Proud on this list

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Today I found some time to update our Customer page with new customers with whom we worked together this year. It’s a bit early to reflect on 2011 (I’ll do that in a couple of weeks) but while busy working on the update I kind of felt a warm and fuzzy feeling. May be it’s because of the Christmas tree, but I realized that these are the companies that believe in DigiRedo and grant us their trust to make something great. Not to mention they pay my mortgage, among other things.

Sometimes it’s good to stand still and think about that.

This is why we get out of bed in the morning…

… and believe in the things we’re doing, Just watch yourself:

By the way: did you know we changed our blog to here?

My interview with Vincent Evers

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Sometimes it seems that a day is just different as you’d have expected. Take last Wednesday. I was at the office of Remco Bron from Innovader, So Many Thoughts and a bunch of other things, together with Erich Taubert, our partner in the development of one of our medical apps. In the middle of the conversation Vincent Evers, a Dutch Gadget Opinion Leader, joined the discussion. After a few minutes of talked medical tech Vincent explained that he’s currently experimenting with an electric car. But Vincent being Vincent, he does that..differently.

Meet Leafplan: a project where 6 cameras inside the car record everything what happens in the car. Vincent uses the car to explain about green technologies, and to interview for him interesting people. And he does so in a total geeky, gadget-stylish way: you enter the car, teak a seat behind the wheel (he let’s you drive), he jots your name, company, interests, e-mail and Twitter name in an app, pushes record and off you go. In a 10 minute drive he asks the driver all sorts of things related to new developments, among other things. After the drive is over, he taps the ‘Stop’ button on his app. Then the magic happens: the movie is being converted, a pre- and post roll including lower-third titles are being added, it’s uploaded to YouTube and an e-mail is sent to the interviewee once ready. O yeah, it puts it on Twitter as well. Mind you, with just one tap of the button.

Pretty cool. Even cooler when he asked us to be interviewed by him. We couldn’t resist. If it was only to drive in a super fast electric car. And fast it is…

(sorry, it’s in Dutch)

Is this the future of TV?

Tv is said to be the last place that is not yet invaded with interaction and social. Although there are many attempts, such as Apple TV, Google TV and a few more, but these remain attempts scratching the surface. What is really needed is a total revamp of the way the TV works, how cable companies do business and broadcast companies deal with licenses.

Steve Jobs said just before he died: “I finally cracked it”, referring to the TV. Will able be able to re-invent a 7th industry? Or will Google take it away with their next iteration of Google TV? We’ll see. In the meantime, our neighbors in the east are not sitting still either, en came up with a nice concept:

 

Lessons from Best Western: customer first, channel later.


Many (if not most) companies think inside-out, central from their product or service, searching for ways how to push this most effectively to their customer. Sure, we all know how important the customer is, without them no existence, but do we really imagine how it is to be our customer? Do we know their experience of all moments that they’re in contact with us? In other words, do we know the customer journey? In most cases not, or at least insufficient.

Best Western UK does it different. A middle-class hotel chain, a franchise organisation. Or, according to Tim Wade, Head of Marketing, a member-organisation. “Best Western consists of independent entrepeneurs who, in contrast with our main competitor Holiday Inn, have a lot of freedom in running their business. As long as they fulfill a few minimal and basic requirements, they are free to develop any kind of service they see as appropriate.” At first sight

a complicated way of managing a consistent brand, but Best Western has solved that creatively: just because of this versatility inspiring entrepeneurail climate, Best western is able to approach the customer in a more personal way. ‘Hotels with personality‘ is therefore the current slogan.

Most important is the Total Customer Experience: optimizing all contact moments, before, during and after a visit to one of over 200 hotels in the UK. In order to support this, they’ve developed a cross-media campaign, which is lead by an extensive email marketing campaign. Through the latter a lot of customer data is collected that gives a detailed insight in the customer journey. And this again forms the basis for a lot of other tools that have been developed. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter are closely monitored and responded to when needed. Main goal with this is to get good revies on sites such as Tripadvisor.

“It is essential that customer comes before channel”, says Tim. “Understand the experience your customer goes through and you understand where you van improve your product.” And even though the campaign is lead by email marketing activities and social media is mainly reactively managed and could be used more proactively, you can’t say that a campaign with an ROI of £45 for each pound spent isn’t successful.

