The Cluetrain Manifesto, which was posted on the Web in April 1999, is best known for its 95 Theses. The Manifesto also says, "If you only have time for one clue this year, this is the one to get...
The purpose of VRM is to fulfil the promise of that statement. VRM tools provide human beings with the means to exert their own reach, and to escape the grasp of companies that would rather control customers than relate to them as equals.
VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management. VRM tools provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors.
In a narrow sense, VRM is the reciprocal — the customer side — of CRM (or Customer Relationship Management). It provides customers with means to bear their side of the relationship burden. It does this by making customers both independent of vendors and better able to engage with vendors. This will relieve CRM of the perceived need to "capture," "acquire," "lock in," "manage," or otherwise employ the language and thinking of slave-owners when dealing with customers. It will also mean that CRM systems will no longer be alone in trying to improve the ways they engage with customers, and earn customer loyalty. Customers will be involved — as fully empowered participants, rather than as than captive followers.
The economic goal of VRM is to improve relationships between Demand and Supply by providing new and better ways for Demand to engage with Supply, and to drive it. This is not possible when all the tools of engagement are provided by suppliers, and all those tools are different. For example, most customers today carry around up to dozens of "loyalty" cards and key-ring tags, each with its own vendor-provided means for controlling interactions and providing benefits. These inconvenience both buyers and sellers, and limit the intelligence that can be gathered and put to use by either party. What if buyers had the ability to advertise their shopping lists to the sellers with which they have relationships? What if buyers were able to establish and maintain loyalty on their own terms and in their own ways? What if customers' ability to express preferences and advertise demand were improved to the point where sellers could reduce money wasted on advertising and other forms of guesswork? What if it were quick and easy for customers to say what they'll pay for what they want, on their own terms (and to pay on the spot, if the terms are mutually agreeable)? VRM tools and services will answer these and many other questions that could not be asked before the Internet came along -- and cannot be asked, as long as sellers continue to hold all the relationship cards.
Project VRM is a research and development project of The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and led by Doc Searls, a fellow at the Center. ProjectVRM was created to support the creation and building of VRM tools, to support individuals and organizations working on VRM-related projects, and to conduct research on VRM and related subjects.
Read more about ProjectVRM on the About Page.
- Relationships are voluntary.
- Customers are born free and independent of vendors.
- Customers control their own data. They can share data selectively and control the terms of its use.
- Customers are points of integration and origination for their own data.
- Customers can assert their own terms of engagement and service.
- Customers are free to express their demands and intentions outside any companyâs control.
These can all be summed up in the statement Free customers are more valuable than captive ones.
In a broader way, the same should be true of individuals relating to organizations. ProjectVRM's primary focus, however, is on customer relationships with vendors, or sellers.
In the "Markets Are Relationships" chapter of the 10th Anniversary edition of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Doc Searls writes this about the purposes of VRM efforts:
- 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.
- 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.
- Give individuals the ability to share data selectively, without disclosing more personal information than the individual allows.
- 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.
- 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.
- Give individuals means for expressing demand in the open market, outside any organizational silo, without disclosing any unnecessary personal information.
- Make individuals platforms for business by opening the market to many kinds of third party services that serve buyers as well as sellers.
- Base relationship-managing tools on open standards, open APIs (application program interfaces), and open code. This will support a rising tide of activity that will lift an infinite variety of business boats, plus other social goods.
VRM Development Work
- Media Logging
- MediaLogging (the general topic) and ListenLog (the development project)
- Personal RFP
- FCRA: Access to credit data
- Information Sharing Workgroup
- The Mine! Project
- VRM Hub
- VRM Labs
- Public Radio Player
- Vision Committee
- Marketing Committee
- Standards Committee
- Organization Committee
- Usage Committee
- Compliance Committee
Conference Call archive and audio links have been moved to the Community Portal page.
- VRooM Leadership Workshop took place on 31 Oct * 1 Nov in Mountain View, CA
- VRooM Boston 2009 took place on 12-13 October 2009
- VRM Hub Monthly Meetings in London
- VRM2008 took place in Munich on 21/22 April 2008
- VRM Workshop 2008 took place in July 2008 at Harvard University
- VRM at SXSW 2009 March 2009, Austin, TX
- VRM West Coast Workshop 2009 May 15-16, Palo Alto, CA
- VRM East Coast Workshop 2009 12-13 October at Harvard University
How to Participate
Sign up for the Project VRM mailing list. Or edit this wiki by signing up at the top of this page.