Interview John F Moore CEO The Lab

Social Media Landscape

Here is an interview with John F Moore, social media adviser,technologist and founder and CEO of The Lab.

Ajay-  The internet seems to be crowded by social media experts with everyone who spends a lot of time on the internet claiming to be one? How  does a small business owner on a budget distinguish for the correct value proposition that social media can give them. 

John- You’re right.  It seems like everytime I turn around I bump into more social media “experts”.  The majority of these self-proclaimed experts are not adding a great deal of value.  When looking to spend money for help ask the person a few questions about their approach. Things you should be hearing include:

  • The expert should be seeking to fully understand your business, your goals, your available resources, etc..
  • The expert should be seeking to understand current management thinking about social media and related technologies.

If the expert is purely focused on tools they are the wrong person.  Your solution may require tools alone but they cannot know this without first understanding your business.

Ajay- Facebook has 600 million people, with people preferring to play games and connect to old acquaintances rather than use social media for tangible career or business benefit..

John- People are definitely spending time playing games, looking at photos, and catching up with old friends.  However, there are many businesses seeing real value from Facebook (primarily by tying it into their e-mail marketing and using coupons and other incentives).  For example, I recently shared a small case study (http://thejohnfmoore.com/2010/10/07/email-social-media-and-coupons-makes-the-cfo-smile/) where a small pet product company achieved a 22% bump in monthly revenue by combining Facebook and coupons together.  In fact,45% of this bump in revenue came from new clients.  Customer acquisition and increased revenue were accomplished by using Facebook for their business.
Ajay-  How does a new social media convert (individual) go on selecting communities to join (Facebook,Twitter,Linkedin,Ning, Ping,Orkut, Empire Avenue etc etc.
How does a small business owner take the same decision.

John- It always starts with taking the time to define your goals and then determine how much time and effort you are willing to invest.  For example:
  • LinkedIn. A must have for individuals as it is one of the key social networking communities for professional networking.  Individuals should join groups that are relevant to their career and invest an hour a week.  Businesses should ensure they have a business profile completed and up to date.
  • Facebook can be a challenge for anyone trying to walk the personal/professional line.  However, from a business standpoint you should be creating a Facebook page that you can use to compliment your other marketing channels.
  • Twitter.  It is a great network to learn of, to meet, and to interact with people from around the world.  I have met thousands of interesting people, many of which I have had the pleasure to meet with in real life.  Businesses need to invest in listening on twitter to determine if their customers (current or potential) or competitors are already there discussing them, their marketplace, or their offerings.
In all cases I would encourage businesses to setup social media accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.  You want to ensure your brand is protected by owning these accounts and ensuring at least the base information is accurate.
Ajay- Name the top 5 points that you think make a social media community successful.  What are the top 5 points for a business to succeed in their social media strategy.

John-
  • Define your goals up front.  Understand why you are building a community and keep this goal in mind.
  • Provide education.  Ideally you want to become a thought leader in your space, the trusted resource that people can turn to even if they are not using your product or services today.
  • Be honest.  We all make mistakes.  When you do, be honest with your community and engage them in any fall-out that may be coming out of your mistake.
  • Listen to them.  Use platforms like BubbleIdeas to gather feedback on what your community is looking for from the relationship.
  • Measure.  Are you on track with your goals?  Do your goals need to change?
Ajay- What is the unique value proposition that “The Lab” offers

John- The Lab understands the strategic importance of leveraging social media, management and leadership best practices, and our understanding of local government and small and medium business to help people in these areas achieve their goals.  Too many consultants come to the table with a predefined solution that really misses the mark as it lacks understanding of the client’s goals.
Ajay-  What is “CityCamp in Boston” all about.

John- CityCamp is a FREE unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations (http://www.citycampboston.org/what-is-citycamp-boston/).  It brings together politicians, local municipal employees, citizens, vendors, developers, and journalist to build a common understanding of local government challenges and then works to deliver measurable outcomes following the event.  The key is the focus on change management, driving change as opposed to just in the moment education.
Biography-

John F Moore is the Founder and CEO of The Lab (http://thelabinboston.com).  John has experience working with local governments and small and medium business owners to achieve their goals.  His experience with social media strategies, CRM, and a plethora of other solutions provides immense value to all of our clients.   He has built engineering organizations, learned sales and marketing, run customer service teams, and built and executed strategies for social media thought leadership and branding.  He is also a prolific blogger as you can see by checking out his blog at http://thejohnfmoore.com.

