Last week, I sat in on a talk by Andrew Blau about Global Business Network’s scenario planning practice when he came by Adaptive Path as part of our Brown Bag lunch presentation series. I was struck by how his work relates to internal marketing practices, and am writing to share some of those connections. I should also say that my background is in marketing, and this is the focus of my work. I’ve recently joined AP and look forward to bringing some marketing related posts to this blog.
First, a word about scenario planning and internal marketing for those who are not familiar with these terms. The former is sometimes also referred to as “scenario thinking” and is a strategic planning method used to make flexible long-term plans. It is in large part an adaptation and generalization of classic methods used by military intelligence (I realize that may sound like an oxymoron).Internal marketing is an activity that is designed to align creative vision, purpose, processes, and culture in general. You can think of this as the Kool-Aid.
Andrew presented a scenario planning methodology that GBN uses to engage with organizations on a leadership level. The frame for this exercise was a ten year projection, which is far enough out as to limit the effectiveness of incremental visioning, but not so far out as to enter science fiction land. The process of building four divergent visions of the future helps the leadership get in touch with the culture within their organization, and understand how it will respond to different futures. It’s important to emphasize that the scenarios must be divergent from each other in order to address the broadest possible range of possibility. Andrew explained that each scenario becomes a caricature of sorts because it highlights predominant features within an organization that are teased out through specific scenarios.
This reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s mythological archetypes (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), because Campbell uses them to demonstrate that very similar features arise in creation myths across cultures. This approach was taken even earlier in Carl Jung’s use of archetypes as a psychological tool for individual analysis, and has also made it’s way into organizational psychology methods such as meta-analysis, which uses averages of individual assessments to represent larger groups. With this in mind, we touched on some common archetypes that arise within GBN’s scenario planning practice such as a disaster scenario, a utopian scenario, and a climate change scenario.
Internal marketing is relevant here because leadership teams must apply the knowledge that comes out of such exercises to their organizations in order to prepare for a myriad of possible futures. This practice recognizes that a culture of adaptation is key to success and must be fostered. I see internal marketing as an essential tool in cultivating adaptability because it distributes power throughout organizations while aligning resources with a larger cause. This leads to increased resiliency as well, not only because of its distributive nature but because it promotes multi-directional feedback from within an organization. At AP we embrace this approach by aligning our organizational purpose with employee behavior; this is represented through our conferences, Brown Bags, Open Design Sessions, management structure, and our commitment to the Designers’ Accord.
I’m writing to ask you about the CRM tools that you use, so that we can make an informed decision and share some knowledge with the community. As I’m also doing some due diligence for Adaptive Path, I can also share some of what I’ve learned as an introduction to the conversation. The CRMs that I’ve looked at thus far are: Netsuite, Sage, GoldMine, Sugar, and Open Object. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a Netsuite customer before while working at a great beverage company called Adina.
At Adaptive Path we’ve been using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool called SalesForce to manage our client relationships, and we’re considering upgrading to a higher level of subscription so we can access features like the new Content offering, and so that we might integrate e-mail fulfillment for our newsletter, and our registration database for our conferences.
One important feature of CRMs that I’ve picked up on is that there is quite a range of development models. For example, Sugar and Open Object are open source options that have development communities adding features and functionality. There are also third party development partners available to build what you need on the platform. The issue here is that development can take significant resources if what you need isn’t already out there, though the base service costs less than the proprietary options. With Sage and GoldMine you’re essentially buying a turnkey system (GoldMine is not hosted and runs on windows, Sage can be hosted online or on your own server). These two seem to be hangers on from a previous generation of CRM and it’s unclear how they’ll keep pace moving forward, though they can be less expensive if you’re just using the base service. SalesForce seems to offer the best of both worlds because they’ve opened their API to higher level subscribers, and have many third party partners who are working directly on their platform to add functionality (e-mail fulfillment, event registration, project management, accounting, etc). The challenge with SalesForce is knowing in advance if you can get what you need through their base tool plus the AppExchange. Also, while SalesForce is definitely going to be around in 5 years, some of their partners may not be. Lastly, Netsuite has gone for the kitchen sink approach. Their product is fully integrated beyond CRM to include accounting, supply chain management, e-commerce and more. They do have some partners as well, but that is happening mostly behind the scenes. While it has the highest subscription fees, the nice thing about Netsuite is that you can do everything in one place. The not nice thing is that the user experience isn’t so hot.
Actually, the user experience for all these tools is dissapointing. Because we use SalesForce currently it’s started an internal conversation about how much we’d like to improve the experience. We think there is a real opportunity for the right CRM to stand out by providing a great experience. There’s obviously lots more to say about these tools, but I really want to hear from you. If you work in client relations or marketing and I know you’re out there. Tell us: what CRM do you use?What are the challenges? How do you use it? What advice do you have some firms that are just adopting a CRM?
Back in August at the Adaptive Path UX Week conference, keynote speaker, Don Norman, talked a bit about how marketers make good allies for UX professionals because of their experience working with business units. This relationship has led marketers to get savvy about positioning their projects in the context of business metrics. Don also observed that marketers are interested in supporting investments in user experience because they share in the benefits.
As a marketer, my ears perked up when I heard Don express this idea, but it may not be immediately obvious how marketers really benefit. Last night, I discussed this in more detail over dinner with a user experience consultant who is attending our conference from Singapore. We touched on two complementary ideas that connect marketers to user experience projects.
The first is that marketers and user experience professionals are both interested in consistent experiences. From a design perspective, this helps customers acclimate to the product or service environment and allows designers to rely on established interactions. For marketers, consistent experience is really about building trust, and trust is the foundation for building an emotional connection with products and services, which extends into the customer’s overall relationship with a brand. A strong connection in this realm represents success for marketers.
The second idea is embedded in this first and is an interesting phenomenon that highlights how the law of averages can break down when applied to experience across touchpoints. User experience isn’t just about how we interact with a product or service, it’s about the experience a customer has with a brand across touchpoints. If a customer has a great experience at one touchpoint, but a poor experience at another, the net result may be less than the average of the two. This is an issue that Zipcar CEO Scott Griffith touched on in his keynote this morning when he talked about the importance of getting Zipcar’s call centers on par with the experience of being in a Zipcar.
Marketers are very conscious of this because of their work managing the marketing mix, where they have to think about breaking down silos between channels, coordinating messages, and creating a cohesive brand representation. This practice has be reinforced by increasingly integrated campaigns, and has given marketers some insight into the benefits user experience teams have to offer. I’m happy to see this theme emerging at UX Week, and I look forward to having more conversations about how marketers and experience designers can work more closely together.
I’m trying to get a blog together. I’ve gotten far enough for you to see this. Hopefully more progress will happen soon!