Category: Events (page 2 of 4)

Prepping for IIW

IIWCode talks, talk walksCraig Burton just said in a phone conversation about IIW #12, which is coming up in Mountain View in the first week of May: the week after next. I like the spirit of that statement. Lots of VRM and related development efforts will be present there. Same goes for lots of APIs, and opportunities to improve them and hook them together. So we should see some good hacking done there and shown off as well.

Toward the API side of that, Craig points us to Punctuated Equilibrium, Celestial Navigation, and APIs, a slide deck by Sam Ramji (@sramji), Dan Jacobson (@daniel_jacobson) and Michael Hart (@michaelhart). Sam and Michael are both at Apigee . Michael worked on the Netflix API. And Dan came to Netflix after doing great work on NPR’s excellent API.  Sam gave a great talk along the same lines a few weeks back at Kynetx’ Impact 2011 conference. (Photos start here. My own slides are here.) I hope one or more of those guys can come down, show off what they’re doing and help us out.

I know there will be other newcomers to IIW, though I don’t want to say who yet. (Let’s let that be a pleasant surprise.) What I know is that they’ll bring work they’re doing, and expect to contribute and not just to hang out and talk about stuff. Obviously, we need to talk. In fact, IIW is home to more productive talking than I’ve ever heard at any other conference of any kind, thanks to its open space-sytle format, and Kaliya Hamlin‘s expert facilitation. (Speaking of which, here’s Kaliya’s post about possible IIW topics.)

IIW has been focused on identity for the duration (that’s been its middle name). Identity is still a big issue — maybe bigger than ever — but the contexts have been changing, especially around a core VRM concern: growing independence and capacity for action and interaction by individuals, especially in respect to data we each either gather for ourselves or share with others. This is what the Personal Data Ecosystem (of which VRM plays a role) is all about. On deck at IIW will be many approaches, technologies, protocols and other other developments toward personal data control and sharing. To visit a few, check the last two links.

Craig suggests that the growing connections between individuals and institutions (corporate or otherwise), especially through APIs, constitutes a new form of infrastructure. And, like me, he thinks that infrastructure itself needs to be visited as a topic, since we’ll be making more and more of it ourselves, and in cooperation with others. So, that’s a topic too.

Personally, I think we’re at the end of the Web 2.0 era and at the start of something less numeral and far more profound. Louis Gray calls it the Third Wave of the Web: one that’s uniquely personal. I agree. From the corporate side, this looks like personalization. But that’s not enough. In fact, personalization without personal independence is just more of the same, but with a smaller bull’s eye. We need to be the same independent, sovereign, autonomous human beings on the Net that we are in the physical world. I wrote about the problem with the current (mostly corporate and silo’d) social media matrix in A Sense of Bewronging.

What I say there, and have said many times before, is that we’re nearing the end of a bubble period, especially around “social” you-name-it, and its defaulted business model: advertising. I spoke about this a bit at the IAB (Internet Advertising Board) Annual Leadership meeting in Palm Springs, on February 28. The show’s theme was “The People vs. Data”, and I was joined in conversation on stage with John Battelle (at his invitation, good man). The title of the meeting (with >1000 attending, and in the room) was “Data, Privacy and Control — Unpacking the Role of the Consumer in the Media and Marketing Ecosystem.” John and I had some interesting back-and-forths on our blogs (see here), and carried the same exchange forward in front of many hundreds of folks in the very hot online advertising business. A short video hunk of the conversation is here on YouTube. I have other notes, which I’ll put up after I get back from my current trip. Meanwhile, many open tabs need to be closed, so here is a rundown, in no particular order:

I’ll add more later in two new posts, one about a VRM vertical, the other about a VRM horizontal. The vertical is health care. The horizontal is legal (because it cuts across everything). I suppose identity does too, but we just covered that.

Volunteer some below as well.

Fourth parties and VRM

One of my oldest jokes (from back when I used to write them) was “With the two party system you can clean up one while you’re having the other.” Well, I kind of raised the ante with VRM and the Four Party System, almost exactly two years ago. The idea was to label a category of service that would work mostly for customers.

Since then fourth party has started to come into use, for example in this post by . Naturally, folks in standing industries, such as banking, have wondered if they might either be fourth parties, or might offer fourth party services. So, questions about meanings and distinctions come up. For example, does (or should) fourth party change the meaning of third party, which is the most commonly used phrase of the four, at least on the Web:

  1. ” = 7,400,000 results
  2. = 1,100,000 results
  3. = 115,000,000 results
  4. = 496,000 results

Of course, those include results for political parties and other kinds of entities that have nothing to do with business. But you see some of the story here. Third party is a familiar term, at least in business.

In fact there is no single or simple meaning for third party. Wikipedia has seventeen different entries for third party, including eight in business. In the tech world, third party most commonly modifies application or developer, and in general augments or accessorizes a platform. The top tech result for #3 above is Twitter tells third party devs to stop making Twitter client apps. And lately online advertisers (or some of them) are tarring the third party label a bit. For example, the Wall Street Journal’s “” series explores secretive and intrusive tracking of users. One sample sentence: “The most intrusive monitoring comes from what are known in the business as ‘third party’ tracking files.” They also call the sites “first parties.”

