Why would you speak to me that way
Especially when I always said that I
Haven’t got the words for you
All your diction dripping with disdain
Through the pain
I always tell the truth
Oh, damn. You’re here. I was listening to Vampire Weekend. Let me get the headphones off…just a sec…I’m kinda…tangled..agggh….okay. Damn.
Well, we’re in the homestretch. This is Part #5 of the Watchlist which is where I take the companies that for one reason or another defy categorization and let you see them as victors on their own. They are Spartacus.
The URLs and the names of the winners of Parts I-IV:
- Finally, the CRM 2011 Watchlist: Part I – SAP, Oracle, salesforce.com, Microsoft
- The CRM Watchlist Part II: The Usual Suspects – NetSuite, RightNow, Sage, SAS, CDC Software/Pivotal, SugarCRM
- The CRM Watchlist 2011 Part III: Representing the Pillars – Marketo, Eloqua, Infusionsoft, Jitterjam, Sword-Ciboodle, GetSatisfaction, Moxie, Genesys, Pegasystems, InsideView
- The CRM Watchlist 2011 Part IV: the Social Mainstream – Lithium, Jive, Radian6, Attensity, KickApps, Nimble, INgage Networks
Different Strokes for All Kinds of Folks
What makes this group interesting is its diversity, though I’m sure it meets very few federal guidelines.
I found it curious a few month ago, when I got a PR email that said that IBM was getting into “Social CRM.” I attempted to noodle on this without the benefit of any further knowledge than I had and came up with some facts and some speculation. The facts were, IBM had this product called, Lotus Connections (now at version 3.0) that was focused primarily on enterprise collaboration. Fact#2 – IBM had purchased SPSS for $1.2 billion in 2009 for SPSS’s mad skills when it came to predictive analytics which could include some customer analytics. Fact #3 –IBM had acquired Unica in mid 2010, one of the leaders in marketing automation of years past – and one of the first, BTW, to actually provide a usable non-math major only UI for a marketing automation product – this, of course, goes back a few years.
Hmmm. None of the facts added up to “Social CRM” exactly unless you linearly combined Lotus Connections (Social) and Unica (CRM) and came up with it that way. Nope. That made no sense as a support to the claim.
So I speculated. Maybe Lotus Connections was going to add outbound channel connectors and customer community tools or an API for integration to traditional CRM suites or…something like that.
Nope. None of that. This seemed to be pretty much a jump on the bandwagon and a pretty slick attempt to grab some thought leadership in the space.
But it got me to thinking, because, after all this is IBM and IBM has the chops, culture and funds to do things and get things that other companies could only dream of. So here was a chance for IBM to do something that they never have – become leaders in social CRM. They have been leaders in the social software space with the conversion of the Lotus “division” to the IBM Collaboration Solutions Group within the company. Lotus Connections, especially the 3.0 version, strengthened the enterprise level product by adding some much needed features such as:
- They call it social analytics – I call it social network analysis. They have three widgets that have been added to the Profiles component. What makes them particularly significant is that they are widgets that embrace the notion of the social customer. They include a) Do You Know: a recommendation engine based on your activity on the social web and your existing network. b) Things in Common: this is the “someone like me” widget that deconstructs that relationship -showing you how you are “like” that someone. and c) Who Connects Us: how you connect to an individual person – social networking analysis.
- Community customization – among other things it incorporates a feature that I have recommended more than once to some of the community/socnet platforms out there when they didn’t have it – the ability to create and administer a “sub-community” within a community so that you can focus in specific areas – in the case of IBM, since Lotus Connections is internally focused – specific projects.
- Huge refresh to the wiki, blogging, forums, activities, profiles, and social bookmarking features – that were already decent.
These are just examples of what Connections 3.0 offers. But again, it doesn’t have much in the way of outbound social channels for customers though there is nothing that says you can’t invite customers in.
But what makes IBM intriguing is that they are entering the fray through both thought leadership and by developing a very, very good collaboration application using a division of the company near and dear to me – Lotus.
