Last week at Technology Services World, I spent one entire day in a conference room doing about a dozen 1:1 meetings with attendees. I always keep Tuesday at our conferences clear for these conversations, and TSIA’s amazing Susie Hiner fills up my calendar as attendees ask about meetings. It can be exhausting, and I admit by the end of the day I’m dragging a bit, but it is so valuable to have face time with members and partners and hear what they are working on, what their top challenges are, what technology projects are planned, etc. I hope everyone got something out of the meetings, but the truth is I probably learn more than they do. Thinking back over those meetings, as well as breakout session and Expo conversations, here were some of the common themes I heard:
Defining KM is a moving target. As usual, knowledge management dominated many of my 1:1 meetings. At one point I lamented to Françoise Tourniaire of FT Works, a long time TSIA partner and KM expert, “It used to be so easy–you bought a knowledgebase and you were done!” Today there are multiple technology and process areas converging: knowledge management and knowledgebases, content management, social interaction including crowdsourcing and collaboration, and expertise management. Today I spend more time talking about enterprise search technology, such as Coveo, than I do about knowledgebase tools. There is so much content across the enterprise and in online communities, and few companies are doing a good job of fully leveraging it to help customers. Today when companies launch a KM project, the first 6 months is usually spent just defining that that means, and what project scope makes sense. You can’t boil the ocean, but being fixated on a single knowledgebase will also not serve you in the long term.
Reducing overhead on communities. Another common theme I heard is that online customer communities, which are increasingly seen as the primary source of product information for more customers, is taking a lot of internal staff to manage and moderate. There were early success stories from companies like Novell who successfully transitioned the majority of moderation activities to “power” customers. These customers are treated like royalty, given free trips to user conferences and featured in expert panel discussions. And it is a win:win for the customer too–if they are anointed a super user by a vendor, they have their pick of administration jobs. But I heard from multiple companies with successful communities that customers love the forums, but their employees were still providing most of the answers. Prioritizing moderation duties in addition to inbound assisted support phone calls and emails is a complex juggling act, and sometimes community responses suffer.
Telephony is an ongoing challenge. I’m the first to admit I am not an expert on voice/telephony systems. At Forrester this was covered by a different group than enterprise applications, and though call centers may be the primary users, IT still owns the product selection at most companies, meaning TSIA has never had much luck landing voice partners, since the business users aren’t the ones driving the deal. But that doesn’t stop the flow of questions. I continue to hear that ‘best of breed’ onpremise voice platforms are far too expensive for smaller companies, but there are too many unexpected outages and poor quality using cloud voice platforms. I also had some questions about what bleeding edge features to look for when planning “the call center of tomorrow,” especially in the area of video calls and social media integration.
Everyone’s PSA needs are different. Professional Services Automation (PSA) has become a frequent topic in my conference 1:1 meetings, and I find that just about everyone I talk to has different priorities. I define PSA as a platform containing 3 modules: resource management, project management, and project accounting, and the reason for the PSA project can be in any of these areas. Resource management is at the root of many of these conversations, from boosting utilization rates to forecasting talent requirements a year in advance. CRM integration is often a big topic as well–how can I get more visibility into the pipeline and start influencing what PS projects are being quoted? But I also talked to companies who were primarily focused on better management and visibility into projects, usually because they are seeing project milestones slip and margins degrading, and want to find out why–and find out early enough to take corrective action. And there’s always someone struggling with the billing side, with customers pushing back for more detail and asking for discounts after the fact.
I also had conversations about social media monitoring, tools for customer success, and building multichannel customer engagement strategies. Hopefully everyone got something out of these meetings–I know I sure did. If you are planning to attend our next TSW conference in Las Vegas in October, please consider booking a 1:1 meeting with me, and I look forward to seeing you there! And as always, thanks for reading!