The BroadVision Blog

Announcing the CSA Winners

Awhile back we had a contest, asking our customers: how has Clearvale helped you and your company? The purpose of the contest was to better understand how our customers are using Clearvale and what we can do to improve it. We picked our favorites from the first round of written responses and asked them to send us a video based on their submission. Entertaining, thoughtful and educational, the videos were fun to watch and really helped us understand all of the different ways Clearvale is helping people and organizations get work done.

We’re grateful for all of the hard work the entrants put into this contest and are very happy to announce the winners of the Clearvale Success Awards (in alphabetical order):

Gemeente Tilburg
A municipality in the Netherlands that manages the City of Tilburg as well as providing support for the surrounding towns and villages within the wider region of Brabant. Using Clearvale, Gemeente Tilburg has seen increased collaboration among businesses, the public and government organizations. It has also proven useful in their “Twinning” work with the Same District in Tanzania, in which the two municipalities share knowledge and collaborate on projects.

Gruppo Reti
An Italian IT consulting agency with more than 160 certified IT professionals, Gruppo Reti covers four main areas: business solutions, infrastructure and networking, business analysis and project management, and home and building automation. Using Clearvale, they have seen an increase in company performance and better collaboration and knowledge sharing among departments and employees.

People Tree Education Society
People Tree Education Society in India helps create new entrepreneurs. Relying on an active, participatory approach to education, PTeS connects students with industry professionals. With Clearvale, they have created Virtual Campus, a user-friendly site that is attractive and easy to navigate. Student and faculty are able to share notes, upload exam papers, and stay up to date with news and events.

TechTree IT Systems
Specializing in building high-performance business applications for mid-market companies in the Asia-Pacific region, TechTree IT Systems is a growing company that is adding customers, partners and employees at a rapid pace. Clearvale has helped their large, mobile, geographically dispersed workforce to coordinate their efforts working towards new leads who are often on the move themselves.

Based in Sunnyvale, CA, QuickLogic provides semiconductor solutions to handheld consumer device manufacturers. Using a Clearvale network for internal collaboration, QuickLogic now has a centralized location for marketing materials, meetings minutes, design files and more. Employees in the field can easily share and retrieve information, helping them quickly respond to customer issues.

For more customer stories and case studies, please visit:

My week without email

Many of the advocates of social business see email as the Great-Evil-That-Must-Be-Defeated. I completely believe with the stated benefits of more open communication and pooling collective knowledge, but I have never been particularly fanatical about the banishment of email. I believe there is still a time and a place for it, and that many people simply blame email for their own poor communication habits.

But most people who discuss this subject are talking purely theoretically – they haven’t tried giving up email. Of course, there are exceptions to this, most notably Luis Suarez and (coincidentally) there was much coverage of Atos’s ban of internal email recently.

So last week I tried it myself. The rule was very simple – I didn’t allow myself to send (or reply to) any internal company emails. Instead, I would communicate solely through BroadVision Connect (our internal implementation of Clearvale). I warned people about this in advance via a blog post, and set my email autoreply to remind people of this.

To get straight to the conclusion – I found it very easy. What I’m not so sure of is how easy it was for the other people I work.

First, some numbers to put this in perspective. As a very active user of social networking tools, my email volumes have already decreased significantly. I received a total of just 132 messages between Monday and Friday – less than 30 per day. Of these, 35 were real messages from other people inside the company, the rest being a mixture of spam and bacn.

Only 5 of these 35 were sent solely to me; the rest were wider discussions that I was cc-ed on. Since the introduction of Clearvale, we have a lot fewer of these group discussions by email. Those that remain tend to be either initiated by newer employees (who we haven’t successfully brainwashed into enterprise social networking yet!), or are of a more ephemeral nature (e.g. “meeting delayed due to car fire on the US-101”). They definitely represent the tail-end of company communication though.

But what is most interesting is the mechanisms people used to contact me directly. Some people sent instant messages on Skype (despite me also stating that I was not replying to these either; in my view, these are often worse than email – more disruptive and even less social). Some people sent me direct messages on Clearvale. Others wrote notes on my profile page (Clearvale’s equivalent of Facebook’s wall). Some people assigned me Clearvale tasks. Fully-featured enterprise social networks offer a lot of different communication mechanisms, and different people used different mechanisms to contact me.

