Business · Cloud · Data

Salesforce bridges the customer engagement gap for growth at Dreamforce

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Last week was Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco with a whopping 170,000+ attendees. Even so, what were the key takeaways?

Today, many enterprises are either Salesforce customers and follow the space closely as it pertains to a key element for executive teams today: Customer engagement. One of the top issues that executive teams and board of directors face is how to create a deeper relationship with customers. Salesforce sits at this nexus. Here are the top takeaways from the conference;

UPSIDES:

  1. Partnership with Google: Salesforce announced their partnership with Google. While much of the discussion was integration with Google Cloud and G Suite, there are benefits that both companies (and customers) could gain from the relationship. The data that Google maintains on user behavior and ad-related impact could provide useful to Salesforce customers. Salesforce in turn could provide integration and insights to Google Ad Words. The potential from this symbiotic relationship could prove significant.
  2. Democratizing Einstein & AI: Last year, Einstein provided an interesting opportunity for Salesforce and their customers. This year, Salesforce showed how providing customers with an easy way to leverage Einstein provides a powerhouse of potential to support customer engagement. Plus, proactively predicting outcomes provides insights not previously possible.
  3. myTrailhead: Personalization has long-since been a key success factor to engage users. myTrailhead provides a level of personalization to allow users to work as they work best. Often, we require all users to work from a single console or interface. myTrailhead allows users to customize their experience.

DOWNSIDES:

  1. Fewer Feature/ Function Announcements: There was quite a bit of discussion around the number of feature/ functionality announcements made at Dreamforce. Further suggesting that maybe things are slowing down for Salesforce in terms of innovation. It is unclear to predict a trend from one data point. However, there are several indicators that this may only indicate a maturing of the innovation cycle.
  2. Expansion of Platform to Verticals: Salesforce supports a number of verticals with their solution. However, the depth they support the ecosystem around verticals pales in comparison with newer startups focused on specific verticals in the CRM space.
  3. Lack of New Data Sources: Unlike its competition, Salesforce takes a partnership approach to data integration into the platform. That is, they rely on partners to bring data sources for customers to leverage. Examples are financial services, traffic, weather, and other common data elements.

REVENUE GUIDANCE

Another key question that came up was around Salesforce’s revenue guidance. Can they (essentially) double their revenue to match guidance? And if so, how. There are a number of factors that I believe will support this.

All in, Salesforce is faced with significant headwinds from both competition and adoption of innovation by enterprises. Bringing partnerships with Google and democratization of newer technologies will do well to carry them forward. There is still a significant amount of potential upside for Salesforce.

CIO

The difference between the Traditional CIO and the Transformational CIO

Over the past several years, the role of the Chief Information Office (CIO) has changed. If you are a CIO, do you know which type you most closely align with…or aspire to be? If you are working with a CIO, do you know the characteristics and why they are so important? The details are incredibly important regardless of your stakeholder status as a partner, customer, board member or fellow c-suite member.

The CIO’s job is hard and complicated. To gain a full appreciation of why, one needs to truly understand the anthropology of IT. That alone is worthy of a book. Suffice it to say that decades were spent creating the role of the CIO and IT culture. One cannot simply unwind decades of culture over the course of a couple of years. This is where my concept of the Three-Legged Race for transformation comes in. The CIO, IT organization and rest of the organization must work together for transformation to truly take shape.

THE TRADITIONAL CIO

When most of us think of a CIO, we are thinking of the traditional CIO. There are several characteristics that identify the traditional CIO. Many of the traditional CIO characteristics are centered around building an organization that supports technology. This makes sense, and fits well for organizations that have not started their digital transformation journey.

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However, the role of the traditional CIO is in decline. As more organizations recognize the strategic value that technology plays, the demand for the CIO shifts from traditional to transformational.