West’s Ecyclopedia of Law (), says this:

A generic legal term for any individual who does not have a direct connection with a legal transaction but who might be affected by it.

third-party beneficiary is an individual for whose benefit a contract is created even though that person is a stranger to both the agreement and the consideration. Such an individual can usually bring suit to enforce the contract or promise made for his or her benefit.

third-party action is another name for the procedural device of , which is used in a civil action by a defendant who wants to bring a third party into a lawsuit because that party will ultimately be liable for all, or part of, the damages that may be awarded to the plaintiff.

So it gets complicated. But we can make it simple by saying a third party in general no loyalty to either of the first two parties, even if it is commonly associated more with sellers than buyers. The quality of detachment is what matters most.

When the fourth party idea came to me in the first place, I was thinking about voice. That is, first party would be like the first person voice (I, me, mine, ours), while second party would be like the second person singular voice (you, yours), and third party would be like the third person singular voice (he, she, it, them, theirs). I thought fourth party would be defined most clearly as “a third party for the customer.”

What matters most is coming to, and guiding, understandings of fourth parties and what they do, and what makes them distinctive, as customers (in their first party role) gain more tools, independence and power in the marketplace.

Toward that end I posted something on the ProjectVRM list this morning. posted Fourth parties are agents. Third parties aren’t necessarily in response. It’s a long and thoughtful piece, based on his own work in and around the topic over the last several years. In it he corrects some of what I said in my email to the list, and I’m cool with that. His bottom lines:

In every platform, there are third parties who create apps that run on the platform. Microsoft built Windows, but Adobe built Photoshop. Apple built the iPhone, but Skype built Skype.  For platforms to be successful, they necessarily bring in 3rd party developers to build on top of the platform. These developers aren’t necessarily working on behalf of the platform provider, and it would be a miscarriage of alignment to claim that they are. They are out for themselves, usually by providing unique value to the end user. Some new widget that makes live better.

This becomes even more true when you are dealing with open platforms, or what I called Level 4 Platforms (building on Marc Andreeson’s The 3 Platforms You Meet on the Internet). In open platforms, you actually have 3rd parties helping contribute to the code base of the platform itself.  Netscape adds tables to HTML. Microsoft adds the <marquee> tag.  But here, it is even crazier to imagine that these 3rd parties are acting on behalf of the platform party… because there really isn’t a platform party. Nobody owns the Internet.

I think the right way to think about 4th Parties is that they have a fiduciary responsibility to the 1st party and 3rd parties may or may not.

Fourth Parties answer to the 1st party.

3rd Parties may not answer to anyone.

Platforms themselves are also changing. In many cases what matters most about them is not the floor they put under whole environments (which they might be said to “own” in some but not all cases), but the connections they make outward through APIs. For example, provides a handy Web service API for building apps. Is it a platform? Or is it something that requires another metaphor? I’m not sure.

Twilio is pitched mostly to companies, but as a user I can build on Twilio as well. In fact, I can build stuff that uses lots of APIs.

And what happens when we each have our own APIs — that is, when we have our own platforms (or tool boxes, or whatever) for all kinds of VRM stuff? Such as, for sending personal RFPs out to trusted second, third and fourth parties? Or, when our trusted fourth parties do the sending for us (or just saying to second and third parties, “yeah, this person is for real and can be trusted”). The sky is wide open on this stuff. It’s about connecting and relating now. Not just capturing and milking.

By the way, we’ll be talking about this and much more at the next IIW. Joe will be there, along with many other VRM developers. Come influence us — and your own future as a self-empowered customer in the open marketplace.

The Customer Vector

In Call for startup: Easy domain editing, the first in a series of blog posts in which  lays out opportunities for startups, he says this:

In all cases, these startups will have a business model that revolves around an old-fashioned idea that will, imho, once again become fashionable — the customer. People pay the company for a service they provide. This has all kinds of good side-effects. We’ll see customer-driven products, ones designed to serve users, instead of some vague idea of a marketer that can sell things to the users. It will foster competition to serve users. It will help the economy straighten itself out and start creating products with obvious utility.

The italics and boldface are mine. I emphasize them because this is what VRM has been about for the duration. And it isn’t coincidental, because Dave’s work and thinking have been an influence on mine since I first ran into Dave in the booth at Comdex in Atlanta, circa 1982 (when Think Tank ran on the Apple II, as I recall).

I think at least some of the start-ups Dave’s talking about here fall into a category we’ve been calling . Put simply, fourth parties relate to customers the way third parties relate to larger parties on the vendors’ side. They are assistants, aligned with the the intentions of the customer. Money coming from the customer helps with that alignment. One problem we have right now, especially in the advertising-funded collection of companies on the Web, is that the customer — you and me — pay nothing directly for the services offered. Instead we (or assumptions about us) are what’s sold to the advertisers.

In this respect much of the commercial Web shares a problem that commercial broadcasing has had since the beginning: their customers and their consumers are different populations. For most of its services (search, Gmail, etc.) Google has no more of a direct economic (i.e. paid) relationship with you than does a commercial radio station. But rather than go down the rat-hole of what’s wrong (or not yet right) about the commercial Web, let’s look at what kinds of businesses might operate in the space Dave is laying out: the one where customers do the driving.

