Bottom-up Sales Enablement

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Sales Enablement is an essential element for any company trying to increase their sales productivity.  Sales enablement goes by many definitions and has many tools, but in essence, it is the creation and distribution of sales collateral to help salespeople move prospective customers faster through the sales pipeline.

Traditionally, the creation of sales enablement content is centralized, meaning that a few select individuals – either in Sales Enablement or in Marketing – control the flow and content. Although this approach, in theory, ensures the most accurate and relevant information is distributed to sales reps, in reality it can be problematic for a couple of reasons. First, companies generally have to allocate resources, including dedicated headcount, to coalesce and oversee any and all changes. Not only is this costly, but it means that the people who are creating content for sales enablement are separated from the front-line realities of the sales process.

Second, in order for the sales enablement efforts to remain effective, content must be constantly updated and changed. Product requirements, roadmaps, priorities, customer feedback, customer perception, and customer needs all change in real-time.  By the time it takes for information to bubble up from the boots on the ground to the top, and then back down again – your organization is already behind.

While top down sales enablement is important, it can benefit immensely when combined with bottom-up sales enablement. Bottom-up sales enablement places trust in the sales force’s ability to self-regulate and internally communicate. Bottom-up sales enablement works by capitalizing on the natural and abundant information exchanged amongst sales reps themselves and between sales and marketing. These natural conversations through emails, chats, document exchange, etc. are tremendously context and content rich, and if leveraged correctly, allows the sales force to be tremendously agile.

There are tools in the market that almost everyone uses. For example, Slack/HipChat for messaging and email/Box/Google Drive/SharePoint for product document sharing are standard in growing and mature sales organizations.  Unfortunately, this tribal, customer-centric, valuable information is never leveraged to improve sales performance. A true bottom-up sales enablement tool should allow sales rep to quickly and effortlessly gather needed information by leveraging what was already discussed or documented from prior similar situations.

For example, if a sales rep extensively uses email as her preferred means of communication, a tool that would not only allow her to share information to her colleagues, but also allow her to consume information within email would bring tremendous efficiency. Similarly for groups that have adopted Slack for casual conversations, providing the ability to share and consume sales intelligence from within Slack would be very effective.  After all, sales reps are judged on selling, not on how well they navigate internal information silos. This truly bottom-up approach where information flows up from reps and becomes knowledge that then flows down to the people who really need it in real-time is the holy grail of sales efficiency.

We at Nimeyo have spent years developing a system that aggregates information from scattered sources and builds a layer of intelligence using classification, personalization and learning. Moreover, this self-built intelligence is then delivered back to reps when and where they need it through tools they already use, like Salesforce, Slack, email, or mobile.  If your sales reps are spending more time looking for information than actual selling, drop us a note and we will show you how we can help.

Lessons and Challenges from Slack

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We at Nimeyo have always been fascinated with how employees communicate, and an intriguing company on the forefront of this is Slack.  Slack has succeeded where many others have failed.  Heck, Microsoft almost bought it for $8 billion. Given that, what has it done right that we can all learn from and what challenges does adopting Slack create?

How did it get traction?

On the surface, Slack does not look all that appealing.  It is, after all, just IM plus channels.  But that’s the key to its success.  It is not reinventing the wheel nor overwhelming the user.   Slack presents something we all know and makes it really easy to use.  Just a browser and you are ready to go.

Simplicity is the key, and Slack nailed it.  Slack just fits into an employee’s natural workflow.

Making communication conversational

One way Slack fits right into the employee’s workflow is by facilitating conversation.  Sure, there are documents, e-mails, wikis – but information often flows through conversations.

And what is a conversation?  A series of quick back and forths – something humans are naturally good at.  And Slack allows this in an electronic forum.

When it comes to this type of communication, there is always a tug back and forth between structured, formalized knowledge, and informal conversational knowledge.  And Slack has succeeded by knowing that employees generally prefer the latter.   In other words, people would rather have ease and simplicity– they don’t want to be bothered with formatting, manipulating, or overall shaping the data to something that is useful later.

