)review of GM executive Bob Lutz’s book from 2011 “Car Guys vs. Bean Counters”

makes an important point: “It’s interesting to note that the one area of the U.S. economy that’s adding jobs and increasing productivity and wealth is also the one that is the most relentlessly product- and consumer-focused: Silicon Valley.  The company off Highway 101 that best illustrates this point is, of course, Apple.  The only time Apple ever lost the plot was when it put the M.B.A.s in charge.  As long as college dropout Steve Jobs is in the driver’s seat, customers (and shareholders) are happy.”  Thanks, Steve.

Social, mobile and analytics plus cloud

On deck to assume the Jobs niche in the tech industry and beyond may be chairman and CEO of, Marc Benioff.  To be clear, Benioff and Jobs are very different people in most respects but Benioff has the same blue ocean strategy that Jobs had and a knack for entertaining his customers.  Benioff also likes to invent things.  He has driven the rest of the industry to embrace social, mobile, analytics and cloud much faster than it would have left to its own devices.  This combination of attributes is really all any Martian would need to know to understand the market upon arriving here.  The drive to embrace these technologies first is what separates Salesforce from all other conventional CRM companies and is a big reason for the Silicon Valley quote above.

Cloud computing

We’ve been hearing about cloud computing for many years already and interestingly 2011 was a year of a dramatic demonstration of its power in reverse.  Target Stores pulled its web site from the cloud into the premises in time to launch a huge marketing campaign featuring Missoni brand clothing.  The campaign was so successful that it clobbered the site and crushed the ambitions of any other IT leaders who might still think on-prem will be a workable strategy as we go “all in” on social, mobile and analytics.  Right?


The Missoni fiasco gave me a chance to showcase curation software from Storify.  Curation products enable anyone to find and bring together relevant content from the web to produce a one of a kind package of related information that is greater than the sum of parts.  Curation plucks gems from the torrent of things rushing by in the digital river (pun!) and it will be an important part of how we use the web in the future.

The Subscription economy

With cloud computing more valuable than ever we see a new idea taking shape called the subscription economy.  You probably recognize it and consider it old by some measures.  But the interesting thing about the subscription economy is that so far it has been at best held together with bailing wire and spit.  Old style ERP systems have been a major impediment to subscriptions and many of us never realized it.  I quoted others talking about how ERP has held back business innovation but also about Zuora and others who are pushing the envelope with billing and payment systems that enable subscriptions like never before.  Zuora announced its series D round of $36 million recently and I look for them to be a major IPO in the next 24 months.

Blue ocean strategy

In a press conference early in 2011, Benioff said he had no interest in developing an ERP system to complement his company’s growing front office footprint.  Without using the words blue or ocean in the same sentence he let us know that there is too much untapped potential in the front office, often in the form of applications of social concepts and business processes that have still not been invented or fleshed out.  By the end of this year that approach seems to have put Salesforce into a category of its own as most of the ERP players I watch seem to be focused on re-selling their legacy bases.

Oracle and Salesforce

One such ERP company is Oracle, a self described fast follower, that has nonetheless made big investments in the front office.  In 2011 Oracle acquired ecommerce provider ATG for one billion bucks and followed up about six months later with a $1.5 billion acquisition of RightNow.  We’ll miss RightNow but Oracle seems to have blue ocean plans of its own regarding retail in the future.  Watch this space.

Dreamforce and OpenWorld

We got an eyeful of how competitive the atmosphere is in San Francisco and Silicon Valley when Larry Ellison disinvited Marc Benioff to speak at OpenWorld.  At first it looked like a bizarre move by Ellison but later it looked liked improvisational comedy by a couple of masters.  It was certainly entertaining.  Ellison used the opportunity to announce his own cloud computing and social strategies though true to form I was not shown much product or given a date for general availability for some parts of the product line.

CRM Idol

Speaking of entertainment, Paul Greenberg got the industry organized around the Idol theme in the first annual CRM Idol competition, which I was part of.  The concept is still rough around the edges — one wonders how entertaining business ought to be — but it brought the industry together across most of the world’s landmasses and fun was had by all.  We discovered some very interesting companies and at least one, Assistly, was bought before the competition even finished.  I think Idol has legs if we can get a better set of pre-conditions in place to screen out some companies that are clearly not competitive.  Just sayn.

What’s going to get the economy moving again?

