Oracle Social CRM

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with a couple of the Oracle CRM team to talk about Oracle’s new social applications in the CRM On Demand product. The meeting was setup Polly Johnson from Oracle’s PR agency Kinetics, Polly was referred to my by Gareth Llewellyn from Oracle a switched on PR guy. While my main interest is HR related, I am also very interested in everything social media so I accepted.

During the meeting we discussed how Oracle is moving it’s whole product line towards becoming more focused on the social aspect fo business. From a CRM point of view how they can make the applications work better for the individual sales person. One of the key themes was to allow sales people to use their social networks and social media to help enable the sales process. While Oracle is making great steps into this area the products are still limited in their functionality, I will get back to this in a bit.

Now I am not a customer of Oracle, nor a CRM consultant, not even likely to use their CRM products myself. But I do blog, and interact with people who might be these things. Therefore anything I say might be useful for Oracle in the future sales process, ok maybe my reach isn’t that great but you never know. Let me explain this process. I left the meeting about an hour ago and have already blog, and exchanged several Tweets about the meeting. This content is now all out there for anyone to see, use, remix and learn from. Basically I was a digirati solider.

I have to head off to a meeting with Big Red Sky BigRedSky so I will finish the run down on the product later.

Slight service interruption

Over the last few days service on this site and several of my other sites has been less than perfect, downright poor for some of them. This has been due to several related factors. Firstly the performance of my previous hosting provider MD Webhosting and secondly the unavoidable service interruptions while moving hosting providers. I am now on a VPS environment provided by SliceHost.

I will not go into the details of the issue I had with MD WebHosting, let’s just say I would not recommend them to anyone.

Things should start to settle down as I get everything fully sorted. I appologise to people who have been impacted by these issues.

 

Self Management & Inspecht Update

The last month to 6 weeks has been very busy, but I have to say I have not made a lot of progress in many different areas. Before we get to the challenges let me review the positive things from the last month.

  • I started attending Jelly in Melbourne and have met some great folks.
  • We went to Sydney for Web Directions South 2008.
  • I spoke at a user group for EmployeeConnect.
  • Sat on a panel for the NSW KM Forum.
  • Meet with several people around possible work opportunities.
  • Helped organise the Melbourne Twitter community’s Talk Like a Pirate Day party & another MTUB meetup.
  • Helped organise and attended Startup Camp Melbourne.
  • Started a wild idea of mine Blue Day 2008.
  • Wrote several blog posts that have focused my thoughts in some new areas.
  • Read several books on business development and social media.
  • Attended the AHRI HR Leadership Day.
  • Begun discussions with some peers on a new project that we can’t talk about at this stage ;-).
Now the challenges.
  • Being a solo operator for the last 6 months and having spent the 6 months previous working from home full time motivation can be an issue some days. The last month has been full of days like that.
  • I have not completed a GTD weekly review, at all.
  • Inbox is no where near zero.
  • I have not finished several documents and presentations that I set as goals for September.
  • To be honest I have no billable work between now and the end of the year, which is a concern.
  • My hosting provider and I have had a falling out meaning I spent most of last week starting to move the dozen or so sites I have onto a brand new dedicated server. While the performance has improved this process is costing me time and money. 
  • I have spent a lot of time writing code on several personal projects that don’t pay any money. While I enjoy the writing of code, you can’t pay the bills with it.
Next steps.
  • Complete a full weekly review, my major task of today.
  • Review my value proposition of Inspecht as I have noticed the message is not clear when selling my services.
  • Update the Inspecht web site with these revised service messages.
  • Finish the outstanding documents from September.
  • Focus on my GTD next actions so I don’t get lost again.

Poverty & depression

While today is Blue Day 2008, where the Australian tech & social media community are raising the awareness of depression & anxiety, we need to remember that we still live in a privileged part of the world. Most of us will never experience poverty in the real sense such as the way people in Darfur are at the moment. Unfortunately this does not mean people don’t experience poverty in Australia, in fact people can end up on the poverty line, or even below it, as an outcome of depression.

Remember over 1 million Australia adults and 100,000 youth live with depression each year, on average, 20% of people will experience depression at least once in their life; 1 in 4 females and 1 in 6 males. While experiencing depression many people are unable to function within what we casually call normal society, sometimes they end up without any means of financially support themselves or their family.