First, let’s go back three years to , by (who is sitting next to me here at ). The pull quote:

VRM… is about starting with the user and creating value on their behalf, first. We do that specifically by focusing on commercial transactions and by enabling mutually beneficial relationships. It isn’t about moving the power from Vendors to Individuals, it is about creating new efficiencies and new value points across the ecosystem and marketplace that improve the situation for everyone.

With VRM, the value begins with the individual. The rest is implementation.

By focusing directly on the point of value for the user, I believe we can create more value, more quickly than trying a forensics approach on deeper, larger, data sets. The user is the natural point of integration for any number of services.

Right now there are more new companies and development groups in this space than I can begin to count, and many more have showed up in the past two weeks, at in Austin, at in Zurich and now at Kynetx Impact in Salt Lake City. In fact I’m in a room full of them here. Some of us are talking about the stir that one VRM developer, Connect.Me, made at SXSW, getting more than 60 thousand new users in a matter of hours. All Things Digital has a good write-up and video on the whole thing, featuring an interview with Drummond Reed, who has been doing VRM development since before the beginning. My own case for Connect.Me is simple: it’s safe single sign-on, or SSSO. Think Facebook Connect without Facebook. No personal data spillage. No hidden games. No bait for advertisers. (For more on how all that works, see Joe Andrieu’s ISharedWhat.com.)

So, in no particular order (or, in the order of the business cards I’ve saved and browser tabs I’ve kept open), here are just some of the outfits I’ve encountered recently:

  • (“…develops specifications for a secure, scalable, standards-based way to establish universal health addressing and transport for participants (including providers, laboratories, hospitals, pharmacies and patients) to send encrypted health information directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet”)
  • (“Benefit from the digital data you create every day.”)
  • (“your collection of the products you love”)
  • (“A New Dawn for Federated Identity… Achieve SSO with internal and external websites”)
  • (“More than a digital filing cabinet, it’s ONE place to store family memories and householdl information…”)
  • (“The Social Exchange where you Own, Control and Monetize your Digital Life”)
  • (“The global provider of secure financial messaging services”)
  • (“It’s almost here. We’ll be ready to lift the covers in 20110325040000. “We’re talking a full work platform with messaging, calendars…”)
  • (“Where everything has a price.”)
  • (The store. You’ve been there.)

And that’s on top of all the other VRM projects and companies listed here.

We’re not talking here about pure VRM efforts, but about organizations with (or about) which I’ve had VRM conversations, and are interested either in participating in VRM development or seeing where it goes.

What they all understand is that power is growing on the customer side, and that this growing power is native. That is, personal. It’s natural to talk about “shifts” in power, as if power is always balanced and zero sum. But this is different. What we have is new work on tools that make customers independent and better able to interact in the networked world.

Here at Kynetx Impact I’m going to give a brief keynote tonight (right ahead of himself), in which I’ll bring up three more companies that are front-burner for me right now, because I’ll be meeting with them and talking seriously about VRM in the next few weeks.

The first is . I’ll be at for the whole show and will speak there too. A lot of what we talked about at VRM+CRM 2010 will be on the table there, plus much more.

The second is, and the third is . I’ll be meeting with both in Minneapolis right after SugarCon.

We are now at the point in history when development and zeitgeist converge. The Social era is ending and the Personal era is beginning. makes it possible. This is the Web that is both real-time and interactive at the human level: where the supply follows and responds to personal demand and other economic signals, in secure and safe ways, outside the old client-server-based system of submissive and dominant parties, of cookies for clients and guesswork by servers, that has dominated e-commerce for 1.5 decades.

In the personal era, on the Live Web, individuals will be in charge of the contexts and conditions in which their personal data — their intentions especially — are shared with sellers, either directly or with the help of fourth parties.

This is where an enormous amount of development will bloom, and economic activity will follow.

Our job in the VRM community is to do that development, and to help each other make our cases to all those who are interested. My specific request is for help with the three parties named above. Others will step up, but those three at the front of my own queue, right now.

How customers matter more than data about them

When I ran across Inc.‘s The 5 Habits of Quality Focused Companies, I was intrigued, because I thought maximizing personal contact with customers would be one of the five. Instead the closest Inc. came was this:

2. They collect and analyze data.

Collecting data is more common than ever, particularly with the advent of Web analytics. But companies that focus on quality have long stood out thanks to their passion for data. Moreover, the metrics they track go above and beyond either web or financial information. For example, Inc.’s John Case wrote a profile of Granite Rock, a phenomenally successful quarry (yes, quarry) in 1992. Customer surveys played a major role in the company’s governing philosophy, with information collected at all kinds of intervals, and results shared widely among the quarry’s 400 workers. “The role of managers,” Granite Rock CEO Bruce Woolpert told Case, “is to make sure there’s a flood of information coming into the company.” Would you say that this was true in your business?

