The Top 4 Key Concepts Driving Digital Transformation

DigitalTransformationMatrixInfographicThumbnailOrganizations from large enterprises to one-man shops are in the midst of a digital transformation.  Some gladly embrace the change. Others resist while still more are so busy keeping up with demand and duty that they risk missing it all together.

Nevertheless, it is happening and business leaders need to know what is happening and what to do about it.  Scott Brinker of the ChiefMarTec blog and Ion Interactive has written a wonderful eBook on how the digital transformation affects marketing technology. We have crafted a companion infographic entitled The Digital Transformation Matrix for leaders to download.

The first step is to understand what is happening. So we have combed the presentations, articles, thought leadership pieces, books and blogs and ConnectIT conference sessions to condense the results here.  The top four key concepts driving the digital transformation are outlined below

Key Concept 1: It’s the Attention Economy, Stupid.

We live in an attention economy. Amidst an abundance of options and opportunities our attention is the scarce commodity. People, brands, games and causes compete for a share of our attention. Getting it is not enough. They must hold it in order to get us to transact. We pay with our attention to receive insight, opportunity and information. This is a necessary but not sufficient precursor to a monetary or time or labor transaction. It’s an attention tax paid by enterprises for the opportunity to present you with a call to action. Therefore, enterprises must pay that attention tax in a way that gives customers, users and prospects a great experience and something of real value.

Key Concept 2: Your Brand isn’t Your Brand. Customer Experience is Your Brand

Abundance of options plus anonymity plus ease of information mobility means bad experiences drive people away while great experiences are sticky.

While products and services can be commoditized, experiences are inherently individual. They are your automatic differentiator. They’re going to be great or poor, easy or difficult, valuable or worthless.

It all comes down to the fact that your brand, your organization, has been forcibly democratized and it has nothing to do with your manager.  The reality is that your users and customers are now, more than ever, your boss. They’re an extension of your organization. They’re your:

  • Evangelists through word of mouth recommendations
  • Sales people through referral networks
  • Marketing arm through ratings and reviews
  • Customer support through forums and user groups

So next time you’re reading a blog post or LinkedIn article or tweet about the importance of your company culture, remember that your users and customers are a huge part of that culture.  Make sure they’re a positive influence.

Key Concept 3: All Marketing is Interactive

If you don’t believe it; if you love your brochures, billboards and business cards, you’re simply wrong.  Today, businesses are either more or less interactive than their competition.  Interaction is how customers and users experience brands (see concept 1).

It’s not that brochures, billboards and business cards are bad because they’re static. It’s that they’ve lost their edge because they’re bad interaction mechanisms.

What is the measure of a billboard’s interaction? The number of cars that drive past it? How does it create engagement or establish a give and receive relationship. How does it cultivate a great culture? It doesn’t. Some things are important for announcements and awareness. But awareness is not relationship and awareness without interaction is quickly forgotten.

Key Concept 4: Increasing Technological Sophistication

The abundance of good experiences available to users drives increasing sophistication in technology. In a milieu of abundant experience options, enterprise increasingly rely on ever-improving technology to differentiate, stand out and gain a competitive edge.

This means that marketing has moved out of the arts and crafts closet and into the growth hacking corner of the data center. Finding and keeping the edge in the attention economy requires faster, deeper understanding of the audience and their motivations. Engaging the audience and staying top of mind means creating and delivering content of real utility and value to them (not you) before you ever ask for a purchase or registration.

In order to do that, businesses must understand who their audiences are (demographics data), what they desire (trend analysis), what they ought to desire (predictive analytics), how they prefer to be approached (channel metrics) and what their influences are (social proof).  For deep dives into each of these topics from industry specific perspectives, check out the ConnectIT conference May 13-14.


The digital transformation is overtaking all global organizations. Some are quick and agile in adaptation. Others will resist for a time while some will undoubtedly be broken just as Blockbuster was by Netflix.