Interview John Moore CTO, Swimfish

Here is an interview with John F Moore, VP Engineering and Chief Technology Officer, Swimfish a provider of business solutions and CRM. A well known figure in Technology and CRM circles, John talks of Social CRM, Technology Offshoring, Community Initiatives and his own career.

Too many CRM systems are not usable. They are built by engineers that think of the system as a large database and the systems often look like a database making it difficult to use by the sales, support, and marketing people.

-John F Moore

JohnMoore

Ajay – Describe your career journey from college to CTO. What changes in mindset did you undergo along the journey? What advice would you give to young students to take up science careers ?

John- First, I wanted to take time to thank you for the interview offer. I graduated from Boston University in 1988 with a degree in Electrical Engineering. At the time of my graduation I found myself to be very interested in the advanced taking place on the personal computing front by companies like Lotus with their 1-2-3 product. I knew that I wanted to be involved with these efforts and landed my first job in the software space as a Software Quality Engineer working on 1-2-3 for DOS.

I spent the first few years of my career working at Lotus as a developer, a quality engineer, and manager, on products such as Lotus 1-2-3 and Lotus Notes. Throughout those early career years I learned a lot and focused on taking as many classes as possible.

From Lotus I sought out the start-up environment and by early 2000 and joined a startup named Brainshark (http://www.brainshark.com). Brainshark was, and is, focused on delivering an asynchronous communication platform on the web and was one of the early providers of SAAS. In my seven years at Brainshark I learned a lot about delivering an Enterprise class SAAS solution on top of the Microsoft technology stack. The requirements to pass security audits for Fortune 500 companies, the need to match the performance of in-house solutions, resulted in all of us learning a great deal. These were very fun times.

I now work as the VP of Engineering and CTO at Swimfish, a services and software provider of business solutions. We focus on the financial marketplace where we have the founder has a very deep background, but also work within other verticals as well. Our products are focused on the CRM, document management, and mobile product space and are built on the Microsoft technology stack. Our customers leverage both our SAAS and on-premise solutions which require us to build our products to be more flexible than is generally required for a SAAS-only solution.

The exciting thing for me is the sheer amount of opportunities I see available for science/engineering students graduating in the near future. To be prepared for these opportunities, however, it will be important to not just be technically savvy.

Engineering students should also be looking at:

* Business classes. If you want to build cool products they must deliver business value.

* Writing and speaking classes. You must be able to articulate your ideas or no one will be willing to invest in them.

I would also encourage people to take chances, get in over your head as often as possible.You may fail, you may succeed. Either way you will gain experiences that make it all worthwhile.

Ajay- How do you think social media can help with CRM. What are the basic do’s and don’ts for social media CRM in your opinion?

John- You touch upon a subject that I am very passionate about. When I think of Social CRM I think about a system of processes and products that enable businesses to actively engage with customers in a manner that delivers maximum value to all. Customers should be able to find answers to their questions with minimal friction or effort; companies should find the right customers for their products.

Social CRM should deliver on some of these fronts:

* Analyze the web of relationships that exists to define optimal pathways. These pathways will define relationships that businesses can leverage for finding their customers. These pathways will enable customers to quickly find answers to their questions. For example, I needed an answer to a question about SharePoint and project management. I asked the question on Twitter and within 3 minutes had answers from two different people. Not only did I get the answer I needed but I made two new friends who I still talk to today.

* Monitor conversations to gauge brand awareness, identify customers having problems or asking questions. This monitoring should not be stalking; however, it should be used to provide quick responses to customers to benefit the greater community.

* Usability. Too many CRM systems are not usable. They are built by engineers that think of the system as a large database and the systems often look like a database making it difficult to use by the sales, support, and marketing people.

Finally, when I think of social media I think of these properties:

* Social is about relationship building.