Dig Deeper: How to Use Online Tools for Customer Surveys

That piece begins, “If you’re truly willing to listen to — and act on — feedback, here’s the way to do it right”. But they’re not talking about listening to individual human beings. Instead they’re talking about listening to what surveys say:

In the Internet age, customer feedback is only a click away. Online surveys are one of the best ways to solicit it. Done right, online surveys can help you more effectively listen to customers and make informed business decisions.

But before you design and launch a survey, think about this: are you, or is your company, willing to act on the insight a survey generates? In short: Can your company handle the truth?

That’s nice as far as it goes. But it only goes to the aggregate, even in “social” settings:

Another issue that may come into play is how you intend to deliver the survey. If you want to know how satisfied your existing customers are, you may already have their e-mail addresses on file from previous interactions so you may want to send them an e-mail with a link to an online survey. To reach this population, you may also decide to have a survey on your website for existing customers to access.

Another growing option, Terry says, is to use your business’ Facebook fans or Twitter subscribers as a potential survey population by using online survey tools that integrate with social media. “A lot of businesses have realized that it’s cheap and efficient to interact with customers online using social media,” he says. “Increasingly a lot of customers spending time online and specifically in social media channels. There are good survey opportunities with people who have been following your business online. You want to ask questions where your customers are, meaning you can post a survey to Facebook or send it via Twitter.”

What none of this touches is a problem all surveys have, by design: they’re not personal. As I explained in Why surveys suck,

They tend to be as impersonal and non-conversational as a TV signal — even when a human being is conducting the survey in person. They always see me as part of a group rather than as an individual (which is how each of us feels our needs). They always make assumptions (about me, about what I might want, about what I belong to) that range from slightly-off to outright-wrong. And they always lead to conclusions that represent neither me nor the population in which I am being grouped.

I don’t doubt or deny that surveys do a lot of good. But only in the context of a marketplace where vendors alone bear the full responsibility for relating to customers. Once we, as customers, get tools that let us educate vendors personally, many surveys will become unnecessary. One way we can gauge the success of VRM is by watching the number of surveys decline.

Thought: Some of the best survey questions are the ones that never get asked because sales and marketing impulses override knowledge that the customer would certainly say “no”.

Of course surveys can be very helpful, for all the reasons Inc. gives. But even when they’re necessary, surveys are insufficient in a world where customers are increasingly well-equipped and independent. Surveys also risk rationalizing more of what Umair Haque calls “thin value,” while also blinding companies to “thick value.”

As Umair explains in this talk, thin value is “inauthentic, brittle and unsustainable.” Surveys risk thinness of the first sort, because they are at best authentic only to aggregate samples. They can’t be authentic in respect to individuals, except when they provide a way for individuals to add what they might like, and to provide their name and contact information on an opt-in basis. But even in those cases, the value of individual input is usually external to the main purpose of the survey, which is to produce numbers — not conversations.

In her Venure Beat review of Umair’s new book, The New Capitalist Manifesto: Driving a Disruptively Better Business (Harvard Business Press, 2011), Ciara Byrne compresses his thick value case nicely:

He defines “thick value” as value which is authentic, in that it is not created at someone else’s expense but creates value for others, meaningful in that it matters in human terms and sustainable by not being bubble-driven or built on the destruction of resources. Think Etsy rather than Gap or Innocent Drinks rather than Coca-Cola.

I submit that one good way to find thick value is to get personal with customers. Not with more systems for “managing” customers, or investing in “relationships” that resemble the dairy cattle business more than anything human. Instead, let them get truly personal with you.

“Social” whatever alone won’t cut it. To explain, I’ll turn the blog’s floor over to Jonathan Yarmis, writing first about “social ennui” and then VRM:

I think a state of “social ennui” is setting in.  For those of you who are unilingual, ennui is French for “boredom.”  Gartner would call this phenomenon the “trough of disillusionment.”  Everyone’s on the social media bandwagon now.  You’ve got 1,000 Facebook friends, you’re a social media consultant.  Social media will solve disease, global warming, make us all happier, richer and more content.  Better looking, too.  People are way overpromising and underdelivering.  But, as I’ve observed earlier in this blog, that’s the nature of technological change.  We overstate the impact and benefits in the short-term.  God, is that going on here!  But interestingly, we understate the impact and change in the medium-term.  And I again fully expect that to be the case with “social media.”

Social media is in the still very early stages of something that’s going to end up flipping relationships and changing others.  No, we’re not going to throw out everything we know.  The new rarely ever does that.  Yes, we still ride horses.  But the advent of the automobile changed what and how we use horses…

But there’s more.  Social media changes “public relations” in profound fashion.  Not only do you have a direct path to the public, and your customers and competitors also have those same direct paths, your paths to the “influencers” have been augmented in significant ways, and new influencers have emerged who influence both traditional influencers and your buying public.  Yeah, that’s a lot of change.  I won’t get into the whole social media “you’ve got to be part of the conversation” discussion here.  First, that’s a whole other post.  Second, if I hear one more person say “you’ve got to be part of the conversation,” I’m going to slap them.  That’s exactly why we’re suffering from social ennui.  Lastly, the whole discussion is already over-discussed.  You don’t need yet another perspective, however nuanced, from me.