The inability to financially support oneself can result in them living in poverty. Not only that, these people can be living next door to you, not a faceless individual in another country. Poverty and depression together can create are terrible cycle with one feeding off the other and can send an otherwise intelligent & well functioning person over the edge.

This leads me to Blog Action Day and Learn About Poverty.

Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

This year Blog Action Day is focusing on poverty, which brings me to Learn About Poverty a blog where World Vision has brought together their resources for Blog Action Day.

To help generate excitement for Blog Action Day, World Vision and several other Australian organisations are running a competition to encourage more people to post about poverty. So I encourage you all once you have written you post on depression, pull one together for poverty.

Blue Day 2008

WARNING: A personal post.

Just over a month ago I came up with a wild idea to  do something to raise the awareness of depression and anxiety for Beyond Blue’s ADA month. How easy and simple things sound typing in the isolation of ones own computer!

But before I look forward at what has taken place, let’s look back to my story.

I have suffered on and off from depression for probably the best part of 10 years, however as I learn more about the “black dog” I feel I have had him around me for the better part of half my life.

The black dog took over my life several times in the last 8 years, but at two very clear times. First when I felt trapped in a job I did not enjoy but felt I was unable to leave due to financial committments to my family. Secondly after my marriage breakdown. Sometimes he was there for a day or two but other times for what seemed like weeks on end! Everything was black, and too much.

I am lucky as unlike so many others who have attempted suicide my issues never got to that point, although I will admit that the thought did cross my mind a few times. Unfortunately I have known too many people who have crossed the line.

As I said I was lucky.

But still depression made me not want to get out of bed, reduced my effectiveness in the workplace, become irritated with the ones you love, disconnect from society, I would lose interest in the things that gave me enjoyment. Basically you become a shell of a human being. Not something to wish on anyone.

One of the big issues was pointed out by Cameron Reilly on Twitter a couple of days ago:

the problem is that when you’re in a deep depression your brain ain’t working right, so you CAN’T ask for help

I feel another issue stopping people from asking for help is the perceived stigma attached to depression and anxeity that people are affraid to talk about it openly for fear of the consequences. To this I say BULL SHIT! The best thing you can do is talk about it, even better seek professional help.

Eventually I decided to seek help, and over the last 9 months have been making significant progress in taking control of the “black dog”.

Now forward to Blue Day 2008!

I registered a domain name http://blueday2008.org and over the last few weeks started a fairly low level advertising of the activity. Not really sure what to expect. I mean I felt a few of my close friends would get involved.

But.

Right now when I look across my social network I see a sea of blue.

There are blog posts being written all over the globe, avatars are changing, people are coming together to acknowledge the issues, and the most amazingly people are openly discussing the issues on Twitter. I have received Twitter replies, direct messages, emails and blog links from all over the place showing support.

The Twitter aspect is to me the most interesting as most of these people have public Twitter profiles which mean everything said will be collected by the Googlebot and be available for others to read.

One last comment. If you are suffering, even if you don’t think you have depression but are just down, reach out and talk to someone. If you are in Australia and in need of urgent help contact Beyond Blue, in other countries reach out and contact your local support groups before it is too late.

Blue Day 2008

We are two days away from Blue Day 2008! What is Blue Day?

Well it is a day to recognise depression and anxiety within society.

So what can you do to get involved?

  • Write a blog post about depression or anxiety, personal insights would be great
  • Produce a podcast about depression or anxiety, as with the blog posts personal insights help
  • If you don’t have a blog of a podcast, register on this site and submit a post that will appear on the Submitted Posts page.
  • Change your avatars on your favourite social networking site Twitter/Facebook/FriendFeed/etc to something blue, download one of our pre-built ones
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Modify your blog theme to be mainly blue
  • Run a Second Life event, or attend the jokaydia event
  • Wear blue for the day
  • Organising a meet ups on the day, currently organised:
  • Sydney – Oct 10 from around 5pm, will be a STUB event and part of Official Friday Drinks at Grace77Bar on the Mezzanine level, cnr King and York
  • Adelaide – details TBD
  • Brisbane – details TBD
  • Perth – Oct 10 from 7pm at Queens Hotel – 520 Beaufort Street, Highgate
  • Canberra – Oct 10, 2008 from 12:00pm – 1:00pm Verve Cafe/Bar
  • Tag your photos/posts/tweets with BlueDay2008
  • Become a fan on FaceBook
  • If you want to join in it is not too late head over to http://blueday2008.org & grab a avatar, join in on Second Life, write a blog post, or attend a Blue Day meet up.

