What’s the Problem We Are Solving with Social X?


Share on LinkedIn

I had an excellent lunch with my friends at Simplybox (great company, killer idea, well implemented enterprise collaboration- not a client) on Wednesday and we had a sensational discussion on solving problems.  They are going through a growth phase and are trying to position their product better based on their customers feedback.  We discussed several things, but we ended up talking about the title of this post.  As we began to discuss the different things that the product can and should do an idea came to me — which I’d like to get your input so I can understand it better and see if I am right or wrong.

Software is not a solution, we all know that.  Software is a tool, an aide to solving a problem.  The question that always arises is what is the problem we are solving. The best way to look at this is to say that there are two types of problems: pain-points and inefficiencies.  Bear with me for some definitions, it is important to distinguish them.

Pain points is what we all think of when we think of using software: a very specific function or process that is not working well and it is either costing more than it should, or not yielding as much as necessary.  Taking five days to answer a customer service email, using two weeks to process a database for a marketing campaign, or not being able to score leads —  these are pain-points, the problems that software is supposed to solve.  And, for the most part, it does.

Inefficiencies, on the other hand, are problems that exist within the process but they don’t hinder the normal operations of business.  For example, if an employee cannot get all the information they need in one screen and instead they need to go to three screens to collect it or if the phone system drops calls once in a while.  These issues will not cost us to consistently lose  business, and if we improve them it is likely that we won’t notice the betterment in the existing processes.

There is one more, rather two, distinctions:  buying centers and ROI.

The people who buy these solutions are different within the organization.  Inefficiencies are tackled by CIOs and IT.  Pain points are tackled by business units and stakeholders (some cross-over, but it does not last long — IT does not want to solve pain points, and business units are far from maintaining systems).

Then there is the issue of ROI.  It has been debated plenty and I will let you to Google or Bing your way to illumination in the matter. My point is that business units must show ROI for their investments.  They have no other way, in a civilized company, to get their funds approved.  Some of them try to skirt the issue by going the SaaS way – but CFOs and procurement officers are coming around to that idea, so it won’t last too much longer.  IT, on the other hand, works on the infrastructure.  Their initiatives are not ROI-driven (if you are going to call me stupid and tell me you are in IT and you have to do it, fine – lack of vision is rampant and your management has it), rather driven by the needs of the business to leverage technology and data.  They don’t prove ROI, they prove need.

This is, to me, the most important part of placing Social Business as a priority in the business.  It is a strategy, thus driven by the business side, that leverages technologies (Social Media) to accomplish what needs to be done (customers jobs, co-creation, customer experience, socializing applications – your call).

The strategy part has to prove an ROI and solve a pain point.  The technology part needs to prove a need and solve an inefficiency.  You cannot sell them together as one, nor can you make a business unit buy Social Media or an IT department buy Social Business.  You are no longer moving one project forward, you have to move two — with different players and different business models.

You are either going to solve a pain-point or an inefficiency.  Or both.  However, you need to do it differently.

What problem are you solving? What are you doing to sell the need and the solution? Are you talking to the right people about it?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


  1. Esteban, great post.

    I mostly agree with you, although I’d say that cost/efficiency has been a key business issue in the past couple of years — not just an IT concern.

    The key difference for me is that business people think in terms of applications that directly affect how they operate. That’s why business users have been the primary audience for SaaS solutions aimed at marketing, sales and customer service departments. And why enterprises have many silos of automation.

    Technology people think in terms of platforms or infrastructure, first. In one sense they are more strategic, seeking to find the best overall platform for a number of applications. That leads to choosing platform vendors like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP. But not necessarily the best ROI for one business department.

    You’re right, there is a sales job for both business and IT. Which makes for interesting times as the SaaS vendors have grown up and now pitch cloud-based solutions to both camps. Will the cloud end up being the best of both worlds?

  2. Esteban:

    For decades, IT and the business side did not speak the same language and IT did not feel it needed to understand the business and the business side had little patience with the propeller heads. The fissure closed significantly over the past decade and IT and CIOs began to be recognized as a mainstream part of the business since they were forced to interact and liaise with the business

    If what you state is allowed to happen, we will lose a lot of the progress we have made in integrating IT into the mainstream. Executive management cannot stand by and let this happen. The pain points must be relevant to both sides of the business and both sides need to tackle inefficiencies. For a company to succeed in the new social reality, both IT and the business side must have the same customer – the social customer with the pain.

    Otherwise the company loses.

  3. Esteban,

    I struggle with the departmental entry point. If there is a social business strategy which has a customer value return (don’t like ROI) then each operational investment, while evaluated based on return for operating effeciencies, should also be considered in the context of it’s weight in the overall customer-centered strategy. In other words, some departmental investments (outside of their internal ROI) will have greater weight in executing the overall strategy.

    I’m sure I’ve missed the point 🙂

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  4. Estaban & All,

    I literally just got back from the Sales 2.0 Conference held in San Francisco, and the focus of this event among other things was all about measuring, evaluating, contemplating, understanding where SCRM (social media) fits within the enterprise. There were 50+ presentations from very well known and respected firms, all grappling with but simultaneously deploying any number(s) of social media applications and infrastructure with unprecedented speed and momentum, many without all the metrics and ROI justification you would expect from traditional IT infrastructure or CRM enhancement projects. Why?

    Well the ROI equation was certainly a heated point of generated considerable discussion and mirrors your excellent post here, but Jeff Hayzelett the CMO of Kodak brought down the house with his key note address on this very topic.

    One of several eyebrow popping statements he posited for the room to consider is what is the cost of taking no action on the enterprise? He equated ROI (in terms of social media investment) as Return on Ignorance, which is to say by the time a firm has figured out all the analytics and metrics, they may very well be out of the game, and he was serious and had some astounding slides to back up his assertions.

    Truth is whether IT or even the CFO likes it or not SCRM investment is not an option, you can’t turn it off, you can’t ignore the impact, and firms will invest in SCRM infrastructure with or without hard ROI because the marketplace will demand it, is demanding it now in fact. I offer this response, though hardly complete because I can’t pour 2+ days of content into this one reply to your post except to say that the ROI factor in this regard will take a secondary role to the bigger question of what if we don’t….

    Jeff Lionz


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here