But we still haven’t scratched the surface of the change to come.  Longer term, I am fiercely interested in the emerging discipline known as VRM.  Vendor relationship management.  Its most powerful advocate is Doc Searls, he of the Cluetrain Manifesto(can you believe that was almost 12 years ago?!).  I actually arrived at the concept independently.  I was asked a few years ago to do a presentation on Social CRM.  I talked a little about how “social” provides new insights into the customer relationship equation, providing new insights previously unavailable.  I went on that putting “social” in front of everything reminded me of Internet 1.0 when we put an “e” in front of everything.  eBusiness.  eMarketing.  eThis.  eThat. Until we realize the distinction was no longer differentiating and in fact no longer valid.  (It’s interesting.  Even my spell-checker wants to flag eBusiness as a typo.)  It was business.  It was marketing.  And so ultimately SCRM is just the next iteration of CRM.  But, I hypothesized, the big change came when users flipped the relationship and started managing their vendor relationships the same way the vendors manage their relationships with us.  SCRM leads to VRM.  When after the presentation, someone told me about existing early thinking about VRM, I was both disappointed (I thought I was about to invent my first category) and thrilled (there’s momentum!!).  As an analyst, this is an important moment.  We can do all the theorizing we want but unless someone’s actually building this stuff, it’s not terribly interesting.

While VRM is far from mainstream now (for many, this will be the first time you’ve even heard of the notion), there’s an interesting community growing up around it and some large retailers are dabbling and monitoring.  The concept here is twofold.  One, the big vision for the field, is that tools will be developed that will enable customers to manage their relationships with vendors and that the relationship is ultimately owned by the customer, not the vendor.  CRM will never give a full view of the customer because the customer deals with multiple channels and providers.  VRM is the only way that picture can be developed…and customers will share that view with vendors who offer value in return.  At its most extreme, imagine an easy-to-create-and-manage iRFP (individual request-for-proposal) process.  Yes, it’s hard to imagine and even harder to do but if done, wildly powerful.  The more selfish view for retailers, as I heard another friend express to a major retailer, “what if you knew what a customer was looking for when they walked in your store.  What if you really knew?”  Today, at best you’re making a guess based on past purchase patterns, incentives you’ve provided, etc.  But if you know the totality of what they were looking for, you could sell solutions, not products.  You could upsell.  You could target…

You might argue that consumers are lazy and that they don’t want to manage their relationships.  OK, you’ve got me there.  You’re right.  This is the real stumbling block.  The tools had better be REAL easy to use with REAL economic value in exchange for participation.  This will require serious software work that assembles what consumers are already doing with social media, parsing and assembling it and making reasonable suggestions and solutions out of our piecemeal, bottom’s-up approach to information sharing.

There are already real players in this space.  Look at Kynetx.  I pick them not because they’re totally on point with VRM, although they can and will get there.  I pick them not because they’re necessarily the best solution out there; I haven’t spent enough time looking at vendors to make a Magic Quadrant.  I pick them because my old friend and foil, Craig Burton (VP of Marketing for Novell, when Novell owned PC networking 23 years ago) told me about them a year ago and brought me in to meet them.  The problems they’re trying to solve are real and exciting, and great for us users.

VRM is the next big thing.  Even as social ennui sets in and we wonder what all the hype was about, there’s real change coming around the corner.  This isn’t old wine in new bottles, or at least it won’t be.  If I were a mainstream marketer, I might take the old wine position for now.  I wouldn’t want to try and sell my company on this from the inside right now.  They’d look at your strangely.  (Well, they probably already do that.)  But in my role, as outside provocateur, I’m going to yelling this one louder and louder.  A decade ago, we were yelling that the Internet was going to change everything.  Pets.com and Webvan died.  The naysayers snickered.  And then we went and changed everything.  We’re going to do it again.  Come along for the ride.

Two events are coming where you can saddle up. The first is Kynetx Impact, March 22-23, near Salt Lake City, Utah. The second is IIW, May 3-5 in Mountain View, California. (Disclosures: I consult Kynetx and I co-organize IIW.) Developers working on VRM tools will be there. If you want to help customers help you — directly and personally — these events are the place to be. You don’t need a survey to tell you that, either.

Conversational Commerce Conference

If you’re in the Bay Area and care about VRM, please try to make the Conversational Commerce Conference (aka C3) in San Francisco today and/or tomorrow. It’s put on by Dan Miller and other friends at Opus Research. They describe the conference thusly:

Marketing and customer service are on a collision course. Social media now shine a bright light on customer service interactions, which increasingly have brand implications. Customer care can also offer valuable insights for marketing and product development. How many companies are adapting and turning this to their advantage? Still too few as old modes of thinking remain entrenched in organizations.

One VRM session goes this way:

This session features a debate between advocates of opposing views of data, personal information and marketing. Who will control commercial conversation, the consumer or the marketer? Is there any common ground? And does vendor relationship management (VRM) hold realistic promise for the future of consumer-marketer conversations?

If I coulda been there I woulda. But maybe you can, and I highly encourage it.

The Personal Data Story

Yesterday MyDex launched its Community Prototype at IIW. Coverage —

The whole release:

Today (Monday October 11) Mydex announced a live test of its revolutionary Personal Data Store service.