Some people obviously found this inconvenient – one comment I received was:

“I think it’s going to be hard for some people to perform basic work functions that involve you, e.g. setting up meetings via Outlook.”

It’s certainly true that managing meeting requests was the hardest part of living without email. Exchange’s calendar is so closely tied to email, it makes it difficult to abandon email entirely. Actually, as a Mac user connecting to Exchange via iCal and DavMail, I was able to accept and decline meeting requests directly in iCal without sending email (the meeting organizer may have received an email from me, but Exchange sent that, not me). What was harder was explaining why I had declined a meeting – I had to send my explanation of this in a separate message on Clearvale. So it’s really not practical for Exchange users to abandon email just yet, because of the calendar.

My overwhelming feeling is that my week off email was harder for the people I work with than it was for me. This suggests two things to me:

  • once you have started to move your communication to an enterprise social network, moving the tail-end of it from email is easy
  • making the move unilaterally causes problems for other people, so you really need to make the move together

Did I find my working life more efficient without email? To be honest, no, not really. I was already so far down the line of moving away from internal email that the difference was not that noticeable. There were times when my self-imposed ban was inconvenient, both for me and others, and there were messages I received on Clearvale which would have been perfectly OK to receive by email.

My view is very much the same as it was at the start of the week. It’s neither practical nor necessary to completely eradicate internal email. Instead, we should concentrate on getting group discussions out of email, and onto enterprise social networks, thereby reducing email to person-to-person messages that it is well-suited for and a tail-end of ephemeral and unimportant discussions. We need to highlight the benefits of moving discussions to a more social environment, and let email use fade away naturally, rather than risk alienating users with an email ban.

So I shall continue to answer emails as long as people send them to me… but I reserve the right to berate (sorry, “politely discourage”) the sender if they are failing to take advantage of holding the discussion in a more social environment.

Social CRM is a big red London bus

I had the pleasure of speaking at Social CRM New York yesterday. It was a great day, with lots of great speakers and case studies of social CRM in action. 

I presented The Rise of Social CRM – What It Means To Your Company in which I likened Social CRM to a big red London bus. Anyone viewing the slides who wasn’t at the event is going to find this metaphor a little baffling, so let me explain…

The first time I ever went to New York was in 1997. I must admit, I can’t remember exactly what the purpose of the trip was, but I do remember having a bit of time to walk around the city. I remember thinking that so much of the city looks just it does in TV, so I already felt fairly familiar with it.

But the one sight which I’ve never forgotten was going to the top of the Empire State Building and looking down. Nothing you could see on TV could ever come close to seeing that for real. I remember looking down and seeing all the tiny yellow cabs buzzing around the city.

Of course, the yellow cab is another iconic image of New York. And it occurred to me many years later that New York yellow cabs are quite a good metaphor for how we used the internet in the first 10 years or so. Lots of individuals moving around the web independently, all going to different places. And if you’re a retailer, a manufacturer, a supplier, a brand on the web, when the customer came to your site, you were firmly in control. You were driving the cab. 

But the web has moved on a lot since then. And these days, I think the iconic image of another city now symbolises the way we use the web. A big red London bus. 

Travelling on a bus is great, isn’t it? It’s cheap. You can get on the bus with all your friends and have laugh. Far more social than being in a cab on your own. 

It’s often struck me that conversations on social media are just like conversations on buses. The friends having a private conversation on Facebook are suddenly appalled when they realise that everyone else can hear what they’re saying because they forgot to talk a bit more quietly. And the self-important guy yelling trivialities into his cellphone making people listen to him whether they want to or not has a lot of similarities with Twitter.

All of which makes the bus a pretty noisy place to be. And this most social form of transport can end up hosting some pretty anti-social behaviour.

So where are you on this bus? You, the retailer. You, the brand.

You didn’t think you were the driver did you? You didn’t think you could go back there and throw the guys causing the trouble off the bus? Oh no. You’re not the driver. It’s the social media services themselves, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. They own the bus and pay the driver. You’re just another one of the passengers. So when the other guys on the bus start talking about you, saying bad things about you, what are you going to do?

Are you going to just turn up the volume on your iPod and try and block it out? 