Over the summer there was fear of a double dip as the economy seemed to slow but that scare seems to have passed and the tepid recovery continues with job growth in the last 21 months and counting.  Not enough jobs to erase a big unemployment number mind you, but progress, slow and steady.

Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez offered his own prescription for recovery saying that the revenue performance management (RPM) methodology that he and others (Eloqua, Cloud9) are promoting could generate as much as $2.5 trillion in new revenue globally.  Maybe he’s right, but…

It’s all about energy

In May I was in Chicago to give a talk and noticed the prices for gas were almost hitting the five-dollar mark.  The cost of energy, transportation and raw materials all derived from petroleum, hold the key to recovery (and, yes, European bankers and politicians).  There’s no longer any slack in the petroleum production system and when demand spikes so do prices and when that happens, the economy cools.  We’re in for some uneven performance as long as that is true.

Books I have read recently such as, “The End of Growth” by Richard Heinberg  and “World on the Edge” by Lester R. Brown, tell the same story.  Nothing grows forever and on a finite planet there are finite resources, which ultimately places a cap on many things.  That doesn’t mean doom and gloom but it does mean we need to think about our next steps as a species.  Global warming isn’t going away on its own.

All the technologies we’ve been debuting in the last few years will be an important part of the next strategy, especially as we are required to pivot away from dead plants as our energy sources.  That’s one vantage point from which I will be evaluating our industry in the new year.  The business processes we use are directly related to the technologies we have to work with — the subscription economy is a case in point.  Along with helping us make money, our great new technologies must serve our need to get carbon and costs out of our business processes ASAP.

But for now let me simply say thanks for reading my column this year and for your many good observations and comments.  I hope you enjoy your year-end celebrations, however you do them.

We’re just a day past announcing the CRM Idol winner (GetSatisfaction) and I’m already involved in a beta for a new product,  I can already tell you that it won’t make it into next year’s CRM Idol because the sponsoring company,, won’t make last year’s emerging company revenue cut of $14 million.  Something tells me they’re a hair over that.  LOL!

Anyhow, the important thing is — what is it? Salesforce calls it a social productivity app and I can’t think of something better.  I started using it yesterday to plan a small personal project.  Basically “Do” runs sort of like Twitter or Facebook with a metaphor that chunks the screen into discrete elements.  Twitter has discrete tweets, Facebook has posts and has things that need doing like projects and within them tasks.

A leader can assign a task to anyone and the cool thing is that the other person does not already have to be enrolled as a friend or associate.  If you know someone’s email address you’re in business.  You can send a task back up the chain of command too like, please check on my expense payment for instance.

As someone looking to improve my personal productivity I enlisted my wife in a small project to go out on a date.  I asked her to get tickets to a show and discovered that Do is a bit more democratic than I thought.  Do let her tell me that she didn’t have time today and that I might be in a better position to get the tickets.  So much for socialization.

Had this been a real world situation I am sure I could have negotiated with an employee to get the tickets tomorrow or as soon as possible or something like that.

At any rate, projects have tasks and larger projects can have sections like get dinner reservations (I know, I’ll do it) could be a separate section if there were multiple tasks like calling the restaurant, getting a baby sitter (my kids are in college, no thanks) or checking to see if our friends want to come.  I suppose checking with friends could just be a task that would go out to them via email and I’d get a reply.

You can add notes anywhere you want, for example, to a task.  To the “Find a babysitter” task I added the note, “Don’t get that woman who drank my scotch last time.”  See, easy. looks like a nice productivity tool.  It lives on the internet and anyone can use it and I believe that anyone with a mobile device will see that it enables them to stay connected and on top of various hot irons in the fire no matter what.  And because it’s internet resident when you come in from the cold and want to use on a computer with a real keyboard, everything about the project will be there already — no synchronizing.

My analysis of the work environment in the years ahead includes more people working away from the buildings and infrastructures built to support them.  Productivity will depend on tools like  Perhaps even more to the point, this product enables you to both comingle work and personal life and still keep things separate.

But I’m not sold yet.  I still need to figure out how my wife already figured out how to use this thing well enough to put everything back in my lap.

The recently concluded Dreamforce conference in San Francisco might have been the most successful CRM conference ever.  That’s not hyperbole.  I have been at some major events in the last ten years that rival this year’s Dreamforce.  For instance, whenever Siebel had a user conference that was also major.  But a lot has happened since the last time Siebel held an independent user event not associated with Oracle — that was in 2005 and much has happened in the intervening six years.

