» Archive for the 'Knowledge-enabled CRM' Category

Information, Information, Everywhere… But Not A Lot Of Good It Does

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 by Jonathan Spira

But where is the RIGHT information?

This essay is being written after numerous and somewhat frustrating encounters with the latest information technology.  One would think that we’ve reached a point where systems and computers should work flawlessly but that is less and less the case every day.

On the one hand, the Information Revolution of the late 20th century has resulted in an anywhere, anytime information society that has become accustomed to boundless gobs of information on demand.

On the other hand, no one has said that the stuff works.

From a technical standpoint, the advent of true ubiquitous computing (or at least, state-of-the-art ca. 2011) has markedly changed our attitude towards and interactions with information.  Our constant exposure to information leads us to have the expectation that it will be shared across systems, accurately and quickly.  If Facebook and Google can keep track of everything we are reading, sharing, and writing while we surf the Web, surely everyone else can too, right?

Unfortunately, information does not always get to where it needs to be.  I’ll use my recent experience with an airline as an example.   Airlines are known to be leaders in IT; American Airlines introduced the first ever computer reservation system, Sabre, in 1960.  At the time it was one of the largest and most successful mainframe deployments ever.

Today, despite tremendous advances in technology over the course of 50 years, information often fails us.  Calls to customer service representatives at call centers asking the same or similar questions yield widely disparate answers, despite the fact that the agent is being guided by the system.

My own experiences in the past week relating to several different issues with an airline, including an error that was apparently computer generated as well as misinformation that was repeated by several agents almost verbatim, show me that we have a long way to go.

It won’t surprise you to learn that fixing these problems took multiple phone calls and e-mail messages and wasted hours of time both on my part and on the part of the call center agents.

We used to say that computers don’t make mistakes, but rather that the people who write the programs do.  I believe that this belief has become somewhat quaint if not obsolete.  While we are far from enjoying true artificial intelligence where machines actually think and respond on their own, we are at a point where autonomic or self-healing systems do evolve on their own, and sometimes seem to add in mistakes just to keep things interesting.

We want the right information on demand, without delay, without error.   As we add in more information, more systems, and more ways of getting information, what we end up with is something very different.

 

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex and author of Overload! How Too Much Information Is Hazardous To Your Organization.

In the Briefing Room: Kana 10

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by Cody Burke

One can find software for virtually any purpose today, yet this very fact highlights a key paradox in the knowledge economy. 

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Kana 10 allows companies to create process flows visually

Today’s software tools can handle almost any task but, since they are mostly not integrated with one another, they force users to shift constantly between windows and interfaces in the course of completing a task.  This results in significant amounts of wasted time, and perhaps more critically, missed opportunities to obtain valuable information needed to execute tasks effectively.

The need to constantly shift between tools is a problem that will have to be addressed as companies move towards the deployment of a true Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), our vision for the future of the knowledge worker’s workspace that will drive efficiencies.  The CBE’s basic principles are the One Environment Rule (a single work environment), Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing, and Embedded Community.  Clearly, the problem of too many tools and interfaces is at loggerheads with the concept of the One Environment Rule.

Software companies have taken note and are moving to provide solutions.  Kana, a CRM company, has begun to address the problem for call center agents and managers with its Kana 10 platform.  Kana 10 is a CRM system that aims to optimize the experience for customers by providing agents with information that is contextual to the call they are on, without requiring them to leave the environment.

The primary point of interface for Kana 10 is the Adaptive Desktop, a single desktop environment that changes based on the user’s needs to present the modules, information, and cues to guide an agent through a given process, such as a conversation with a customer.  The system hinges on the idea that a system that provides all relevant information in the context of what the agent is doing will improve service and efficiencies.

To this end, Kana focuses on Service Experience Management (SEM), which in laymen’s terms means that the experience is controlled in near real-time as the agent progresses through a customer interaction.  Changes that are made to processes are reflected quickly, with no IT department involvement required.  Process creation and changes are done through a simple drag-and-drop interface that builds a process flow.  The ability to create flows that automate functions reduces the steps that must be taken by the agent, such as having to shuffle between windows and cut and paste information.

Kana 10 gives organizations the tools to build call center work environments that exhibit many of the positives that a true Collaborative Business Environment has to offer.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Dow Jones Companies & Executives Sales

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Cody Burke

In an age of ubiquitous social networking tools and near exponential content creation, rapidly rising levels of information that may or may not be relevant to a particular individual inhibit one’s ability to keep track of contacts, key industry news, and business intelligence.

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The ideal situation would be for sales and business development professionals to be presented with current and accurate information as it is needed.  Prior to a sales meeting, having a summary of a company’s and industry’s recent news automatically delivered would prepare the sales executive and increase the likelihood of successful conclusion.  This requires tools that automatically surface relevant information.  In addition to the time saved from eliminating manual searching, this type of system solves a fundamental problem that exists with searching for information: one has to know what is being looked for as well as how to use traditional search tools effectively.  Often, the most valuable information is that which is unexpected, for instance a surprise executive position change at a company that opens up the possibility for new business.

We wrote about these dynamics in great detail in our report, Searching for a Connection: Leveraging Enterprise Contacts with Social Software.  In that report, we discussed the acquisition of Generate, a business intelligence company, by Dow Jones, as well as various issues relating to the value of up-to-date information, the limitations of search technology, and what could be done to improve search in the enterprise.