Is that enough for them to be a SCRM provider? No. They have never been a strong CRM provider, leaving a lot of that to iEnterprises , an exceptional partner who has developed not only a Notes CRM, but their own CRM, mobile versions of CRM and connectors for Lotus Notes to SugarCRM, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, salesforce.com, and Siebel. IEnterprises has kept IBM at least relevant in CRM.
But they have so much going for them with SPSS, Unica, Lotus Connections 3.0, and their clear interest in Social CRM, that it makes them more than intriguing. It makes them a company to watch – very, very closely. I wouldn’t put it past IBM to be a player by early part of next year. But we’ll have to see. Of course, I will keep you posted.. So they are not coming from a position of historic strength so that they just have to transition.
Back in August 2010, I wrote this piece on the entry of Cisco into the world of enterprise collaboration via their Quad suite. I speculated about this as an indication that they were interested in taking it further and coming into the world of Social CRM.
Turns out I was right.
As we know now, Cisco is coming in, and doing it the right way. They’ve launched a social media analytics product called SocialMiner and a social customer care product named kind of nicely Finesse which brings the agent into a 2.0 world. They’ve significantly extended their communications hardware and software platforms. Among the cooler applications – which they’ve established use cases for and managed to price it reasonably is Cisco TelePresence, well worth looking at. In fact, in July 2010, the leader of what passes for as close to a Social CRM salon we have, Tatyana Kanzaveli, did a Social CRM Meetup with major SCRM thought leaders via TelePresence in what may be the coolest CRM related event ever. Given that what has driven SCRM from day one is a communications revolution, not a business revolution, Cisco’s improvements in their communications platform is a powerful entry into what is a growing area of interest for businesses everywhere.
Thing is that they thought this one out. Their management team for this push into SCRM, seated in the Cisco Collaboration Business Unit (CCBU), is run by John Hernandez, a customer service leader with experience at both Watchlist winner Genesys and Nortel. The rest of the team has equal and in some cases even more experience than John in this world. So they are well suited for what they are doing.
Another plus for Cisco in their entry is that they have mucho dinero to back it up, have a strong outreach to influencers, journalist, and analysts. AND they know how to ride the wave of a trend, having foreseen this one as far back as 2008 with the launch of their “human network” branding and marketing campaigns. They still have one of my all time favorite commercials for that – their first – with the Baba O’Riley song by the Who – the one also used by CSI-NY. What that means spiritually I don’t know, but the commercial nailed the communications revolution part of the equation – i.e. the most important one.
Don’t underestimate their trend-tracking actions. They are emerging now because of a careful assessment of the customer’s needs and wants, not just the rise of SCRM. They see that the customer is more demanding, more peer-focused, and more cognizant of the environment thus the push around TelePresence cutting travel costs and emissions. In other words, they are acting on the trends, not just monitoring them.
They also know how to partner. In the customer care a.k.a. contact center world that they star in they have alliances with Oracle (Siebel, Oracle, PeopleSoft), SAP, Microsoft and salesforce.com – meaning, given their scope, skills and target markets, the right choices.
What’s interesting here, and of course, as always, provides an element of uncertainty of results, is that Cisco, by its own admission is transitioning from a communications focused company to a collaboration focused company that uses unified communications (well, okay, they didn’t say the latter part, I did) technologies to foster that collaboration. The uncertainty lies in the change in culture required to meet that transition. They have the technologies to foster it – via Quad and Telepresence, SocialMiner, et. al. They have the leadership, and partners to support it. But the question is, does their own culture foster collaboration – so that they can meet more than just the technological needs of their target base? Can they be, to their potential customers, a “company like me?”
What Cisco has to do in 2011since SCRM is driven by customer service (human interaction), not contact centers per se, is become a bit more focused on the “human” and a little less on the “network”, so to speak at least. Meaning, even though their corporate culture is aimed at customer success – its more focused on technological success. Just read everything they write on collaboration. Its focused on the value of hardware and software – not the way that Cisco helps you do your job.