Or are you going get off the bus completely?

Are you going to yell back at them? That could be a bit risky – you never know how that’s going to work out.

Or are you maybe going to sit down the other passengers, and talk to them?

Social CRM is about sitting down with other passengers on the bus, listening to what they have to say and understanding their opinion.

So if you’re going to ride on the Social CRM bus, there’s really not a lot of point sitting there on your own with your headphones on, wearing a t-shirt that says “please Like me”. And there’s no point yelling at the other passengers if they say things you don’t like.

If you’re going to ride on the bus, you really need to sit down, talk to the other passengers and enjoy the ride.

This post is also published on

Mr. Enterprise Manners

Although I only make the distinction in my head, I prefer to think of social media as “participatory” media. That is, unlike traditional media, the true value of social media only manifests itself when you participate in it; which can include creating and sharing content, commenting on content, choosing who to follow, etc.

But that also includes whom you choose to unfollow. If you find an old friend on Twitter, you can follow them. But if their constant posts about lunch and picture of dogs turn you off, you can choose to unfollow them. I believe there is absolutely nothing negative about that progression of events; everyone has their own idea of what they want to share and experience, and social media give us the ability to sort through what is available and make our own decisions.

But some people aren’t content with this. They feel the need to make lists about what you should and should not Tweet about, as though there is some kind of universal system that must be adhered to. As opposed to passively choosing who and what content to follow, I find these attempts to control what people say both negative and destructive. There is no universal set of guidelines (other than those set up by the creators of the platforms themselves) that should be followed in social media. I think the old response to TV censorship applies: if you don’t like it, change the channel.

But of course, that way of thinking applies to consumer social networks. Enterprise social networks require a totally different approach. Its up to every company’s HR and legal department to dictate what is and what is not appropriate behavior on an ESN. And those guidelines should and must be adhered to. I genuinely believe they’re designed not to inhibit creativity and individualism, but to protect you and your company.

Over the last year, I have developed some “rules” for how I conduct myself on our own internal Clearvale network. And before I share them, I’d like to make it as clear as possible that these are my own rules, created by me, and never meant to replace or supersede the rules already developed internally.

1. Our ESN is a virtual extension of our office

Just because I may be writing a blog post or responding to a question while physically in my apartment or an internet café doesn’t mean I’m “in” my apartment or the café. When I am using Clearvale, I’m “in” the office and will always behave as such.

2. Someone is watching

I never, ever write anything on our ESN that I would not say within earshot of my coworkers. For me, they are the gold standard. You might conjure your CEO, manager, partner, grandma, etc. Picking someone like this can make it much easier to make a decision when you’re unsure if what you’re about to post is appropriate.

I should point out that this never prevents me from voicing an opinion, commenting on something or uploading a piece of content; that would be the antithesis to what Clearvale is all about. It’s just a helpful reminder to pay as much attention to how I conduct myself on our ESN as I do around my coworkers.

3. Don’t offend, don’t be offended

I’ll never forget my 9th grade history teacher, who told us that you have as much responsibility to try not to be offended by others as you do to not be offensive. He said this in reference to traveling abroad, but it is a rule I’ve tried to stick to in my every day life.

I’m very lucky to work in a place where people are thoughtful and polite, even when time is a precious commodity. However, you might find people leaving responses to your work that might seem brusque. Instead of getting upset, take a breath and ask yourself a very important question: is this comment helpful? How you deal with a person you find rude is up to you (and possibly your HR manager). But while you’re dealing with interpersonal issues, you still have to get your work done.

4. If there isn’t a dedicated space for pictures of your dog or local restaurant reviews, you should probably refrain from posting them

When it comes to my own personal use of Twitter and Facebook, I love to see pictures of my friends and family with their pets. I never get to spend as much time with them as I’d like, and those pictures are a nice, but distant second. I also love reading about food. If I see something I like, it goes into the mental database

There might be a decision within your company to build special communities with your ESN for this kind of content. I actually think it can be quite valuable, in terms of getting to know your coworkers and the locale of your office. But your ESN wasn’t built for this kind of thing; it was built for getting work done.

And roaring into the lead it’s…. customer service

Today is somewhat symbolic day for BroadVision.