* You should always add more value to the community than you take in return.

* Be transparent and honest. People can tell when you’re not.

Ajay-  You are involved in some noble causes – like using blog space for out of work techies and separately for Alzheimer’s disease. How important do you think is for people especially younger people to be dedicated to community causes?

John- My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age 57. My wife and I moved into their two-family house to help her through the final years of her life. It is a horrible disease and one that it is easy to be passionate about if you have seen it in action.

My motivation on the job front is very similar. I have seen too many people suffer through these poor economic times and I simply want to do what I can to help people get back to work.

It probably sounds corny, but I firmly believe that we must all do what we can for each other. Business is competitive, but it does not mean that we cannot, or should not, help each other out. I think it’s important for everyone to have causes they believe in. You have to find your passions in life and follow them. Be a whole person and help change the world for the better.

Ajay- Describe your daily challenges as head of Engineering of Swimfish, Inc How important is it for the tech team to be integrated with the business and understand it as well.

John- The engineering team at Swimfish works very closely with the business teams. It is important for the team to understand the challenges our customers are encountering and to build products that help the customer succeed. I am not satisfied with the lack of success that many companies encounter when deploying a CRM solution.

We go as deep as possible to understand the business, the processes currently in use, the disparate systems being utilized, and then the underlying technologies currently in use. Only then do we focus on the solutions and deliver the right solution for that company.

On the product front it is the same. We work closely with customers on the features we are planning to add, trying to ensure that the solutions meet their needs as well as the needs of the other customers in the market that we are hoping to serve.

I do expect my engineers to be great at their core job, that goes without question. However, if they cannot understand the business needs they will not work for me very long.My weeks at Swimfish always provide me with interesting challenges and opportunities.

My typical day involves:

* Checking in with our support team to understand if there are any major issues being encountered by any of our customers.

* Challenging the support team to hit their targets. I love sales as without them I cannot deliver products.

* Checking in with my developers and test teams to determine how each of our projects is doing. We have a daily standup as well, but I try and personally check-in with as many people as possible.

* Most days I spend some time developing, mostly in C#. My current focus area is on our next release of our Milestone Tracking Matrix where I have made major revisions to our user interface.

I also spend time interacting on various social platforms, such as Twitter, as it is critical for me to understand the challenges that people are encountering in their businesses, to keep up with the rapid pace of technology, and just to check-in with friends. Keep it real.

Ajay-  What are your views on off shoring work especially science jobs which ultimately made science careers less attractive in the US- at the same time outsourcing companies ( in India) generally pay only 1/3 rd of billing fees to salaries. Do you think concepts like ODesk can help change the paradigm of tech out-sourcing.

John- I have mixed opinions on off-shoring. You should not offshore because of perceived cost savings only. On net you will generally break even, you will not save as much as you might originally think.

I am, however, close to starting a relationship with a good development provider in Costa Rica. The reason for this relationship is not cost based, it is knowledge based. This company has a lot of experience with the primary CRM system that we sell to customers and I have not been successful in finding this experience locally. I will save a lot of money in upfront training on this skill-set; they have done a lot of work in this area already (and have great references). There is real value to our business, and theirs.

Note that Swimfish is already working with a geographically dispersed team as part of the engineering team is in California and part is in Massachusetts. This arrangement has already helped us to better prepare for an offshore relationship and I know we will be successful when we begin.

Ajay- What does John Moore do to have fun when he is not in front of his computer or with a cause.

John- As the father of two teenage daughters I spend a lot of time going to soccer, basketball, and softball games. I also enjoy spending time running, having completed a couple of marathons, and relaxing with a good book. My next challenge will be skydiving as my 17 year old daughter and I are going skydiving when she turns 18.

Brief Bio:

For the last decade I have worked as a senior engineering manager for SAAS applications built upon the Microsoft technology stack. I have established the processes, and hired the teams that delivered hundreds of updates ranging from weekly patches to longer running full feature releases. My background as a hands-on developer combined with my strong QA background has enabled me to deliver high quality software on-time.

You can learn more about me, and my opinions, by reading my blog at http://johnfmoore.wordpress.com/ or joining me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JohnFMoore