The Digital Transformation Matrix (download here) outlines and expands upon the 4 key concepts outlined here:

  1. It’s The Attention Economy, Stupid
  2. Your Brand Isn’t Your Brand. Customer Experience is Your Brand
  3. All Marketing is Interactive
  4. Increasing technological sophistication

These are distilled from our reading of Scott Brinker’s free eBook “A New Brand of Marketing” (PDF). We invite you to join us at the ConnectIT conference to engage.

Trendspotting 2013

Dec 2012 HARO Tech Query Word Cloud by BloomThink2012 is gone and there are plenty of entertaining and profound retrospectives from Google’s Zeitgeist 2012 to your very own Facebook year in review. But it is much more interesting to look ahead and anticipate where the market will go based on the trajectory established in late 2012.  Therefore we have performed some deep textual analytics, data mining and business intelligence operations on forward looking data sets to arrive at the following conclusions.

  1. 2013 is the year business adoption of social media starts in earnest.  For many years, technology and innovation have far outpaced business adoption.  As niche players grew into success over the last 2 years, big business interest in the revenue of thos spaces grew as well.  2012 was a year of many notable social acquisitions by big firms. Facebook bought Instagram, Microsoft bought Yammer, LinkedIn bought SlideShare, Salesforce bought BuddyMedia, Google bought Wildfire, Oracle bought Vitrue, and IBM bought tealeaf to name a few.  Undoubtedly you could name others.  Such acquisitions are leading, rather than trailing, market indicators.  As the big companies buy innovation, expect them to monetize their purchases by driving those social technologies deeper into their customer lists and solution stacks.
  2. 2013 is the year organizations move from infants to juveniles along the maturity spectrum.  While social technologies enjoyed the limelight among marketers and consultants, the rest of the organization yawned and continued with business as usual.  That meant email.  Despite pockets of enlightenment, most businesses are just now dipping their toes into the ocean of social business.  Like toddlers at the beach running towards then away from the surf, they are curious about what is out there and convinced that it is amazing.  Yet, as the 2012 IBM Tech Trend Report demonstrates, they are cautious and fearful as well.  Combine a maturing business user with available technology and 2012 – the year of introduction – completed and the stage is set for businesses to do some growing up.
  3. 2013 is the year big data meets big social content and has a social intelligence baby. The match has already been made.  The sheer power of distributed compute systems like Hadoop when brought to bear on the sheer magnitude of social data produce amazing insights. But outside of some basic ERP optimization or network bandwidth allocation, most businesses have largely been left scratching their heads with what to do with all this new information.  Big data has yet to regularly produce actionable insight from all that information.  2013 is the year that unstructured content is brought into the mix.  The combination will produce a small but promising technology trend – social intelligence.  It will undoubtedly be named something else. And what we mean by “social intelligence” is not the best time to post your tweets.  Rather it is the synthesis of big data intelligence, social CRM, CXM, enterprise knowledge and unstructured data that produces the contextual lens through which business decisions are made.  The burgeoning cloud backup market is getting a handle on all the unstructured content in the business.  As they add indexing, search and sharing to their offerings  – as pioneers such as Digitiliti have already done – the availability of enterprise knowledge will become independent from the snags and barriers known today as “check in pages”.  As APIs and integrations become productized the combination of these centralized knowledgebases with big data warehouses will be tapped by enterprising reporting engines and genius data scientists.  There will be many small niche players in this area in 2013.  But those will be snapped up in 2014 and we’ll see a growth in maturity in social intelligence – or whatever it is called – in 2015.

In closing, the image above is a word cloud that highlights terms from forward looking technology queries posed by journalists looking for help writing their stories.  It covers December, 2012 and more than 7600 words.  If the news is to be believed, 2013 will be a year where business has a deep need for expertise, data, security, people who can execute (make) and information is at the heart of it all.  There is also a proliferation of smaller topics that form a milieu rather than remain on the periphery.  Taken all together, 2013 will be a year of learning to use what we have to drive insight we have always suspected was there.  Cheers!