We spoke with Tim about this Best Western campaign during the Enterprise Marketing 2.0 congress organized by KGS global in Amsterdam earlier this month.

So it happened today…

Where to start a blog post writing about something that you’ve seen coming from a vast distance, but you knew it would be shocking when it would actually happen. This morning that was the case, when I read that Steve Jobs had passed away. The entire day I was sad, which is strange for a man I didn’t even knew personally. Or did I?

I’ve always been tagged as an Apple fanboy. I don’t know why, but the first time I worked on a Mac (Classic) it felt OK. May be it was because my roots in computer technology lie in the Commodore Amiga platform, or may be because I was too stupid to understand DOS. Either way, in 1993 I ‘switched’ (yeah, I did own a PC, 16 MHz with 20 MB HDD at that time) and never looked back. The Mac Classic was changed for a Performa 400, Performa 630, PowerComputing clone, G4 PowerMac, PowerBook, iMac G4, iMac G5, iBook, iMac Intel, iPod, iPod nano, iPod mini, MacBook, MacBook Air, iPhone 1st Gen, iPhone 2, iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPad 1, iPad 2… Anyway, I’ve had my fair share of Mac stuff around me.

A funny thing happened. When I started working on the Mac I became interested in the company as well. Reading about their plans, their products, trying to figure out their strategy. I remember that at my first job (I was working on a biomedical research department at a pharma company) I spent hours and hours in the basement reading old magazines of MacWorld Magazine. And my boss thinking that I was doing literature study on Nitric Oxide in peritoneal mouse macrophages. It was a dark time for Apple. Steve was kicked out and Apple for struggling to survive. It was also the time that as an Apple user you were the misfit. In a Windows dominated world mid nineties it seems that I always had to defend why I was using Apple, and not conforming to the status quo. Because you are a fanboy, you just don’t understand why people make their lives so complex using an inferior operating system like Windows 3.11 or 95 was (let’s face it, that was ugly. I won’t even mention Windows ME). It was the time that evangelizing was top of my list. Don’s ask me why, that’s just fanboy-behaviour. I had a mission, a mission to help Apple survive. Because what would happen if Apple would cease to exist? I would have to work my entire life on my Performa 400. Or switch back to Wintel. OK, I settled with the first option.

But that didn’t happen, obviously. The hammer really hit me when Steve came back (before I hardly had heard of the guy) and launched the ‘Think Different‘ campaign. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I saw the light, but the notion that it was OK to think different, or even to realize that great minds usually thought different came as a sort of revelation. Mind you, I was 25 at that time. An age where you are looking for an identity in your recently acquired grown-up life. Steve came, introduced the iMac and the rest is history. Evangelizing became less of an issue, playing help desk for friends and family even more because of the massive number of people switching to the Mac year after year. And now, 18 years later there are more people with Macs in my environment than people on Windows (or may be that is because I choose my friends wisely) and is Apple the most valuable company in the world. Life can take strange turns.

There’s no question about it, how cheesy that may sound: Apple did change my life in a profound way. I am in the extreme fortunate position that I can honestly say that I made a career out of my hobby. When I went to the Chamber of Commerce 7 years ago to register the name DigiRedo I had only one goal with this company: making a bit of money so that I could buy cool Apple hardware. DigiRedo was at that time not even close to the company it is today (actually, we only used the name and together with René we created the company that it is today). But my entrepreneurial feelings, my desire to not comply to the status quo, to focus on design, to create and give good looking presentations, even how to manage a company was inspired by Apple, and thus Steve Jobs. Jeez, we are even building our new business on one of his innovations: apps.

Some people say it’s a kind of sick to worship a CEO of a computer company this way. That it is a religion. That’s OK, let them. I hope they realize that Apple fanboys and -girls do not only exalt the products because they are easy to use and set the standards for the rest of the industry. No, it is because, especially back in those days, you made a conscious decision to not go with the flow. As a person you wanted to be different. In a world where everybody was wearing blue, you were wearing green. And that felt good. Is still does by the way, though many people are wearing green nowadays. I do not see a difference in worshipping an artist like Michael Jackson, or a CEO like Steve Jobs. Both were great persons who achieved great things and inspired many.

He did inspire me, and looking at the mainstream news, the internet, and the number of people who talk about it on the street today it seems that I am not alone in this. There will be still wars in the world, we are still worrying about climate change, so after today the world won’t be different on the larger scheme of things. But some things have lost a shiny edge around them.