Doesn’t make the user change behavior

Slack also allows integration with many third party tools and services:  e-mail, Box, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc.  Employees can still use their favorite means of electronic communication and have that be automatically integrated into Slack.  If an employee still prefers e-mail, she can use e-mail.  If she wants to put information into a document on Dropbox – no need to duplicate that information into Slack. In other words, Slack integrates, but doesn’t force change.  After all, everyone is a creature of habit in one way or another.

But is Slack taking away from organization?

But the picture is not all rosy.  Conversations do have weaknesses – they are tough to organize.

With Slack, there’s less need for documentation, formalized transfers of information, seminars, etc.  While this saves time, it also means that the expertise will often remain siloed and only be passed on, piece by piece, when needed due to the chatty nature of communication.  But in the age of rapid turnover, what happens if an expert leaves?  Does all their knowledge leave with them?

And is adding yet another channel of communication worth it?

It’s important to remember that Slack is another tool, and tool fatigue sets in.   With real estate space on the screen becoming even more precious and people being pulled in many different directions, very few employees clamor for another tool to deal with.

What can be done about these challenges?

While Slack is a great tool, we at Nimeyo understand the challenges that it presents

  •  Keeps information siloed by detracting from more formalized training methods
  •  Information is haphazardly placed, with little organization, and plain tough to find
  •  Information is in yet another place, making discovery much more of a chore
  •  Yet another tool amongst a myriad of tools that the average employee has to deal with

There are many ways to go mitigate this.  Slack provides APIs to integrate channels into whatever management tool you wish.  They also have Apps which provide integration with 3rd party tools like Box. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of IT resources from employees who would rather be working on core services.

qPod by Nimeyo provides a ready-built solution by processing Slack information into a searchable, interactive, question and answer system.  Information flow can be congregated from various sources like Slack, e-mail, Box, SharePoint, Salesforce, JIRA, Confluence, and much more.  And the knowledge gained can be easily accessed to help find the information you’re looking for in bite sized pieces.  Information from Slack is more structured, available in the user’s workflow, and can easily be discovered.  In other words, qPod takes Slack to a higher level.

qPod and Slack together!

qPod and Slack work well together with our newly introduced “qPod by Nimeyo” Slack App.

Slack integration within qPod allows users to simply login via Slack – no need to setup a separate login username and password.

And once integrated, channel messages can be imported and accessible throughout qPod.

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And with our “qPod by Nimeyo” Slack App, accessing qPod and posting information is a breeze with easy to use Slack Commands.

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If you’d like to take a test drive, please head over to our Slack App page and sign up.

Initial Thoughts on Google Springboard Announcement

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Google just announced something really interesting. They’re building a completely new search product for enterprises called Springboard. Now, in order to understand what Springboard is and the rationale behind it, we have to go back a couple years.

In 2008, Google came out with something called the Google Search Appliance, or GSA for short. The idea was to bring Google’s search prowess to corporations. If you’re not a big business, however, chances are that you haven’t heard of it, and that’s fine. The GSA was an on-premises hardware search appliance. In other words, it was an appliance that allowed employees to search for information that was scattered across all their business systems. This is definitely a ripe opportunity because studies, including a report from McKinsey, have shown that workers spend 20% of their time looking for information. But the GSA, like similar offerings from other enterprise search vendors like HP/Autonomy, struggled to get a strong foothold in enterprises. First, in order to use the technology, you had to deploy a hardware appliance and spend endless hours configuring and tuning for quality results. This made it more difficult for small business to benefit quickly. But more importantly, the user interface and underlying technology failed to foster adoption and engagement.

To explain this problem with a very simple example, let’s say you’re on your way to work and wondering “why does my dog keep eating my shoes”. You are so curious that you decide to search for the answer on Google. One of the things Google does when you search is it finds documents that use those words with the highest frequency. With That data, along with information on how many other people found that document useful, Google ranks the results for you. The top result would be the most relevant based on word frequency, context and social proof of quality. And this works really well for consumers.

As you can imagine, this model quickly becomes problematic in business. First, information sources are more diverse and systems often don’t interoperate. Second, social proof is almost non-existent given that not many people search for similar stuff to begin with. And finally, enterprise information needs are very specific and demands accurate and time-sensitive results. For example, when you search for “product roadmap”, the search engine would give back any document with the word “product” and “roadmap” in it. It could be a roadmap published 5 years ago. It could be an old email sent to a colleague. It could be a Salesforce entry of an old customer. For a more in-depth explanation of this topic, refer to Can Enterprise Search Effectively Serve Employees’ Needs?

