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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is VRM about technical standards or business principles?

[My question was not about technical standards versus business principles. It relates to what VRM looks like. Is VRM defined solely in terms of technical standards, or does it also include new services and business models that stand on the side of the individual when dealing with vendors and change the nature of commercial relationships? I think that clearly it has to. VRM is not just a technology. It may have been my mis-reading, but the 'flavour' of what came across was that in the end, it's really all about clever new bits of technology. Alan]

Yes. It is both clever bits of code and new best practices for businesses. Doc Searls has made it clear from the beginning that Project VRM is a development project: that the end goal is working code that makes a difference in the real world. At the same time, Doc has also made it clear that the ultimate goal is fixing the marketplace, which means that new best practices will emerge.

Joe Andrieu advocates a drive towards interoperable relationship services--using both standards and running code--which will transform the marketplace by giving companies a new way to increase their profits. By giving companies a winning proposition, we can get them to adopt new methodologies and new business principles. This is similar to the way that the web was adopted because it made business sense, and as it was adopted, radically changed how companies and customers relate. Without http and HTML the transformation that enabled the Cluetrain Manifesto never would've happened, and in fact, it was the openness of those standards that enabled the world wide web to displace Lotus Notes as intranetware and AOL/Compuserve as online services. Joe sees a similar technology-led VRM revolution, where Project VRM catalyzes change by assuring standards and applications that enable individuals to play in the marketplace on their own terms in a way that also improves businesses' bottom lines.

How can companies "implement" VRM when it is the individual who is managing the relationships? Doesn't it create a conceptual mess that risks smuggling the corporation as relationship manager back in by the back door?

To Sean Bohan, while the user is in charge (driving the relationship) there still needs to be some corresponding structures on the Vendor side to accept/interact/transact with that VRM'd user. There needs to be a nut for the bolt. Vendors must have some form of acceptance, some framework that can work with customers who are in charge. Compliant and Aligned both work for me, but I was trying to get across the idea that there is commitment, acceptance and more importantly, work on the Vendor's side to be VRM compliant. Doc said in the past this needs to be Win-Win for the vendors too, and "Implement" is something a BigCo guy would understand (I get something out of implementation). "Implement" may be the wrong word (it was workin form me in the wee hours of the morning) - and we can change it. I think the idea of "smuggling the corporation as relationship manager back in" is also something that needs to be discussed in the context of compliance and standards (which Brett was crystal clear on in the last call). Not sure which committee would handle that or if it is a grenade the whole group should jump on at once.

Joe Andrieu agrees: there must be a nut for the bolt and users are not going to build their own bolt. There is a need for Vendors to implement the "receiving" side of the VRM equation. This isn't about tools that are one-sided on behalf of the user. Full participation means both Vendors and individuals participate and benefit. Also, someone needs to build those tools for the individuals. In this latter sense, companies "implementing" VRM are those tool providers enabling individuals to participate in VRM relationship services.

[We are talking at two different levels here. Operationally speaking, companies have to 'implement' changes to become a bolt that fits the nut. That goes without saying. But at another psyschological/presentational issue the word 'implement' fits and reinforces corporations' customer control agenda. We have to work effectively at both levels: the message to the corporation has to be 'you will only realise the win-wins by handing over control - i.e. letting the customer manage the relationship'. Alan]