State of Collaboration: Return to Essentials

There is much hype about new collaboration tools and "collaboration 2.0" approaches.  Indeed more of us are spending more of our time in collaborative efforts with others.  But our recent survey of collaboration experiences points out how much of successful collaboration requires some back to basics approaches to team management and proper use of well-established tools. The survey report  at All Collaboration points out the following:
  1. Complexcollaboration is already a significant work activity for many people, andwill only grow in importance. Most respondents have multiple collaborative projects underway at any given time. The purpose of these collaboration projects spans virtually the entire spectrum of enterprise needs. Collaboration efforts extend well beyond a group/department to include collaboration with other departments, partners, vendors, and customers. Collaboration is viewed as being essential across the board in the future, significantly more than the reality today. Individuals as well as organizations believe that they need to collaborate substantially more than they do currently.
  2. Successfulcollaboration requires mostly the good principles of project managementapplied to dispersed teams. Getting the old-fashioned basics right is critical. Most important advice from the respondents on effective collaboration is to: i) Define goals, roles, timelines and deliverables clearly, ii) Communicate the process and progress frequently and clearly, and iii) Select team members who bring real knowledge and expertise. Key challenges to effective collaboration include organizational culture and priorities, and collaboration process and tools.
  3. Keepit simple on the collaboration tools. Email, audio and web-conferencing, and file sharing are rated the most effective tools for collaboration. Wikis, IM, video conferencing and discussion forums rank low on effectiveness for collaboration. Selection of right tools and proper training are identified as potential areas for improvement.
If collaboration is a big part of your work life, I suggest you visit All Collaboration and read the survey report.
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Google Needs "Public Editor" Like at NYT

Normally I love all the new releases from Google.  I give them the benefit of the doubt, and know they will refine them to make them even better.  However, the release of Buzz indicates that sometimes Google can get ahead of itself. I appreciate the intention of Buzz and can see how powerful it could become.  At the same time I found the user interface awkward because it was never clear to me with whom I was sharing an entry.  Now the recent news about how Buzz was making my contacts list public caused me great alarm.  My biggest fears were realized. I immediately turned off the service (bottom of the Gmail front page). This latest slip adds to the growing amount of concern I hear every day about what Google does with its data.  We all know they make lots of money from selling advertising on their sites, based on targeting ads according the data.  But what does that really mean? I believe Google would be wise to borrow a concept from the New York Times, who have appointed a Public Editor to listen to the readers, be an advocate for the public, and essentially keep them honest.  As a regular New York Times reader I have been impressed with some of the dust ups the Public Editor has taken on, and my overall impression is the role has improved the paper's credibility. Google's watchdog would need a different name, such as Privacy Advocate, but the intention could be the same.  The advocate would consider the user's data privacy and security concerns, review all Google offerings and practices for compliance, and speak out loudly when there are issues.  The most important thing would be for the person appointed to have the credibility, fire in the belly, and independence to do the job well and instill confidence.
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Caring for Customers Through the Full Cycle

Most marketers invest much time, thought, and energy in acquistion of customers.  And many (but perhaps too few) pay attention to current customers, especially in recurring-revenue businesses.  But how many even consider how to treat customers as they want to leave, in hopes that a positive experience might make it easier to bring them back in the future?

Think about it.  How many times have you heard the horror stories about customers trying to quit?  How often does that turn a mildly-dissatisfied customer into a raging anti-customer?  I just had an experience trying to quit a music service via an online connection, it took three tries, and it was painful.  There was a rumor several years ago that the only way to quit AOL was to use swear words in a chat room and get kicked off; my one experience with AOL was less extreme but still an unpleasant exit, even during the trial period.

As businesses mature this needs to be a higher concern for marketers.  Holding customers becomes more important than winning new customers.  And having a positive reputation through the entire customer life cycle is even more important.
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Subscription versus Ownership?

One of the most significant open issues regarding internet-delivered content (music, videos, etc.) is ownership versus subscription. As I have raved about the Yahoo! music service to my friends, I have been surprised to learn how many insist on owning their music. Even David Pogue, a respected New York Times writer lands firmly on ownership in his Blog posting.

I lean toward the subscription model for most run-of-the-mill content because (a) I see how much money I have wasted on music and DVDs I enjoyed only once and (b) I like the ability to switch to a new service provider that has a superior offering. In fact I look forward to the day when much PC software (such as Microsoft Office) is sold on a subscription model.

Perhaps it will take time and earned trust for more users to believe that with the subscription model they will always be able to find their favorite things. Or (more likely) we will find that service providers will need to offer both flavors for their customers.
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Kicking off the Weblog

Why am I doing this? I love technology and what it can do for people. At the same time, I am frustrated by how much technology is done for technology's sake, rather than keeping in mind the needs of the users. For example, consider how for how long cell phones came only in black, and personal computers in beige/putty, until someone realized that they were as much fashion items as tools. My basic belief is that technology needs to align with the needs of the end user. That means applying some basic marketing principles. I will use this blog to identify good and bad examples of technology marketing, and weigh in with my point of view about them. Take it or leave it. Accenture sponsored me to write the white paper, Creating the Digital Customer, while I worked there. In that piece I identified four basic needs that are as true today as they were in 2001:
  1. Engage the early majority (with thanks to Geoffrey Moore's book, Crossing the Chasm)
  2. Simplify the Digital Value Chain
  3. Engineer to an acceptable price point
  4. Develop "aggregator" channels
These will be my fundamental building blocks. Wish me luck. Let me know what you think.
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