    Startup Camp Melbourne wrap up

    Last weekend was Startup Camp Melbourne, an action packed event I participated in full of drama and success.

    The idea of bringing unknown people together to learn about creating startups is a fantastic idea that we need more of in Australia. I know we have several incubators and a sort of venture capital industry but, we don’t have many technology startups unless they are funded by family and friends.

    Now the weekend.

    We kicked off at 6pm Friday night over at kisla Interactive Studios with the arrival of 20 people, most having never met, let alone worked together. In fact from what I could work out only 2 people (Jason & Matt) had in fact worked together before the weekend.

    I was in the green team with Steve Hopkins, Duncan Riley‘George’ ProvoostJason BrownleePieter Peach and John Sherwood. I have socialised several times with Duncan but have never worked with him. I have met Steve socially once for coffee and at an MTUB, I had also met George & Pieter at two different Jelly’s. I would say I knew very little about anyone of them, especially not their strengths, or weaknesses.

    Others have posted (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) on the process of what went on so I won’t go into it in too much detail, just touch on some of my key thoughts.

    The Good

    • The whole experience of being thrown into a room with 20 people you had never worked with and expected to create something by the end of the weekend.
    • The collaboration process to create ideas and workout what was worthwhile and what was less than fantastic :-).
    • The food & location.
    • Learning new technology & tools. Being a lowly hack, to be able to spend an intense period of time with expert developers and business folk was a buzz.
    • Helping organise the event.
    • Finally the process of having to think through the aspects of starting up a business was a great experience, Duncan summarises it very clearly:

    Two and a bit days to come up with an idea for a startup, then to deliver it, complete with prototype, business plan and pitch may be (and was) an intense experience, but it challenged every participant. For developers, it focused their attention on results, and took away the luxury of time. For those in marketing or the broader business side, it forced decision making and hard decisions without the luxury of broader testing. Everything from the logo, site design and the usability/ needs case, through to financials and final pitch.

    The Bad

    • Having slept a total of 10 hours in the 48 hours before arriving on Friday night.
    • Still being sick when I arrived. I had spent Monday & Wednesday in bed, and seriously considered not attending the weekend.
    • Expectations. I’m not sure we clearly communicated the expectations of the weekend to everyone, which caused a bit of confusion during the weekend. That was probably caused by Maxim and myself not really understanding what the expectations were either.
    • Having to work 42 hours straight to get everything done.
    • Our team made a serious error in judgement on Friday night, the technology platform. We didn’t have a common technology within the team. This resulted in us “losing” 8 hours of productivity while we changed direction and having to build our final prototype in a 14 hour long mad dash through the night.
    • Having to build a site using a technology platform I had never seen until that point in time, Ruby on rails
    • The VC feedback. My feeling was he was negative about what was being done, had no concept of technology and possibly what it takes to build a technology startup (I have not been able to find details on the types of companies he has invested in so I am not 100% sure). My feelings could be as I felt like complete crap during the final few hours having surviving on diet of sugar, Codral and caffeine (4 coffees, 2 redbulls, 3 V & 2 cokes) for the last 38 odd hours.
    • While having the VC arrive on Sunday afternoon to provide feedback to the teams was good I think we missed a major opportunity. If he had addressed the whole group for a few minutes about what should be included in a VC pitch then I suspect most teams would have done a better job. Telling us he wanted no more than 15 minutes per team after 2 hours of presentations was a bit of a waste for everyone.

    The Ugly

    • My PC. I tried to install XAMPP on my PC as I was having URL rewrite issues with IIS. During the process version 4 of MySQL was installed over my existing MySQL 5 environment, this was after I had asked the install process not to install MySQL! The result basically put my PC out of action for almost 10 hours as I fought getting XAMPP up and running, only to have to remove it all and install Instant Rails when we moved to Ruby on Rails.
    • Following the change of technology platforms we needed to find somewhere to host the application. This meant a change of hosting environments, after John had spent several hours getting it going.
    • Once we changed hosting environments the domain name was re-delegated. The result we made too many changes to DNS records over a 6 hour period and the internet decided our domain was stuffed. By 8am Sunday morning with the original domain still not working we activated a backup domain so we had something to demonstrate.
    • Having a VC sit with you for 20 minutes and not telling you what they expected from a presentation and then hammering the presenters for not delivering on his expectations.
    • Me on Monday morning after the event.