In that time SaaS and cloud computing have finished their takeover of corporate computing — at least the majority of the hearts and minds.  Analytics has become important everywhere (including analytics in CRM was pioneered by Siebel) and, of course, social media has given new life to the whole front office.  All of this came together in the recent Dreamforce.  Beyond that, though, Salesforce has clearly shown that it intends to change the business application development and deployment paradigm with a host of databases, data storage options, programming languages and platforms.

You might think that this is a good time to take a breath and contemplate a new line of work because this all seems locked down but you’d be mistaken.  Despite all the glitter of Dreamforce there are still many minds to change.  Social and cloud computing have nicely established beachheads in strategic areas and even skeptics are likely to acknowledge that the world is changing.  But there’s nothing pre-ordained that says cloud and social will carry the day.

There’s still a good deal of skepticism in the IT community about using applications from the cloud, about data security in the cloud and about performance.  Where social business techniques are concerned many old line IT directors and CIOs still regard social media applied to business as something between a fad, a waste of time and coddling young employees.

As many of you know, I’ve been a judge in the CRM Idol competition organized by Paul Greenberg.  Most of the heavy lifting (it’s still ongoing) was taken care of before Dreamforce.  For instance, we all took about forty briefings in a two week period and our brains are tired.  But the confluence of these events has left me with a unique perspective on the marketplace enabling me to look forward and back about ten years in each direction.

Looking back I can see applications built in the last decade or even earlier that still try to cover CRM’s basic stovepipes.  They are applied to shrinking niches but their owners still manage to find an audience.  These applications are serviceable but no one will confuse them with the systems of tomorrow.  The futuristic applications we saw do things I didn’t even know we needed but now I wonder how long before they’ll hit the big time.  In all of this I learned that the marketplace is simultaneously rather conservative and equally progressive.

The market is conservative in the way of the old maxim, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  And that maxim informs much of the IT community that can’t see the benefit of socializing front office business practices no matter the growing list of success stories to the contrary that you point to.

However, in its more progressive moments, the market is like a machine hungry for fuel and raw material so that it can make the next products.  This hungry market is what propels us and keeps the conservatives on their toes so that at the first sign that the old paradigm is broken, they leap to fix it with whatever new solutions are at hand.

This is not to say that backsliding is impossible.  If you look at most of the cloud offerings today, you notice an eerie similarity in many products.  They aren’t so much cloud solutions as they are what Marc Benioff likes to call false clouds.  They are conventional applications running in a datacenter in the sky without benefit of the standards and multi-tenancy that is the heart of cloud computing.

August showed me all of that — from Idol to Dreamforce — and in the weeks and months ahead you’ll hear more from us about Idol and what seems hot to us.  We’ll also be watching Salesforce to see how well it makes good on its Dreamforce promises.  The conservatives and progressives will continue their back and forth and it will seem like there is no progress yet when you raise your head from the tasks immediately in front of you it will be apparent that progress is incremental as it has to be.  That’s why, despite the success of Dreamforce, the IT debates are not over and the work continues.

CRM Idol Is Here

Posted: April 25, 2011 in CRM
Tags: , ,

This is a good idea.

A bunch of independent analysts led by ring leader Paul Greenberg have launched a competition of sorts aimed at the front office market.  Paulie launched an effort that plays a riff on American Idol, which he calls, appropriately enough, CRM Idol.

The object of the competition like the show is to identify one smoking hot emerging company and to give it the kind of guidance and exposure that you’d have to pay a VC’s ransom to get any other way.  Check it out here.

Now, if you are in an emerging company or happen to know one check out the link and see if you want to follow the rules to CRM stardom.  And it could really be stardom of a sort but if you crash and burn the whole CRM community will be watching so this is definitely for serious adults who want to take the whole process seriously.

The rules and format are simple but they take a bit of explanation so rather than telling you about them here, you’d be best served to checkout the links.

A couple of things.

Although this sounds like entertainment because it loosely follows the American Idol competition, do not be misled.  This is a serious situation.  You will be required to pitch your product and you will be critiqued by a panel of industry honchos with serious cred.  Then the serious honchos will tell the world what they think of your efforts.  This is definitely a bluebook to cram for.  The winner gets more or less instant attention in the spotlight, the runners up get some free consulting from the serious honchos with…whatever.

So check it our, polish up your product and your presentation.  Keep in mind that you need to be a going concern and CRM Idol is not interested in slideware.

Good luck!