All posts in “Enterprise 2.0”

Enterprise 2.0: What if sales lived in the “cloud”?

I’ve attended the Enterprise 2.0 conference every year for the last three years. I’ve met good friends there for the first time, put faces to old friends I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of meeting IRL and I always look forward to catching up with many of the brilliant people I am lucky enough to be acquainted with. Ultimately, however, it’s not the sessions and speakers that really get me going intellectually. It’s the hallway convos and debates over drinks. This year was no different. In fact, I heard from many attendees that it is now official: the sessions are not the draw at E20 – the lobby is.

So what did I take away this year? A number of things, but one thought in particular I have been chewing on for some time, especially because it aligns with our Enterprise Services practice, which is all about change management. I shared it Andy McAfee just before the social media panel I participated in on the second day (and which was very sparsely attended – social media being the red-headed stepchild of E20), and it goes a little something like this:

1. There is a dramatic proliferation of touchpoints between the enterprise and the market. Two-way conversations used to happen via your 1-800 number, your reception desk and your sales and PR teams. Now hundreds, even thousands of employees across the company can be communicating with the entire market via dozens of social channels in real time (no surprise here).

2. Consumers perceive brands/companies/institutions as speaking with one big voice. They don’t care if it’s CRM, sales or marcom. These artificial divisions may mean a lot inside the org, but outside, no one cares. You’re Company X. End of story.

3. Internal integration across these silos is critical to avoid missed opportunity and potentially generate solid ROI – the communications person will be encountering CRM issues, the CRM person bumping up against sales opportunities, etc.

4. It’s within that last point that I find a most compelling question. How does the sales function integrate with a company’s social media activities? How does it become nimble and horizontally integrated in order to take full advantage of the opportunities presented at all of these different touchpoints? How and when does it engage effectively?

5. What if your sales org could become something that lives in “the cloud” (please see below for a great video that answers the question, “What is Cloud Computing?”), meaning it is accessible from any point within the organization and any time in the sales cycle, rather than being a linear process that starts with a suspect at the top of the funnel and ends in a sale at the bottom? (Colin Douma, a brilliant guy who is now the VP of social at an agency in Toronto, had some interesting thoughts about what the sales funnel actually looks like in the age of social media, and Joe Jaffe recently wrote a booked called Flip the Funnel, so I’m not alone in thinking about this).

The end state? If sales is now horizontally integrated across the org, living in a kind of “process cloud”, when someone in customer service or communications or research identifies a prospect with an itch their product can scratch, they can feed that lead right into the appropriate node in the sales pipeline. Opportunity seized.

This is of course both a technology and a workflow challenge, but one I suspect will increasingly become an issue as engagement matures and a return on all of our socializing must be demonstrated. A spurned prospect is also more that just a lost opportunity – it’s someone who’s likely pissed off, since no one enjoys being ignored.

[full disclosure: I attended E20 2010 on a complimentary press pass]

The Digital Natives are Getting Restless

I wrote this more than a year ago but refrained from publishing it because the person behind the post just wasn’t comfortable with it at the time. I would like to have been able to dismiss this as being outdated today but unfortunately it’s as relevant now as it was then.

I had lunch with an old friend and colleague yesterday; I’ll call him Fred. Fred is a digital native (I love that term). He is also one of the smartest people I know. Fred is about to start his third job in four months not because he wants to but because he just doesn’t seem to fit in. The problem with Fred is that he makes most digital immigrants (like me) feel very uncomfortable with his ideas and with the way he expresses them. So we choose to marginalize him because he won’t understand and/or respect the prevailing protocol. However, sometime in the next ten years most companies will be run by digital natives like Fred and will be forced to deal with his “outrageous” ideas. Talking to Fred over lunch simply confirmed for me that Enterprise 2.0 is not a question of “IF” but “WHEN”.

Yes, the move to E2.0 is going to be disruptive. Yes, it’s going to make a lot of people feel uncomfortable. But since it’s inevitable, taking steps to understand and embrace it now may just give you an edge over those who are reluctant to venture out of their comfort zone. So if you’re seriously thinking of making changes to your Organizational DNA, why don’t you find the Fred in your organization (every company has at least one) and ask him what he thinks. You probably won’t like his answer but you should, at the very least, take the time to listen. Oh, and Fred, when the immigrants do come calling, please don’t automatically assume that you’re smarter than them. You’re not; you’re just trying to find a common language.

Since I always seem to find parallels with jazz, let me end with this (longish) quote from Pat Metheney’s keynote address at the 2001 IAJE convention;

… I understand, and I agree completely that the teaching of the fundamentals of the music is central and essential.

But, just as one example, let’s say one day next semester you might look up, and there may be a kid that is hanging off to the side who would love to participate somehow. And say in this case he may even have a beat-box or a microphone or a turntable or a computer, or who knows what else under his arm. And he is curious. Maybe … go ahead and invite him in. Jam with him. Have one of the kids write or make up some kind of a piece to do with him. To some, this may seem like the worst kind of anti-jazz, even, god forbid, “fusion”!! Or they might see it as an encounter that, while maybe being fun, could never result in “REAL” jazz at all.

But to me, it would be EXACTLY that kind of gesture — a gesture of inclusion and curiosity and communication and HOPE — that IS the spiritual engine of jazz. It is THAT spirit that has kept jazz’s momentum going forward so successfully for all these years, in spite of whatever cultural blockades have been erected along the way.”