Archive for June, 2008

Fail Fast


I screw up a lot, always have, always will, but what matters is what I do next.

My first presentation to a Forrester client was a total F-up. I’m not new to speaking, but presenting in the Forrester style requires a specific style, and as trained speakers, clients pay a lot of money and expect very polished ‘performance’.

Here’s what happened: I was out in NY, and I wasn’t fully prepared, I’d only done a half-ass job of rehearsing the presentation. I had the wrong date typed on the opening slide, and the client saw it. Also, I was giving covering for a colleague and doing her speech, therefore emulating her style, and not doing my own thing. Apparently, the client wasn’t impressed, and even suggested I was dressed inappropriately, I’d argue that I was, but the customer is right. The next week, in the de-brief with the account team, I got a 30 minute well deserved earful, and had to sheepishly apologize and sent them an mea culpa email which I hope they forwarded on to the client. Fortunately, the relationship with the client is salvaged, and we continue to do work with them, although I probaly won’t be invited back.

I sadly dwelled on this for a few days, got some support from my colleagues (Josh, Charlene), my boss-boss Cliff Condon was supportive, mentioning to me it was a ‘hard-knock’ a good lesson to walk away with.

So what was I going to do about it? I made a vow to correct this problem: I started to rehearse outloud several times before new presentations (in the car, at home, in the hotel), started to read more materials on how to be a better speaker, and got some internal training and support. So far, I’ve given maybe 30-50 presentations since that ill-fated day, each with good-to-great remarks from clients, I’m confident the things within my control won’t happen again.

So what did I learn? Every company, every website, and every individual is going to make mistakes and fall. What matters is to quickly learn from those mistakes, and improve that it doesn’t happen again. It’s important in the web industry (a rapidly changing one) that we work in environments that accept mistakes as long as they are not repeated again through hard lessons.

The trick is to quickly make mistakes and then rapidly fix them and move on. So my friends, fail fast.

Now back to you, how have you quickly turned a negative (product, feature, complaint) into a quick positive iteration?

Social Software: Here Come The CMS Vendors


I’m in the unique position that I get to speak to enterprise brands, white label vendors, and now CMS vendors on a regular basis, here’s what I’m seeing:

It’s now quarter 3, and I start research on the big report, the Forrester Wave (learn about the reports) on the Community Platforms (White Label Social Networks) the Vendor Catalog of this space will be published for clients in the coming days. The process, which has been completed for many other markets, is detailed, granular, and will take me over 10 weeks to complete. The results will yield a report that indicate the strength and weaknesses of those vendors for enterprise class interactive marketers.

[Trend watch: Enterprise CMS Vendors to enter the White Label Social Networking Space and offer Community Features and Platforms]

Social Features a Commodity
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, it’s a crowded space in the white label social network space due to low barriers to entry, and commodity features, in fact with 80+ vendors (could be 120+ if I counted insight vendors and collaboration vendors), there’s no shortage of those who will throw their hat into the ring.

Overview: Enterprise Content Management Systems
I’ve started to notice more of the ‘traditional’ CMS and Portal players that already have deep footprints into the corporate web teams that are inching into this space. First, let’s take a historical view, many of these vendors appeared in the late 90s, they offer easy ways to publish online for corporations, often including advanced review workflows, templates, and staging and dev sites. I’ve been on the teams (I’m a former corporate web guy) that have had to implement, manage, or train stakeholders to use these. Next, in the early 2000-2002 we started to see acquisitions into this space by large ERP players: Microsoft acquired CMS which eventually evolved into Sharepoint, EMC acquired Documentum, and other ERP players such as Interwoven, Vignette, Stellent, IBM’s Filenet and LotusNotes, edDot CMS, Xerox’s Docushare, and Saperion started to extend their KM products for public websites. There’s a great list of these vendors from CMS watch.

