CRM in Action… Today: freenet.de

I recently switched my DSL provider from Deutsche Telekom to freenet. Not that anything was wrong with the DSL service, but DT price/performance just didn’t do it for me. Of course, it didn’t help that DT wouldn’t notify me that my flat rate charge was for a 2M line, although I physically only had a 1M line into the house.

At freenet, they offered a 6M DSL line, pretty much for the same price I paid before. I even got a free DSL modem/router, which was very easy to install. Switchover was painless. It’s been two months now, and I checked the stats in the router about current downstream/upstream volumes. And I was kinda surprised to see my DSL downstream clocking at 3M instead of the expected 6M. So I called the freenet customer service to complain. After about 5 minutes in the queue (ugh), the lady confirms that my contract shows 6M, but because she’s not a technical person, she routes me to another number, which I gladly type into my phone. The voice response, however, tells me I need to call a completely separate number, this time it’s supposed to charge me about 1 Euro per minute. I didn’t think so, why would I pay for a complaint about something the provider screwed up?

So I call the first number again, and explain (to a different person) that I want to discuss this issue, and I’m not accepting getting charged for it. I must have pushed a hot button in her, because she suddenly starts screaming at me “Listen to me! You have to call this other number!” When I refused again, she says “…then send us an email.” Ah. Now we’re getting somewhere…. now I wonder when I’ll see a response from the freenet techies.

(video)

freenet CRM evaluation: Grade D- for bad customer service, lack of channel integration, poor responsiveness

Who’s Afraid of Corporate Slogans?

Marketing is hard. And I feel truly sorry for those marketiers and advertising execs that need to come up with slogans, visions, and mission statements for software companies. Sometimes those taglines are pure nonsense, others are content-free. Rarely do I find one that really speaks to the values or the offerings of the respective company. I assembled a list of taglines from software vendors that I track but I won’t evaluate their particular quality. Make up your own mind what makes sense and what does not.

  • Actuate: Improve Corporate Performance Through 100% Adoption of Information
  • BEA Systems: Think Liquid
  • Cognos: The Next Level of Performance
  • Hyperion: Breakthrough Performance Everywhere
  • Informatica: Reduce Complexity. Ensure Consistency. Empower the Business
  • Information Builders: The Standard for Enterprise Business Intelligence
  • MicroStrategy: Best in Business Intelligence
  • NCR Teradata: You’ve Never Seen Your Business Like This Before
  • Qliktech: Simplyfying Analysis for Everyone
  • SAP: End-to-End Insight for Intelligent Business Operations
  • SAS: The Power to Know
  • Tibco: The Power of Now

Of course, nothing will ever beat the corporate slogan of German retailer Douglas: “Come in and find out”. ROTFL! The best mission statement that I ever came across is from Dilbert-creator Scott Adams: “Rubbing my bald spot once a day.” Brilliant.

This is not my bed

It’s that time of the year, when travel schedules are picking up speed. It seems that companies want to get the word out before the mad year end rush. Although not every fiscal year ends on December 31st, the last few months in 2005 are once again the road warrior’s peak time.

According to my schedule as of today, I’ll have little time at home, apart from the weekends, and even those are sometimes cut short, particularly in connection with intercontinental trips. So for the next few weeks, you can find me in Nice, Barcelona, London, Prague, Düsseldorf, Brussels, Berlin, Cannes, Milan, Rome, Oslo, Stockholm, Rome (again), Manchester, Zurich, Frankfurt, Las Vegas, Copenhagen, and Paris. Plus the respective airport lounges. You can follow along at my virtual itinerary.

And one of those days, I’ll wake up again completely confused, not knowing where I am, or what I’m supposed to do there. It typically takes a few seconds to register, sometimes I need to look at the telephone next to the bed to figure what country I’m in. I wonder how the Stones do this. My itinerary still looks like peanuts compared to theirs. Then again, I typically have to be up and running and on stage by 9am, while Mick, Keith, Ron, and Charlie have all day to figure out where they are, as they go on stage only at 9pm. Ha! Didn’t think I would ever write a posting comparing myself to the Stones.

