Come Talk To Me

Come Talk To Me - Ian Cohen

Ah please talk to me. Won’t you please talk to me

We can unlock this misery. Come on, come talk to me

I did not come to steal. This all is so unreal 

Can’t you show me how you feel. Come on, come talk to me

 

Yes, another Peter Gabriel lyric – but this one came to mind in a discussion around the value of customer complaints

I recently read and posted on a Forbes article suggesting that firms should actively encourage their customers to complain. Essentially the point was that, in a world where we are all trying to delight our customers, understanding why they complain – indeed, actively encouraging these complaints was a great way for a company to gauge how they were performing when it comes to delivering a competitive customer experience

My problem is that this is only part of the story and taken on its own is a potentially harmful perspective. You see, studying complaints will tell you a lot about why some of your customers complain but will tell you nothing about why others are absolutely delighted with your product or service. For many years now I have been concerned by a growing kind of one dimensional causality used by certain analysts.

This crops up in more places than you would expect  – people study divorce to understand about marriage;  we study unhappy customers to understand the happy ones;  employers study disgruntled employees and even hold exit interviews in the vain hope that this will in some way help improve the workplace and help us better understand our staff.  People say we learn from our mistakes – No; we learn about our mistakes from our mistakes – they tell us nothing about our successes.

And that’s my point there’s nothing wrong about encouraging your customers to complain and analysing those complaints IF the aim is to learn why your customers are unhappy. Just don’t think it will tell you anything about why others are delighted.

This all came into sharper focus whilst having a discussion at a recent startup boot-camp style event where a guy proudly told me how his MVP (minimum viable product) had this amazing return loop for capturing feedback on the features that didn’t work well or that customers didn’t like / want. So I casually asked – “What about the stuff they love? How do you encourage them to tell you that?” The silence was palpable and was accompanied with the kind of look “wrinklies” like me are getting used to.

Don’t get me wrong, of course you should analyse why customers discard your product or ignore certain features but don’t think that will tell you anything about why others keep it and focus on certain features. Success, like failure has its own configuration and needs to be studied.

If you are opening a dialogue with your customers you need to focus on the good and the bad; what they love as well as what they hate. Like any great conversation it needs to have the light and the dark if you ever hope to understand the whole picture…

……. so come on; come talk to me

Forget Millennials. Is Your Workplace Ready for Generation Z?

This past year, Millennials became the largest generation in the work force. In the United States, they number over 80 million, making Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1995) the largest cohort size in history.

As this generation reaches their mid-30s, employers are now beginning to shift their focus to the next big wave: Generation Z who are just now entering college and wondering how they will respond to their workplace requirements

Check out the article athttp://www.inc.com/larry-kim/forget-millennials-is-your-workplace-ready-for-generation-z-infographic.html

 

We are family….. aren’t we ??

“Are community clouds the next big thing ?”

Well, that’s what I was asked a while back and it was pretty hard to not allow the questioner to see my eyes rolling back in my head.

For those of you who don’t know; a community cloud is apparently “a collaborative effort in which infrastructure is shared between several organizations from a specific community” and can be “managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally”…. thanks Wikipedia – where would I be without you. By the way Wikipedia also says that “the costs are spread over fewer users than a public cloud (but more than a private cloud), so only some of the cost savings potential of cloud computing are realized”. Interesting that one as I thought we had already long since established that cloud computing won’t not save you any money – please check out Jevons paradox (i know it dates from 1865 but still relevant).

The problem with the current fad for community clouds is it is likely to be just that – as fad. At its most basic the concept seems to have merit given that no one has really cracked the essential “trust” models necessary to fully drive the exploitation of the space between private and public infrastructures (that’s data centre(s) and the web to most of us; but the “hybrid cloud conundrum” to the marketeers).

And yes, it would be a great idea if organisations in similar vertical markets got together to remove some of the security, audit and compliance FUD that is still around. Sadly however, I fear that where genuine “communities” can be created they will be ultimately self serving and in the areas where communities could add some real value – around security, standards and “trust” – they will be far too difficult to create due to competing interests and priorities.

So who will benefit ?? Probably the large holding companies who can use the “community approach” to knit together the spare capacity across their own organisations and create a shared on-demand capability …. or would that just be internal outsourcing ??

CIOs and the recession

I was recently asked to do an interview for the Economist Intelligence Unit on the role of the CIO in a recession.

The interview found its way into a report that is available here >>> EIU Article

Interestingly (or not – depending on your views on these things) it morphed into a panel discussion that is now up on their website. The webcast was set out to “….discuss how CIOs are driving innovation in their organisations today, amidst continued budget stringency and in an uncertain growth environment.

  • How will continued cost discipline affect IT-led innovation?
  • Who are now the CIO’s most important and effective allies as champions of innovation?
  • Has the recession weakened employees’ and managers’ resistance to change?
  • How central are social media and cloud computing to innovation initiatives today?

OK it doesn’t quite have the cut and thrust of BBC Question Time but you can see how we all got on

… or click here for the webcast and content  >>>  EIU Webcast

Enjoy and, as usual, please feel free to post comments, retweet or whatever.