Focusing on and delivering any kind of success is commendable, but “any” is not enough in the era of the social customer. They need to humanize their culture (which given the immensely friendly nature of the customer care folks like John Hernandez, shouldn’t be a big stretch) and provide the thought leadership that the human network commercials imply they can. They truly get it. Now they have to expand out to a broader population that they can show they get it. Then, all they have to do is what they are already good at – which means continue to communicate – but in the customer’s metaphor, not the products.
This might be my most intriguing choice for 2011 because, they are so damned interesting. And provide actual value.
When I was a kid I used to see this old cartoon from the 30s or early 40s that showed this little fish chomped up by a bigger fish chomped up by an even bigger fish….you catch the drift, err, tide. In any case, that’s how I’ve thought of Infor and also how I’ve thought of their product that gets them on this list.
It began as E.piphany (no typo, it was this weird spelling back then) then was chomped up by SSA Global which was then chomped up by Infor. In case you haven’t figured it out, chomped up = acquired.
Its the Epiphany (contemporary) Interaction Advisor engine that gets my serious Watchlist attention. Infor is actually improving and reviving the product – major improvements – which is a relief because it was a genuinely excellent product that SSA Global wasted. Infor’s name for the product is the Infor CRM Epiphany Interaction Advisor – something that’s pretty damned awkward for such a smooth operator.
Infor seems to be determined to take that terrific interaction engine that could and put it back on the map which is of course what gets them on the map with me – that and a few other things.
From what I can see, Infor is treating the interaction advisor engine as a platform, but rather than offering out to the masses – in the fashion of a salesforce.com force.com platform, they are using it to spin off some very specific, highly focused applications that are both horizontal and vertical in nature. For example, they recently put together an Interaction Advisor for the hospitality industry that as they put it, “maximizes the customer relationship from the slot machine to restaurants, to shops to the guest’s room.” They have another for the retail industry announced last week called Epiphany Shopping Advisor. They have one called Churn Advisor that not just optimizes a telco’s customer experience but also locates the weak points that might cause churn. What makes these powerful is that they are products geared to a real-time customer experience throughout an entire customer lifecycle, that takes all channels into account AND, if that wasn’t enough, they capture and analyze all the data that the interactions create.
One of their coolest applications is the Infor Epiphany Email Advisor, which takes live emails – meaning those sitting in your customers’ email in-boxes -and according to their online customer behavior adjusts the offers that they may be getting in that email.
Infor has all the traditional CRM products too – they actually offer a suite -sales, marketing and customer service. But they treat it almost incidentally to their interaction advisor engine. Probably rightfully. I don’t know how good or bad it is – they’ve never offered to show it to me and I’ve forgotten to ask because my focus has been on the interaction advisor platform.
The power of their products lies in the customers involvement in the creation of the products. Its interesting but Infor, in the submissions to the Watchlist, was the only one who emphasized their use of Customer Advisory Boards to get feedback on design of the UI and the functionality. Something that all the companies who won could learn from – and something that indicates a culture that has begun to adopt the social customer’s perspective on business – and has figured out their response to it.
However, even though Infor is out there diligently demoing the Interaction Advisor to all who will watch and listen, they haven’t done a good job to date on thought leadership or industry participation, which is part of the dance you have to do. This is something they need to seriously step up in 2011 – I mean amp it up big time or they will get nowhere with what is a genuinely terrific product.
I wouldn’t have made them a company to watch if I didn’t think they could. I do and I think they will. 2011 here comes Infor.
There was this famous song written in 1913 and sung by Al Jolson (who starred in the first talking movie ever – The Jazz Singer. Here’s a two minute clip of the movie – wow, is it dated, but this is the reason you can be a Trekkie) called “You Made Me Love You.” The first lines went like this:
You made me love you
I didn’t wanna do it
I didn’t wanna do it
You made me want you
And all the time you knew it
I guess you always knew it
You made me happy sometimes
You made me glad
But there were times
You made me feel so bad
Know what? I’ve loved and lost twice in the Partner Relationship Management (PRM) space – twice. I’ve had my heart broken two f—ing times.