THE TRANSFORMATIONAL CIO

The transformational CIO is a business leader first who happens to have responsibility for IT. To be clear, this does not mean a business leader that does not have experience leading IT. It means that the leader is highly experienced in leading business and IT, but focused on the business aspects as the driver for IT.

cio-characteristics-transformational

The characteristics of the transformational CIO are quite different from that of the traditional CIO. In general, they are business centric and less focused on technology. In many ways, unlike the traditional CIO, the transformational CIO is having the same conversations as the rest of the c-suite. Put a different way, if the conversation is not one that the CEO would have, neither would the CIO. Transformational CIOs are very much looking for business opportunities like that of the CEO or many of the other c-level executives. The transformational CIO is perceived by the other c-level executives as an equal. This is a dramatic shift from the traditional CIO. The key words here are ‘perceived by others’.

MAKING THE SHIFT FROM TRADITIONAL TO TRANSFORMATIONAL

At the risk of being over-inclusive, every enterprise will need to take the digital transformation journey. Technology is playing a more central role to every enterprise. Put a different way, technology is quickly becoming the strategic weapon for every enterprise. Think of companies that have disrupted different industries. In most cases, technology was central to their ability to disrupt their industry.

As part of that journey, every enterprise will need to rely more on a transformational CIO. However, that transition does not happen overnight. Recall that it is not just the CIO that must transition (read: Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race). Transformation, much like culture changes, is a journey. There is no specific end-point or finish line.

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One could ask, how does a CIO make the transition. For each CIO, the journey is incredibly personal and transformational in their own way. Shifting paradigms of thinking from traditional characteristics to transformational characteristics is not trivial. It requires re-learning much of what we have learned over several decades. Essentially, we are learning a new role. A new job. A new way of thinking. For those that do make the transition, the change is incredibly rewarding not just for the CIO, but the team they lead, the larger company they work for and ultimately the customers they serve.

DOES THE CMO OR CDO REPLACE THE CIO?

The transformational journey takes time, yet customers and executives want immediate change. How is this gap addressed? Speculation suggests that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Chief Digital Officer (CDO) will replace the CIO and fill the proverbial gap (read: The CMO is not replacing the CIO and here’s why.). There is value in the CMO or CDO filling some or part of the gap in the interim. However, over time, the transformational CIO is well equipped and best suited to address these changes. The gap, while significant, is only a temporary phenomenon.

CIO CMO Transforming IT

The time to start the transformational journey is now. Time is not your friend. With any organizational change, it is a team effort. It may start with the CIO, but will require the support and understanding of the entire c-level leadership team and IT organization. For many traditional CIOs, that is easier said than done. The best place to start is to establish a vision that sets the tone and cadence. From there, examples and success will quickly change the perspectives of those that may have been skeptical in the past. In addition, those that lead the transformation journey will find the process rewarding on many levels.

Business · CIO · Data

These four things will close the gap between the CMO & CIO

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The landscape for marketers is shifting dramatically. In order for marketers to be successful, they must rely on technology and data. The bottom line is that the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) needs the Chief Information Officer (CIO) and vice versa. We have reached the inflection point where this relationship is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a requirement for any organization serious about their marketing efforts.

THE CMO/ CIO RELATIONSHIP

The more time I spend with the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and marketing folks, the more I realize how how wide the gap is between CMO and the Chief Information Officer (CIO)/ Information Technology (IT) organization. That may sound dramatic. However, there is a bright opportunity that lies beyond the current state.

Make no mistake that the demand for a relationship between the CMO and CIO is stronger than ever. Companies are clamoring to better understand their customers in an effort to create stronger bonds and greater revenue streams.

THE MARKETING EVENT OPPORTUNITY

A couple of weeks ago, I spent time at Oracle’s Modern Marketing Experience (MME) in Las Vegas. In addition to the keynotes and sessions, I was invited to join the ‘CMO Experience’ luncheon. Keep in mind that this is a marketing conference and I am looking at it from the CIO’s perspective. Oracle MME was a great opportunity to learn more about today’s marketing challenges and opportunities from a marketers perspective. Unfortunately, I was one of the few CIOs there.

