One Case for Twitter – Comcast / Salesforce Case Study

Posted by Brad Egeland

I have now written two articles fully debunking Facebook of having any real project management or business related application. I’ve gone nearly as far with Twitter – only admitting that it’s good for networking and possibly for reaching out for hard-to-find answers when issues on your projects concerning technology or process may arise.

However, I just read the following situation InformationWeek where a Comcast rep was solving subscribers issues by reaching out to them on Twitter. From a pure project management perspective, possibly the best usage would be post-deployment support or possibly lessons learned information, but it’s an interesting read either way….read on…

Frank Eliason, a Comcast Customer-Service Rep, has more than 13,000 followers on Twitter. In the coming weeks, he’s going to help Salesforce.com figure out how to introduce corporate customer-service systems into the world of Twitter.

About a year ago, Eliason and his team of 10 reps, who primarily answered customer e-mails, began to seek out and help customers who were publicly blogging their criticisms and frustrations with Comcast. The team increasingly concentrated on Twitter and its millions of easily searchable microblogs. Eliason’s readiness to help solve Comcast customers’ problems, while calmly ignoring the occasional insults thrown his way, soon made him somewhat of a personality among Twitter regulars. He’s known as @comcastcares.

Then the media came calling, and in recent months, several newspapers, magazines, and television networks have profiled Eliason. His technique is to tentatively approach Twitterers critical of Comcast, rather than offer up advice that wasn’t asked for. “I never thought I’d become famous on three words: Can I help?” Eliason said.

Now Salesforce wants Eliason’s help. It recently announced an add-on for Salesforce CRM that lets companies track and aggregate customer complaints on Twitter. Eliason and his team will be testing the offering, which is scheduled for general availability in the summer. It’s a perfect fit, since Comcast is already a customer of Salesforce CRM’s Internet (a.k.a. “cloud”)-based software services.

CRM for Twitter will include a dashboard for tracking and monitoring topics on Twitter, the replies to those topics, and whether customer issues were resolved, and it will alert customer-service reps to volume spikes on certain topics. The app will be integrated with Salesforce’s Knowledge Base, which reps use to look up answers to customers’ questions and problems.

Pricing will start at $995 a month for five agents and support for 250 customers. This isn’t Salesforce’s first social networking attempt: In January, it announced an app service that companies can set up to have customers come to them on Facebook (the searchable Twitter approach wouldn’t work with Facebook, since users’ “walls,” where they would post comments, operate on an invitation-only basis). Still, using a team of salaried employees to seek out disgruntled customers on the Web may seem counterintuitive to the typical big-business approach to customers service; that is, stock a phone bank with as many low-cost workers as possible that follow scripts in a database.

But Salesforce executives said during a recent InformationWeek briefing that maybe that’s not the best approach. Perhaps, they suggested, companies need to move beyond the call-center mentality and start reaching people at the place they’re increasingly going to complain about things and get help from others: the Internet.

Twitter, of course, is used by just a small fraction of Comcast’s customers, and Eliason’s team is a tiny speck in a pool of 30,000 customer reps at the company. Still, Eliason said his team has helped solved about 21,000 customer issues on Twitter, Facebook, forums, blogs, and other social networking sites since starting the work a year ago, and he envisions a day when perhaps thousands of Comcast reps can use the CRM for Twitter application.

“This allows us to be much more efficient because it’s going to tie into Knowledge Base,” Eliason said. “My team is the guinea pigs.”

There’s also a big-brother quality to a software service that helps companies find what their customers are saying about them and then intervene. Eliason said it’s all in the approach.

“My advice to companies considering this is that you don’t try to interfere with a conversation,” Eliason said. “If someone is commenting about Comcast, we may not give the answer right off the bat. We don’t force ourselves into a conversation. Instead, we throw the ball in their court, with, ‘Can I help?’ ”

Twitter has also proven to be an “early warning system,” Eliason said; customers will tweet about a Comcast problem before calling customer service.