Exactly two years ago today, the October 2009 early beta release of Clearvale introduced “activity points” which kept track of how active each member of a Clearvale network has been.

Of all the many features introduced in Clearvale since the first beta release, activity points has been one of the most contentious, and the cause of some of the most lively discussions within BroadVision. Is it meaningful to measure raw activity, without any qualitative measure? Indeed, this is one of my main complaints about Klout – I lost 40% of my score just by going on holiday for two weeks, illustrating that it seems to value activity above true influence. Interestingly though, earlier this year we did an internal survey about the most influential members of BroadVision Connect, our own internal implementation of Clearvale. What we found was a little surprising – 6 of the top 7 influencers (chosen entirely subjectively by BroadVision employees) were in the top 7 activity points scorers. Which suggests that the correlation between activity and influencer is perhaps greater than you might think.

However, it would be foolish to believe that activity alone is a true measure of influence, so we have been working hard on improving the CAP (Clearvale Activity Point) system to transform it into a more accurate measure of influence as a basis for an enterprise reputation economy.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about today – more on that another time. No, the symbolic moment is not the second anniversary of CAP. What is symbolic is what has happened today.

Since very beginning of CAP, I have been the top points scorer. Over the course of two years, I have amassed 14000 points. As a vocal (OK, loudmouth) member of the marketing department, with connections into our sales, consulting and product management teams around the world, it’s not surprising that I’ve maintained this lead – I have an opinion on most things that go on inside the company, and I am rarely reluctant to share that opinion. The use of social networking within the company has given me, over the last two years, the opportunity to get involved in all sorts of discussions that simply weren’t possible in the first 11 years I was at BroadVision.

But today, I’ve been overtaken. And as a social CRM advocate, I’m delighted to be able to say that I’ve been overtaken by our European Director of Customer Support. Our customer service teams have moved all their internal communication away from email, and into Clearvale. This benefits everyone – greater visibility of the discussions gives us a common understanding of the status of an issue; allowing more people to contribute speeds up the resolution of issues. And of course, this has meant more CAP for customer support.

Almost as long as companies have been using social media, the debate has been raging as to which department should own it. In most cases it starts with marketing, but I have always maintained that the logical place for it to end up is in customer service. And, in a small, symbolic way that’s what today’s events have highlighted.

Of course, internal collaboration is just one part of social CRM. Too many people define social CRM too narrowly, whereas I have always believed that it is the combination of social media, customer communities and internal collaboration (as described in this post). But embracing a social culture inside the organisation is increasingly seen as a prerequisite to delivering true social customer service.

I believe that what BroadVision ourselves have experienced is very much in line with what many other organisations have found. After a slow start, customer service is emerging as the most active participant in social projects.

I’ll be talking about both BroadVision’s experiences of Social CRM in a business to business context, and those of our customers at the Social CRM New York event on November 3rd. Hope to see you there.

If you don’t want to be treated like a jerk, don’t act like a jerk

Like millions of other people, I upgraded to iOS 5 on Wednesday. And like millions of other people, I found it a very frustrating experience. But, you know what, I’m not going to switch to a competitor over it, I’m not going to launch a class action suit against Apple, and I don’t want their to developers rot in hell. I’m a bit annoyed, but you know, I think I’ll get over it.

Actually my biggest frustration with iOS 5 on my iPad 1 is that Apple have removed the cool multi-touch gestures that I used to use for switching between apps. They were useful; it’s a bit irritating and somewhat inexplicable that they’ve been removed. But, hey, no one died (hmmm, actually, perhaps not the best turn of phrase under the circumstances). I’ll get over it.

However I think I might be in the minority. Maybe I am mellowing as I get older. I went and expressed my mild annoyance on Apple’s forums and was astonished by some of the other comments on the same thread.

Seriously apple! What the **** are you playing at! The only reason I’m still awake here in the uk at 3.38 am was to get its 5 onto my iPad, to them play with the new gestures!

Unbelievable. Another unhappy customer here. Bad, bad, bad.

If Apple will not re-enable this feature, I suggest to colleagues especially in USA to suit Apple for false commercial, as according to my opinion, the information about incompatibility between gestures and iPAD 1 is not mentioned in the information about the iOS 5 features.

maybe they want more money… and want us to buy ipad 2…………… no way. better wait for windows 8 on tablet…….

