Channels: Group to Group Inter-activity

A couple weeks back I got wind of a customer that wanted to address a very straightforward problem – getting Marketing and Sales to work better together.  This is an area that can benefit every commercial organization.  With a bit of inspiration, we came up with a rather nifty way of addressing this challenge by leveraging Cim to provide two-way, group-to-group interactivity.  Let’s take a look at the scenario and the solution.

So, what are some of the activities that these two departments typically interact on (or, should interact on).  Here are just a few:

  • Review and vetting of Marketing Collateral
  • Questions about upcoming events
  • Vetting campaigns and events
  • Customer stories that can be used by marketing
  • New market ideas
  • Ideas for new campaigns, events, product marketing
  • Prioritization of activities
  • Information from sales on competition, channel, field and market activity

In May, I wrote an article about the 4 C’s – 4 different types of ways to capture ideas (Idea Communities, Campaigns, Challenges, and Contests).  Last month, I wrote about the two primary ways that ideas flow in an idea and innovation workstream.  These articles address standard idea and innovation scenarios where a larger community of people are engaging with a smaller group of people that own a business process.

However, the situation of improving communication and inter-activity between the Sales department and the Marketing department is quite different.  It is two groups of people that need to work together on lots of things.  It is more of a point-to-point, communication, and interaction scenario.  Hmm…

Below is a graphic of the solution using a new approach that we will call “Channels” (another “C” use).  The objective is to get Marketing and Sales working better together.  What you see here are individuals within each department working in their own separate portals.  Historically, the twain do not meet.  They work in their silos.  To interact they need to go somewhere else.  However, now we introduce Cim and our Idea Communities, and, viola the Channel is born (the green connecting pipe).

idea channel-2-400

 

Here is how it works.  Each person continues working in their department portal.  A Cim idea community is deployed in the background working as a service.  The Community front-end UI goes into each portal.  The Channel is now in place.  To each department, it appears that they have a point-to-point communication channel with the other department – which, in fact, they do.

Now, they start to work.  A few scenarios:

  • The marketing department posts a new presentation for Sales to review.  A number of sales people rate it and make comments.  They upload a couple of presentations that they have done or their own.  Marketing reviews them.  Marketing sets up a meeting to discuss the presentation with all comers and gets feedback – with people logging comments in the virtual workspace.  A few days later marketing comes out with the final presentation which is posted and immediately available.
  • They set up a Section for Customer Stories.  The sales folks gradually start to enter stories – it is easy and convenient to do so.  Other reps rate the stories and make some comments.  Marketing reviews it and asks questions.  Marketing then creates a snapshot for the web site and asks sales to review it.
  • Over time, sales folks have posted ideas for marketing campaigns and events.  Just before the quarter marketing posts 5 fleshed out campaigns/events and allows sales to vet them for a week (rate and comment).  The deal is that marketing will fund the top 3 rated events.  At the end of the time, marketing posts the quarterly plan for all to see.

The list and interactivity goes on and on.  There is now a very rich Channel for collaboration, information, and interaction between the departments.  It is easy to use and convenient because no-one has to go somewhere to engage – they work from “home”.  It has high visibility and there is a persistent history.  It is easy to search and there is a simple Tagsnonomy for folks to use to filter information.  Everyone can see the most recent items entered and highest rated. It is a rich, collaborative way of working with rating, commenting, RSS feeds, notifications, file uploads, etc.

Department to department Channels like this can make a big difference.  It starts with accountability that comes from visibility, easy access, and being given a chance to have your say. So, how about a Channel between Sales and Product Management.  Or, a channel between IT and Operations.  After a while you would come to expect that each Department or Business Function will have a number of Channels to other key departments with which they have a high degree of interaction and information flow. 

With Cim, those items (like a really good idea) that should make their way into more formal process like product development or marketing campaign development can be siphoned off and processed via a Management Hub and flow into the implementation phase.  

Okay, formally, I am adding Channels to my list of uses of CorasWorks Idea Management.  It is now the 5 C’s.  The question for you is what other departments or business functions do you or should you be working closely with to improve business results?

william

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