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About VRM

VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management. VRM tools provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors. The same tools can also support individuals' relations with schools, churches, government entities and other kinds of organizations.

To vendors, VRM is the customer-side counterpart of CRM (or Customer Relationship Management) and other systematic means for engaging customers. VRM tools provide customers with the means to control their own experiences in the marketplace, to bear their side of the relationship burden, and to have the same kind of scale across many vendors as vendors have across many customers. (An example of scale: being able to change one's address, phone number or last name, for every vendor a customer deals with, in one move.)

VRM relieves vendors of the perceived need to "capture," "acquire," "lock in," "manage," and otherwise employ the language and thinking of slave-owners when dealing with customers. With VRM operating on the customer's side, CRM systems will no longer be alone in trying to improve the ways companies relate to customers. Customers will be also be involved, as fully empowered participants, rather than as captive followers.

VRM is part of a larger picture as well. Perhaps the best name and description for that larger picture is Life Management Platforms, coined by Martin Kuppinger of Kuppinger Cole. He describes them this way: "Life Management Platforms will change the way individuals deal with sensitive information like their health data, insurance data, and many other types of information – information that today frequently is paper-based or, when it comes to personal opinions, only in the mind of the individuals. They will enable new approaches for privacy- and security-aware sharing of that information, without the risk of losing control of that information... At KuppingerCole we expect and predict that Life Management Platforms, with related standards, protocols, business models, applications, etc., will be the one technology driven component that will have the strongest influence on our everyday life (and, on the other side, on enterprise infrastructures and the Internet architecture) for the next 10 years."

VRM Principles

VRM development work is based on the belief that free customers are more valuable than captive ones — to themselves, to vendors, and to the larger economy. To be free —

  1. Customers must enter relationships with vendors as independent actors.
  2. Customers must be the points of integration for their own data.
  3. Customers must have control of data they generate and gather. This means they must be able to share data selectively and voluntarily.
  4. Customers must be able to assert their own terms of engagement.
  5. Customers must be free to express their demands and intentions outside of any one company's control.

VRM Goals

In the "Markets Are Relationships" chapter of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Doc Searls writes this about the goals of VRM efforts:

  1. Provide tools for individuals to manage relationships with organizations. These tools are personal. That is, they belong to the individual in the sense that they are under the individual's control. They can also be social, in the sense that they can connect with others and support group formation and action. But they need to be personal first.
  2. Make individuals the collection centers for their own data, so that transaction histories, health records, membership details, service contracts, and other forms of personal data are no longer scattered throughout a forest of silos.
  3. Give individuals the ability to share data selectively, without disclosing more personal information than the individual allows.
  4. Give individuals the ability to control how their data is used by others, and for how long. At the individual's discretion, this may include agreements requiring others to delete the individual's data when the relationship ends.
  5. Give individuals the ability to assert their own terms of service, reducing or eliminating the need for organization-written terms of service that nobody reads and everybody has to "accept" anyway.
  6. Give individuals means for expressing demand in the open market, outside any organizational silo, without disclosing any unnecessary personal information.
  7. Make individuals platforms for business by opening the market to many kinds of third party services that serve buyers as well as sellers
  8. Base relationship-managing tools on open standards and open APIs (application program interfaces). This will support a rising tide of activity that will lift an infinite variety of business boats plus other social goods.

VRM Tools

These are ideal characteristics of VRM tools:

  1. VRM tools are personal. As with hammers, wallets, cars and mobile phones, people use them as individuals,. They are social only in secondary ways.
  2. VRM tools help customers express intent. These include preferences, policies, terms and means of engagement, authorizations, requests and anything else that’s possible in a free market, outside any one vendor’s silo or ranch.
  3. VRM tools help customers engage. This can be with each other, or with any organization, including (and especially) its CRM system.
  4. VRM tools help customers manage. This includes both their own data and systems and their relationships with other entities, and their systems.
  5. VRM tools are substitutable. They don't lock individuals into any company's silo.

VRM Development Work

The list is too long to put here. So go to the VRM Development Work page.

VRM Research

ProjectVRM is a D&R — Development and Reserch — project. Development has always come first. Now, as VRM is coming to be adopted in the world, we need to encourage research the same way we have encouraged development — and conduct it as well. Here are a few questions we might probe, as the principles, goals and tools listed above start having effects:

  • How will VRM companies work together and/or at cross purposes? How will new categories emerge, and markets grow, as an effect of both?
  • In what ways and to what extents are VRM tools and services interoperable, or substitutable?
  • Will VRM disrupt existing businesses, enhance them, neither or both? How and where? One example: online advertising, which is already impacted by ad and tracking blockers. And, once selective ad and tracking blocking becomes more normative, what happens to surveillance-based personalized advertising? (It is easy to track investment; but what about actual effects on businesses, e.g. publishers and advertising companies)?
  • How will existing CRM and other customer relationship systems (e.g. Customer Experience Management, call centers) open up and change after they begin shaking hands with VRM tools and services on the customer side?
  • How will jargon normalize? With personal data, for example, will "stores," "lockers," "life management platforms," "vaults" or PIMS (personal information management systems) become the prevailing label?
  • How and where will intentcasting catch on first?
  • In which countries or geographical regions will VRM and approaches like it first become organized and take off? How? Why?
  • How do policy environments — laws, regulations, government purchasing practices — encourage or discourage VRM development, usage and market growth? (Of special interest already are European and Australian privacy laws, and Government Digital Services appetites for normalized citizen data in the U.K.) And how do VRM developers and/or citizens affect policy decisions?
  • In what ways and to what extents to VRM developers adopt open standards, produce (and support) open APIs, and both use and generate free and open source code?
  • One of the results of a ClarityRay survey (no longer online, since ClarityRay was bought by Yahoo ) was that ad blocker users tend to spend more money online. It would be good to expand on that. Do privacy tools other than ad blockers also have an effect? Does the effect hold even when you control for skill and time spent online?
  • It would be good to follow up on last year's Pew study on Anonymity, Privacy, and Security Online and ask, To what extent are user concerns about security and privacy affecting commerce? What security and privacy tools, behaviors, and policies are most effective for helping to address those concerns and promote commerce?

ProjectVRM Resources

Conference Call archive and audio links can be found at the Community Portal page.

VRM Events

Upcoming Events


Past Events






  • VRM+CRM 2010 August 26-27 Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.



Other meetings and workshops take place before and during Internet Identity Workshops in Mountain View, California, each Fall and Spring. Also see Events page for some past events.

ProjectVRM Participation

We have two mailing lists:

You can edit this wiki by:

  • registering up at the top of this page
  • sending e-mail to the Project VRM mailing list asking to be enabled as an editor (to combat the spam problem). Be sure you provide your actual handle (username)

Here is a list of "VRooMers" on Twitter.

We encourage you to use the hashtag #VRM when blogging or tweeting about the topic.