Enter the Google Springboard. Announced on June 13, 2016, Google Springboard is, in many ways, the GSA 2.0. But it is expected to be much more. First, it will be cloud-based, meaning that you won’t have to worry about installing a piece of hardware into your data center. But more importantly, you will see a much more seamless experience in terms of manageability. This should open it up to small and mid-sized businesses. Secondly, in the long run,the search experience will be more predictive than reactive. This is the holy grail of enterprise search as it gives customers access to information without having to change their workflow. Springboard brings tremendous credibility to this space. Finally, Springboard will have an improved mobile interface for the employees that are out and about, possibly of  bringing “Google Now” cards to enterprise data.

One of the big limitations of Springboard, at least initially, is that it only searches across Google apps like Gmail, Google Drive, and Calendar and not third party apps like Salesforce and Zendesk. This effectively ties you to Google’s own ecosystem. We hope Google will enable searchability of other data-sources through a rich partner ecosystem. For now, we can only wait and see what this tech giant, founded by creating a large scale, consumer facing search engine, can produce for a smaller scale, enterprise environment.

Wrangling Enterprise Data

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In our previous blog, The Myth of One Golden Informational Warehouse, we described the ideal informational warehouse where all relevant corporate information resides in an easily searchable, coherent, and up-to-date form. We also discussed how individual preferences, habits and organizational culture make it hard to achieve such a warehouse.

In this article, we will try to analyze this problem from the “systems” perspective. Systems, in this case, consist of tools, processes and the data that they hold and operate.

Data and Tools

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The above diagram describes various types of data and the tools and services a typical organization uses. For the sake of simplicity, this diagram only includes systems that are pervasive and used frequently by employees.

As you can see, the tools on the left tend to be “systems of engagement” – natural, conversational and dynamic; while tools on the right tend to be “systems of record” – highly structured, curated and managed. Moreover, communication mediums like E-mail and IM are noisier (e.g. due to language ambiguities) from the information perspective compared to structurally curated information repositories like CRM.

Unfortunately, internal knowledge organizations in enterprises have this unenviable task of wrangling all these sources of information into a cohesive, searchable, navigable solution that is non-disruptive, secure, and easy to use.

The Problem/Solution Gap

It is quite easy to see why knowledge or IT organizations prefer stricter, more structured services (right side of the spectrum). For example, extracting a customer name or an employee assigned to a task is much easier from a CRM or PM tool where specific fields capture that information. However, it is much harder to extract such information from Slack messages or E-mail conversations.

On the other hand, employees hate to curate information for the system. They have a job to do after all, be it development, sales or marketing. Documenting something is just an overhead they would rather avoid.

And therein lies the dilemma. Employees are communicating through IM or E-mail and generating tons of useful information in a dynamic work environment – and almost none of it makes it to the system of record. Meanwhile, the more structured sources that contain no IM or E-mail are the places from where business intelligence is derived.

Needless to say, this deep rooted and pervasive disconnect has created a gap in the way employees access corporate information relevant to their jobs.

Enterprise Wiki: Shifting to the Right

A good example of the tension described above is Enterprise Wiki. A few years ago when wikis were all the rage, there was a massive effort to shift collaboration from chat and E-mail to wiki.

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As demonstrated in the diagram, many forward looking organizations thought that this new initiative would make their data easier to manage by shifting to a more structured, organized, and system ready service.

Unfortunately, this shift required a change in behavior from employees as they had to learn a new user interface and process which was less natural than before. While some appreciated the change, others were not quite so enthusiastic. For example, Product Marketing may love wiki pages as they are well organized and easy to manage. However, for the Sales team (supposedly the benefactor of this content), such a solution would be a burden as they may not have access to corporate network all the time and may want a mobile friendly solution. They just need answers, not documents. They would naturally stick with E-mail or chat.

