Denis Pombriant

About the Author Denis Pombriant


Vendors

The Subscription Economy’s Maturation

A lot happens in a decade. Bill Gates once said that we overestimate what we can do in two years and underestimate what we can do in 10. 2017 is a particularly good time to stop paddling and look back at what’s been going on in the last decade. While we will all have our favorite memories, there’s one in CRM that stands out more than others for me. After all, 2007 was the year of the iPhone.

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Analytics

Building a Sales Team by the Numbers

I don’t know why more subscription vendors don’t do this. Subscription companies collect mountains of data from their customers, and analyzing the aggregations can deliver profound insights virtually for free. Yet too often subscribers are reluctant to let their data be stripped of identifying characteristics and used for research. Too bad, because there’s gold in that big data.

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Vendors

Helpshift Integrates With Salesforce

Mobile technology has delivered a lot of useful functionality that enables vendors and their customers to be on the same page more frequently. However, the screen size has an inherent drawback: It shows a very narrow slice of a reality — typically one idea at a time. The problem is especially acute in the key areas of sales and service. A mobile “help” app should deliver help the customer values.

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Vendors

Ecosystem Two-Dot-Oh

Salesforce this week announced significant enhancements to its AppExchange Partner Program, including a $100 million Salesforce Platform Fund to encourage developers of AI-driven solutions. Salesforce arguably was the first kid on the block with a partner program of this kind in which buyers could access a large community of apps based on a single standard from a single store.

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Trends

Reasoning in CRM

It gives some measure of the importance we give to AI that I went to two conferences last week and sat through two panel sessions on the subject. At CRM Evolution, I was part of the discussion in a breakfast session. At the Oracle CX show, executives involved in the adaptive intelligent applications product line tried to define the basics in a session for analysts and reporters.

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Customer Experience

Then and Now

A few years ago, when Oracle was busy buying companies to fill out its front-office cloud offering, RightNow developed a “day in the life” video that has stuck with me. It was shown at RightNow’s last user meeting as an independent company. In fact, at the conference where it debuted, Oracle announced its acquisition of RightNow. The video’s importance was as a harbinger of things to come.

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Vendors

Oracle’s Strategery

Watching Oracle’s cloud strategy roll out has given me renewed respect for its approach to the market. As a company that has been public for a long stretch of time, Oracle has displayed all the warmth of an anaconda. I have friends there, and they are not anacondas, but I hope they know what I mean. Oracle knows its business and it’s making money, and it does it unabashedly.

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Deals

It’s Mud Season Again

It’s mud season here in New England — that time of year when everything merges into an amorphous mess. The gray sky merges with a gray landscape made into slop by continual rains and dirty gray melting snow. It’s hard to tell where one thing ends and another begins. Eventually the sun comes out and dries everything, the sky becomes distinct from the horizon, plants bloom, and order is restored.

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Enterprise Apps

Blockchain: CRM’s Next Frontier

We’ve seen a parade of technologies coming into the front office since 2000, including browser-based cloud computing, social media, mobile technology, workflow, journey mapping, and big data and analytics. It’s typical that at first there’s only a tenuous relationship between the technology and CRM’s original mission, but over a short time innovators adopt and commercialize the innovation.

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Analytics

Analytics and Workflow

There’s a big difference between B2C and B2B analytics that no vendors seem to be addressing, and it involves the consumption model. I recently spoke with K.V. Rao, founder and chief strategy officer of Aviso, an analytics company focused on sales, and his unabashed opinion is that “if you’re trying to expose insights and make things consumable, you have to address workflow.”

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Analytics

New Rules

One of the foundational ideas of business is the Pareto analysis, which tries to identify the small portion of factors that are responsible for the majority of business results. You know — 80 percent of profits come from 20 percent of the customer base, and similar observations. Vilfredo Pareto formulated a business classic that we now refer to simply as “the 80/20 rule.”

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Marketing

Social Marketing Grows Up

Before there was experimental data to support various contentions, it made perfect sense to believe that the likes and endorsements posted to friends on social media would drive more business. After all, didn’t we all subscribe to the idea that a disgruntled customer would tell many more people about a brand’s shortcomings than a happy customer would sing its praises?

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Vendors

Oracle’s DB Dilemma

Seeking Alpha is an online outfit that offers investors good research and analysis on tech vendors, and it is especially well versed in Oracle. Its writers’ expertise involves matching technologies to investment attractiveness. I am sure you are familiar with the type. XYZ company’s product does this, it should result in sales of this much, and that will drive profits so that the stock is worth so much. You get the idea.