Instead of showcasing a number of sexy startups and their marketing efforts, Oracle presented three traditional enterprises that are all more than 100 years old: Sears, Clorox and Western Union. All of three of these enterprises leveraged technology and data to change how they engaged with customers. The not-so-subtle message here is: If a 100-year-old company can do it, so can you. But you cannot do it without technology and data. Hence where the CIO comes in.

FOUR STEPS TO CLOSE THE CMO/ CIO GAP

There are four core things that will close the gap between the CMO & CIO.

  1. Relationship: All good business relationships start with a personal relationship. The CMO and CIO must spend time and get to know each other. From this personal relationship, the collaboration between the two organizations can flourish.
  2. Understand the Business: Too many IT leaders only have a cursory understanding of what the business does, how it makes money, how it spends money. In order to truly provide value, IT needs to understand the entire value chain.
  3. Understand the Customer: Unfortunately, many CIOs and IT leaders do not have regular interactions with customers. Through regular, first hand experiences, the CIO can understand what drives the customer and how best to engage.
  4. Leverage Data: There are an increasing number of data streams that impact insights into the customer and business. Many of these streams come from outside the organization (vs. transactional data). Look for ways to integrate and correlate this data in a meaningful way to increase the value to the business and customer.

Each of these four things are both symbiotic of each other and build upon each other. For example, getting access to customers only comes after building strong relationships and trust with fellow c-suite executives. While leveraging data builds a more holistic picture of the customer.

The bottom line is that the gap between the CMO and CIO needs to close. The sooner the gap closes, the sooner the company and ultimately, the customer will benefit.

CIO

Digital Transformation requires intimate knowledge of the business

 

IMG_3398Moving to a digital enterprise is not a trivial task. It is neither a journey nor a destination. The shift for an enterprise to embrace digital requires a cohesive effort on multiple levels. Technology plays a role, but only as a tool without context. And it is this very context or knowledge that provides the significance in value that comes from the digital enterprise.

SHIFTING TO THE DIGITAL ENTERPRISE

The digital enterprise is no longer an option for enterprises. The digital enterprise is a reality in today’s business climate. Technology plays a central role in business in so many ways. However, it is not only the technology choices we make within the enterprise that shift us to become a ‘digital enterprise’.

Shifting to the digital enterprise requires a shift in paradigm across the entire organization, not just Information Technology (IT). The technology itself only serves as a tool. How will you use this tool to further your business in terms of economic growth or business agility? And technology is not the only component. The business insights truly come from the data. Technology enables greater access to data and insights. But it does something else. Technology provides greater accuracy and faster business decisions which can lead to automation in business decision processing and responses.

Leveraging technology to enable businesses to do things no previously possible is part of the shift to the digital enterprise. Engaging the customer and providing significant insights requires technology in order to remain competitive in the global business landscape.

KNOWING THE BUSINESS…IN MULTIPLE DIMENSIONS

Shifting to the digital enterprise is not possible without an intimate knowledge of the business. To know the business, one must look from multiple dimensions. Those include the customer, the marketplace, the value chain, and the company operations. Each of these provide a unique perspective that when combined provide greater insights as to how best to engage and operate to increase business value.

In the end, the business exists to serve a customer. Yes, I said ‘a’ customer. We live in a world where industries are built by markets of one. Any given customer is a market of one. How does one get to know this customer of one?

As a company supports the needs of a customer, what does the value chain look like? The value chain may be a foreign concept to many. However, it is incredibly important to consider when looking at how to best provide business value. And, how specific changes will impact the overall value chain.

Understating how the company makes and spends money is a good start to better understand the business operations. It is surprising how little many in IT know about a company, their customer, value chain and business operations. One could argue that IT folks do not need to know these components. However, I would argue that unintended disruptions in one section of the value chain can have catastrophic consequences. Again, it comes back to context. In the digital enterprise, we can no longer work in a vacuum of silos.

LEADING FROM THE CIO

The Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the drive to the digital enterprise. Ironically, many CIOs are not well prepared to make this change today. Some may suggest this is the very reason that the CIO should not lead the effort. But before you start to throw kerosene onto that fire, I strongly believe there are good people in the CIO role today that can rise to the occasion with the right leadership.