Guys, guys! A little perspective! The problem is, if you go nuclear over every single little thing, how can a company possibly expect to work out what is really important and what isn’t?

BroadVision ourselves have been subject to similar sort of abuse via Twitter – someone told our developers to “rot in hell” (and much worse) when one of our eCommerce customer’s site was running slowly. I really wanted to write back and say “OK, I will ask our developers to rot in hell, but it really isn’t going to help our customer add more servers”. I resisted the temptation.

We all know that social media has given customers a voice and a mechanism to tell companies exactly what we think of them. But this has to be a two way thing. Yes, the company needs to listen, but the customer also needs to behave rationally. It’s easy to ignore offensive, hysterical rants. It’s much harder to ignore coherent, reasonable complaints. So here’s my proposal for a new customer contract for the social era.

If you don’t want to be treated like a jerk, don’t act like a jerk.

Email doesn’t spam people – people spam people

Many years ago, I was in a bookshop waiting to pay for something (a book, I suppose). The people ahead of me in the queue were asking the assistant to search for a book, and she was failing to do it "because the system is down". Nothing particularly strange about that – I can usually guarantee that any time I contact a call centre I will get some sort of apology for the system being down, or running slowly. But what was particularly memorable about the bookshop incident was the way the shop assistant assumed that the customer would accept this as a valid reason for not being able to do something, as if "the system" had a mind of its own, therefore no blame could be attached to her or her company if it wasn’t working.

While writing this, I came across an article by Robert Plant in the Harvard Business Review on a very similar topic. He starts by saying:

The next time a customer service rep says, "The computer won’t let me do that" or "The system tells me what to do," remember this: Behind every such phrase is a set of processes designed, or at least endorsed, not by computers but by human beings somewhere in the corporate hierarchy. The system may tell the reps what to do, but someone told the system what to do.

We’ve got to stop doing this; we’ve got to stop blaming "the system" for our own faults. A company’s computer systems are no more to blame for poor customer service than a car is responsible for a car crash. 

It reminds me of a rule at the first company I worked at after university – we were not allowed to refer to "bugs" in our software product. As the terminology "bugs" was believed (erroneously, it appears) to have been based on insects getting into the mechanisms of early computers, it carried the implication of something beyond the programmer’s control. So we had to use the word "defect" instead. A silly rule, but one which had good intentions.

But I do believe this "blame the system" culture is slowly dying out. Consider the recent, ludicrous attempts by people such and Anthony Wiener and Gary Cook to claim that inappropriate messages they sent via Twitter or email were not actually from them, but the result of being hacked. Come on, did you think anyone would believe that? Really? The technical-literacy of the population is much higher than it was 10 years ago, so blaming the system really doesn’t convince anyone any longer.

Except, perhaps, in one case. Email.

I find it depressing to see thought leaders in technology and business lining up to blame email for all our problems of information overload, wasting each others time, and all-round poor communications. In the UK, we don’t have the same sort of affinity for bumper-stickers that the US has, but if I were to have one, it would probably be this variation on the old NRA favourite.

I use a lot of different communications tools – Email, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, SMS, phone (yes, sometimes), and of course several enterprise social networks using BroadVision’s Clearvale. And I get spam on ALL of them. Of course, true spam of the get-rich-quick and blue-pill variety is the easiest to deal with. It’s the "friendly spam" (as described by Pehong earlier this year) that takes longest to deal with, because these are people you want to communicate with, so you have to assess each message from them.

Email is the anathema to many of the advocates of social business, although I have never really subscribed to the crusade against it. Like all the communication tools, it has its strengths and weaknesses. But ultimately, poor use of email is caused by people, not email itself. 

I recently came across the Email Charter which sets out "10 Rules to Reverse the Email Spiral". They are (mostly) good rules, but I believe only one of them is unique to email.

So, to everyone who describes email as "the bane of my life", I would suggest that poor communication is the bane of your life. It is absolutely true that moving to an enterprise social network gives organisations the opportunity improve their communication, but if they take their bad habits with them, they will simply face the same problems they had before. Buying an exercise bike doesn’t make you lose weight – but understanding how to use it to exercise effectively does.