Your Registration Forms Suck

You are making me do what?
You are making me do what?
Creative Commons Attribution by Flickr User JD Hancock

A recent article on UXMovement outlined 8 reasons why people don’t fill out those sign up forms on a website, Facebook page or inside your app.  The reasons were what you might expect: fear of getting spammed, fear of insecure data storage or transfer, asking for information that users feel they shouldn’t need to give up.

But a huge reason for avoiding sign up forms, registration walls and subscriptions was missed.

The content that is behind that form is probably available elsewhere without registration requirements.  Furthermore, someone in my social network probably knows where it is, or already has it and is willing to share.  This means that websites aren’t trading as much on *uniqueness* of content but rather on *convenience*.  If your registration form or sign up process is a big barrier to getting at your content, the convenience goes down and users will look elsewhere.  The failures of big news papers to put content behind paywalls and registration walls illustrates this point nicely.  Analyst reports are in a similar situation.  The purchaser persona for these has shifted away from an interested buyer doing market research and almost exclusively to the marketing departments of the companies covered in the reports.  The companies then post the analyst reports for all to see.  You and I get them for free, without registering.

So think about that registration form, contest entry or sign-up sheet you have.  Keep it simple and follow these 2 guidelines:

1) simple registration forms are OK – name, email, company name and maybe phone number (maybe!)  People are usually willing to trade basic information for access to your content.  But make sure it’s actually a trade.  Don’t gouge your market for their data.

2) keep it easy and convenient – forms should take less than 30 seconds to fill in and I should be able to do it as easily on my phone or tablet as I can on my laptop.  Remember that access to your content is a convenience.  I will go find it (or something like it from your competitor) elsewhere if you make my life difficult.

There are hundreds of opportunities to sign up for a chance to win an iPad. There are millions of tech blogs.  We have whitepapers, reports, infographics and webinars coming out our ears.  That information is easy to replicate, share and re-post.  It is good that information is shared and content goes viral through our interest networks.  So ensure that your content points back to you and lets people know how to get in touch when your content touches them.

That is engagement that no sign up form will ever mimic.

[my name is Billy Cripe – my site is – I run a social media strategy agency – email: billy.cripe[at] | facebook: ]

Tapping The Expert In All Of Us

the expert in us allGartner says that a social business is one that provides “sustained value” through pulling together “talent, interests, experience, insights and knowledge”. But buried underneath this advice are requirements that must be uncovered if businesses have any hope of putting it to work. We talked about talent and interests before. Let’s take a brief look at experience.

Experience means the historically aggregated exposure to and interaction with a subject area. Malcolm Gladwell says that to become an expert at something, you need to put in about 10,000 hours.  An organization may have one or two true “Gladwellian” experts if they are lucky.  But if you can pull together experienced individuals in a way that combines their talent and interests and provide a context that combines insight and knowledge then you may get close.  Gartner says combining in this way makes a social business.  It can also create a collaborative team that acts as a virtual expert meeting all of Gladwell’s criteria and looking like a Surowieckian “wise crowd”

Imagine 3 employees: Mary the project manager, George the support tech and Ben the line machinist. Some might say that Mary was hired to be a project manager not a product manager, that George is supposed to take support phone calls and not create sales messaging and that Ben is there to operate the line machinery not figure out efficiency processes.

Yet the concept of the wisdom of crowds, popularized by James Surowiecki in his book of the same name, suggests the opposite. It’s not that Mary or George or Ben are able to be equal replacements for established experts in their problem domains. Rather, it’s that if you first allow and then evaluate the combined inputs of Mary, George, Ben, and the experts, the resulting output will be better than the single opinion of the expert.

In order for the individuals to successfully combine into a wise crowd, Surowiecki states that four criteria must be met. First, each person in the group should have their own independent opinions. Second, each person should be free from peer pressure and group-think. Third all the members must be sufficiently diverse to bring their unique, domain specific knowledge to the issue. This is where critical mass and social business technology really help boost effectiveness.  Finally some tool or process must exist to aggregate the opinions and bring them to the group for evaluation and final decision making.

If you tap the enterprise brain rather than only the enterprise expert’s brain, your results will be better and more apt to succeed.  This is what Gartner sees as the result of pulling together experience along with the other ingredients of social business.