I have always been a big fan of PRM. It seems to make so much sense because it enables the management and engagement of your partners – a significant piece of your overall enterprise value chain. Its the same way that Supply Chain Management and the occasional Supplier Relationship Management software successfully took care of another side of this ecosystem. AND to that end there have been some excellent PRM products such as Siebel PRM (now Oracle PRM) and especially in its day Channelwave, ClickCommerce, and, while – until now (hint, hint) – the SaaS space has only produced some not so great PRM, the idea of PRM remains so appealing to me.
But, alas, back in 2001 and again in 2004, PRM broke my heart – because apparently it was only appealing to me – not a whole lot of businesses. – It was an industry segment that while enormously useful from what I could see – just didn’t make it.
So, my broken heart told me “bury the hurt, Paul, don’t let it get you again. That’s twice you heard the siren call, felt the heat. And twice that you were lured and crushed. Beaten.” It was kind of a variation on the theme, “if it happens once shame on them, twice shame on you.” Well, to me it was “if it happens twice, shame on them…”
But I was happy. I didn’t have to deal with PRM once Channelwave sunk in the channel…hit by a…wave…of…umm…indifference. Okay, I’m stretching there.
But, sigh, then along comes Relayware. It started with a PR request that said “hey, wanna see me, huh, big boy?” And in my mind, it was Alyssa Milano (Great tweeter, and baseball fan. Sigh.), Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Banks and whatever other Hollywood actresses I think are hot (okay, sue me, I’m a guy) beckoning to me for an audience, so I said, “sure.”
And, to my surprise, I saw what might be the most complete PRM product and certainly the best thought out PRM product I’ve ever seen. Bar none. Just to give you a flavor, I’m going to show you the components, without comment, lifted straight from their website that are part of their most comprehensive offering Partner Lifecycle Management:
- Administration Manager
- Partner Account Manager
- Registration and Approval Manager
- Sales Opportunity Manager
- Content and Portal Manager
- Communications Manager
- Partner Training Manager
- Event Manager
- Fund Manager
- Customizable Joint Marketing
- Loyalty and Incentives Manager
- Partner Locator
That is a thorough job – and, you’ll have to take my word for it here, or take a look for yourself, if you don’t trust me, you…you….that each of these components is both full featured and well integrated.
Plus Mike Morgan, the CEO is both a really engaging guy and knows the space really well.
Additionally, they actually, unlike most of the other choices so far, don’t have the problem of thought leadership. Nor do they have the problem with market impact. Both of them are reflected in the fact that the analysts – institutional and independent highly respect these guys and they are seen as a premier product.
BUT there are several things they need to “cure” as a company and an obstacle not of their doing that make this, let’s just say, interesting.
- They are a PRM company without much of a partner ecosystem. I’m not a “you must eat your own dog food guy” – I actually think that’s silly. For example, if you’re a small company selling to Fortune 1000 companies, why would you need that level of functionality. I rest that part of my case. But in this case, they do need to eat their own dog food – meaning, not use their software, but have a VAR/SI/Consulting firm/Technology partner ecosystem that is meaningful, not piecemeal. Maybe they do but I don’t see any reference to it anyway. Just 2-3 companies, who may be great at what they do but are not the kind of reference partners that I’m talking about. Nor nearly the scope.
- They need some LARGE systems integrators to buy into their vision and mission which is quite clear – and that means a PRM sub-practice (part of CRM? Perhaps.), at least at this stage, at the large SI. Small companies only selling for an enterprise ready product – that this is – its oh so scalable – and pricey – doesn’t do the trick. They need an entré through the large SI’s pipeline.
- They need to not emphasize the PRM is the new CRM. It isn’t. Its PRM. Its an extension of CRM frankly to the larger ecosystem. At least the way I see it. But, then again, we’ve seen how THAT’s helped the market.
