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.

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 · CIO

Changing the language of IT: 3 things that start with the CIO

IMG_3184The Information Technology (IT) organization is going through a significant transformation. The transformation itself is not only disruptive, but confusing for many of the stakeholders including IT leadership, IT staff and those outside of the IT organization. Three years ago, I wrote about this in Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race. The path through this tumultuous time is fraught with confusion, misdirection and significant potential for failure.

But fret not. As the top IT leader, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is uniquely positioned to lead the organization through this transition. There are three things that will help turn the corner.

  1. REMOVE ALL REFERENCES TO ‘THE BUSINESS’

It is very common to hear IT staff referring IT and “the business” as if they are two different organizations. Unfortunately, this creates a culture of ‘us’ and ‘them’. As I discuss in Transforming IT Requires a Three-Legged Race, how IT refers to non-IT organizations is just as important as how non-IT organizations view IT. Today, they are seen very differently. That needs to change…and now. The CIO should see themselves as a business leader first, that happens to have responsibility for IT. Just this one mental change starts to create a waterfall of differences in both language and culture.

  1. DISCUSS VALUE IN MONEY TERMS…NOT TECHNOLOGY

Too many times, IT focuses on the value of change in terms of technology. And many times, IT staff find frustration in why business leaders do not understand their pitches. At the end of the day, the official language of the business is money. How does a change impact the organizations ability to change their financial picture? In the past, the focus for IT was on cost constraints (save money). Today, that has changed where IT provides greater leverage to business agility and economic growth. Note that both of these significantly leverage technology, yet neither mentions technology terms.

  1. FOCUS ON THE VALUE CHAIN OF THE CUSTOMER

There are many ways in which to discuss business agility and economic growth. However, neither are particularly important unless you first understand the value chain of the customer. To be clear, the customer here is the customer of the company…not internal users. When the CIO and IT starts thinking of itself as a business organization, so changes the perspective of who the customer really is. The customer, after all, is the one that provides said economic growth for the company. Ironically, IT is one of the few organizations in a company that historically has had limited interactions with the customer. That must change. In order for IT (and company as a whole) to succeed, the CIO not only needs to understand the customer, but also be engaged with the customer.

These three things provide a unique, but foundational shift in the way the CIO can impact change in their language and culture. Are these the only changes needed to impact transformation? No. However, these three represent a significant shift in the communications for the CIO and IT with other stakeholders.