5 Reasons QR Codes TOP NFC and Image Recognition


QR codes, those blocky squares of encoded information, have received a drubbing in the media lately.  This is due to an appalling failure of businesses to use them correctly and a lack of design creativity that is simply lazy.

Flying to speak to a conference in San Francisco earlier this week I counted 21 QR codes in the in-flight magazine located in the seat back pocket in front of me.  Think about that for a moment.  The IN-FLIGHT magazine.  “In Flight” means absolutely no cell signal and no wifi signal.  (Even if there was a wifi signal, do you think I’d pay $10/hour to scan ads?)  Other terrible examples included QR codes along the moving sidewalk in the airport (seriously!?).  The most common QR code fail is when the code takes you to a non-mobile optimized website.

Note to all Agencies and Businesses using QR codes – THINK!  People are scanning from the devices they have in their pockets.  These may  be as powerful as computers but they are not, in fact, desktops, laptops or even ultrabooks.  They are small, portrait oriented smart phones.  Vertical scrolling works because it is easy for our thumbs.  Horizontal scrolling doesn’t because it is uncomfortable for our thumbs.  Don’t fight evolution!

Some people think that NFC (near field communications) or image recognition will take over QR codes as the best way to create “hyperlinks for meatspace”.  Here are the five reasons why they’re wrong.

1) Zero Infrastructure Cost. QR Codes require no hardware and no infrastructure to work.  NFC relies on hardware in the phone (bluetooth or other short-range secure radio signal) AND in a reader device.  Similar solutions have been around for years – FastPass at Disney, Fast Pay at Exxon Mobile gas stations are two examples.  These have failed to catch on in no small part because of the high barrier to deployment.  Anytime you create a hardware burden for a “convenience” solution you exponentially increase cost (deployment, maintenance, education, distribution).  Meanwhile the incremental benefit is small meaning you must have wide adoption to achieve anything like an ROI.  This is the same challenge faced by hydrogen fuel cars and plug-in electric vehicles.  The cost to re-tool the “fill-‘er-up” infrastructure is prohibitive.  So different solutions are being considered.

2) Uniqueness.  QR codes hold information like URLs or text or contact information.  This means that your phone scanner easily reads them and display what that one single QR code is supposed to display.  Image recognition software (like leafsnap) uses your phone camera to identify what you’re eating or what kind of a tree that leaf belongs to. So while it can identify a leaf as a Maple or Oak, it cannot tell you interesting things about each individual leaf.  QR codes tell you something unique for each code.  This is because they contain not just data, but they also tell your phone how to read the data they contain.  For this reason, I do not believe that image recognition actually competes with QR codes.  They are complementary.

3) Better Distribution. Distribution is important for adoption.  QR codes are simpler and cheaper to distribute than NFC.  QR codes have a lower barrier to entry than image recognition software.  Together that means they enjoy a wider distribution and better adoption. No hardware requirement means that QR code creation is available to anyone.  All you need is a printer (and you’ve already got that) and you’re set. QR codes do not require professional developers to tie a database of known images to URLs or text entries about the subject.  QR codes are the ultimate re-use tool.  Use the information you already have, formatted for the mobile device and reach new and interested audiences.

4) Super Easy.  QR codes are incredibly easy to create and customize and brand  Sites like QRHacker , the Google Charts API for QR codes and the ZXing Project’s QR generator have made creation easy for anyone.  The fact that QR codes can be colored, branded with logos and put next to traditional marketing assets like brochures mean that they effectively extend the reach of physical assets with the power and richness of the web.  The risk (as you can see from the fail examples above) is that companies take the ease and fail to account for their audience.  Simply slapping a QR code on a brochure that goes to your public website fails to account for where the users are.

5) Reusability.  When QR codes point to a URL that goes to a mobile web site you get all the flexibility that comes with the web.  This means that one QR code can be continually updated with new information, new videos, new deal information  – anything.  So take a look around at the whitepapers you have, at the product demos you have, at the sales pitch info you have.  Ask around.  When are those assets *most* useful?  To what kinds of people?  At what point of the sales process?  As your marketers when customers need that extra little persuasive push to make a decision.  Then make sure you get a QR code out at that location, in that environment, targeted to that audience.

