Thursday, 14 February 2013

Asymmetry in Terms and Conditions

A classic.
I buy a £29.99 SD card from Carphone Warehouse and they give me a receipt.
Oh hold on what is this small print?
Terms and conditions of sale on the reverse...don;t worry if you can't read it I couldn't in real life either.  The print is some small that with glasses and good lighting it's still a challenge.
Any I'll summarise "By purchasing or ordering the Goods and/or Services, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions set out below."
Too late I'm bound!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Glass Half Full - I can top it up for you.

On reflecting on this article on the Atlantic Wire (Facebook is already trying to break Twitter's New Toy) it occurred to me that the benefits of people owning and managing their own data is being missed in much the way that proprietary products always limit early emerging markets.

We're all connected and using different service providers who manage bits of our lives:

This is all very helpful, but on closer inspection we realise that it's a real pain that some of the players don't play nicely together.  There are some really useful connections that we'd like to see, but the incumbents feel threatened by them:

The challenge is for service providers to compete on service rather than data ownership.  The prevailing attitude puts service providers in competition to "own" customers and their data as a core enterprise asset:

Service providers want to gather up as much information about you as possible and if their data coverage overlaps with another providers data coverage, this is perceived as a threat.

I, on the other hand, do have access to all my data (I am my data!). But each player is missing a good deal of it and what's more, they are not only missing a service opportunity, but spending money defending data which is not really theirs.
Once it is realised that data and service are not interchangeable, providers can compete on service rather than data ownership.

Perhaps the point here is that enterprises will never particularly want to play nicely together through innate competition, and so in order for a joined up world to emerge from our own perspectives, we will inevitably need to regain control of our own data so that we can share it out to who ever we wish so they can add the service bells and whistles which ultimately make it useful.

Joe Andrieu called this the "User as the point of integration".

Doc Searls used the phase the "Free Customer".
A nice slideshare

P.S. This also means the dawning of a new breed of service provider who does not work within the old culture.  They recognise that information is at its most powerful when owned by the customer and who focus on service.... hmm another post coming on.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Owned vs Free vs Connected

There is much discussion about the value of "Free" customers vs those tied to a service provider who the service provider usually considers that they "Own". It occurs to me that as the number of online services develops as with any maturing of a market, there will become and increase in the number of providers and the large incumbents will have a battle on their hands.

I'm starting to realise that the value for a customer will be in the providers ability to connect to the services that they want rather than to simply live within the (rather pretty) walled garden providers attempt to offer.  Is it possible for an organisation like Facebook or Google to attempt to satisfy all of the people all of the time?

I often think back to the days when applications and databases where glued tightly together.  These days have gone and now offering a closed database is a pointless exercise.  Connectivity has overruled the immediate features of a product.

If you are in the "Own the Customer" business model, your success is very binary.  Either you have a customer or you don't.  In a "Connection Economy" where your connectivity is your service you don't need to own the customer is classical terms.  If a new capability or feature turns up, you're still in business... as long as you can connect to it.

Add to this the fact that people are starting to get twitchy about who "owns" their data. You can apply the same process to who "owns" your connections.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Can you do this stuff through Organic Innovation?

I've been mulling over the practically of how personal data clouds will actually manifest themselves.
When a company like Google, Facebook or Microsoft shape the coverage of features in their services, they are driven by a process which enables them to prioritise what is important.  In the end, it will come down to the percieved return on their investment.  There is much talk of personal clould operating sysrtems being developed outside the clutches of the commercial enterprise in order to maintain integrity, but is open source or other similar mechanisms up to it.

One of the features of the more distributed thinking about personal clouds that I can't quite get my head around is the diverse nature of the features that people will want.  Even modest deviations of features have big impact on how they can be implemented.  This means that if my needs are even slightly different from yours, the absence of a sort of mediating force (that of commercials) our focus will be diffused.

I would argue that organisations like Mozilla have it easy at the moment as the brief is pretty clear.  The output of this thinking is almost infrastructure rather than its specific application. But when you get to the specific, what the user actually interacts with, how are we going to achieve enough independent investment to realise specific features.

Is organic innocation sufficient to drive us forward or are commercial pressures inevitable?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Is Faithfulness the Best Relationship?

As Buddha says
Health is the greatest gift, 
contentment the greatest wealth,
faithfulness the best relationship

but with the new thinking behind the management of personal data comes a whole raft of questions about who you can trust when.

Much is said about the transition of enterprise to trusted and more engaged relationships with their customers, but I see quarrels, infidelity and breakups on the horizon.