In some situations, Eliason’s team has known about issues before a Comcast call center. Last year, Comcast reps working on the East Coast at 7 a.m. saw a few late-night tweets about a network problem in San Francisco (4 a.m.). The call centers serving San Francisco didn’t start getting calls about the issue until three hours later, when most Comcast customers in the area were waking up and trying to sign on.

Based on his experience with Twitter, Eliason believes that public social networks will prove to be far more important to businesses than they may are expecting. “Engaging with customers is what works, not PR or marketing or customer-relationship ‘management,’ ” he said. “People respect a company when it’s not about the message, it’s about the personal relationship.”

This article was written by Mary Hayes Weier for InformationWeek. It did not appear in their print publication but was available to subscribers online through an alert download at www.informationweek.com/alert/socialnetworks.

With OS Project, Is Google Over-extending Itself?

Posted by Arjun Thomas

As reported by Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service.

Google’s decision to build a PC operating system could be a master stroke or a colossal blunder, depending on whether the company has the resources that such an ambitious and long-term undertaking will require.

Google plays in a variety of extremely competitive markets, serving a broad scope of demanding customers and partners. Although developing an operating system could yield big rewards, it could also distract the company and make it more vulnerable to rivals.

Of chief concern is Google’s continued reliance on a single type of advertising for most of its revenue, despite efforts over the years to diversify its business.

Google still makes most of its money from search pay-per-click text ads, a market that it dominates but where loyalty from consumers and marketers is thin, making the company vulnerable to the development by a rival of a significant technology breakthrough.

In short, if someone built a better search mousetrap — as Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask.com and a host of smaller players are trying hard to do — Google would suffer a sudden drop in search usage and consequently advertising, crippling its finances.

Google’s attempts to build alternative revenue streams from display advertising remain nascent, despite the costly acquisitions of ad services provider DoubleClick and video-sharing leader YouTube, two properties Google considers key to this effort.

Bold initiatives to provide print ads to newspapers and spots to radio stations both failed. The company continues its attempts to build a TV advertising business.

Google executives are the first to admit that the company dominates the Internet search market because it toils long and hard every day to continually improve its engine technology.

Yet, not content with waging battle every day in search, Google also provides enterprise search and business collaboration software, competing against the likes of Microsoft, IBM, Cisco and Autonomy, and trying to win over business managers, IT managers and CIOs.

Read the entire story here.

Project Management in Abu Dhabi and a Non-profit story

Posted by Arjun Thomas

Nonprofit, company aim to boost green energy on tribal lands
California Indian Manpower Consortium Inc. — a nonprofit organization working to advance the social welfare, education and economic viability of California tribes — on Monday announced a statewide alliance with U.S. Science and Technology, a renewable energy project development company in Sacramento.

The two Sacramento organizations intend to develop renewable energy projects on tribal lands, creating jobs and helping improve the environment.

In May, the consortium announced a green jobs initiative. The alliance is the first partnership that aims to fulfill the economic development and environmental goals of the initiative.

The consortium will use USST’s engineering and project management expertise to examine the feasibility of renewable energy projects on tribal lands. Possible technologies that projects could tap into include waste-to-energy, solar and wind power technologies. Once a project is authorized by a tribe, USST will manage the engineering, development and operation of the project, and coordinate job training.

Al Maabar Awards ‘Program Management’ Contract to KEO International Consultants

KEO International Consultants has announced that it has won a six month Program Management contract from Al Maabar, the Abu Dhabi based International real estate development investment company, to work on Aqaba’s $10 billion Marsa Zayed development. Al Maabar’s landmark project, which is the largest development to take place in the history of the region, stretches over a 3.2 km² of prime real estate in the port’s city of Aqaba, Jordan’s sole maritime gateway. Groundbreaking for this historic project is scheduled in early 2010 and with over 6 million sqm of built-up area, it is the largest tourism project in Jordan’s history. Named in memory of the Late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, the iconic development will include high-rise residential towers, retail, recreational, entertainment, business and financial districts and several branded hotels. Several marinas will significantly add to the current berthing capacity and will help transform Aqaba into a premier yachting destination. There are also plans for a state-of-the-art cruise ship terminal, which will be designed as a contemporary tourist landmark and a welcoming gateway to Aqaba.