This is Ground Control to PR Tom

ome interesting opinions are posted at the Lighthouse and Armageddon blogs about AR, PR and corresponding best practices. I particularly like Step 1 of the mentioned process: Target the right analysts.

Since I’m on the receiving end of countless briefing requests from clueless PR folks, I can certainly relate to quite a few of the statements made in those posts. Many vendors don’t seem to understand that there is a clear difference between analyst relations (AR) and public relations (PR). Of course, tiny vendor companies a la “3 guys and a website” can’t afford having both functions, but even established PR firms should do their homework before playing an AR role. Don’t get me wrong: there are excellent PR professionals who do an equally great AR job, but I get the feeling that many PR folks send their press releases and briefing requests to any analyst they can google, kinda like “as long as we get into the analyst’s inbox, it’s OK.” It’s not OK. It’s SPAM.

The fundamental thing that those PR “professionals” don’t know (or worse: don’t care) about is called analyst coverage.This means that an analyst looks at a particular segment of a market, for example, databases, servers, operating systems, CRM, or healthcare. No analyst covers everything. I cover Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing, Data Integration, Data Quality. Yes, I have a personal interest in many more things, and the peripheral scope is even wider, but real coverage this isn’t. So, although I built a network at home, configured firewalls, and do VOIP, coverage of those topics isn’t my thing.

Of all those PR emails I get (and there are a lot!), I suspect about 90% is trash. Every once in a while, some topic falls into my area and really is interesting and I typically follow up with a briefing. But most of the time, the respective PR person wants me to spend an hour on the phone about topics (recent collection!) such as:

  • Outdoor sensors
  • Iris scanners
  • Money dispenser software
  • Video compression
  • Battery software
  • Повесть о Linux и NAT
  • Broadband over copper
  • Computer-aided parallelization

and other certainly important issues, just not for me. I wish there was a do-not-call registry for PR. Until that exists, I implemented my own registry in Outlook. Every PR person once sending me unsolicited PR spam about some funky software or device gets blacklisted and every email from that account is deleted.

Forget Big-Screen TV

This is the invention that I have been waiting for. Well, it’s still more like a research project, but soon enough, we’ll be able to scrap that bulky big-screen TV, or any TV for that matter. Got a wall? Any wall will do. Don’t mind the wallpaper, that Picasso painting, or mounted family pictures.

Prof. Oliver Bimber from the University of Weimar leads a project that they call “Smart Projector.” A beamer projects the image against any surface, after a 3D and color calibration figures out what the surface looks like. Then a piece of software renders the projection images (including movies at 25 fps) in real-time, by calculating the offset from the acquired calibration settings. Very cool.

The first demonstration of the SmartProjector technology happened in the vaults of Scharfenstein castle in Leinefelde. It looks like the team of researchers threw the beamer image directly against the brick wall. No screen, no white backdrop. Only rocks. Of course, there are still a few things to consider before this invention hits the shelves at your local geek store, for example, surface shadows or multi-angle viewing, but it sure beats the typical entertainment center setup with wardrobe-size back-projection TV screens, nicely framed in solid oak cabinets. Ugh.

Here is a short video clip (8MB Mpeg) that ran on channel RTL2 during “Welt der Wunder” (World of Wonders). Although it’s in German, you should still be able to get the idea.

My next product offering: EIEIO

It seems that every IT vendor is suddenly in the integration market these days. Application integration, data integration, enterprise integration, process integration, portal integratoin, business integration. I’m sure there are more. In my area of focus, the combined offerings of ETL (Extract Transform Load), EAI (Enterprise Application Integration), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), EII (Enterprise Information Integration) – did I miss one? – will subsequently, obviously, and undoubtedly be superceded by Enhanced Intergalactic Enterprise Integration Orchestration… or EIEIO in short. Does someone have a number of a patent attorney handy?

