The place where the Customer counts

Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

The place where the Customer counts - Free thoughts on CRM, Business and the next big thing

PRISM, privacy and maybe VRM a world always connected where being social (through social media) is imperative and cloud solutions begin to gain market share against the on-premise counterpart, we are forgetting, or at least considering obvious, the personal information share. Lots of work has been done by various privacy authorities trying to find a balance between the consequences of a digital approach to relationships and the right to be protected by third parties unfair behaviours. Then we had the PRISM case and everyone (I’d say ingenuously) suddenly began to perceive the dark side of digital “sociality” even if governmental istitutions persist to favor the need of security to the privacy violation. It’s strange that this issue came up just in the same moment I arranged a presentation that unfortunately I didn’t manage to show at the Social Business Forum in Milan last week. So I decided to share it in this post trying to introduce you on the concept of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM).

Here we are, but what’s next?

During last decades we’ve seen more and more control loss by companies regarding communications and interactions with their clientele. People, thanks to digital and social technologies, express themselves freely and with less “exposure” boundaries, forcing companies to adapt their business in order to survive. We just arrived to the Social Business phase, but what’s next?

Do you know this man?

Doc Searls is one of the author of the well-known Cluetrain Manifesto which described the beginning of this new social era characterized by a new concept of “market” which identifies itself with “conversation” or, more generally, with the need to share opinions, behaviours, interests, attitudes, etc. But where are we now? All of the book predictions came true?

But what do companies think?

Doc Searls sees an incorrect use by companies of digital and social technologies, too much focused on the “company” as the main actor of the ecosystem and less on people. It’s still a matter of ATTENTION and not of INTENTION.

It’s an issue between attention…

Nowadays we’re still ruled by the attention economy and online business models still suffer of the same “disease” of the offline ones. We still have only advertising as the main model that let survive most of the companies around although, even with lots of personalizations, ads appreciation levels are very low.

…and intention

But, what if customers and prospects have the real power to drive the demand / supply mechanism with the last adapting to the buyers needs?

Are you ready for a perspective shift?

So, are we now really ready for this perspective shift? After all, who knows the money at one’s disposal, which information to share, its proper needs and the how, the when and the why better than the BUYER?

Wouldn’t be exciting to have a new business category that provide customers with both independence from vendors and better means for engaging with them?

Here comes the Vendor Relationship Management

Doc Searls after the Cluetrain Manifesto began a new adventure in Harvard trying to define a new business concept called Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) as a counterpart of classical CRM, with their principles, goals and tools.

We need real ownership of our data

First of all it’s necessary to have people coming back into possession of their personal data property. Moreover each category of data needs to be verified depending on its feature.

We need devices to use data and interact with the world

Then we need new tools (smartphone, tablet, Google glass, embedded chips, etc.) more and more mobile and portable which allow us to interact, collect and use this data independently by vendors.

We need a new multi-sided marketplace

Then we need a new kind of marketplace open to different actors where rules will change from a classic supply-side based model (where classical brokers or third parties are too much “near” to vendors) to a demand-side based model (with trust brokers or fourth parties more “near” to buyers).

We need a new ecosystem for all these elements

In this new ecosystem, there is lots of personal data that, thanks to specific devices with particular adds-on and apps installed, are managed by personal data store (pds) or personal information management (pim) services. These services are the layer that interface with the marketplace where, for example, our personal RFP (request for proposal) are considered by different companies in real-time to set up the best solution to offer us.

So, then

As Doc Searls said: “We can all connect now, more easily than ever. We can make our intentions known personally and in ways that can cause and sustain genuine relationships. And, where no relationship is required, we can connect, do business, and move on, with less cost and hassle than ever. The Attention Economy will persist, because the rationales for it won’t go away and were never wrong. The Intention Economy wil grow because that’s where the money is. And the love, too. We’re in this thing together, and it’s bigger than any of us. If we keep it that way, it’ll be good for anybody.

Which are the main VRM projects and applications? / Main VRM projects around

Here you can find the more interesting VRM projects around. The Doc Searls’ one in Harvard, Identity Commons by Iain Hendersonborn as a spin off form the previous project, the academic HAT by Irene Ng (PI).

An interesting project example

And the HAT (Hub-of-All-Things) project born at the University of Warwick is particularly interesting. In the slide you can read about the main principles and objectives.

At which step VRM technology is? / Examples of Personal Info Management and Data Store / Examples of a true Invertising®

Look at these interesting start-up and their services. You’ll find very exciting how they manage to use your personal data assuring its safety, solving lots of typical situations where, nowadays, we are obliged to share unwillingly personal information.

A practical case of PIM and PDS usage. / And maybe next…

Finally I just put inside the presentation two examples of how this new business concept (VRM) can help us in managing different life contexts more efficiently saving the “copyright” of our personal data and giving us the power to decide how much information we want to share and where, when and how. We are the buyers and we want to give the vendors the chance to fulfill our needs and make some profit. Do you agree?


I didn’t want to describe a real alternative to what it’s going on now cause, as I said, the two aspects of the digital revolution can coexist finding a good balance between our privacy rights and companies profit rights. As Brian Vellmure told me in a comment to his blog post, VRM is interesting but maybe all the economic investments made by companies to align their business models to the present social and digital paradigm can be a really tough costraint, but it’s quite normal (even if not sure) that, if people change mindset, the same companies will be obliged to rethink their models again and again.