The part that’s not of their own doing? PRM needs a market. Right now, Relayware has a great product, smart leadership, a clear vision and mission, thought leadership and market impact. But some of the latter is relative. There is no real PRM market still.
I think this is a company that can make the market potentially, small as they are at this point. But I don’t want to have my heart broken a third time. They won’t break it – they’re way to smart and way too pretty – in a platonic way of course. But the lack of a market could.
Final lines from You Made Me Love You?
You made me cry for
I didn’t wanna tell you
I didn’t wanna tell you
I want some love that’s true
Yes, I do, ‘deed I do
You know I do
Gimmie, gimmie, gimmie, gimmie what I cry for
You know you’ve got the brand of kisses
That I’d die for
You know you made me love you
Don’t disappoint me.
Gist and I go way back. I’ve been a user of theirs by design and a little bit by default since 2009. The design was that I think that their integration with Outlook is excellent and does what Microsoft’s Social Connectors don’t. The default was that I was using Xobni too, another interesting though in my mind, not quite to Gist’s standard, product, but it crashed my system.
So I got to know Gist and, know T.A. McCann a little bit. And I liked what I saw.
First, let’s make something clear. This isn’t a full blown social CRM product. This is a plugin that aggregates social information in ways that actually have some meaning because of the way that the info is organized for the user to see. All the information from my Twitter followers and Facebook friends, among other things – all their social information and activities – are aggregated and produced along with the relevant conversations (relevant to me – context people, context) are provided fully integrated into my Outlook contact data or my Gmail or Google Apps contact data or even Lotus Notes. They also have native iPhone an Android mobile apps (both of which I’ve used – and like).
This is a good thing. But it goes deeper. Aside from the integration, I get a daily report emailed to me (my choice) on what my network is doing. Then I can go to their site and see how relevant the contacts are to me -based, I think, on the activity in relationship to me that Gist captures and presents. While those numbers are off in terms of absolute relevance, they are something of an indicator of the level of interaction that they and I have.
Gist has not only garnered some awards and a following for their well thought out and executed integrations, which now extends to salesforce.com – another reason that they can be included on this list, without trepidation. They were a Gartner Cool Company back in 2009 for example. They have over 5500 fans on Facebook – not too shabby there either. And Mr. McCann is a busy dude, out there meeting who he has to to make this company work.
They are successful enough to be the subject of recent rumors that RIM, makers of the Blackberry, want to buy them. I don’t know if they are true or not, so don’t ask me, but the very fact that they can engender that kind of rumor shows their growing impact in the market.
What do they have to do? A few things:
- Integrate with more CRM systems. The idea is that Gist becomes a core part of a CRM system system or an Enterprise 2.0 system. Rich social data is important to contemporary companies and the more sy systems they integrate with the better their entry point into the market.
- Competition in their part of the universe is only going to get tougher. Its coming from the standalone plugins like them and through native integration like IBM does with Lotus Connections or attempts at it such as Microsoft’s Social Connectors. Scale, scale, scale and much better, more refined metrics. If you’re going to measure relevance, then don’t do it halfway, which is kind of where it is now.
These guys are going somewhere. They are worth watching in 2011. Where they end up at the of this year, is, I can say definitively, solely up to them. But they’d better decide where they want to be by the end of the year, right now. That way, they can chart their own destiny – and we can watch them follow it.
Clarabridge had been fired as a shot across my bow for the last 2 years roughly, but especially in 2010. I kept hearing about how good their text and sentiment analysis engine was and that they represented an area of analytics called collective intelligence which was up and coming and that they were a good company to deal with.
So I began to track them.
And they were all of the above. And the area, “collective intelligence” perhaps a little specious a name, is important.
What I particularly liked about Clarabridge is that their name would pop up in odd places, which also means that it was popping up in the expected places too. I would hear of their name in partnership with companies that were quality companies who could use the Clarabridge engine as a complementary service such as Watchlist winner Vovici (look down…a little further…). They had some of the standard expected partners too – Teradata among them. As far as I’m concerned, when establishing alliances/partnerships for vendor companies, the mix needs to be those partners who will get you into the target markets that you need to be in and provide complementary technology and/or services and some who get you to markets that are niche but a potential revenue stream – and who
I also saw that the approach that they took with their products was in line with the contemporary requirements of the 21st century business.