Good use of QRs requires planning.  You *must* understand what you are trying to achieve.  Google doesn’t just slap up some random links on their web properties and hope to make money selling that ad space.  They have nearly perfected the art of targeting ads to audiences.  There’s a lot of work that goes into it.  QR codes are hyperlinks for the real world.  They function just like ads – even if they don’t go to marketing materials.  To work they require awareness, intent and action.  If get those and someone scans, you had better deliver relevant, useful, whimsical, and engaging content.  Or risk getting called out in the next update of WTF QR Codes.

2012 Trends in ECM

Burning Man from Hector Santizo via Behance
photo from Hector Santizo via Behance

Here are some links to predictions about ECM trends for 2012.  Which are likely?  Which are bunk?

Reliving 2006?  Maybe –

The view from EMC – some seriously inverted predictions here – about what you’d expect from EMC

Nails mobile, cloud & open source.  Overly optimistic on CMIS

A good explanation but not sure if these are trends or just market analysis.  In 2 parts. Part 1:  Part 2:

Predictions in a trade show brief.  Well Tapping trends is how they drive attendance so their livelihood is tied more closely to being right.  Pay attention:

Simplicity for the win:

These are all fun reading but the last one has my vote.  Simplicity reigns as the overbloated ECM suites struggle with adoption and realization of all their promises.

Remember that Simplicity Raises Adoption.  Adoption Boosts Consistency.  Consistency Achieves ROI.

Social Changes Everything About Workflow

The Easy Path
Creative Commons Attribution: Flickr user nattu

Those of us who come from the ECM world have been “business process sensitive” for a long time.  We have written, designed and implemented process centric content systems for many clients around the world even if they were covered under different names.  This is because we realized early on that business content is always the input to or the output from a formal or informal business process.  This is true even if it doesn’t have an encoded SOA, BPM or JMS structure behind it.

We called it workflow.  We called it integration.  That’s because it was. (tweet this)

The big challenge is that business processes are as complex as human interactions.  Business processes documented in Visio or some other workbench tool represent the optimal flow of information and tasks from one point to another.  But exceptions to these rules are rampant.  This is because humans are complex creatures and we will often do either whatever it takes or whatever is easiest to achieve a goal.  The path we pick depends on a massive amount of external factors – our mood, our interest in the task, how deep is our stake in the outcome, if we’ve had our morning coffee… This has given rise to complex event processing (CEP) and similar systems that acknowledge this complexity.  They attempt to brute-force their way through millions of contextual premises in order to work through to a single conclusive result.  That result is often the answer to the question, “what is our next step?”  Consequently, encoding processes for content / context centricity is often an exercise in triage and attrition rather than total state awareness with full exception handling.

The social revolution has taught us that people create the process they need at the time. (Tweet This!)  They figure out the path they need or want to achieve their goal.  This path is often not the most efficient but it is often the one that enjoys the most adoption.  This continues to pose challenges to systems inherently based on predicting and improving human efficiency by assuming that we can become more machine-like.

I suspect that this same concept explains (in part) why legacy ECM is having its lunch eaten by the much simpler and less sophisticated cloud systems like Box, Google Docs, slideshare, Dropbox and even facebook.  They focus on the goal – sharing information with others.  They leave the “how to make it happen” up to the people who figure it out.  It might be emailing a link.  It might be a social invite via the service itself.  It might be via web based plugins (e.g. via wordpress or linked in).  The point is that the services leave that responsibility up to you.

This is not to say that the way the legacy ECM systems integrate and share information with processes is wrong.  It works, but it’s restrictive and often cumbersome.  And let’s face it, we chafe at things that were not our idea.  We hate being told that there is only one way we have to do something.  This is why systems such as cloud ECM are enjoying a heyday: they let the humans be human and simply make the content easily available.  (tweet this!)