    Final Thoughts

    • More preparation is critical. The teams really need to be created around similar technologies, hosting should be worked out ahead of time, along with SVN access etc.
    • Look at having a pre-event briefing session the week before so everyone comes prepared for the weekend.
    • Less focus on external marketing of projects launching and more focus on building up genuine interest in the projects. This way you manage expectations of the outsiders and don’t over sell what is happening. A rule of business always under promise and over deliver.
    • I feel if the whole group came together a few more times to ensure everyone knew what was going on would have ensured common understand as to what was going on.
    • I feel due to my technology issues and being sick I was not able to add a full level of effort to the team.

    One last thing. One of the ideas for these events is to bring together the startup community within Australia. Which is why I think the comments on Tech Nation are a bit counter productive.

    And how does SUCM compare to Sydney Startup Camp 1?

    Call me biased but I think all 3 startups in Sydney were better conceived, better executed and were far readier for launch by the actual launch time which, mind you, was 12 hours less than in Melbourne 🙂

    Now not to get in to a war of words with the Tech Nation boys, it was not 12 hours less, code freeze and formal launches in Sydney were 1 hour earlier than Melbourne. Oh let’s not forget we have the change to daylight savings time during the weekend, so we lost an hour of work.

     

    Social media can drive employee engagement

    When your employees know that your customers hate your company it can turn any work place into a toxic cesspool of dissatisfaction. Who wants to work for a company that is always seen as doing wrong and having to justify oneself?

    Telstra might be one of those companies. Now I have no research to say that employees within Telstra are dissatisfied, however it must be hard for many of them to keep smiling in the face of all of the criticism.

    Update: While I was writing this post Mike Hickinbotham from Telstra was commenting on my other post. In the comment he indicated Telstra is trying to build a culture of anything is possible. A fantastic culture to build and if they succeed it will be a great example of cultural change within a large corporate. It is also a great example of them engaging with the blogosphere as part of a social media strategy.

    Now allowing your staff to engage with customers through social media is an activity that will help them become engaged.

    How?

    Well let me refer to my old mate Hertzberg again. Specifically his Motivators and Hygiene factors. Remember the motivators are Achievement, Recognition, Work Itself, Responsibility, Advancement, and Growth. Breaking down the wall between your staff and customers addresses each one of these areas which in turn will drive a more engaged workforce, and eventually return greater shareholder value.

    By using social media you break down the wall, or at least punch holes in it so people can see through, remember to succeed with social media you need to act like a human, not a corporate robot. Below are my thoughts on how using social media will effectively addresses each one of Hertzberg’s motivation factors.

    • Achievement – What is a better achievement than actually having happy customers by working as a team?
    • Recognition – Is one of the key drives of employee satisfaction, so what better way to get recognised than by your customers in public for doing a good job?
    • Responsibility – Being a public figure requires responsibility, this is in addition to the responsibility of engaging and solving customer issues.
    • Growth – Allowing employees to use social media to do their job means many will have to grow into more public roles. This growth externally will more than likely allow them to have a unique insight into your customers wants and needs, making the employees more valuable internally as well.
    • Advancement -The additional responsibility and growth will lay a foundation for further career advancement both internally and externally. The external advancement should not be seen as negative. What is better than having a great employee go to another organisation and be a shining example of how well your organisation develops employees. It might even turn your company into an employer of choice!
    • Work Itself – Once people start using social media to get their job done, the work itself becomes easier and more friendly. This is in part due to the other factors but also because humans by our very nature are social creatures.

    I have focused above of solving customer issues, but the same holds true for developing new business relationships, creating sales opportunities etc.

    I note that Telstra does have a blogging environment, I wonder if the employees involved feel more engaged than they did before have?

    Startup Camp Melbourne

    Today, Friday 3rd October, sees Startup Camp Melbourne kick off from 6pm running until about 6pm Sunday. During this time 20 or so would be entrepreneurs will spend almost every minute working to create several new business ideas.