CMS Vendors sniffing the social space
Fast forward to 2008. With the demand and buzz for social network features, or community offerings, these established CMS/Portal vendors recognize the demand, and see opportunity dollars falling through the cracks. I’ve started conversations with several of the big players to gauge where they are headed. Of course, the conversations don’t end up on this blog (unless they give me permission, or publish first) but it’s quite obvious where things are headed. In fact, see my predictions referenced in a recent Techcrunch article. They won’t be the only ones, we’re starting to get glimmers of social platforms tying to CRM systems too –integration afoot.

Three Options for CMS Vendors
There are at least three ways these large CMS vendors can head:

1) Develop the features and roll out community suites. Acquire new staff to understand this new world (it’s a different skill set than CMS rollout and management). This will involve client side training, consulting, development/design, new metrics packages, and series of recurring support revenue streams.

2) Acquire the successful white social networking vendors that complement their existing offerings. Find a player that digs deep within Fortune 5000 that offers 100k revenues on first year from a solution sell, and 50k for ongoing support and services. Or either find and easy to use vendor that offers few but broad features, and attached advertising streams and develop a media network.

3) Do nothing. Some CMS vendors may be content with their current product offerings to client, and don’t want to jump into a crowded pool and may choose to avoid offering social features to clients. With third party developers offering widgets and embeddable applications, they actually may not have to.

Four Options for White Label Social Networks
Some of these enterprise class vendors (I’ll know more when wave report comes out), it’s likely they will do a few of these, it’s not exclusive, and will have a strong stance to do the following:

1) Stay independent. I could call this ‘do nothing’ but it’s not the case. Like the CMS/Portal space in late 90s, some of these vendors will continue to grow and be stand alone companies, who knows, some may actually become publicly traded companies.

2) Start partnerships. We’re already seeing some of these companies band together such as Mzinga/Prospero, and now Awareness ties data to Sharepoint, this nods to a direction of working with others, or at least having interoperability.

3) Design for acquisition. Some white label vendors have thought this through, and are building their software in the platform or language of another traditional CMS company and are making themselves ripe fruits for acquisitions.

4) Develop flexible architectures. The future of the web is amorphous, therefore some white label vendors will heavily depend on open APIs, Data, and develop or work with widget vendors to let social content be shared and ‘fly’ around the web. Eventually, some of these widget features could easily be embedded into CMS systems, even if they don’t offer these features.

Four Options for Brands
In our recent forecast report, we predicted that the largest growth spend at the enterprise level for social services and products will be social networks. Brands have a few options:

1) Develop their own social software features. I know a few brands (despite me suggesting they buy) are extending their home grown CMS systems to add on social features. For those with large web development teams it makes sense. For others wanting to be fast and flexible, it’s often not an efficient path.

2) Work with a White Label Vendor. Many are choosing to rope in these vendors to develop, train, design, and manage these communities, in most cases they sit ‘off to the side’ of the corporate website and are not integrated with product pages. Of course, this whole discussion excludes marketing efforts on organic social sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc.

3) Wait for CMS vendors. Many brands are just toe-dippin’ into the social space, they are not offering community features, don’t see the point, or have other objectives to fulfill. As a result, they may just wait a few quarters till CMS vendors offer this ability within their existing platforms. Of course, this comes with risk from deploying too late, or not offering features that meet the needs of community members

4) Do nothing. In the end, some brands will choose not to engage customers in community sites, for a variety of reasons such as products or services that are sold to resellers and rebranded, deep technology components that are mainly a b2b sell, or lack of vision to embrace customers.

Watch this emerging trend
Where are we now? We’re at the very beginnings of this journey, with most white labels being around for just a few years, and the established CMS vendors starting to sniff this sector and gather requirements (many are coming to me) we’re clearly at the R&D stage, with some banding development teams to enter this space.

Questions that will be need to be answered by this space:

  • Will CMS vendors be able to adapt to social features into their legacy systems?
  • Is the demand from client side strong enough for CMS vendors assert flexibility?
  • How will these commodity social features be monetized, with everyone having them, how will you differentiate?
  • Will CMS vendors build, buy, or ignore social features?
  • When will we see existing internal knowledge management systems integrate these features?
  • Will the small white label vendors start to get friendly with the CMS space and start to develop an exit strategy?
  • Are white label vendors building their products for easy integration into CMS vendors?
  • I’ve been thinking about developing a ‘show and tell’ event where both of these vendors can come together for a meet and greet, if I did, would you attend?