That usually means greater and more granular customer insight.
What does that mean in Clarabridge-talk? It means they use an 11 point intensity scale for sentiment analysis. You get more than the usual 1-5 or the positive, negative, neutral we’re all so caught up in and yet, is so limited, when it comes to the nuances of emotion in the customer-company interrelationship. This means, in human terms, that you’ll be able to distinguish between irritated and furious and angry. Which means a lot when it comes to both taking action, deciding what your response is going to be and for longer term insight in general.
But their products go a lot further than that – though that appeals to my “we understand our own emotions in a terribly granular way” argument a lot.
They went out on a limb in 2010 – a big thick branch actually – and announced Clarabridge Professional, which they call “ ”the industry’s first self service, SaaS based sentiment and text analytics product.” Some of that characterization is a bit self-serving because “self-service” is actually “Users can upload their data” meaning “manual” but what makes this a smart, smart idea is that they they are uploading data into category models – templates, if you will, that will spit out analysis of the unstructured data in minutes. Lovely, for the small and and lower end of the midmarket businesses. Apparently, the midmarket in particular felt this way, because within 9 months of the release of Professional, they had 800 customers. Not-too-shabby.
Their enterprise edition, considerably more complex, has a set of problems associated with the complexity, though has real power too. I had Scott Rogers, a thought leader in SCRM and someone who has not only used Clarabridge but knows the customer insight applications space give me a short fair assessment, which I want to pass on to you:
The categorization methodology (using word clouds) is very flexible, ranging from fast and simple to set-up to highly complex (and, not only tedious, but requires caution of the part of the user).
Beyond just volumetric measures and trending of word cloud strings, etc, gleaning real actionable insights from the output is difficult, and requires a good analyst to make sense of the data.”
That says it, I think quite well, so now whassup for them in 2011.
Clarabridge is a company with a bright, accomplished set of high tech industry veterans (who have the added power of being foodies) who know how to manage a company. As a result, cash positive, well financed, and 105% growth in 2010.
Not bad. I’d say I’m very pleased on my 11 point scale.
But we ain’t done yet.
They have a lot to do in 2011. While I’m clear that I think that Customer Insight Applications are perhaps (along with Knowledge Management) the keys to SCRM in 2011, the category of collective intelligence as nuanced as they can provide still has to be established. Right now, sentiment analysis is associated with 1-5 at its most granular. This goes way beyond that and the value proposition, while clear, needs data to back it up. Its real new and the promise is big. Clarabridge has a chance to take a real leadership position here. They need to make the case in 2011. Not 2012.
Really Simple Systems
Really Simple Systems might have the shortest entry of the lot. They are what I consider perhaps the best traditional CRM package for small businesses in the market. Know why?
They provide all three pillar components – sales, marketing and customer service – and they do it in a way that both is functionally reasonably complete – certainly complete enough for small businesses – and actually reasonably priced. They’ve got the usual three tiers, but the first tier is a 2-user max cloud-based free edition of CRM that provides basic sales functionality – they have over 1000 users of it. The enterprise edition is designed to appeal to large small businesses or midmarket players. It provides competent functionality for all three CRM pillars – sales, marketing and customer service. Note the word, competent in conjunction with marketing functionality – not one you hear that often in suite level CRM especially not small business. But, here it is. And about time, let me tell ya.
These guys were the 2010 winners of Sift Media’s Software Satisfaction Award for CRM – which I was a judge on. Here’s what I said after they won:
“Really Simple Systems won the Software Satisfactions Awards for a really simple reason – they produce a very good hard core traditional CRM product that their customers can actually use, actually like and can afford. Hard to beat that, isn’t it?”
Double that and its what I think today.
But lest you think they are perfectly positioned, let me throw out what I think they have to deal with in 2011.
Pretty easy actually.
