The New York Times recently ran an article to point awareness to the severely depleted stock of the once fecund supply of cod, a staple food fish that is also the official fish of the American state of Massachusetts. In the brittle alchemy of association, we see the same thing happening to the Social Media vendors. These vendors are being gobbled up by the larger software vendors, who, in their astute attempts to confront what Clay Christensen described in 1997 as The Innovator’s Dilemma (When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail), are preventing the young companies to fully mature and show what can be achieved with Social Media.
What’s the problem with the rapid acquisition of the Social Media vendors? The problem is that the grand concept that all businesses had better convert the majority of their processes, internal and external, to social processes is only in the first five minutes of a 90 minute match. The change will be associated with far more disruption than most organizations realize. Super idea: dump those clunky call center agents, that most maligned of positions. Now what? Ah…. A key reason that they are such a challenged bunch is that the compensation is poor, the training is poor, the career path is severely limited, and many (if not most) do not work for the company that they are representing on the phone/chat/email. Yet now, through the hocus pocus of Social Media, we are expected to engage customers through Facebook and Twitter and on Forums. With which agents? Social media savvy agents are in demand, but their salary requirements are 100% or more of the average agent. And talented agents in this area are as rare as hens teeth. How is it that suddenly we will have budget? Is this going to come from Marketing? Ops? The CIO? Did anyone tell her/him? And what about compliance issues? And data privacy? And continuity with existing corporate policies? And capture of the experience in the existing CRM systems?
Thus far the bright crop of social media vendors is falling into the nets of larger vendors, where they are transformed into a part of a broader offering to respond to the need of an ‘end-to-end’ process. We are not seeing a company analogous in size and revenue to Siebel Systems or Salesforce.com emerge in this space even though the leading vendors in the space were established in the 2001 timeframe. The result: Social media and the collaborative enterprise as ideas are unstoppable, while at the same time organizations need to do their homework on measuring the impact of the social media program on their business functions. We must also be cautious in engaging the large enterprise vendors who have absorbed the new social media units, not because of anything organically wrong with the vendor, but because it was precisely in the freedom that the social media vendor had whilst independent to rapidly innovate that made them so attractive. Once inside the slower-moving (from an innovation perspective) large vendors, most bets need to be hedged until results are in.
Ah, and what about those cod – for the Ichthyologists out there: This fish was once so plentiful that it was confused as an acronym: ‘cod’ was synonymous with ‘catch of the day,’ as they numbered in the billions. Though in Spain they are baccala and in Iceland, Thorskur. They are a beautiful fish, and on the docks around Cape Cod in the 1960s boats would disgorge their holds and show off these fish with grey/green scales flecked with a rust-brown. Some weighed up to 50 kilos and would be over 60 cm. But today? The stock is depleted, and though there may be 200-300 million left, only 400 (yes, 400) have reached the age of 12, and none have been observed to have reached beyond they age of 13 years though they live to 25 years. If you are interested, see: http://nyti.ms/P8cNZh 24 September 2012, page A22, The Shocking News About Cod.
Thanks, as always, for sharing your thoughts and ideas – they are welcomed and refreshing.