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

 

Enterprise 2.0: Dinosaurs or Multiresistent Germs?

We all know what happened to the dinosaurs. Due to a changing environment, supposedly caused by a few meteorites here and there, these large animals were not able to adapt and eventually changed into fossil construction parts for natural historical museums. Compared that to MRSA, or ‘Methicilline Resistente Staphylococcus aureus’. This germ, millions times smaller than the average brontosaur, rulez the way it adapts to the environment. It was smart enough to fool most antibiotics, unfortunately with lethal consequences for some people.

But what have dinos and germs to do with Enterprise 2.0 platforms? Well, quite a lot actually. We were at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston and explored the exhibition floor for dinos like Microsoft and IBM, and how they keep up with MRSAs like Podio and Blogtronix. Admittedly, these startups are way less lethal than an average MRSA-infection in a hospital, but bear with me here. It’s about the metaphore ‘adaptation’.

 

 

By now we should know the drill: use social media to conversate and engage and have a more loyal customer. Most companies realize the importance of this new communication channel and soon it will be as established as Kotller’s five P’s. But what about the employee? How do you connect and engage with your ‘most valuable asset’? The employee who 1) has become more tech-savvy due to the personal use of digital appliances in his/her daily life, and 2) will become more and more wanted in the market due to the aging working population. Small start-ups have specialized themselves in developing online services based on Web 2.0 technologies to help these employees to do their daily work better, and more efficient. Mind you, all based on services popular at consumer-level. Yammer for example plays nicely as an internal Twitter, and DoubleDutch has been looking closely to FourSquare for location-based status updates. We even saw a Facebook lookalike to be used within the firewalls.

The dinos have realized that Enterprise 2.0, also called ‘Social Business’, is booming and thus Big Business. Usually Big Business involves Big Bucks and that makes an average dino move faster than a Stegosaurus being chased by a Tyranosaurus. Now Enterprise 2.0 is getting mainstream (as we could witness at the conference with participants like Disney, Eli Lilly and Lowe’s) dinos also present online solutions that should make the employee a more productive and happier person during working hours. But the question remains if these big companies are smart enough to understand which functionalities of their platform can actually provide added value to the working process of the employee. And providing that in an intuitive way so that employees understand the tools and thus actually use it. With an average dino brain the size of a chestnut, it doesn’t look good. For example, this is what one of the dinos explained to us after we questioned him about the usability of their platform: “Well, employees can follow a training whereby we teach them how to utilize the functionalities in the best way possible.” Uhm.. since when did I have to follow a course to put a blog post in WordPress online, or share a picture on Facebook? Of all 650 million Facebook users, only a few I think. And that is exactly where I believe the meteor will be hitting the dino-heads: the modern employee is used to Facebook and Twitter interfaces, easy to use and almost no learning curve. This is the Golden Standard. Neglect it and feel the warm and fuzzy feeling of extraterrestrial rocks changing your habitat forever.

Of course, dinos do have one big advantage: they are already present for quite some time and everybody knows them. Especially IT-departments that have been trained and educated for years in dino-technology. ‘Nobody was ever fired for buying IBM’, was once a well-known saying in business. Small startups need to fight against the status quo, and that ain’t easy. Understandable in some way, because no doubt some startups won’t make it in the evolutionary digital battle and will cease to exist. That is a bummer if you’ve just transferred your entire company to this new cool technology, to say the least. Other startups will be acquired by the big boys, and yet another group will form partnerships with other startups and even with dinos, thus strengthening their value proposition. Quite a number of new platforms have interfaces with SharePoint because they realize this is the 800 pound gorilla in the field (or 30 tonnes Diplodocus). Not the most loved dino, SharePoint, by the way, given the fact that a spontaneous session was organized at the unconference titled: How To Make SharePoint Suck Less’ (note from author: no solution was found).

In my opinion innovation will still come from startups for a while. The big dinos are really trying, but seem to be stuck on terms like ‘User Interaction’ and ‘User Friendliness’. We’ll await the first dino that does understand this, and ducks for the meteorite. What’s your take on this? Do you believe the established platforms can innovate against the small guys and girls? Will corporations embrace these innovations? Share your thoughts, please, and let us know your ideas.

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