When two tribes go to war …..

According to Bart Perkins in CIO.com: “IT has to take a stand on consumer technology.” He concludes: “It’s better to agree on a corporate policy, publicise it and start budgeting for the projected impact.” I can’t disagree with the latter point, but I also believe consumers will continue to drive this debate: as the new darlings of the tech vendors, they currently hold all the cards.

It wasn’t always this way. The article rightly points out that 10 years ago, most people used more advanced technology at work than at home, whereas now the opposite is true. Today, many employees have better kit at home, and the article notes many also expect their favourite devices to be supported at work. This is indeed the case, but the implications are far more wide-ranging than whether you can bring your favourite gadget to the office. They point to the need for fundamental changes in attitude and approach.

Consumer IT is driving new behaviours and setting new expectations about how we work, as well as the tools we use. There have been too many words/pages written about the role of Facebook, Twitter et al in the workplace, but it’s an undeniable fact that a new generation is arriving with new expectations of a ‘socially enabled’ way of working. To ban or block this behaviour is akin to limiting someone’s vocabulary – you will inevitably get a stilted outcome.

An equally undeniable fact is that the schism between this new consumer (or social) IT and corporate IT is just getting bigger. The focus of corporate IT is narrowing. It increasingly (but rightly) worries about data protection, information security, governance etc, as its world becomes ever more regulated. Social IT, by contrast, moves at a blistering pace, seemingly oblivious to these issues precisely because it is social IT. By definition it’s about sharing, collaborating and networking and thus it’s no surprise most of the publicised innovation is being driven in this area.

Corporate IT is dull and boring – right?? Who’d want to work for a corporate IT department? The networks are slow, the equipment is old, I can’t use my iPhone, it’s so restrictive, so yesterday… If we’re not careful that’s exactly where we’re headed – especially when it’s more attractive to make your money from ‘apps’ and ‘app stores’ rather than actually building applications.

The implications are clear. This debate is about talent not toys. If we don’t act soon we’ll be left with just two types of technology – the interesting (and growing) socially enabled, individually empowered version – where people want to work – and the stilted, highly regulated, narrowly focused version. Oh, and by the way, that’s the one that currently underpins our economy!

This post originally appeared in the  360 degree IT Blog on 14th April 2010

Whats the Buzz ?? It still just tastes like chicken

Almost a year ago now I blogged about the impending death of innovation when it comes to the user interface and asked “Does everything have to taste like chicken?”

My point was that in the rush to get the next great Web2.0/Social Networking/collaborative toy out into the market, developers were just copying each other and no one was being really innovative. Rather than celebrating the fact that one could be genuinely different, the prevailing view seemed to be that if you simply just throw more and more familiar stuff into into the same pot then the customers will be happy. Its the equivalent of the one stop shop…. the BlueWater approach to development. Just put as much as you can in one place and then the punter doesn’t need to think – they can just do. So as a result; Facebook updates Twitter which can update Facebook and set your status automatically in Linkedin which can pass the information to Plaxo and so on. Tweetdeck can be a browser and can now do embedded Picasa and YouTube, Disgby can look like Google Talk but actually update everything – aggghhhh !!!

Well, here we are almost 12 months on and its no better – infact to my eyes its getting worse…. and the most recent offender in the tastes like chicken stakes is Google Buzz. Who in the name of all thats good and true though we needed yet another social networking tool and then, worse still, who thought it would be a bright idea to embed it in a really good email client. Jeez, it must have been ‘Chicken Tonight’ over in Mountain View when they came up with Buzz. Now I don’t intend to go into the well documented privacy concerns here – you can google them – but just pause for a minute on the approach. Did we really need another status setting tool ? Did we really want to grow our already impossibly large contact lists again ? Did we really want our finely tuned and pimped Gmail client messed up with yet more notifications ?? ….. and wouldn’t an add on to Gtalk been just as useful (sic) ?

To my eyes, and granted they’re getting on in years now, it seems that there’s no value in being innovative. First mover advantage has all but disappeared and now we can all be fast followers – even Google – by just incrementing what already exists. Call me an old cynic but everything really is starting to taste like chicken

What d’ya think ?

New York Times appoints social media editor

I have to admit I didn’t really know what to make of this when it first hit the wires.

My initial reaction was “contradictions in terms” – surely the whole essence of social media is that is is self generating, self managing and ultimately self perpetuating so why would anyone need to be an editor ?

Dig a little deeper and you find the role, according to a memo from  deputy managing editor Jonathan Landman is “… someone who concentrates full-time on expanding the use of social media networks and publishing platforms to improve New York Times journalism and deliver it to readers”. Laudable indeed. The memo continues that the role will   “… work closely with editors, reporters, bloggers and others to use social tools to find sources, track trends, and break news as well as to gather it”

So there it is. Not exactly an editor – more like an evangelist and mentor to the collective editorial wisdom at the NYT. No bad thing at all…. and the holder of this illustrious title is one Jennifer Preston.

As of 27/05/09, Jenifer had over 2500 followers but surprising was only following 165 of us. I guess she’s getting plenty of input and just being selective 🙂 but we should probably all wish her good luck.