Commenting on the contract award, Al Maabar’s CEO, Mr Abdallah Hageali, said: “Our Marsa Zayed project is one of the most significant projects under development in the region. A project of this scale will act as a major economic stimulus and its impact will not only be felt in Aqaba but also throughout Jordan and the wider region. “We have awarded this contract to KEO International Consultants because their vast experience and professionalism will help guarantee the success of this iconic development,” he added.

5 themes recruiters are looking for

Posted by Elizabeth

Melanie Franklin, CEO of Maven Training, spoke about the market trends hitting project management at a breakfast event in London, UK, recently.

Franklin, who is the author of three books on the soft skills required for project management, spends a lot of time consulting on what organizations need to do in order to deliver better projects.  She’s in and out of board rooms and she hears what people want from project management professionals.  At the moment, these are the trending topics.

Organizations want:

  • Knowledge and understanding of best practice
  • Technical project management skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Specialist knowledge in a relevant industry sector
  • PRINCE2 on your CV

She also said that there’s a wider trend away from ‘project management’ towards PPM, PPRM or P3.  If those acronyms don’t mean anything to you they are:

PPM:  project and programme management
PPRM:  project, programme and risk management
P3:  project, programme and portfolio management.

At interview you should be able to talk knowledgeably about the fact that PPM is the delivery of organisational change and development capability, as opposed to project management which is ‘just’ getting something done.  At board level the discussions now are about programmes and portfolios, which translates as doing the right thing for the business, and not just doing projects for the sake of it.

Those weren’t the words Franklin used exactly, but she was clear that project delivery is about staying OTOBOS and programme delivery is about delivering an outcome or vision and a more strategic change or business transformation.  In summary, when she is hiring or advising people on hiring, she looks for various key skills as follows.

In a project manager:

  • Delegation
  • Planning
  • Delivery on time
  • Cost management
  • Quality management
  • Risk management
  • Change management and managing the impact of those changes
  • Requirements gathering
  • How scope is presented and checked and how often.

In a programme manager:

  • Benefits management and realization
  • Stakeholder management
  • Ability to manage uncertainty with innovation, problem solving skills and creativity
  • Ability to manage problems without constantly referring them up.

For both jobs Franklin said she would look at how recent is the candidate’s investment in their knowledge.  For example, if you are going for a job as a project manager you are presenting yourself as an expert in project management.  So how true is this?  When did you last attend an event or networking evening, training course or seminar?  How is this reflected on your CV?  It doesn’t have to cost a lot (read this article for some ideas on things that you can do without corporate investment) but it does have to be recent.

So now you know what employers are looking for in terms of both wide trends and specific skills – good luck with the job hunting!

White House unveils new Web site detailing IT project performance

Posted by Arjun Thomas
The White House unveiled a new database Tuesday that shows how well — or how poorly — $72 billion worth of information technology projects are being managed. Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer, unveiled the database, saying that “billions of dollars have been spent on IT initiatives yet some of them have not yielded the dividends promised upfront.” “That has been the impetus for rolling out this dashboard which is to make sure we have the ability to make available the data in terms of how we manage IT projects across the board to the public,” he added. The IT Dashboard, as it is named, can be found on the government’s USASpending.gov Web site, which tracks contract and grant spending. The IT Dashboard tracks more than 7,000 IT projects, informing the public on how well they are meeting requirements, keeping on schedule, and staying within budget.

The dashboard consolidates information the Bush administration reported as part of its quarterly IT Management Watch List and High Risk List. The lists were scrapped in favor of the dashboard because the lists “didn’t really give a lot of visibility into what was going on and what was the root cause of some of these problems,” Kundra said.

“Secondly, the administration would not be able to benefit from the ingenuity of the American people by asking them, is there a third way or a better way than how we’re approaching some of these technology issues,” he added.

The dashboard allows for both. Visitors to the Web site can obtain granular information on any project, such as the money budgeted and spent on each project milestone. They can also provide feedback to the project’s chief information officer through an online e-mail form, export data to personal computers or Web sites, and share data with friends via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Kundra said.

…. Read more.