    The basic agenda for the weekend will be:

    Friday 3rd October
    6pm Arrival & networking
    7pm Dinner & team assignments
    8pm Idea generation begins
    11pm Evening Close

    Saturday 4th October – The real work begins!
    10.30am Teams arrive & continue work
    12.30pm Working Lunch
    6pm Dinner
    8pm Teams pitch their businesses & site frameworks
    10pm Startup Camp PR launch to build interest for site launches

    Sunday 5th October – Launch day
    7am Teams arrive
    7.30am Breakfast
    10am Code freeze
    12pm Sites launch
    12.30pm Lunch & Press Release launch
    1pm Teams decide go forward plans
    2pm Teams begin developing investor pitches
    3pm Teams pitch to real investors go forward plans
    4pm Party!
    5pm Go home & sleep

    I am looking forward to participating in one of the teams and see what comes out of the weekend, I suspect not the next Google but you never know…

    Is any social media better than none at all?

    Over the last week there has been a bit of a change within the social media landscape here in Australia, out biggest, slowest telecommunication company, Telstra, decided to get into Twitter via their ISP Big Pond http://twitter.com/BigPondTeam. My personal view is thee way they implemented this is a complete failure and not the way any company should attempt a social media strategy.

    In summary for the first few days their tweets looked like:-

    @bushgeek Got a BigPond® query?! Ask about BigPond® via this link http://tinyurl.com/ 5ufhvf & a BigPond consultant will email you back.

    Almost robotic like. Now this whole approach has seen the experts in social media in Australia come out explaining why the approach is wrong. If you want to look at the initial commentary here is a summary:

    Following the initial backlash Telstra came out in defence of their approach claiming the Australia SPAM Act as to why they were replying the way they were:

    Since the early stages of development, BigPond’s primary concern has been protecting the customer’s privacy. We want to ensure that our communications to customers are not commercial electronic messages.

    Sending commercial electronic messages without the customer’s consent would amount to a violation under the Spam Act.

    This has lead to even more discussion on:

    From Zac’s post on Pigs Don’t Fly there are a couple of interesting quotes, first the SPAM Act:

    The Spam Act 2003 prohibits the sending of spam, which is identified as a commercial electronic message sent without the consent of the addressee via email, short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS) or instant messaging. The requirements under the Spam Act apply to all commercial electronic messages, including both bulk and individual messages.

    Second is from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA):

    Any message that doesn’t meet the following three conditions is defined as spam…

    + Consent – The message must be sent with consent of the consumer.
    + Identify – The message must contain accurate information about the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message.
    + Unsubscribe – The message must contain a functional ‘unsubscribe’ facility to allow you to opt out of receiving messages from that source.

    Now I am not a lawyer but it does raise some interesting questions.

    Taking the ACMA 3 points. Consent is provided by the user basically having public profile, and/or not blocking the user. Identity is provided by the Twitter account http://twitter.com/BigPondTeam, and finally the user can block the Big Pond team using the Twitter Block function. So from my perspective it is not spam under the ACMA guidelines.

    Now the SPAM Act is a little more difficult, but I would suspect the “without the consent” activity is again covered by the public profile. So not spam.

    But like I said I’m not a lawyer so who knows if this is true.

    Simon Sherwood pulled together a podcast on the issue in the last 24 hours, go have a listen it is a good overview. Where Brady Jacobsen, BigPond’s Director of Customer Operations actually seems to be wanting to work with the community to grow and learn.

    Big Pond failed on several levels while launching this new service. It seems they did not try and employ a social media expert, if they did it looks like they ignored them, well at least to start with. Following their initial mis-step they now seem to be listening and learning.

    With any social media you need to have an identity, build a reputation and then trust. If the account had been setup and started to communicate with people maybe announce service outages, features, basically engage on a more person human level to join in the conversation, earn a reputation, continue the conversation, finally develop trust. Then maybe just maybe you can use Twitter for business. This type of engagement would have built a reputation and trust so when they extended a hand of support the response would have been very different.

    A final thought.

    Social media involves participation, decentralisation, transparency, and user generated content. All of these attributes go against traditional media and businesses approach to media. But the issue does not stop here. A businesses approach to media is driven by the culture of the business itself. Therefore you cannot change you approach to media unless you change your culture. And this my friends is where things get complex!

    The change of this culture impacts, oh and that means your people, their knowledge and behaviour, your organisation and its processes, finally technology used will all need to change.

    —-

    I originally drafted the post this morning and went out for a few hours, while I was out the community on Twitter started a very interesting experiment. The Twitter Agency. What is it?

    Twitter Agency
    This is where you learn how to market, PR and otherwise engage on Twitter. Any of the people contributing here are available for hire as Twitter experts. The Pages give you resources on how to use Twitter. The Twitter Agency is available for $30 million dollar pitches. Heh.