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It is about the People, then the Product

Paul Greenberg did a great job of highlighting some cool folks with his “Following on more than Friday” post. I am humbled to be on that list and Paul, right back at you. But you knew that and I do not think it is a stretch to suggest that we have all learned a lot from you! We all learn from different people in different ways, which is what leads to the variety and diversity of opinions. We also all have our own purpose for being here. No, I am not going all philosophical, I mean Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube and Blogs. While there are some great people who get it, there are a large number who don’t. Yes, that is a bold statement, bordering on ‘them is fightin’ words’.  I could call people out by name, but that would not be very social, not really interesting either.

What is more interesting is to extend Paul’s list a little, with some smart folks who live on the vendor side of things. These folks not only have some great things to say, but are also translating that into product; by listening, engaging, reading and thinking. My focus for this post is people who spend time thinking about small businesses and the issues they face. I also have a soft spot for people who are within the vendor world, because that was me not too long ago. I am not saying one product is better or worse than another, nor am I endorsing any one product here (disclaimer: no one on this list is paying me). I am focusing on the people not the products. Some have blogs, of these some are personal, some are company, some do not have blogs, but they still share. The common denominator is that they all have active Twitter accounts, thus that is the link I am providing. The path you take after that is your choice, like Social XYZ, to me it is about the people, so, that is my focus today.

They have more to offer than just a product! (in alphabetical order):

Jon Ferrera  (@jon_ferrara) Nimble (Product – Nimble, Beta soon)
T.A. McCann (@tamccann) Gist (Products – Gist, Google Apps Version too, Live*)
Pam O’Hara (@pmohara) BatchBlue (Product – BatchBook, Live*)
John Rourke (@johnrourke) Bantam Networks, (Product – BantamLive, Live*)
(* I am using the word “live” as they are all SaaS based applications)

Since I am focusing on the people, and not the products I can get away with not specifying a product grouping or market segment. All the products live somewhere within the CRM and/or Social CRM landscape, though Gist can live within, or as part of another application. The others may extend beyond what people think of as CRM as well. More importantly, each of the people focuses on solving specific business problems, and their products follow their lead. My interactions with each of these people came to be differently, some by research, some by twitter and blogs and some via a somewhat colorful Twitter conversation, but all is good now. I am appreciative for the time spent and more so, the time sharing issues and ideas, not only product.

Jon Ferrara has a long history within the CRM space, founding Goldmine 20 years ago. After interactions with Jon via Twitter, and Blogs we scheduled a call to talk. Here is the really neat thing, Jon was willing to talk to me the first time, while I was still with SugarCRM. He knew what I was doing, and of course what he was doing, but the interactions (including RTs ) were and are always positive. I have enjoyed the many interesting articles which he has shared, and learned from his comments. I look forward to the product. My sense is that Jon is more worried about the size of the pie, not the size of his slice. Jon has said to me on more than one occasion that if he focuses on the success of his customers, then his own success will just happen.

T.A. McCann has a neat background which goes back to working in the Exchange group at Microsoft. I do not have an extensive background with T.A. but have had some great interactions with Greg Meyer (@GregAtGist) and he set up the discussion with T.A.. During the conversation, T.A. and I talked about many different aspects of information, mostly social and aggregate, but the value of having it when you need it. He has a very pragmatic view, with the ultimate ROI of all of this – Time gained, time saved and efficiency. That is of course an over simplification, I will be writing up a post with more details soon. T.A. shared a passion for the space, which I look forward to seeing more of in the future. A passion and energy is good for us all.

Pam O’Hara has been thinking about small business for a long time. The CRM part came out of a need for the small business owner. I did recently speak with Pam, and had forgot that I had participated in a few of her TweetChat sessions (#sbbuzz). That is of course because those were a really long time ago, eons even (last year). Because of her focus on small business, Pam has an acute sense of time (spent, wasted and what it costs). Whether this is because Pam is focused on creating a better work/life balance for herself and her employees, or the focus is on the customers, it does not matter, we all benefit. Pam is constantly focused on efficiency, which is a good thing.

John Rourke is a little more colorful, could be the New Yorker in him (being one myself, I can say that). The first few interactions with John, were, let’s say interesting and direct. But, I take ownership for the escalation, and blame the channel (Twitter). Trying to understand someones personality, and objective in 140 character snippets without the context of ever meeting face-to-face is not a good idea. This is an example of ‘ I should have picked up the phone sooner’ After some time went by, John and I did pick up the phone and talk. John is laser focused on the business problem faced by his customers. He is willing to share his ideas openly. John might sometimes a little too focused on product, but it is not hidden or in any way obnoxious (really). Like me, John is a passionate person, and his passion for what he is doing is good for all of us.

I have been in the CRM space for a long time. When I spoke with these folks, there was very little talk of technology and infrastructure, at first this was surprising. Then it occurred to me that as an application for small business that is their problem not yours. Besides, these folks would rather talk about the business problems not the technology ones… I am constantly listening and trying to learn, in order to do that it is a requirement to extend the people you listen to, and be willing to contribute. The common theme here is that we are all overwhelmed with information, and time is a valuable commodity, making their contributions that much more meaningful. 10 years ago everyone was focused on real-time information, guess what, it happened. Another theme within this group is not about real-time information, it is about the right information at the right time.

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  • Ami Assayag July 22, 2010, 10:10 AM

    Great post about some of the leading people behind SCRM today. I am currently exploring this space for SeventySix Capital, and would love to chat with you about where you think the market is heading. My concern is that most companies in the space are concentrating on tweaking the business model and carving out niches, that they forget about innovation – the new players have nice and simple user interfaces, but they are not creating new features that are unique or revolutionary.
    Feel free to email me at ami-at-seventysixcapital.com.