Indeed, research from MITRE has suggested that people have resisted putting information onto wikis because:

First, we uncovered a reluctance to share specific information due to a perceived extra cost, the nature of the information, the desire to share only “finished” content, and sensitivities to the openness of the sharing environment. Second, we discovered a heavy reliance on other, non-wiki tools based on a variety of factors including work practice, lack of guidelines, and cultural sensitivities.

In other words, the failed adoption of wikis was part of the systematic difference in expectations between the consumer and the producer of the information.

The Ideal Solution

With organizations wanting more clean and structured data that is easier to slice and dice for business intelligence and employees wishing for more conversational style mediums, an ideal solution would have to fill the gap of expectations.

In an ideal world, employees would be able to converse in a free-flowing manner using whatever means their group feels is best, while innovative technologies and products would analyze that content and extract valuable business information to form a structured database. Thankfully, traditional search technology along with linguistics and machine learning applied on very specific areas like sales and support can make this problem tractable.

We at Nimeyo are working on technology where employees can continue use E-mail, chat, SharePoint, Salesforce or anything else they desire, while our algorithms build the knowledge meta-layer on top of that.

With our “pods and bots” approach, our pods aggregate unstructured information and add a layer of intelligence, while our bots deliver answers right into your workflow. Essentially, we require no change in user behavior while still tapping into one of the richest sets of corporate information.
Drop us a note if you would like to learn more.

The Myth of One Golden Informational Warehouse

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We in technology love the concept, the idealized form of a database.  A romantic notion, if you will, where there is one “base” of data with a formal and highly efficient way (like SQL) of pulling out data instantaneously.  And sure, if someone were to create a highly structured, highly coherent, from the ground up application where everyone is on the same page – a database is a great idea.  But the organization you work in is not a monolithic application, it’s a dynamic collection of people, ideas and information connected through shared goals.

The Uniqueness of Individuals – A Blessing and a Curse

Uniqueness causes ideas to flow and gives you a competitive edge, but uniqueness is the reason it is practically impossible to build and maintain a golden repository of information. Individuals and groups make their own choices based on their function and needs and enterprises are increasingly allowing these loosely-controlled but responsive environments to foster.

This is not to say that there is never a need for a structured repository of information. There is indeed a multi-billion dollar market of content management addressing various segments and use-cases including customer support portal, document management, e-discovery and others. However, attempts to manage and disseminate internal information, be it through documents, wikis, or social tools, even with the best intentions, have failed to address some of the fundamental needs for various reasons including:

  • Burden to systematically organize and manage content,
  • Poor findability of information,
  • Inability to personalize the information to suit individual role and needs, and
  • Disruptiveness in existing workflows and behaviors

As a result, although myriad of newer cloud services, each solving a narrow problem really well through superior usability, have gained significant traction and user base, information retrieval problem has continued to plague organizations.

IT versus the Worker

Companies more often than not play the symphony of implementing a new knowledge management structure followed by employees finding ways around it.  Let’s face it, when individuals or small teams have found out their own solution that works best for them, and a centralized authority claiming they are “wrong” or “inefficient” offers another solution, an inevitable backlash ensues.  One such consequence is Shadow IT, team specific systems without IT’s approval.

What happens when employees are told to move to a new system to store their information?  Take for example wiki pages.  Wikis, while important, were the hottest rage in 2012.

But unfortunately, it is plagued with inconsistent expectations and usage:

  • Many dutifully convert their knowledge into wiki pages.
  • Others view it as a burden and begrudgingly accept it, but put in little effort.
  • Some sparsely populate those pages
  • Some view them as brain dumps and treated it accordingly
  • Some resist and keep their information hidden within e-mail threads or other places within their own personal workflow.

All in all, motivation to centralize all knowledge does the opposite – it spreads it out even further.

Informational Drift

And when users have to alter their workflow to modify information, information does not get modified.  Plain and simple.  Wiki pages are often old and outdated.  Corrections are placed in e-mails, Slack messages, release notes – you name it, there’s information stuck in there.  Soon, getting the answer to a question becomes an exercise of informational connect the dots of various knowledge management solutions.  A customer’s information could be in Salesforce – their product spec could be in a Box document, internal product specs could be in a Confluence page, and the workaround needed to fix the particular bug the customer is encountering could reside in an e-mail thread.  No one planned it that way, but years of institutional and tribal knowledge from various individuals never ends up, figuratively and literally, on the same page

Taming the Beast

Leading experts agree:

  • According to McKinsey, employees spend 20% of their time looking for information.
  • IDC paints an even grimmer picture, stating that knowledge workers spend 30% of their workday searching for information.