Once you start to consider the silos of data across the enterprise, a leader needs to emerge to engage the different departments and their expertise. If you consider what is required to have a holistic view of the business and then marry that with digital technology, there is only one role that sits in that intersection; the CIO.

Shifting to the digital enterprise is an enterprise effort that requires cross-functional engagement across a number of disciplines. The shift requires intimate and a holistic view of the business. That very engagement, led by the CIO, will provide a significant differentiation for enterprises in any industry.

Business · Social

Three keys to building a successful community

As someone whom is part of several communities, and now being asked by companies to help build their communities, this is a topic I see firsthand. Having been invited to join so many communities, I have had to ask what the value is. This leads to being more selective on which communities I ultimately participate in.

It is important to note that there is a difference between the value to a community member and the community organizer. The value equation must factor both and be bi-directional. In sum, all parties to the community must see value in their participation.

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY

In personal terms, a sense of community plays a key role in our societal interests and overall well-being. A community of individuals with similar interests is quite powerful in many ways. There is a saying that “It takes a village…(to raise a child)”. If said ‘child’ were a product, interest or company, the value comes from not just the product itself, but from the community built around the child. It is this very community that brings the true value to any product, interest or company today.

In a business context, the community may include buyers, consumers and influencers. Today, there is quite a bit of discussion about “Influencer Marketing”. Understanding the authentic influencer and therefore their true value is much more complicated than just looking at some social media stats. Unfortunately, social media has provided a megaphone for anyone to use. Providing value to a community, like raising a child, takes more than just reading a book, showing up on a list or having an opinion.

In my experience, there are three core components that drive the criteria: Relevance, Relationships and Respect. Communities are complex to understand. Communities are hard to build. Communities require constant care and feeding.

Community Three Rs

THE FOUNDATION OF RELEVANCE

The very definition of community ties back to sharing a common interest. The interest ultimately becomes the relevance to each individual’s specific situation along with that of the organizer. Relevance provides the common bond and interest between the parties. It provides a central rally cry that addresses a common, shared need or desire.

Individual interest is not enough. An individual may be interested in a specific topic, but if is not something they are passionate about, it may be hard to keep their interest over time. Even if someone is passionate about a specific interest, do they have the capability to provide a significant impact. Interest does not equal expertise. Just because you have an opinion, does not make you an expert. Not-so-subtle message here: Reach does not equal Relevance. And like value, relevance goes both ways. What is in it for me and for them?

RELATIONSHIPS PROVIDE THE GLUE

Identifying individuals with a common interest provides a certain level of value. However, the true value is in knowing (and maintaining) the level of interest and influence of the individuals over time. What are the nuances that an individual brings to the community? These nuances often do not show up in a profile, post or list. How have those changed over time? Remember that we are talking about humans here..which are complex.

The relationships span both community members and organizers. In addition, these very relationships will evolve over time. The relationship itself is not a binary thing. It will exist on many levels and take many forms.

NOTHING WITHOUT RESPECT

One would be remiss to talk about relationships and leave out mutual respect. Rather than talk about what respect brings, let us talk about the inverse. Simply put, without respect, a community does not work. During the course of conversation, opinions will differ. There needs to be a level of respect among the participants. Otherwise, there is a high likelihood the community will either disintegrate or worse, implode.

Respect is not something that is freely given. It is something that is earned over time. It, like relationships, must be cared for. Respect is something that takes time to build and can be torn down in an instant.

COMMUNITY, COLLECTIVE OR ORGANIZATION?

Each of these three core components directly tie back to the participants whether discussing relevance, relationships or respect. All three are essential to success. A community is not a one-time activity. The value of a community is the sum of the parts…over time. It has a lifecycle that goes through different stages of maturity.

If you have reached this point asking how this differs from the complexities of building an organization…you’re spot on! But how does one go about building a community? And how does one ensure that the community will help the child…er…business flourish? Ahh… that is for another post.