It appears to me that customer enterprise relationships like human relationships can happily reach equilibrium at a number of states. Classical marketing attempts to establish high levels of linkage between customers and enterprise, but probably is more characterised by indifference.

Moving a relationship to a higher level of trust brings with it a number of challenges.  To move to a more engaged relationship it is not only necessary to not mistreat the other party, but in the short term a greater investment is required to assail the slope of mistrust.

Only once a level of commitment has been shown will the relationship move to an engaged state.

But even at this stage complacency must not prevail since as in all relationships the rocky road lays ahead and if the threshold of trust is exceeded the relationship may return to the state of indifference again.

All this was, I think, beautifully summarised in Covey's "Emotional Bank Account".

Also when you are engaged, the trust may be more, but so is the risk. If an enterprise that you are truly engaged with lets you down, it's going to hurt more.

So this got me thinking about the enterprises and institutions that I trust and why.  Interestingly, there aren't many.

My bank has a good deal of responsibility in not making me bankrupt over night, but when it comes down to it, I perceive that the risks are low and the therefore the trust is actually low.  In addition, the nature of the transactions with a bank are entirely reversible. If money leaves the account erroneously, it can be easily replaced.  This is not the case with infidelity.  

The medical industry (at least in the UK) is an interesting case. Do I trust my doctor? The answer is yes. He or she has no vested interest (at least in the NHS) in exploiting the relationship. They act unequivocally as my advocate and consequently I consider the relationship as engaged. If it turned out that they were selling my personal medical details to insurance companies without me knowing, I'm sure that would change.

All this makes me think that this might all just be too hard for enterprise to do without some sort of clear mandate.  As humans we manage our relationships one by one, making continual judgements about how to react and what to do.  Taken from the enterprise perspective, it would be easy to envisage yourself being surrounded by a load of high maintenance needy customers who all think you are about to propose.Overly Attached Girlfriend (I love this meme) . Indifference is just plain easier.  

So it appears to me that some new institutional or legal construct may be required in order to clarify the relationship. A sort of Hippocratic Oath if you will. Then we'd know if we're good friends.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Risks we did not know we had / Trust we did not know we needed

I'm hearing a lot about trust models, but I'm not convinced that many of us are making that many trust decisions currently.

Your average netizen's browser is packed full of gizmos which have been let through the firewall and yet I feel that the concept of trust never entered their minds.  It's easy to assume that it will be OK.

It is possibly apocryphal , but I understood that humans are pretty bad judges of risk.

In recent times it seems that many of the institutions that we assumed would do the right thing have in fact not.

So where previously we saw no risk, we now see the potential for harm.

You have to make a decision about trust if you acknowledge that their is a risk.

When brand research rates companies in terms of their "trust", is there a box which says "I'm sorry I didn't understand there was a risk"!

The cynic in me says that there are three approaches to this.  Hide the risk, project trustworthiness or be trustworthy. I know which ones are easier.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Marketing Arms Race

I am wondering how many enterprises can see that there is a potential arms race emerging.  The current shape of customer engagement (despite noises to the contrary) feels heavily one sided assault:
Enterprises are getting pretty good at hovering data up and using it to get their proposition to us.  This is currently a sort of one-sided war, as we as individuals tend to have few tools at out disposal to manage our engagement with the enterprise.  Not only that, enterprises have become adept at working together to engage (attack) prospects:
From the perspective of an enterprise, the field of battle looks pretty clear for the moment.  I have my forces and I work with other partners to maximise my exposure to my target customer base.  My channel complexity is low and in most cases I call the shots:
But something new is on the horizon.  The prospect that individuals may incorporate an advocate working on their behalf defending their information and orchestrating transactions.  This is the grand thinking behind many of the think-tanks listed to the right of this blog.
Suddenly the world has changed.  The battlefield for the enterprise suddenly has a load of gorilla warfare going on which it never had to handle before.
And what is more, we are not talking about the odd infantryman running around with a bulletproof vest on.  Suddenly, half of the combatants seem to be invisible or playing by some alternative set of rules of engagement.

I am the first to admit that wholesale disappearance of customer bases feels unlikely to happen, but even modest numbers of individuals using a cloaking device could have impact on the relative success of the campaigns orchestrated by enterprises.  And more importantly, the current arms sellers of the advertising and CRM industry risk having their latest weaponry made obsolete.

Perhaps all that happens is that war gives way to peace.  Perhaps in a fair fight both parties will agree to sit down in harmony.  Then again probably not.