Google Reader For CRM

Steve Rubel on his Micro Persuasion blog has an interesting post describing how to use Google Reader for knowledge management – Becoming a Knowledge Management Ninja with Google Reader.

Steve provides some interesting tips and tricks well worth reading. Looking at a more specific scenario, you could apply his advice to create a CRM (customer-relationship management) system using Google Reader. One of the biggest challenges facing many organisations is that the Internet and, more specifically, Web 2.0 tools are helping to make customers more informed than employees. Traditional CRM systems seem to be more about generating reports than relationships – forecasting, planning and reviewing targets. Creating replicable and measurable processes to ensure consistent interactions. Great in a rational world. But we don’t live in one. Does your CRM warn you about the blog post just published describing how to hack your best-selling product? Does it show you what your customers have been writing about you on public forums?

Keeping track of news feeds could help ensure that employees are as, if not more, informed than customers. And that is likely to go a long way to improving relationships and increasing sales and retention… Of course, this may require an adjustment to processes. Whilst customers have become more informed thanks to the Internet, too many organisations are ensuring their employees become less informed by banning access to the very tools that customers use – Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, Google, the Internet…

Technorati tags: CRM

Security challenges in Web 2.0

An interesting blog post has highlighted how Gmail accounts can be hacked – Google Email Hijack Technique. Aside from the issue that it appears quite easy for someone/thing who knows what they are doing to start snooping on your email (more than slightly worrying), the blog post highlights a new security challenge for anyone beginning to rely on hosting data in ‘the cloud’ – i.e. stored on remote data centres and accessed using online services. Think Gmail, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Office Live, MySpace, LiveJournal, SalesForce

When viruses first appeared, the primary method of spread was through infected disks. People had a habit of leaving floppy disks in computers. When the computer was next switched on, a virus would copy across from the floppy disk (way back when, the floppy disk drive was the first item read when your computer started up and the most common form of network for file sharing). Your computer would start to behave oddly as files became corrupted and you lost all your data. People, through training, threats and learning the hard way through experience, began to get better at not leaving disks inserted in computers when they switched off. But it didn’t matter because the threat changed…

Along came email and networks. New ways of hacking accounts, crashing computers and corrupting data arose that no longer relied on a floppy disk to spread the havoc. And new challenges appeared – spam overwhelming inboxes, phishing scams persuading people to willingly hand over bank details. Whilst some attacks were purely web-based (fake sites pretending to be your friendly bank), the majority of attacks still focused on taking control of your computer and doing bad stuff with it. But having a computer crash has become less of a worry as more data is being uploaded onto the web. Our need to have our data available regardless of the device we happen to be using means our devices are more resistent to damage. If your computer gets hacked, wipe it and rebuild it, then re-sync with your online services. And so the threat changes again…

The Gmail exploit doesn’t care about your computer, or your mobile phone or whatever device you choose to use. It lives in ‘the cloud’, hacking directly into the online services that are hosting your data. If Gmail gets hacked, what do you do? You can’t just format and rebuild, as has worked in the past with computers. You don’t control the service or the computers where your data is stored. Instead, you have to trust Google (or whichever service provider you happen to be using) to fix the issue. It’s a different dynamic and one that will need to be considered by any organisation planning to switch from local servers to fully hosted services.

Technorati tags: Web 2.0; Enterprise 2.0; Gmail

Google and Microsoft looking alike

Interesting post over on Nick Carr’s blog – The loose ties that bind – talking about Google’s strategy to capture 100% of users’ data and the possible implications.

The Google strategy is simple – make storing your data online the default behaviour:

“…As we move toward the ‘Store 100%’ reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local machine copy serves more like cache…”

This approach makes a lot of sense and probably worries a few of their competitors (makes you wonder why they didn’t buy Flickr and Del.icio.us…). Increasingly there are far more benefits to having your information stored online than having it stored locally on a computer – instant accessibility from any device for starters. But you still want to be able to access that information locally without always being connected to the Internet. For example, I don’t want to require an Internet connection to review my calendar or contacts, regardless of the device I’m using (currently they are stored on my laptop, PDA and mobile phone, with synchronisation software between the laptop and other devices).

But this approach has both pros and cons.

The benefits are simple – having all your information stored online in one location makes sharing data across applications and devices much much easier. There can be both productivity (reducing clicks to complete tasks, instant synchronisation across devices) and intelligence (new insights from analysing data, mash-ups that combine data sources) gains that are simply not possible when data is stuck in separate silos, be they software or hardware barriers.

The costs are also quite simple – the more you rely on integrated products and benefit from them (those productivity and intelligence gains), the higher the cost of switching to alternatives. You become dependent on the vendor who provides you with convenience.

Google isn’t the first to exploit this approach. Microsoft has long been criticised for integrating products and leading customers down the dependency route, initially using proprietary tools and formats and latterly using integration between desktop and (web) server products like SharePoint. Will using the Web and open standards make the situation any more palatable to those critics?