- They are strictly traditional – and they have broadened their target markets beyond the small businesses they were solely focused on in 2009. That means that social functionality, as they move upmarket (even saying that their enterprise edition can appeal to a “division of a large company”) needs to be incorporated or they need to partner with a social CRM vendor to provide the social data that midmarket and “divisions” of large enterprises crave.
- They need to move a lot faster on thought leadership. This company is an operationally sound, smartly run, and quiet company. They need to be louder in the marketplace. Small business, still their sweet spot, despite all the upmarket products and talk, is probably the most highly targeted area that remains largely unpenetrated and has a lot of competitive products emerging, with varying degrees of noise. Really Simple Systems to remain competitive is going to have to make some noise.
Brent Leary will be covering much of the small business choices out there on Social CRM: The Conversation, probably next week – but I had to include Really Simple Systems because they live up to their name and yet still manage to provide actual ways for small business people to do their jobs.
Vovici is a company that takes care of business. I’ve been following them for a long time, have had little interaction with them – except as of late – and yet, they are truly the giant of enterprise feedback management (EFM).
In fact, I used to hate surveys – except for the highly specialized customer experience mapping surveys – which I use in my consulting work when it gets to the customer experience mapping side of things. But after seeing Vovici’s EFM and realizing that their survey methodology is the core of their EFM system, I’m converted. Seriously.
Key to the Vovici difference is that their survey mechanism is dynamic – as opposed to the more typical approach which provides. What allows that at the core is what they call (or will as of this year) Panel Profile Builder – or at least will in 2011. Essentially what it does, as I understand it, is use customer data as it is recorded to increase feedback quality. Meaning that using their Community Builder and their Panel Profile Builder, you can actually create feedback communities – e..g panels that can be queried and the feedback that is captured can be used as insight to help refine the panel, the questions and also to dynamically alter the relevance of the individual panelists responses.
What makes them powerful is that they can use their system to scale up towards ungodly amounts of participants and yet still get granular feedback – and incorporate it into individual customer records. They are integrated with Oracle and salesforce.com for that.
Their EFM suite can be customized to pretty much any level imaginable from look and feel, to an OEM white label to field levels to workflow and business rules. Plus they are SAS70 compliant – meaning as secure as they come.
If this was all, I’d say great, but what really makes Vovici stand out is that they have a highly experienced stellar management team led by Jeffrey Henning, one of the company’s founders. His blog at their site, according to Vovici, gets 40,000 visitors a month. Not too bad for a corporate maven.
These guys spend time not only on the operational, but thinking through what the thought leadership initiatives have to be in their segment of the industry. They recognize that Voice of the Customer programs to create the right customer experience are the essential core of loyalty and advocacy and their entire product line and solutions offerings are true extensions of this philosophy. But they also have a framework and methodology associated with all of this. So for example in 2010, they announced the existence of the Customer Experience Wheel (take a look at slide 11). Its premise isn’t particularly new. It focuses on the “moments of truth” to use the industry jargon – those key points of customer interaction which have the most important impact on the customer’s relationship to the company. But what made this valuable is that it is visually broken out in very easy to digest pieces so that it is clear what makes or breaks the customer relationship.
That said, there are some things I would do immediately that Vovici, with all this solidity, doesn’t do.
- Make the website more comprehensible. I went to it several times to understand what they meant about something and, reading the site’s explanation of that something left me hanging badly. For example, Online Communities. Not that the idea was complicated. But what they call online communities didn’t seem to be addressed directly. All in all, EFM is not a simple subject and it needs to be simplified. Take the Customer Experience Wheel as a great example of the simplification.
- A lot of their thought leadership, while incredibly good and interesting, is internally generated. Remember what I said about collaboration between third parties and vendors around key ideas. Focus on them.
- Integrate with other CRM vendors beyond Oracle and salesforce.com. There are a lot of large enterprise players out there and they don’t all use those two. Vovici has a huge amount to offer.
