During a briefing last Friday afternoon a software provider in the Social CRM space (is anyone NOT in the “Social” space?) put up a slide about their ‘social analytics’ capability. It said:
“There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”
Ok, this is a Friday afternoon and they are quoting former US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. This is why I generally don’t take Friday afternoon briefings. I have to resist the urge to behave like Steve Ballmer at his Sales Kickoffs back in the late ‘90s. So they went on to the next slide and the next slide, but my mind was stuck back at Rummy. What was bothering me? So I said, “Could we go back to the knowns thing?”
They couldn’t say no, so they said yes with an almost visible thought bubble over their heads that read “NO WE CANNOT GO BACK!!!” – but they did.
So, I asked, “If there are known knowns, and known unknowns, and unknown unknowns, isn’t something missing?” I wasn’t trying to do a Google Interview. I was just curious by the piece that was missing. After about 30 seconds of uncomfortable fidgeting and the clock ticking I asked, “What is missing are the unknown knowns.” It’s just math. But it is one of the biggest challenges for us as businesses.
The unknown knowns. There are WMDs! Are there? SaaS is less expensive than licensing on premise. Is it? Always? Think about the number of times we ‘know’ something to be true, when actually the truth is unknown. About the customer, or prospect, or development project, or measurements we have put in place. When the world was more Semiotics driven – we were product and texture and pricing focused, and marketing was on top – we felt in control. But it’s now all services and words and the structuralists rule. Well there are still exceptions like Steve Jobs and Marc Benioff and Keith Richards. For the rest of us in business we are looking at words, and patterns, and the sentiments and meaning: explicit, implicit and latent. Testing for the truth in our accepted view of what is out there as ‘known’ is one of the most important challenges for businesses as we splinter communications across devices and social media, and engagement channels of our own build.
Social analytics, customer analytics, business analytics will emerge as the glue that holds successful customer initiatives together and 2012 may be the year analytics really begins to touch the front office in a very direct way.
What do you think?