Personal Data Stores are designed to restore to individuals control over the management and sharing of their personal data online. They promise to create a positive step change in the relationship between individuals and the organisations they deal with.

Participants trialling the service include the Department for Work and Pensions, London Borough of Brent, London Borough of Croydon, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and the social network Netmums. External verification is provided by Experian. Additional recruitment of individual triallists and research will be provided by YouGov.

Official observers and contributors include the Information Commissioner’s Office, Directgov (now part of the Cabinet Office), the Direct Marketing Association, Open Society Foundation, Olswang LLP, UCL, Swirrl IT Limited, Workdocx, HometownPlus, Patients Know Best, The Customer’s Voice and Ctrl-Shift. Azigo joins the prototype as lead technology partner, with support from AvocoSecure on application development.

Mydex is based in the Young Foundation’s ‘launchpad’ service.

Iain Henderson and friends at MyDex have been working hard on this for a long time. We should wish the well and help with the learnings that follow.

Bonus links:

As more come along, let me know and I’ll add them here

VRM+CRM Follow-Up

It’s been a week since VRM+CRM 2010, and there have been many conversations on private channels (emails, face-to-face, phone-to-phone, face-to-faces), all “processing,” as they say. Meanwhile we also have some very interesting postings to chew on. (Note: This is cross-posted here.)

First, Bill Wendell‘s RealEstateCafe wiki has a nice outline of sessions at the workshop. Better than our own, so far, I might add. Great notes behind his many links, and an excellent resource.

Next, there is Katherine Warman Kerns’s Making Sense of Things (which follows her HuffPo piece, Will VRMCRM2010 disrupt ambiguity?). Here Katherine puts on some hats we both shared as veterans of the advertising and media businesses, and does some great thinking out loud about better ways for marketing energy to be spent than CRM, online advertising and FSIs (I believe these are Free Standing Inserts). An excerpt:

What if that 3% in CRM, the 1% in FSI’s, and the less than 1% online are the same heavy TV watchers with nothing better to do?You’d think there would be a lot of investment in innovation to develop “something better”, but innovators are getting mixed signals from advertisers.  Most businesses still advertise  in order to convince retailers and/or Wall Street that they are supporting the brand.

Few outsiders understand that advertising has become a business to business marketing tactic more than a business to “consumer” tactic. Instead of paying attention to advertising spending trends -  dropping from 40.6 % of the total media/marketing industry in 1975 to 17.2% in 2009 . . . . . .  the Venture world pays attention to the proportional amount spent on different tactics: “what this chart (provided by GOOGLE’s Hal Varian) says is that over that past decade Internet has gone from nothing to 5% of all the ad spend in the US”.  As I point out in my comment on this post, “At 5% of 17.2% that puts internet advertising at less than 1% of total media/marketing revenues. “

Ignoring this fundamental change in the market, an amazing amount of money is wasted on investing in incremental change.  For example, the race is on (reportedly, over $40 Billion a year) to upgrade CRM technology to improve predictive accuracy so that 3% will go up.

I’m all for continuous improvement process . . .  but, when the starting point is single digit success and that success may not even be among the desirable demographic who leaves the house, doesn’t it make sense to spend some of that money developing Plan B?

Hey if everyone on the team is aiming for the same corner of the goal with a single digit success rate, doesn’t it make sense to develop the skill to go after the remaining 90%+ of the goal?Until something better comes along, a market leader, P&G is quietly investing in the “new media” segment, “custom digital publishing”, to reach their target with less waste and to identify “thought leaders” to engage in their leading edge open innovation process.  Two examples are beinggirl.com and the partnership with NBCU to produce lifegoesstrong.com.

A new technology movement is creating a possibility to offer something even better: making it possible to shift the paradigm from improving Business to Customer communications to improving Customer to Business communication. Instead of wasting money on better ways to interrupt customers with messages, the customers are enabled to tell business when and what they want information. Project Vendor Relationship Management is the thought leadership evangelizing this premise and encouraging technology development.  On August 26-27, a workshop calledVRMCRM2010 introduced many of these technologies to VRM fans and receptive CRM professionals.

Media has an opportunity to use this technology to give all participants “The Freedom to be Ourselves”.   Instead of self-censuring because of uncertainty over what, with whom, or when their participation will be available for exploitation in “cyberspace”, participants may manage the release of identity, content, and information “in context”.   AND this control can be mutual – for  the “formerly known as audience”, the “formerly known as creative content producers”**, and the “formerly known as advertisers”.

Mutual benefit has the potential to breakdown the siloes which are barriers to collaborate on innovation.  Indeed, VRMCRM- like technologies offer a blank canvas of possibilities for media and marketing innovation to  disrupt ambiguity.

Next, Dan Miller’s In Spite of Investment in “Social CRM”, Enterprises are Still not Paying Attention. Dan, who led the CRM panel at the workshop, sees CRM and social CRM as a train wreck in progress:

…current solutions that are based in CRM and social CRM capture and conduct analysis on a broad set of customer generated data and metadata. Companies think they are doing a better job of paying attention but, whether they admit it to themselves or not, they continue to use their resources to analyze activity, target messages and promotions and influence future activity. That’s not listening or engaging in a meaningful conversation.