    Chime in, love to hear you answer these questions I posed above.

    Update: Larry Dignan from Zdnet throws in his hat and predicts, in his opinion, the most logical options.

    Six Social Media Lists to Watch


    I create many lists, have been doing this since I started this blog. Why? It helps me to keep track of the industry I’m covering, I can watch it grow, and it’s a reference I can quickly pull up and demonstrate to others who’s doing what well –and wrong.

    If you’re in the Finance, Auto, or Insurance industry (or one of your clients is), I recommend forwarding those links to your colleagues, so you can quickly assess the competitive landscape. If you’re leading the charge at your company, show the list of full time social media folks to the key decision makers.

    The following six lists have been growing, or show remarkable traction, I wanted to call them out since of them may be older.

    1) List of Social Computing Strategists and Community Managers for Enterprise Corporations

    When I started this list just last Friday, it had about 8 names on it. Since then, it’s grown to over 60 full time professionals at enterprise size (1000+ employees) that are managing social media programs. Most of the adoption is with the tech industry, with a smattering from media, consumer products, auto and airline.

    2) Finance Industry + Social Media
    If you’re in the Financial industry and want to see who’s doing what, there’s a small, but growing list of firms engaging social media.

    3) Insurance Industry + Social Media

    Similiar to the Finance industry, we see patterns of slow adoption, toe-dipping, and the occasional project moving forward to reach customers.

    4)Auto Industry + Social Media
    Perhaps one of the passionate group of consumers are auto drivers, it creeps into the lifestyle of the American in so many different ways as well as global impact.

    5) A Chronology of Brands that Got Punk’d by Social Media

    This is the one list of mine that you don’t want to be on. It lists out brands that have been brand jacked by social media. Sadly, it continues to slowly grow.

    6) A Complete List of the Many Forms of Web Marketing for 2008

    This comprehensive list of all the tools available to you to use for your marketing efforts online is a staple for anyone making decisions or handling budgets at their corporations. I’m not quite sure what to add to it next year in 2009.

    If you can submit to any of them, go to that specific post and leave a comment, thanks!

    The Future of the Corporate Website involves People


    A few days ago, I ran a contest for two winners to receive free tickets to the Internet Strategy Forum Summit in Portland. The winning responses, based on insight, ability to back up their predictions and being succinct were Christopher Smith and Kristie.

    I’ve selected the two winners, here’s their submissions:

    Kristie Connor, a Marketing Consultant
    , submits on the concept of ‘fluidity’. I like this concept as the corporate website won’t be the only container of brand and product content but also this content will spread to wherever the conversations flow on the web: Social networks, blogs, friendfeed and wherever else. She writes the following:

    “Corporate websites of the future will be less about canned content and more about fluidity. Meaning, the consumer will demand websites that are connected to the ‘users’ and ‘consumers’ personal networks which will promote and instill word of mouth as a best practice for business development and ultimately sales. The infrastructure will be designed in a way that company developed case studies, webinars and such will be replaced by real consumers leaving messages and user created video’s. The back-end will be light and built to accommodate the interactivity of users and social networks. Customer generated content will be ranked higher in search engines and push the website owner to move in the direction to capture mind share.”

    Additionally, this evolution will put the consumer in the driver’s seat which will drive accountability from outside in.

    Christopher Smith, VP of Digital Media Marketing and the Creative Director at MediaTrust submits an excellent piece highlighting that people, real humans will be front and center, rather than the stock photo and corporate happy talk, I couldn’t hope and agree more. Perhaps the future holds a ‘customized’ social network where people you actually know that work at the company are front and center on the website, or customers that are connected to you on your social graph:

    “Jeremiah, in response to your contest I submit the following:

    I actually believe in 5 years the “corporate website” as we now it will no longer exist. Gone will be the days of the static brochure site, supported by a “dynamic” sub-branded social community. There will no longer be the “self-service” document download centers, or the video case study hiding the infomercial inside.

