Project VRM, a Berkman project has been endeavoring to bring forth a set of “tools to make markets work for both vendors and customers in ways that don’t require the former to “lock in” the latter was developed in the The Cluetrain Manifesto.” Doc Searls, has been spearheading the project. In a recent blog post he observed that it is much more than “reciprocal” of CRM. He states that VRM is a set of “tools that give individuals independence from others, yet useful means for engaging with others – especially organizations, and among those especially sellers. But the core elements are individuals and independence.” To commemorate the upcoming the first VRM+CRM Workshop, I thought I will elaborate how EnThinnai can be used as a VRM tool.
As was seen in the previous post, EnThinnai allows an individual to share digital information with others. Access to such shared information can be controlled by three parameters: individuals’ OpenIDs, responsibility tags administered by one or more authorized entities and interest tags. Additionally EnThinnai also provides real-time communication tools like text and voice chat. These tools also operate under a permission controlled scheme. Any permitted party can initiate a communication session with the user of EnThinnai.
Now let me take a specific use cases and describe how a customer can use EnThinnai to request a product or service. To this end, the customer has to create a “stream” as described in the previous post. Furthermore, the customer can identify individual know vendors in the “To” field. Alternatively, if the customer is soliciting proposal from a group of vendors nor previously known, the customer can use the “Responsibility tag”. Supposing the customer is interested in a plumbing job, she can use “Plumbers in 01234” as the responsibility tag with the authorizing agency to be Yellow Pages (or Yelp or Google Places or BBB). Once the customer creates such a stream, all the intended parties will be notified of this stream and they can opt to get the full content from the customer’s server. Since EnThinnai allows authorized parties to post replies and makes it part of the stream, both the customer and the vendors can get the full history of the transaction at any time.
Now consider the case of a customer who would like to post a review of a restaurant. He could create a stream containing the review and identify “Italian restaurant in 01234” as the interest tag within the community of Google Places (or Yelp or Superpages). Here again subsequent visitors can use the reply mechanism to add to the original review.
In a much earlier post Doc Searls has enumerated ten principles behind VRM. It is worth to calibrate EnThinnai against these principles and score how well it meets them.
VRM provides tools for customers to manage relationships with vendors. These tools are personal. They can also be social, but they are personal first.
VRM tools are are customer tools. They are driven by the customer, and not under vendor control. Nor to they work only inside any one vendor’s exclusive relationship environment.
VRM tools relate. This means they engage vendors’ systems (e.g. CRM) in ways that work for both sides.
VRM tools support transaction and conversation as well as relationship.
With VRM, customers are the central “points of integration” for their own data.
With VRM, customers control their own data. They control the data they share, and the terms on which that data is shared.
With VRM, customers can assert many things. Among these are requests for products or services, preferences, memberships, transaction histories and terms of service.
There is no limit on the variety of data and data types customers can hold — and choose to share with vendors and others on grounds that the customer controls.
VRM turns the customer, and productive customer-vendor relationships, into platforms for many kinds of businesses.
VRM is based on open standards, open APIs and open code. This will support a rising tide of activity that will lift an infinite variety of business boats, and other social goods.
A stream in EnThinnai need not be shared with anyone. It could be just a record for the benefit of the customer. In this respect it is a personal tool. Of course it also allows the customer to share with one or more specific or loosely defined group of vendors and other customers.
EnThinnai is not controlled by a single vendor. Indeed even the operator of EnThinnai is not in control. The customer is at liberty to specify any individual or authorizing agency.
Since streams are accessed using standard HTTP protocol, any browser based CRM can easily incorporate ways to access streams that it gets notified.
As noted, EnThinnai allows permission based real-time communications enabling conversation.
Data is in only one place, at the customers’ server.
Nominally data is stored only at the customers’ server. It is expected that others who are allowed to access the data will adhere to this principle. It will be a breach of trust otherwise.
This was described in the use case.
Need operational evidence and so will take time.
EnThinnai uses open standards. We have yet to define APIs, but when we do it will be open. We have not made the code open and at this time there are no plans for opening the code.
It is apparent that EnThinnai meets almost all of the principles set forward for VRM. The way EnThinnai is setup, no single entity can have a dominant control. Since we use OpenID and third party authorization, artificial network effect is removed. The whole Internet could be part of every individual customer’s network.