VRM involves a totally different engagement model. “Users” (be they shoppers, searchers, mobile subscribers or “other”) initiate conversations with their selected vendors through a trusted resource or advocate. They can compare notes with other shoppers/customers and, while they may be loyal to a brand, they are more loyal to themselves and their peers. In the ideal, the power shifts to the shopper in ways that will disintermediate traditional channels (like the contact center) and influencers (meaning commercials and advertisements).

The train wreck is not the result of there being too many names for the social CRM phenomenon, it is that CRM and VRM are on a collision course whereby one side seeks to grant more power to buyers while the other seeks to retain nearly all the power by pretending to do a better job of listening.

On the other hand, Denis Pombriant sees social CRM as having some promise for VRM, and writes about that in VRM’s Missing Ingredient, also posted as VRM and CRM Meet. An excerpt:

The great thing about social CRM is that it lets the genie out of the bottle.  It introduces randomness and uncertainty to the puzzle and that’s largely a good thing.  You can’t program a customer relationship, there are too many permutations and customers do things you just can’t always predict.

My big takeaway from the conference is the wisdom of crowds, the idea that since you can’t predict, take a deep breath and stop trying.  Instead, just ask the customer and, if you do it right, you’ll get amazing insights.  It struck me that the wisdom of crowds is, perhaps, one thing that VRM could incorporate with great success.

Mitch Lieberman (@mjayliebs) put up a nice summary of #vrmcrm2010 tweets through September 1Here’s the current Twitter search for the tag.

Even though the workshop was well-attended by CRM folks (and some of their customers), I was struck by how widely varied that business actually is. The distinction between CRM and sCRM is but one of very many.

In fact I had already been schooled on this by my old friend Larry Augustin, whom I got to know well back when he was a major force in the Linux community, and now runs SugarCRM. You can’t have a $15 billion (give or take… I still haven’t seen any numbers since 2008) business without a great deal of variation in what is sold to whom, and how it is used.

And, of course, relating to customers is not the sole province of CRM itself. I would bet that most customer-supporting corporate Twitter entities (e.g. @BigCoCares) began as individual efforts within their companies, completely outside those companies’ CRM systems, including call centers. These as a class now qualify as sCRM, I suppose. But in any case, it’s complicated.

So is VRM, of course. It starts from the individual, but can go in many directions after that. Here are a few of my own take-aways, all arguable, of course:

  1. You can’t get to VRM from CRM, or even sCRM, any more than you can get to personal from social. But VRM needs to engage both. And both need to engage VRM.
  2. You can’t get to VRM from advertising, either. Trying to make VRM from advertising is like trying to make green from red. The closest you’ll get is brown.
  3. We have code, and were able to show some off (or at least talk about it), and that was great. Adam Marcus’ talk on r-buttons, while delayed by equipment failings (not his — the classroom’s built-in projection system on Day One was flaky), showed how users and site owners could signal their intentions toward each other with symbols that actually worked. Renee Lloyd unpacked the (very friendly) legal side of that too. Iain Henderson gave a nice forecast of the Personal Data Store (PDS) trials that MyDex will be running in the UK shortly. Phil Windley vetted the work Kynetx is doing with the Kynetx Rules Language (KRL). It also amazed me that, even when the workshop was over, many people stayed late, on a Friday, to see Craig Burton give a quick demonstration of KRL at work. (See the photo series that starts here.) Joe Andrieu didn’t show his code at work, but gave a great talk on how search is more than queries. I could go on, but to sum up: this was a watershed moment for the VRM community.
  4. It’s still early. Maybe very early. At the end of the workshop I was asked the What’s Next question. My reply was that it’s great to see a fleet of planes airborne after watching them head down the runway for three years — and that they’re all heading in different directions. Also, they’re not the only planes. Beyond that the future is what we make it, and we’ve still got a lot of making to do.
  5. VRM+CRM is a live topic. There was much talk afterward of next steps with workshops, conferences and other kinds of gatherings, in addition to a list for people wanting to follow up with focused conversation. Stay tuned for more on all that.
  6. VRM is not just the counterpart of CRM. There are VRM efforts, such as The Mine! Project, that address one-to-one relating outside the scope both of identity systems (from which some VRM efforts originated) and of CRM. These also matter a great deal, and are very close to the heart of VRM’s mission.
  7. GRM has mojo going. Two years ago, Britt Blaser was the only GRM guy at that VRM workshop, and had trouble drawing a crowd. This time he brought his own crowd, and drew a bigger one. Very encouraging.
  8. I’m still not entirely sure what ProjectVRM should become as it spins out of the Berkman Center. I want it to be lightweight and useful. I’ll be involved, obviously; and we’ll always have a kinship connection with Berkman. Specifics beyond that are forthcoming, probably in the next three weeks.

I’ll think of others, but I’m out of time right now. Please add your own. And thanks again to everybody who participated. It was a great workshop.