Dow Jones has since incorporated Generate’s technology into the company’s business to business sales and marketing intelligence offering, Dow Jones Companies and Executives Sales.  The latest version of the offering makes some impressive strides towards delivering relevant information in a contextual and timely manner.  Users can set up triggers such as executive changes, product announcements, venture funding, and partnerships, which when detected result in an alert that includes company profile information, relevant executives and contacts, current news, and related documents.  The information itself comes from unstructured news content, Dow Jones’ owned and licensed content that includes company and executive profiles and records, CRM contact and account information, and personal contact lists imported from Outlook or LinkedIn.

Once a trigger event occurs, the system presents contacts that are weighted for relevancy to enable the user to follow up leads that are exposed by the trigger event.  A contact from LinkedIn, for example, is weighed highly because it is presumed to be a personal contact.  This enables sales and business development professionals to find the shortest connection path to a prospect or contact via their work history, CRM system, and personal contact lists.

Dow Jones Companies and Executives Sales is a significant step towards presenting useful information as it is needed without requiring extraneous effort, and will help to surface critical information that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  It is great starting platform with great potential for exciting features and functionality, and we are eager to see how it develops

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Cloud Content Management with Salesforce Content

Thursday, March 5th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Cloud computing, for better or worse, is a hot topic right now.  We recently took a look at Salesforce Content, an integrated content management system (CMS) for sales teams using salesforce.com.

In an effort to make knowledge workers more efficient, Salesforce has created a unified workspace where the user can access content from multiple sources, including a cloud-based repository that is part of the Salesforce.com platform.  This keeps the knowledge worker from having to open  other applications when he needs to locate a piece of content.   Integration with Google Docs, for example, allows documents to be created and opened from within the Salesforce user interface without having to leave the environment.  In addition to the content residing in the cloud, the system can also access content from other repositories via  pointers.

When searching, users have the ability to view results based on factors such as high ratings by their peers or numbers of downloads.  The results can be further refined though custom fields that sort content based on relevance and user defined parameters.  Additionally, the knowledge worker can subscribe to content based on a variety of factors, including authors, topics, and tags.  When new content that fits the parameters is added, the knowledge worker receives an e-mail notification linking him to the content in the repository.

Salesforce.com has added other new content management functionality to the platform that increases knowledge worker efficiency.  To facilitate the assembly of slide presentations the knowledge worker can search through existing slides from across the organization to find relevant material.  Once the slides are found, they can be assembled into slide decks through a drag-and-drop interface, without having to download or copy and paste.  Salesforce Content also features a preview option for PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents that allows the user to see the content without downloading it.  Additionally, the content can be sent via e-mail as a hyperlink, without the actual file being attached.  Once the material is sent out, the sender can track it to see when the link was opened, when and if the file was downloaded, how long it was viewed for, and, if need be, even discontinue access to the material.

The addition of CMS functionality to the Salesforce platform is a big step in the right direction towards building a true Collaborative Business Environment, a workspace for the knowledge worker that supports access to all applications and resources under one virtual roof.  Enabling knowledge workers to stay in one environment, create linkages between disparate repositories and Web services, and assemble and distribute content with no downloading or bulky file attachments is laudable, and organizations looking to gain efficiencies for knowledge workers who need to track interaction with multiple parties should give this due consideration.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Personal Cost of Knowledge Sharing Failures

Friday, February 29th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Memo to Lenovo: You owe me six hours from Saturday.  That includes time I spent on the phone with your technical support staff and time spent in following their instructions.

I like Lenovo, both the company and its products.  The tech support people are generally friendly, cooperative, English-speaking, and concerned about resolving my problem.  But they either don’t have all the information they need or are leaving out key parts of the puzzle.

It started with a crash.  The ThinkVantage System Update had been running overnight but didn’t quite make it.  When I restarted the machine, the Access Connections tool that manages Wi-Fi connections wouldn’t connect to the WLAN.

I first spoke with Sainabou in tech support, who told me I should reimage the machine although I could also reinstall four files and that should resolve the problem.  I asked her about using Windows “restore points” to go back to an earlier system configuration (my attempts to use restore points had all failed) but she didn’t comment on that.

When I asked her to remain on the phone with me while I followed her instructions, she told me, in no uncertain terms, that she had already “spent too much time on this call” and needed to end it.  However, she offered to transfer me to Lenovo Experts Live, who, for a fee, would stay on the phone with me.

She also assured me that the instructions she had given me were all that I would need.

After ascertaining that Sainabou’s overly simple instructions lacked certain key steps, I called again.  The person who answered told me he couldn’t help but offered Lenovo Experts Live, again, for a fee.  I asked for a supervisor and was transferred to James Rosell, who did stay on the phone and clarify the procedures, staying on while I uninstalled and reinstalled files.

After about 90 minutes, he asked if he could call back in a short while and left to take another call.  Things were going well at that point so I had no objections.

But he didn’t call back, and since things had gone south at that point I called him.  He then provided additional instructions.

After more unsuccessful attempts at repair I decided to switch to my spare hard drive and start fresh.

But I ran into a bit of difficulty in the setup and now spoke with Warren in tech support.  He solved the problem very quickly and I mentioned to him the restore points issue from hours ago.  He told me that the restore points feature will frequently work only if the machine is booted up in safe mode.  Why Sainabou or James didn’t mention this critical information is beyond me.

Since I still had the other drive, I reinstalled it and went into safe mode and then ran restore points.  Problem solved.

Now, could I have my six hours back please?  And to Lenovo and others, please find better ways of providing your tech support staff with all of the information they need to provide all the answers, not just some of them.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


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