IT organizations have struggled to find a solution to such a spaghetti network of informational resources.  Any solution not only needs to deal with their own KM deployments, but integrate with Shadow IT.  And these new breeds of solutions not only need to account for such fragmentation, but provide uniform and consistent results.

We at Nimeyo have personally struggled with this jigsaw approach of getting that right piece of information in a timely manner throughout our careers in companies both large and small.  That’s why we created a product that is built from the perspective of Enterprise employees. We call our architecture “Pods and Bots”. Pods are the domain specific (e.g. sales or support) engines that continuously analyze information from e-mail, documents, IM channels, wikis, CRM and more, and then automatically add a layer of domain specific intelligence.  And our bots then deliver this information to you, contextually and within your workflow, be it in e-mail or Salesforce; providing you the freedom to use your favorite tools without changing your behavior.

Can Enterprise Search effectively serve employees’ needs?

My toddler has an impressive collection of toys. He tries to keep his favorite ones somewhere “safe” but then he cannot find them when he wants to actually play with them. While trying to find it, we both know that the one that we are looking for is somewhere in the house and yet it remains alluringly out-of-reach since the exact places we determine to look for never have it. It’s frustrating for him to have this happen on regular basis.

Unfortunately, millions of enterprise employees feel similar frustration when they can’t find the information that they know is around them in various forms. They could be in mailing lists or in SharePoint or Box repositories, or in internal chat rooms, or on some internal wiki pages.

Realizing the potential value of unearthing information that employees need to do their jobs, companies – particularly large ones – employ enterprise search. Unfortunately, most of those engines remain poorly deployed and minimally used by the end users.

imageSo the question is why do enterprise search engines do such a poor job at engaging users whereas search outside of the corporate firewalls are part of our daily lives?
Although there are number of technical reasons, we believe the key problem is a “lack of user-orientation”. In other words, these solutions are neither attuned to the actual needs of the end users nor they understand the data itself in a meaningful way to be able to serve it in a meaningful way.

Let’s take few examples –

  1. Content and Users: Search engines’ key strength is in indexing wide ranging data types – web pages, documents, CRM systems etc. So when user searches with few keywords, search engines define success by uncovering wide-ranging data in a sequential manner based on some ranking criteria.However, not all data types are created equal. For instance, email communications are a lot more meta-data rich and time-relevant compared to documents. If used intelligently, such data specific analysis can be immensely useful in understanding how row communication relates to the end user needs.
  1. User interface:   Needless to say, we all are used to typing a simple search query (or question where there is a unique answer – e.g. “Father’s day 2015”) and expecting search engine to return “satisfactory” results. However, in a corporate context, this model is highly limiting as any one article or document is unlikely to provide a comprehensive answer in most real world scenarios.For example, when a sales rep gets into a competitive situation, a query like “MyCompany vs MyCompetitor” should surface variety of information including product differentiation, pricing, and nuggets from other similar situations. All these pieces are equally important to put together a competitive tactic to win the opportunity. A linear listing of results based on uniform ranking criteria does not do justice to needs of that sales rep.A UI that allows users to navigate through these various pieces in a consistent manner and “assist” in creating a cohesive picture would be much more effective in creating engaging user experience.And finally,
  1. User preferences and behaviors: In most of our enterprise search experience, presentation of results is “black magic”. Let’s say you searched for some information today, worked through the hits and were fortunate to find what you were looking for at the 20th You had to put the effort but you found what you were looking for!Unfortunately, say a month from now, if you are looking for the similar information through a similar query, you would still find the information deep down in the ranking.If solutions allowed ways to capture user preferences – expressed implicitly and explicitly – it would be able to return results that are a lot more aligned with what the end user needs are.

We at Nimeyo believe that to achieve the true potential of enterprise search, we need to stop viewing it through the prism of consumer search technologies.

To fulfill the promise, enterprise search products must understand not just who the user is and what role she performs in the organization but also identify optimal mechanism through which to deliver knowledge to the employee.

qPod now available on Amazon AWS marketplace!