VRM vertical: real estate

Bill Wendell of Real Estate Cafe poses a good Idea Starter question: What if homebuyers and sellers managed their own data? Sez Bill, Here are ten of our favorites ideas about how to retool the real estate industry with VRM.  What are yours? He actually provides more than ten. Here’s a sample:

5.  Buyers will be able to sign into open houses, and transfer their buyer profile or homesearchID by “bumping” their smart phone.  (See comments received / Discuss)

6.  Fourth parties, like locally initiated homebuyer club, will aggregate and deliver savings to buyers and sellers.  (See comments received / Discuss)

10.  Buyers will be able to manage and release their listing clickstreams so sellers, including distressed sellers, auctioneers, and leanders or government agencies with foreclosures, can invite them to bid on properties.  (See comments received / Discuss)

15.  Fourth parties will develop platforms to certify trust worthiness of real estate professionals based on terms of service, eg. No conflicts of interest because brokerage prohibits dual agency.  (See comments received / Discuss)

18.  Geoloco apps, augmented reality, and smartphones / mobile devices will enable real estate consumers to connect at hyperlocal level and engage in meaningful conversations that translate into more informed decisions and savings opportunities.  (See comments received / Discuss)

20.  eGov will embrace VRM tools, particularly homebuyerIDs, to reduce paperwork and help make sense of morass of competing housing program guidelines.  (See comments received / Discuss)

These are also in the reVRM Minifesto.

And Bill is tweeting with the hashtag #reVRM.

Also dig the CRM+VRM 2010 workshop tomorrow (where Bill and many other VRooMers and CRooMers will be). That hashtag is #vrmcrm2010.

We’re filling up

Our VRM+CRM workshop, exactly two weeks away, is filling up. We have about 70 people signed up so far, and if we get too many more we may be spilling out of our spaces.

So, if you care about VRM development, and how it matches up with what’s happening on the CRM side, register soon. (Click on the image to the left.) Right now we’re especially interested in companies that already do CRM or use CRM systems, and are dealing with real CRM problems. (And are looking for real opportunities opened by the operation of VRM on the customers’ side. But if you’re just interested and can contribute, that’s cool too.

The First VRM+CRM Workshop

The first VRM+CRM workshop will take place on 26-27 August, at Harvard Law School. It’s free. You can register here.

The purpose is to get VRM and CRM developers and other interested parties (such as CRM customers) together to start building out the common ground between them. That common ground is potentially very huge. CRM is already a $15 billion business. What happens when customers start managing relationships too? Let’s start answering that.

A number of VRM tools are now ready for vetting with CRM folks, and CRM interest in connecting to VRM is growing as well. Destination CRM will take place next week in New York. VRM+CRM 2010 will be a perfect place for VRM-CRM discussions started at Destination CRM to continue.

While the workshop sessions will be chosen by the participants (following opening briefings by VRM and CRM folks), here are a few of the topics and questions that are sure to come up –

  • Terms of service. How can we get past the legal hurdles and shackles that inconvenience both buyers and sellers when they get acquainted?
  • Privacy policies. How can we reduce the suspicions and frictions that these involve?
  • Personal data. What tools, methods and services are being developed for individuals to keep track of data they generate or is being kept by sellers and other parties? What means do we have for sharing or exchanging that data in secure and trustable ways?
  • Signaling. What new methods will both individuals and organizations have for notifying each other of interests, intentions, policies, preferences, or changes in any of those? How can we make these common across the industry, rather than different for every organization?
  • Self-tracking and personal informatics. What vendor-independent means are being developed for individuals to keep track of their own personal data, and manage it?
  • Search. What new paradigms for searching are being developed, especially in the context of all the topics above?
  • Non-coercive loyalty. What ways are being developed for individuals to express and manage their own forms of loyalty to sellers and other organizations? How can this improve existing loyalty programs?
  • Personal RFPs or Advertising in Reverse. How can individual customers notify whole market categories of their intent to purchase a product, safely and securely, without inviting a torrent of promotional jive in response?
  • Leveraging base-level protocols, standards and tools. There are hundreds of thousands of free and open source tools, protocols and other goods already in the world, ready to serve as free building materials and guidelines. What can we use of these, and what new ones do we need? What new ones are in development on the VRM side?
  • Reducing MLOTT — Money Left On The Table. In our current system, a huge sum of demand goes un-met because of the the means for communicating interest and availability are on the supply side. How (including the means listed above and others) can we equip demand to notify supply of money ready to be spent? In the old days this was seen as “lead generation” by suppliers. But now it’s time to get past that.
  • Tie-ins with SCRM. Social CRM is the hottest topic in CRM. How can VRM connect with and through social networking? Important question: Should “social” be restricted to just what can be done through Facebook, Twitter and other commercial services?
  • Patient-driven health care. How can individuals be the collection points for their own health data, and the point of origination for what gets done with it?
  • API symphonics. The commercial world is increasingly building around a collection of interconnected APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces. Many CRM systems are built around their own APIs. VRM will surely connect into many APIs. How should we be thinking about and guiding evolution here?
  • The oppposite of cookies. Sites and companies of all kinds have been keeping track of customers through cookies since the mid-’90s. How can customers do the same with their suppliers?

I’m sure I’ve left some stuff off this list. If you want to add to it, contact me or make a comment below. Better yet, show up and participate.

Look forward to seeing you there.

More details on the event wiki page.

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