Thursday, July 17, 2008

Leads 1.0

Following a tip on a mailing list, I was signing up at dzone to sample their "reference cards" for various technologies (always a sucker for memory helpers).

And having filled out a zillion forms for trade rags, white papers, and what not, it's pretty obvious when a form is designed to figure out if you're the one writing the checks for IT stuff, and how big those checks might be. Or if you're part of the process to get those checks written.

So the "Your Role in Decisions" choices are:
  • Authorize purchases
  • Evaluate brands/vendors
  • Specify brands/vendors
  • Create IT strategy
  • Determine needs
  • None of the above
And then you also choose Company Size (ranges 1-49 up to 100,000+) and Total Developers (1-4 up to 250+).

This has always given me pause, since as an independent consultant there's only me in my company, but in a given engagement I may be acting in one of the above roles for a company on the high end of each spectrum. So which "company" are they really asking about? Taken literally my opinions (and budget!) wouldn't count for much; taken liberally, much more so.

But that was then, and this is now, and it occurred to me today that this form is missing the boat in an even more profound way.

Where are the questions about "how many Twitter followers do you have" and "how many people read your blog regularly"? Where is the interest in how wide a community you may be influencing?

Is there anyone collecting leads like this that's interested in community, rather than company? If you know of any, let me know.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Support Follies

Actually, the company in question uses the phrase "customer success team" rather than "support" to characterize how it's going to help you. Nice marketing spin -- we're partnered with you, your success is our success, this land is your land, this land is my... Anyway.

Unfortunately, when it comes to actually delivering -- here's the story:

I'm in the process of advising a client on whether or not to commit to this company's platform, outsourcing an essential component of their website. I'd really like to be able to say "yes", because otherwise I have to essentially recreate that platform (non-trivial) as well as deal with SOAP (blech) stuff and a horrific third-party API.

So in preparation for a conference call to discuss the integration issues, I prepare a couple of flow charts, write up some descriptive background material, not too much, just something to frame the conversation so we jump right to the heart of the matter.

Conference call (GoToMeeting) information arrives after the meeting is supposed to start. I call the dial-in number, to find no one there. It also takes a few minutes to discover that GoToNowhere apparently doesn't work on Safari and retry it, this time successfully, in Firefox.

Cell phone rings -- it's the "customer success" person. Apparently he's the only one that'll be involved; not much of a "conference" call. But OK. Let's talk.

He starts reading the email sent by the company's account manager. Uh, no -- that's what I've already replied to (the day before) correcting the simplistic description of the issues. Has he read that reply? Well, no. So obviously he hasn't seen the flow charts, either. Great. So let's use some phone time while he looks at those, and I try to explain further.

Gosh, yeppers, it is more complex than originally stated. But he's out of time, has a hard stop though we've started late, and will have to think about it, consult with his peers, and get back to me.

As I said, I'd really, really, like to tell the client to go with it -- but at this point, I'm seriously concerned by the level of "success" I'm having getting to the point of even starting to integrate the two systems.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Blast from the past

In an ongoing effort to lighten the house by getting rid of old papers, outdated technical books -- clutter -- I ran across a paper bookmark from the fabled (if you're of a certain age and live in Silicon Valley) Computer Literacy Bookstore.

On one side is store information: address, phone, map. On the other is:
"Yup, we have it.
Would you like us to
hold a copy for you?"
-- a typical phone conversation with a customer

That could have been me on the customer end. That store had just about everything computer-related. But that quote -- and the fact the store no longer exists -- makes me reflect on how the Web has altered the face of distribution, particulary for "knowledge products".

If you're not "of a certain age", see this wikipedia entry for more info.