Social, Mobile and Collaboration: 3 Tips for Getting on the Road

“You can’t get there from here.”

That’s the classic gag about New Englanders giving road directions — that somehow, the route that needs to be taken is so convoluted and confusing that there’s no way to negotiate between two points on the surface of the Earth.

Logically, we know that’s not true. You can get anywhere from anywhere these days — especially if you can rely on transportation that doesn’t need to stick to the roads. But looking at some rural New England roads — and talking to locals about the best ways to negotiate those roads — you might well make that expression a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The reality may be that the trip is so arduous, tortuous and treacherous that YOU really can’t get there from where you are now because the trip simply isn’t worth it.

Mapping a Route

That seems to be where we are with some revolutionary aspects of CRM. We know we have to get to the point where mobile is a ubiquitous technology, where social CRM is a commonplace layer in a CRM strategy, and where collaboration takes place between customers and company on a regular basis.

We know that’s where we need to go — heck, many of us can see it. But how do we get there? And who do we ask for directions?

As in a lot of CRM-related issues, the central theme here is not the technology. Granted — the technology has evolved around social, mobile and collaboration in dramatic ways that allow us to do things we’ve never been able to do before.

But the real issue is a human one: What do we want to accomplish, how do we choose the right tools, and how do we manage the change that those tools will demand?

Know What You Don’t Know

When it comes to these human issues, a lot depends on the specific humans you’ve chosen to work with. As a result there’s plenty of room for variation in how you address these issues. But here are three general pointers that can get you headed in the right direction:

  1. You need leadership that’s more afraid of missed opportunities than it is of change. Social, mobile and collaborative technologies don’t displace current processes; they augment them and make them better if they’re already working.

    If they’re not working, adding a layer of new communications capabilities will only expose those failings — which may help explain why some leaders are timid about embracing these ideas.

  2. You need to chart how that change moves through the organization. The idea of “beachheads” is as apt with these new technologies as it is with CRM rollouts: Spot a place where new technologies and processes can have maximum impact, implement them, and pay close attention to measuring the effects of these changes.

    It’s incumbent on you to have established a baseline to measure against, because when you can show the impact of new ways of doing things in numbers, it has a much more powerful effect than just telling people about how changes should help them.

    After that, start looking for more “beachheads” in the organization; these should meet with less resistance (to perpetuate the amphibious landing analogy) if your previous efforts have met with success.

  3. Avoid falling into the trap that you know what to expect from social, mobile and collaboration tools. Once you put these tools in the hands of your employees, they’re going to be the ones who discover new, better and unexpected ways of using them. With a revolution in communication comes the opportunity to discover revolutionary ways in using these tools.

Don’t Follow the Leader

A lot of businesses are waiting on the sidelines for others to illustrate creative ways to put social, mobile and collaboration tools to use. This is a catastrophic mistake — what works for one company may not work for another, because every group of customers is unique.

Even if your situation is precisely the same as a competitor’s and you copy it note for note, you’ll still be behind, because in the time it takes you to implement a similar solution, it will have evolved beyond where you are.

This is a topic I’ll revisit shortly. Next Wednesday, on April 25 at SugarCon, I’ll be moderating a panel on the topic of getting to the next generation of CRM with Denis Pombriant, Brian Vellmure and Craig Rosenberg. I’m looking forward to hearing what they have say, and I plan to share it with you.

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at the CRM Outsiders. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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