    I see the corporate website as hub of individuals that become your first point of contact, and guide you through your search for products, service or support. Consider the example of the Apple Retail Store experience and extend that to the web. You are going to the corporate site for a reason. Even casual browsers to a corporate site have a passive agenda. Virtual corporate ambassadors will assist you in your interaction with the company, blurring the lines of sales, CRM, and support, with the use of chat, video feed, guided browsing, VoIP… the list goes on.

    How will this happen in 5 years? I have already begun this work for my company’s new site, and have begun working with our customer experience team from the tech side to insure that we begin building the opportunity today and defining the process in design and test.

    And yes, I already have the date in my calendar, and plan on attending as much of the conference as I can. The downside of winning your contest will be that I am required to visit my mother in law if I am Portland.”

    Doh! Have fun with your mother in law Chris. For additional reference, do read my post on the Irrelevant Corporate Website, and how to evolve it. Although over a year old, we’re just starting to see websites evolve.

    Silicon Valley Sightings: Half Moon Bay, the Beach in the Backyard



    Above: I spent Saturday on San Gregario beach in Half Moon Bay, just a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of busy Silicon Valley, pics from mobile phone.

    While only 30 minutes from companies like Siebel, Oracle, NetSuite, and Visa in San Mateo, Half Moon bay is a world apart. A short 12 mile jaunt westbound on 92 will take you over the reservoir, which coincidently is in the shape of the fault line (an aerial view indicates it is the fault line) and over the San Mateo hills. You’ll immediately notice a temperature drop and increase in the humid, salt, air as you drive through the eucelpyous groves. In the fall, you’ll see the magic of the pumpkin festival, kids on pony rides, and the various smoked salmon shops and mini-wineries.

    Half Moon Bay is home to many silicon valley executives, corporate offsites, and rolling beaches. You’ll find the Scobles, Tracy Chapman, Singer/Songwriterand Phil Schiller – Apple Marketing SVP. Head south and you’ll find a handful of public –and private—beaches. In college I took a geology class, and learned all about the very unique sand/rock stratifications and the collision between water and rock to make some of the most dramatic –and beautiful– landscapes. Other notable areas is the famous Mavericks surf, where world class surf competitions take place.

    There’s a reason why Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, aside from the thriving technology industry, the quality of life makes it a desirable place not only to work but also to relax.

    Related: See my pics from Hawaii, also using my onboard cell phone camera, Nokia N95

    Pots in Half Moon Bay06212008429Half Moon BayHalf Moon Bay, Sand FormationsHalf Moon BayHalf Moon Bay, Sand FormationsHalf Moon Bay "Foam"

    (Silicon Valley Sightings is an ongoing PhotoBlog that captures the intersection of Tech Culture in the San Francisco Silicon Valley Bay Area, check out the archives. All photos by Jeremiah Owyang)

    Another Job Hire from reading this blog


    Previously, we heard that Andrew read this blog and got a job, now more success stories that people are connecting –and getting jobs from reading the web strategy blog, this is great news. I’ve been given permission to publish this email from Jonathan:

    Hi Jeremiah,

    Thanks for your DM. It would be my pleasure to share my story… one of your tweets (almost two months ago) mentioned your job feed on your site. Feeling quite unsettled in my current position, I click and found what looked to be a perfect job. I fired off my resume and received a call the next day from the hiring manager. After a series of calls and an intense day of interviews, I received an offer! My new job is Web Director at the Association of Corporate Counsel. It’s a logical step in my career and should involve a good deal of strategy and operations.

    I gave my official notice today — my manager was in a state of shock. I, on the other hand, am so excited to move.

    Best regards,

    Jonathan Kash
    PS Aside from my gratitude for all you do for the community (including the job feed), I certainly owe you a drink! I’ll be blogging about my experience once the department knows (law firms are such a strange environment).

    Congrats Johnathan, I’ll take that drink, red wine is a fav.

    You can find jobs, connect with others, and read other case studies by clicking the “on the move” section. Or, see the Web Strategy Job Board, where recruiters are posting jobs (paid) and a dynamic listing is available.