All in all, this company truly rocks and their EFM system convinced me to change what I think of something that I never particularly trusted. That says a lot. They can capture more market with their excellent products, smart thinking and terrific management. But that’s up to them, now, isn’t it?
Zuora won a slot last year, one of a much smaller Watchlist of 18. Yet, they really didn’t fall into the realm of CRM so this year I vowed that companies like Zuora, Successfactors, and Workday, though worthy of winning stuff, weren’t going to be on this list because they really didn’t qualify.
So, I was at Dreamforce 2010 and ran into Zuora CEO Tien Tzuo. We go back quite a few years to when he was CMO and then Chief Strategy Officer of salesforce.com. Thus, we made sure we had a chance to talk. Damn if he didn’t tell me how they were now positioned which took him straight from not on the list anywhere to a candidate for finalist who didn’t even appear on the final candidates list. In other words, he won after the fact.
Why? Because Tien, in his infinite wisdom, realized that Zuora, who handle subscription based billing and payment, was actually operating as, not the back office, not the front office but the middle office. Meaning that their raison d’etre is to handle that layer of transaction and transaction behavior that sits between the operational parts of business and the customer-company interactions. Which puts them back on the Watchlist radar.
Tien’s and his co-founders vision is based on the idea that we have a subscription economy that his rapidly evolving.
To do this, Zuora first developed their SaaS based Z-Billing product now in its 2.0 incarnation to handle dozens (I think they have 30 templates that are provided with the product – but don’t hold me to that) of different subscription based billing models. If it doesn’t fit a template, it can be customized. They have a set of super powered metrics to bench against – monthly recurring revenue, total contract value, various churn metrics, you name it. They have this integrated with Z-Payments which is tied to all the payment gateways including credit cards, Paypal, etc. They have Z-Commerce which is their platform for building custom solutions. For the purposes of their Watchlist win, they also have Z-Force, a native salesforce.com integration that ties into the salesforce.com applications and can serve as the “mid-office” piece -pricing, quoting, orders, renewals. etc.
What makes this powerful is that there is a vision and thought leadership associated with the product set. That would be Tien’s world – the subscription economy which is based on the simple premise that the business world is evolving to this “payments over time” model. In other words, people are willing to pay over planned periods of time for what they need. I think that its an extension of the model that evolved around a service economy of a few years ago, when products become commoditized to the point that the real value was in the services that grew up around the use of the products. Sometimes the products (software being a good example in many instances) were given away and the customer would subscribe to the services that the products “unlocked.” What better way to pay then with a regular payment over time for the life of the provision of the services? For a good discussion on the subscription economy, go here.
Zuora mastered this approach. They have been wildly successful, signing up (Q1 2010) more than $1 billion in contracted subscription revenue – just for the quarter. They have a powerful, highly experienced management team, a strong set of partnerships/alliances including salesforce.com (of course), NetSuite, Microsoft, VMWare, VISA, Paypal. They have a strong group of mid-tier and top-tier systems integrators working with them – Astadia, Bluewolf, ATG (now Oracle) and Deloitte among others. They just got a second round of funding of over $20M in November so they are set there – and they have a top tier customer list.
So this is a company that put together the whole package. The management team, the partnerships, the marquee customers, the thought leadership, the market presence and the strong funding and revenue growth.
What else could they do? Not much more than they already are. In fact, they ended up the second highest scoring company on the list after salesforce.com. Not bad for a company I wasn’t planning on including. But they belong here – and – if their path stays as clear as it is and Tien’s subscription economy vision bears out, they are going to be the enterprise that they want to and do it the way that they want to do it – something not seen that often in the roller coaster world of software and high tech.
Simple. I’m beat. This is nearly 7000 words and that is as big as anything I’ve written so far. However, there is one thing that stands out here that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. The only thing that any of these companies have in common is that they are able to serve Social CRM with their specific specialties. They don’t have much in common with each other. But SCRM leads us to this new, fertile, areas that give a wide range of products, services, tools, and experiences play.
Next and final Watchlist will be the consulting companies and systems integrators. Then its them.