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Products

Output vs. Outcomes

How many times have we been lulled into complacency over getting a project or a product done but not necessarily well received, because it was someone else’s gig? This is a great reminder that the job isn’t done simply because we produce something and shove it out the door. It’s also a cue to pay close attention to what our CRM systems tell us. Our concept of a product has changed.

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Trends

Tech Industry Gets Political

In the last decade or so, the tech industry has become increasingly political, which is different from being politicized. If I had to guess, I’d say that for the most part everyone is on the same page. However, many of the largest technology concerns have come to the realization that to protect their outlook, they need representation in Washington in the form of lobbyists.

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Deals

Oracle’s Important Little Acquisition

Oracle last week announced the acquisition of Apiary, a small company that tucks into its product line and will not make much of a splash in the financial pages or possibly even in tech circles. Nonetheless, it’s important strategic news. The value of the deal wasn’t publicized — but given the parameters, the dollars will get lost in the rounding of Oracle’s overall revenue and profit numbers.

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Customer Service

Customer Service Takes a Turn

It’s widely understood that new customer service channels such as social, email, knowledge bases and the like have left the service agent with harder problems to solve. Those channels are here to stay, because when they work well, they solve problems for pennies. It can cost many dollars to resolve an issue through the efforts of conventional agents. So there’s a decided bias for self-service.

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Trends

Looking Forward

Traditionally in this year-end piece, I peer into my cloudy crystal ball and forecast the year ahead in CRM. Sometimes I’m close, other times not, but either way, my predictions quickly are forgotten. This year, I’ve decided just to say what I want rather than what realistically might happen. Since my vote has all of the authority of yesterday’s news, it will follow past prognostications.

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Trends

2016: The Year in Review

This year will go down as an important turning point in CRM. For the last decade and a half, we’ve been simultaneously building and destroying CRM — first by linking all of the disparate databases to get that 360-degree view, and then by adding important accessories like social and analytics. At the same time, we’ve been busy tearing down conventional architectures and spinning up the cloud.

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Strategy

Qualitative Data – the Other Stuff

We’ve become obsessed with big data and analyzing it, though sometimes I think we get in our own way. The issue is that we preferentially collect quantitative data as if it were the only thing worth the time. In fact, quantitative data is but one kind of data, and the information it provides gives a one-dimensional view of the world. It’s not wrong information — just incomplete.

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Marketing

Fact-Checking Social Content

There’s an argument that it’s not Facebook’s job to fact-check the growing flood of fake news coming at us through its portal. After all, Facebook is just a set of pipes delivering something and is not responsible for the content. Nebulous others have that responsibility. However, Facebook is in the business of delivering content to a wide variety of people for a multitude of reasons.

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Strategy

Service in the IoT Era

Oracle recently announced a new connection between its Service and IoT clouds. That makes total sense to me. I bet a lot of folks think of the Internet of Things as those machines that do things directed by algorithms — and if so, they might wonder why they need to be connected to customer service, such an obviously human channel. It’s not off base, however.

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Trends

Signs and Symptoms

It’s been a rough couple of months, and we should talk about something fun and not political, but CRM-centric. I know! Let’s ask how the election influenced CRM. Seriously, there’s a nugget in there to get us thinking about business instead of that other stuff. Come on, it’ll be fun. I am not the only one who saw this, but isn’t it amazing how the pollsters got the election outcome exactly wrong?

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Vendors

Microsoft Rebrands

Microsoft recently rebranded its business software offerings and the effect largely has been positive. Still, it must be emphasized that the cumulative effect of the deck chairs moved in performing the exercise remains to be seen. One of the effects is surely that all of the ERP and CRM solutions now are offered online, as the “Dynamics 365” moniker implies.

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Strategy

Should Salesforce Buy NetSuite?

The recently released spreadsheet hacked from Salesforce board member Colin Powell’s email names multiple companies that Salesforce was at least considering acquiring. In the aftermath of the initial reports, it’s worth noticing that there were at least two enterprise resource planning/back office companies on the list: Workday and NetSuite. There are plenty of reasons to dismiss acquisition talk.

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Marketing

The End of Marketing

This is going to be political but you won’t be able to tell which side I’m on. You might ask, why on Earth would I get involved even tangentially in politics right now? The simple answer is that it impacts CRM and I have a viewpoint — but as I say, I’m not picking or revealing a side. I’ve been doing research in business agility lately — a fascinating area that soon will impact CRM.

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Strategy

AI and Customer Loyalty

AI and machine learning have taken the industry by storm. Some say they will usher in a new age of better business processes and customer orientation, while others fret that automation will kill jobs. There definitely will be jobs that no longer make sense for humans to do, thanks to automation. However, there are some neglected business processes where AI and ML could make real contributions.

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