Last Thursday was a day for which I had waited with great anticipation; finally, the 4City Tour would arrive in Washington, D.C. This tour was produced and Platinum-sponsored by our partner, C5Insight, and Consultedge. The event also featured Gold Sponsor Ad Tran, and Bamboo was a Silver Sponsor. Thursday's one-day event, which drew around 85 attendees, was free to registrants and was held in the Westin at Tyson's Corner.
Why was I so excited about this particular event? Those who know me might be raising their eyebrows and scratching their heads….under normal circumstances, Me + Tyson's Corner = shopping or a dinner date. So what gives? Was I obligated because C5Insight is a partner? (No.) Was I on the hook because Bamboo was a Silver Sponsor? (Nope.) Was I looking for a day out of the office? (Nope…in fact I just moved into a new office and it is, in a word, sweet!) So why would I be excited about coming to a seminar on CRM, SharePoint and Social Media?
- I use CRM
- As a self-taught user of CRM, I can stand to learn more about CRM
- I use SharePoint
- I use Social Media
- I want to know how all of these work together
So I went ahead and registered on the site, totally expecting a vanilla 'thanks-for-registering-see-you-there" confirmation email in response. Instead, I got a social media turnkey roadmap, sent from CRM, with social media links and notes on how to connect with the event producers, ask questions even before the event, invite others to the event, connect with people attending the event, and listen for any late-breaking news about the event. Could they make it any easier? I was definitely intrigued – especially with all of it having been sent from CRM…but as I would learn at the event, that was only part of the story.
I arrived at the Westin and filed into C5 Insight Managing Partner Geoff Ables' Opening Session. Washington, D.C. is the second stop on the tour. They had the first stop last Tuesday in their home base of Charlotte, North Carolina where they had a good turnout, and were anxious to take their show on the road. The C5 Team drove up together in their rolling hot spot van with their computers humming and taking a deep dive into all of the feedback they had received in Charlotte, and tweaking their content for D.C. accordingly. The speakers, Geoff promised, are not necessarily experts in public speaking, but are experts in their subject matter. That's all that the ballroom crowd needed to hear as they enthusiastically left for the breakout sessions.
I headed over to the CRM session given by Matt Wittemann, five-time Microsoft MVP and C5's Practice Manager. His session, called "Do More with Dynamics CRM" was an outstanding look at CRM (Customer Relationship Management….the part I know) with xRM, (or Extended Relationship Mangement, the part I didn't know). Matt explained how Microsoft provides open source Solution Accelerators at http://crmaccelerators.codeplex.com/ for extending CRM. The one we viewed, the Event Management Accelerator, was what C5 used to build their webinar and event registration on. I could not believe my eyes. All of the boring left nav categories I'm saddled with in my CRM were replaced in Matt's with much more compelling ones like "social networking contacts" and other events-type categories. Then Matt went on to explain how when each of us registered on the site to attend the event, our information went to CRM and was entered as a lead. Behind the scenes was a workflow set up in CRM to trigger other events off of simple or more complex nested business logic. So the workflow in CRM sent me the email above, along with another one reminding me of the event a day or so prior. Then we looked at other information Matt was pulling off of Twitter leads that were posted to C5Insight's events pages like Facebook and searching Twitter tweets. CRM was pulling Twitter authors and other social media users who had commented on the event site and also capturing that information in CRM. They even had duplicate searches set up on many data criteria in case the person registered with their name, but then used a different name to tweet under, so CRM was monitoring for duplicate leads. So, since I fanned the C5Insight page, I am sure that I'm in the CRM system from registering direct and commenting on Facebook, but the duplicate would have been detected based on how they configured the system. I can definitely see how valuable this will be as the demand for monitoring, managing and manipulating such social media data will continue to grow and add business value.
As if the first session wasn't thought provoking enough, the second session I attended was hosted by Laura Bassett, the Director of Marketing for Emerging Products and Technologies, Avaya. It is noteworthy that I had a difficult time deciding which second session to attend, and I grudgingly was forgoing Curtis Hughes' (Co-Founder and Managing Partner of C5Insight) session on CRM and SharePoint and Amber Butler's (Business Consultant C5Insight) session on Salesforce.com. In this session, Laura talked about how companies need to be planning their social media strategy and infrastructure and training to handle it. While the overall focus for Avaya is companies with call centers, certainly any company with an online presence needs to be considering this. It is an interesting challenge and it really needs to be addressed one way or another from the corporate perspective. Case in point: Laura was consulting a large firm (with an online presence) and her contact at the firm told her the company gives responses only via certain channels, but does not issue responses via social media channels. Laura did an on-the-spot search of Twitter and found a rep at this company had just responded to a tweet by a customer within the last half hour! The upside was the rep, who took the initiative to respond via Twitter, could have potentially saved the company from bad PR should the person with the concern not have received a response; the downside was the rep could have given a less than-formal response, perhaps promising something or using words like "guarantee" or "always" or "never" or other words that make legal departments cringe, that would have very publically put the company on the hook to deliver something. So in this case the rep presumably was seasoned and took existing knowledge of appropriate corporate responses and applied them to this tweet, but should it be assumed that all reps could make that conversion? Also, as one attendee pointed out, if you are using social media to respond to a technical question, let's say, at what point are you cannibalizing your revenue stream to a tech support team? Where do you draw the line? One thing is for sure, no one wants to sit on hold waiting for a customer service rep anymore and social media is growing exponentially and companies must be ready. The attendees of this session had quite a dynamic discussion about these topics, as well as pondering in a group discussion towards the end of the session how individuals need to manage their personal online "brands", and the difficulty everyone seems to have separating a professional online presence from a personal one. At the end, all attendees were given the book "Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies" – what an awesome publication!
With two fantastic sessions under my belt, I was ready for more. The luncheon featured Chad Solomonson from Microsoft with his keynote presentation on Corporate Implications of Cloud Computing. (By the way, whether the keynote being given at lunch was by design or by default, it is a great idea as opposed to the first thing in the morning for those who got stuck in traffic, others whose caffeine hadn't kicked in yet and for the attendees to have the benefit of the stimulation of the sessions to get the audience going.) The Cloud growth statistics that were shared were staggering. Information like the top cloud solutions in play today are Salesforce.com (38%), SharePoint (28%) and Google (28%). Of the respondents surveyed by the The Prophet Group, 83% were already using some software application in cloud technology. The main reasons for cloud computing were identified as the ability for organizations to focus on their core missions, along with the substantial benefit of cost savings. In fact, a Gartner quote cited that "By 2012, 80% of Fortune 1000 enterprises will be using some cloud computing services, 20% of businesses will on no IT assets." It is seemingly hard to believe the future is so cloudy!
As a result of attending this event, I have a better understanding of the capabilities of CRM, what is xRM, Social Media and its benefits and challenges, and knowing how they can all integrate with SharePoint. I did find myself wishing I could catch an encore presentation of the CRM and SharePoint session to help me complete my original goal of having my CRM system "Friend" my SharePoint, so to speak, but I just ran out of time. I will definitely be watching for hands-on labs, webinars or subsequent events to extend my capabilities towards this goal. Learning about the Cloud Computing trend was a valuable benefit as well. Kudos to the entire C5Insight team for hosting such a terrific event!
The 4City tour will be in Raleigh on Tuesday and Atlanta of Thursday, so there is still time to catch this road show!