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.
In a narrow sense, VRM is the reciprocal — the customer side — of CRM (or Customer Relationship Management). VRM tools provide customers with the means to bear their side of the relationship burden. They relieve CRM 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.
These tools are currently in development.
ProjectVRM is a research and development project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. It was created by Doc Searls, a fellow at the Center, to encourage VRM development and to conduct research on its premises and its progress.
When the project began in 2006, Doc saw it as "a way to fulfill the promise of The Cluetrain Manifesto's Prime Clue":
Doc believed that customer reach would only exceed vendor grasp if customers had the tools for the job. So Doc created ProjectVRM to support the creation and building of those tools.
Since then the VRM community has grown to include many development projects, companies, allied associations and individuals, in addition to ProjectVRM itself. The community's work is outlined in this wiki, and discussed on its mailing list, its blog and in workshops and other events.
Read more about ProjectVRM on the About Page.
VRM and the Economy
The economic goal of VRM is to improve relationships between Demand and Supply by providing new and better ways for the former to engage with and drive the latter.
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.
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 —
- Relationships must be voluntary.
- Customers must enter relationships with vendors as independent actors.
- Customers must be the points of integration for their own data.
- Customers must have control of data they generate and gather. They must be able to share data selectively, voluntarily, and control the terms of its use.
- Customers must be able to assert their own terms of engagement and service.
- Customers must be free to express their demands and intentions outside of any one company's control.
VRM research work probes the willingness and ability of customers to assert and enjoy independence from vendors -- and of vendors' willingness and ability to value and engage with independent customers. It also follows changes in the marketplace as VRM tools come into use.
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
Here is a partial list of VRM development efforts. Some are organizations, some are commercial entities, some are standing open source code development efforts:
- Media Logging (the category) and ListenLog (the first development project), appearing now in the Public Radio Player
- EmanciPay and the First Prototype Spec
- Personal RFP
- FCRA: Access to credit data
- GRM: Government Relationship Management
- Information Sharing Workgroup
- [The Mine! Project]
- VRM Hub
- VRM Labs
- The Banyan Project
- Vision Committee
- Marketing Committee
- Standards Committee
- Organization Committee
- Usage Committee
- Compliance Committee
- Steering Committee
Conference Call archive and audio links can be found at the Community Portal page.
ProjectVRM events take place once or twice per year:
- VRM+CRM 2010 August 26-27 Harvard University, Cambridge MA
- VRooM Leadership Workshop took place on 31 Oct * 1 Nov in Mountain View, CA
- VRM East Coast Workshop 2009 (VRooM 2009) took place on 12-13 October at Harvard University
- VRM at SXSW 2009 were meetings during SXSW in March 2009, Austin, TX
- VRM West Coast Workshop 2009 took place May 15-16, 2009 in Palo Alto, CA
- VRM2008 took place in Munich on 21/22 April 2008
- VRM Workshop 2008 took place in July 2008 at Harvard University
VRM Hub is a series of monthly meetings in London.
Other meetings and workshops take place before and during Internet Identity Workshops in Mountain View, California, each Fall and Spring.
Sign up for the Project VRM mailing list. Or edit this wiki by signing up at the top of this page.