The whole integration idea is the right thing to do, of course. But I’m missing one fundamental piece. How do companies make people work together? People Integration (PI = 3.1415926535… I can already see the logo) hasn’t really worked that well. Not on the business side anyway. Organizations continue to work as silos, employees are often competing with the person from the next department. And if they’re not competing, they may still work counter-productively, because they don’t know who else is working on the same thing. People integration doesn’t work in politics either, or in religion, or in sports. So why do we IT guys try throwing software at a problem that’s largely unrelated to IT? Maybe CXOs should employ more psychologists to get a handle on “real integration”.

The KLM experience – Act 2

I hate flying KLM. There is simply no other way to put it. I’ve flown them 5 or 6 times in the past few weeks, their airplanes suck, business class is a joke, and every single flight was at least 45 minutes late. I’m writing this post from Schiphol airport (yes, it sounds like something else) and I’m sitting here at baggage claim number 5 for over 45 minutes. 45 minutes! To get my bag from the gate to the caroussel. They got to be kidding. It took me as long to fly from Hamburg to Amsterdam in the first place! Not including the one hour delay taking off because of rain and Amsterdam. Rain. Not an earthquake. Not a tornado. Not a civil war. Rain.

So here I am, instead of attending a session on Indigo at the Microsoft TechEd event, I’m watching a monitor that updates the planned arrival of our bags every 15 minutes. Shortly before the allotted time the baggage handling folks delay the arrival time by adding another 20 minutes. When I arrived at the belt shortly before 2pm, it already said 14:15, which was fairly unreasonable since we had used a tiny Fokker 100, not a 747. Anyway, at 14:15 they switch the time to 14:35. At 14:40 still no bags, but the monitor says 14:55. I raise hell at the counter and all I get as a response is “we can’t help you, the bags will arrive when they arrive.” I hate flying KLM and I hate Schiphol. Forever, they had a reputation for being grossly inefficient and very sloppy with baggage. Today is another proof. According to another passenger, our container with about 8 bags was apparently put into the transit area instead of arrivals, and now somebody (hopefully) is trying to trace them. Typical for Schiphol. If I can help it this was the last time I came here.

Update: My bag is lost. They don’t know where it is.

Data Quality is important. Do Companies Ever Get It?

In my job, I spend a considerable amount of time watching the data quality and data integration markets, including user adoption, best (and worst) practices, and major blunders by large organizations. Right now, I’m struggling with my bank, because they keep sending me marketing stuff although I’m already a customer. Now, the problem is, they don’t understand that their data entry people added the names of the account owners (joint account of my wife and myself) in a way that makes zero sense.

Typically, you have a field for first name and a field for last name (forget middle initials). Works well for single account owners or maybe joint account owners with the same last name. Does not work for couples with different last names. For example, if Joe Bloggs is married to Jane Doe, they would enter “Joe and Jane Doe” under first name and “Bloggs” under last name. Or “Joe and Jane” “Bloggs and Doe”. And that’s just silly. Because any such combination would not match the real name of the person, plus it looks really stupid on the address field of a letter or bank statement: “Dear Joe and Jane Bloggs and Doe”. Yeah right.

Trying to change it to a single name poses major difficulties in the bank, because “the system doesn’t allow it”. Geez. So I ask them to drop me from the marketing list, and they say they can’t find me on the campaign list. Duh. If it wasn’t such as hassle to switch banks, I’d do it (again) in an instant. Bad data quality is a clear indicator for incompetency.

Resistance is … umm … Fertile

There are a few interesting discussion threads at the Armageddon blog and at GartnerWatch. Being a Gartner analyst, I thought why not dissecting some of the comments and claims there. Here we go…

First, I’m delighted that at least one Gartner Analyst is working well with Gartner Consulting
Good observation. I’m the only analyst that does that. Or could it be, that we fail to inform the world that someone from the research organization has worked with a peer from the consulting organization?
Also, I’m delighted myself that Joe Guralnick from Mountain View signs his postings with his full name. I’m sure it’s pure coincidence that there is no J Guralnick registered anywhere in Northern California.

