Customer information

I remember being at a conference some years ago, when I was asked “Of all the things that are being hyped right now, what do you dislike most?”I replied “Customer Relationship Management”, arguing that the models I saw were more about Customer Exploitation Management than about Relationship Management. You don’t seek to exploit people you have a relationship with.

A couple of years ago, in conversation with Doc Searls, we touched on similar themes. He recounted a tale of the time he spent in Africa, and how markets there worked on relationship first and transaction second, in terms of the way the conversations flow. Something along the lines of “How’s your uncle’s wisdom tooth doing?” “Did your son-in-law finally learn to drive?” “Did you hear about Nathaniel’s adventure?”

Doc posited that the relationship-then-only-when-called-for-transaction route was the way conversations should go, and that we had somehow lost our way in the West. Having spent half my life in India, this resonated with me.

The next day, I heard Dick Hardt do his Subterranean Homesick Blues bit with Identity. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a must. You can find it here. And I walked away loving it. Yes, why can’t I share my Amazon buying profile with other booksellers? Why can’t I share my airline and hotel information more usefully across multiple providers? Isn’t it my information in the first place?

And rattling around in the back of my mind was some of the stuff in Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point arguments. [Wow. I was wondering how best to describe the book and the arguments. Of course. Wikipedia, what else?]. There was a sense that connectors, mavens and salesmen demonstrated weak-interaction behaviour in terms of soft-hands non-exploitative relationships with their network of influence. Which worked so much better than the MLM and pyramid selling techniques we are all more used to.

I’m posting this for a very simple reason. Trying to gauge what people are doing about this, the need to give customer information back to the customer. Who’s doing it rather than just talking about it?

Identity and authentication and permissioning are critical to the buildout of 21st century enterprise applications.

Using the web at work

There’s regular debate on whether people should be “allowed personal use” of the web while at work. While dinosaur organisations try and block this altogether and talk of employees “stealing time” this way, thankfully most don’t.

There’s always a liberty versus licence issue in situations like this. Even the liberal organisations tend to have some controls, usually to provide prudent proof that rogue employees weren’t doing something illegal, and so everyone tends to have some filtering and blocking.

Where I work, the debate rages every now and then, usually catalysed by a site being blocked for ostensibly good reasons but having unintended consequences. Like having to go home to get work done.

Thanks to Jackie Danicki for reminding me of this via one of her recent posts. She pointed me towards a discussion on the subject at TechDirt, which fundamentally made the point that all the studies supporting control of surfing at work were done by firms somehow related to the sale of control software. No surprise there.

Why is it that so many firms buy this argument, that staff should somehow be blocked from doing anything but work at work? The only explanation I can find is that even in the 21st century, people spend more time trying to measure and control inputs rather than outputs. More fodder for Fossilfools, I guess.

I thought that people get paid for results rather than effort. Analogous to JM Keynes’ engine of healthy enterprise being profit rather than thrift, controlling and monitoring inputs alone is not just dangerous but ultimately counterproductive. You might as well get knowledge workers to punch cards on their way in and their way out.

Which is fine, but then firms have to bear the consequences. Clockwatching. Work to rule. Unionisation. Contractual commitments to pay overtime. Jobsworth attitudes. Tunnel vision. You treat people like machines, you should expect mechanical results.

Why dangerous? If things go this way, I guess I can foresee a time where spouses and children start class actions against firms for providing their partner/parent with a BlackBerry. Stealing personal and family time….. I won’t laugh, it could happen yet. Oh frabjous day calloo callay.

And the correct fossilised response would be? To continue issuing the Blackberries, but telling staff they are banned from using them at home or outside office hours. Ricardo Semler come back all is forgiven.

As long as people “get their job done” and “do no evil” there should be an absence of inappropriate controls. Unwise firms will have to watch their key assets, their people, leave otherwise.

Blogs entice people to write down what they know

David Weinberger’s comments following his recent trip to Germany make interesting reading; I particularly like the suggestion of emergent osmosis from within the organisation to the extended enterprise. It seems to reflect the way we tried things out at the bank. His post can be found here.

People don�t have to get permission to do something useful. Great quote from Jimmy Wales

Every now and then, the internal blogosphere where I work gets heated with arguments about open and closed content. What works, what doesn’t and why.While researching something else, I came across this interview with Jimmy Wales, and liked the way the social aspect of the wiki was described.

Why another blog?

I promise not to use the phrases Web 2.0 or “long tail” intentionally in this blog. How about that?

I’ve been fascinated by information all my life, and serendipitously been allowed to work in the information sector for most of it. The Moore-Metcalfe-Gilder Laws continue to have their effect, and with telephony becoming software, I feel we’re at a wonderful inflection point in the sector. And what I want to do via this blog is to catalyse conversations about some of the things that really matter to me in this context. How search, publishing, fulfilment and conversation become the core applications of the future. How we can prevent the unintended consequences of walled-garden approaches to content. How we can avoid DRM holding up innovation. Why identity and presence and authentication and permissioning are important. Why emergence theories and “democratized innovation” matter. How we can take advantage of the opportunities that mobile devices offer us.

I’ve been influenced by many people over the years, and would like to acknowledge the works of John Seely Brown, Ken Ohmae, the Cluetrain gang and Esther’s Release 1 crew in “corrupting” me. And some very unusual and gifted bosses and colleagues over the years. Be warned.