We are delighted to announce that qPod from Nimeyo – a “self-help” knowledge system for pre- and post-sales organizations – is now available through Amazon AWS marketplace.

Why AWS?
Amazon Web Services or AWS offers reliable, scalable, and inexpensive cloud computing services.

With our qPod Saas solution exclusively hosted on AWS you can be assured of robust security and data protection guarantees provided by AWS. In addition, for those
customers who use AWS private cloud for added security and control, qPod can be deployed with a single click in their existing VPC!

We continue to strive to make qPod deployment fast, easy, and intuitive so that customers see the value of qPod within minutes of deployment.

Click to learn more

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A critical piece to tribal knowledge management in enterprises

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Email is the de facto form of communication in the business world. According to the market analysis group Radicati, in year 2013, 929 million corporate mailboxes generated roughly 100 billion emails every day. Moreover, despite all the talk about an imminent demise of email, corporate usage of this medium is expected to grow over coming years. Unfortunately, this most pervasive corporate application is more or less untapped by current enterprise knowledge management tools.

At an individual level, an average employee receives about 150 emails per day, among which about 50 include attachments. Further exacerbating the issue is corporate email retention policies which often conflicts with the needs to preserve corporate knowledge.

So the critical question is – how are your employees able to save and retrieve important information about products, customers, and peers? Are they able to access useful data from years before with ease? If not, then efficiency is being affected.

Nimeyo Inc. recently helped a publicly traded company with a global team of sales engineers deal with a similar issue. The company relied on email communication, particularly inter- and intra-departmental mailing lists like ask-se, ask-experts to triage and resolve customer issues. Unfortunately, the rich set of knowledge hidden in these raw email threads was unusable due to lack of technical solutions to analyse and search. This resulted in iterative and repetitive work that wasted time and effort, reducing efficiency of the team. Nimeyo’s qPod, using its email analysis engines, converted 3+ years of email content into a functional knowledge that provided superior search, usability, and mobility to the world-wide team of field engineers. Moreover, qPod provided bookmarking and personalized search for efficient knowledge retrieval. Finally, qPod continuously refreshed knowledge as new email content got generated, allowing users to stay in the medium they were comfortable with.

If your company is struggling with repetitive discussions on previously explored and resolved topics, if your email systems are in a mess, contact us and see how Nimeyo can help improve your team’s efficiency.

Our product – qPod – solves this exact problem. It is a knowledge base that seeds itself from information that is already around, and more importantly, it continuously refreshes itself as new information flows through various communication channels like email, social feeds, and chat rooms.

If your sales force can use a software that actually helps them do their job better, sign up for the free trial of qPod.

How to Boost the efficiency of the world-wide sales force

One of the most common scenarios we hear while talking to Sales and Sales Engineering teams is that

  1. They are growing fast and it is challenging to scale the sales force to meet the needs of new customers, and
  2. They are hiring new employees but it is a challenge to ramp those employees on product and customer specific technical details.

What further exacerbates the problem is that Sales and SE teams are scattered world wide. Non-HQ employees are at a further disadvantages given their inability to knock on the “expert next door”.

Obviously sales organizations are constantly looking for solutions that can help them tackle these “growing pains” by improving the collaborations and knowledge management processes. Unfortunately, the tools they employ (e.g., CRM software, Wiki pages, document repositories) just don’t work in improving the productivity of the sales reps and SEs (more detailed treatment of this topic to follow).

Introducing qPod

It is our great pleasure to introduce qPod – a self-curated, self-sustaining knowledge management system.

Yes, you read it right – it’s a system that builds itself from data that is already around it in email communications, chat rooms, product documents – and refreshes itself as new content becomes available.

Moreover, the knowledge becomes available through the channels that corporate users already use – web browser, Email client (Microsoft Outlook or Gmail web app) and mobile devices. No need to learn a new software.

We have been refining the product working with few early adopters and we believe it is ready for broader usage. If you are interested in trialing it out, sign up by sending a note to sales@nimeyo.com. We support both on-premises as well as cloud-hosted deployment so we can get you started in no time.

Stay tuned for more details on qPod and various use cases.