However, until we hear this more broadly from other Gartner analysts the sentiment remains
You do want analysts to debrief you on their consulting engagements? Come on. I’m curious what the point here really is. Some analysts work with Consulting, others don’t, and it’s independent of the company.

For eons the analyts have held the consultants in low esteem so puhleeeese let’s see some tangible evidence of change before changing our minds.
I’m sure there are analysts like that. Always were, always will be. Why? Because we’re dealing with people here (yes, I know it’s hard to believe, drones like myself belong to that species, too). Anyway, to generalize that all analysts don’t like consultants, is complete baloney.

Also, regarding anonymity (or hiding behind a fence as Andy calls it) the reason is simple and I suspect he knows it.
Yes, I do: anonymous posters fear the consequences and don’t accept responsibility.

The reason is that no AR person wants to risk the personal and business risk of publicly criticizing the Borg (Andy, thanks for the correction by the way)
Exactly. However, nobody takes anonymous postings half-serious, even if the content was fair. Of course, there is also the other option that those anonymous postings (which are mostly negative in tone) are really not from an AR person, but Gartner’s competitors. Far fetched? … oh, and you’re welcome.

The key point to my mind is that Gartner has no real interest in open debate – if they did they would have a public forum.
Who in Gartner are you talking about? Analysts? Peter? Gene? Also, what do you mean by “open”? Open as in “Gartner is in the open, and the rest hides behind the bushes again”? That’s what we have already. Lastly, what would you like to debate, particularly something that is suitable for a public forum? You surely can’t expect Gartner to discuss internal issues, or would you expect DaimlerChrysler to share details about the new S-class in a public forum.

Gartner blogs are all moderated (censored?) so that doesn’t count.
Uh. Every blog is moderated by its respective owner. In fact, yours, too. What kind of blog would you rather have, maintained by the United Nations? And censored? Again, another unsubstantiated claim. Have you seen any postings or comments removed from any Gartner blog? By the way, Joe, your own blog doesn’t even allow attaching comments to your posts. Isn’t that some passive form of censorship?

Bottom line: I believe Gartner would have a strong interest in talking about real issues, but nobody spends any time discussing platitudes and cliches.

Signing off.
Borg Drone #26022

The German Spelling Reform Joke

I need to congratulate Edmund Stoiber and Jürgen Rüttgers, Ministerpräsidenten (Governors, sort of) of states Bavaria and Nordrhein-Westfalen for delaying the infamous spelling reform of the German language. Demonstrates guts and is the right thing to do. The spelling reform is a huge waste of time, energy, money and every other resource and pretty much DOA. Whoever came up with this idea in the first place must have been smoking something. To make a language “easier” is a nice idea, but at what cost? I, for one, will not adopt it. Period. Luckily, I don’t get grades anymore, but our kids are nothing but suffering from this idiotic project. Maybe it’s a German thing to make it “easier” for everybody else, and forget about our heritage, our own people, those billions of books that suddenly contain misspelled words, and the fact that adults and seniors wouldn’t simply switch to new spellings. Let’s compare this with our neighbouring countries and “allies”? Would the British or French (parbleu!) even think about changing their language, because non-English or non-French speaking people would find it easier to learn or pronounce? NFW. (Right, Dale?)

Case in point (French): Can you say 98 in French? Quatre-vingt-dix-huit. Four (times) twenty ten eight? Oh hell. The funny thing is, the French don’t even notice this ridiculous arithmetic formula. BTW, the Swiss make it a lot easier by saying “nonnante huit”, ninety eight.

Case in point 2 (English): Consider the word ending “…ough”. Now that’s a candidate for reform, given that there are so many different ways to pronounce this. For example, thr-ough, thor-ough, pl-ough, r-ough. All different, yet nobody would think about making these words pronounced in a consistent way.