TIBCO, the conundrum of storytelling and our banks

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy June 14, 2013
The art of story telling is alive and well but to read some critics you'd think that the sourcing of new and interesting stuff has gone away. There are economic issues at stake but in the end, vendors who care encourage the surfacing of the best customer stories. Let's celebrate that.

Earlier today I read a piece from my old buddy Vinnie Mirchandani entitled The Growing Chasm. I was offended. He says:

The chasm between what is being written about by technology bloggers, analysts and journalists and what is happening in the real world keeps growing.  And I believe it goes back to too much focus on vendor events for most of the sourcing of stories.

...and in comments adds:

My point was more on lines of there 10X as much innovation happening at customers in their products, channels, warehouses - and 1/10th the media and analyst focus on that. Often it is because customers don't want to talk much about their competitive advantage innovation, but more than than analysts and journalists don't even bother to look there

Now I am doubly offended.

Let's start by giving credit where it is due. Vinnie does an awesome job trawling the interwebs for things that are beyond the familiar world of enterprise technology. Now that he's been commissioned to ghost a book for Software AG, he has the opportunity to provide us with more stories of innovation beyond that with which many are familiar. All good stuff. But let's run a reality check. The majority of his stories are second sourced. The original content he develops is often event sourced. I'm sure he will provide the exact percentages but that's my impression from a skim through his New Florence content :-)

This last week I attended a TIBCO event in London. It's a very long time since I met with the company but it was good to see many familiar faces from the executive team. The company lined up customers to talk to the topic of the day - Big Data - something that personally makes me cringe when I think that we've barely sorted out little data. Be that as it may.

One of my main reasons for being at the event was to explain what we're doing at diginomica and test whether the company would be willing for Jon Reed and I to pitch camp at the upcoming TUCON conference to video customers. Jon and I mostly do those events without charge, asking only that the event organisers provide us with a room, some seating and  network connectivity.  The rest is down to us.

TUCON is one of those rare conferences where the backing vendor largely leaves the stage to its customers. The CEO comes on first as he is obliged to, does his 15 minute sales pitch and then leaves the stage to customer stories. If all events were like that then I would be in heaven. The other week, Ariba did much the same.

Throughout, our main objective is to hold conversations that are recorded to video and then published on YouTube. In that context they are always original content - never repurposed pap. It is one of the principle ways that we try and showcase the best of what we can find. Does it always work out? No. I reckon that on average we get about 80 percent of what is committed. Customers have all sorts of reasons not to show up and we have to respect that.

So why would I be offended?

A new reality

What Vinnie fails to understand is that the days of the investigative journalist are largely over. The days when a journalist could spend days and weeks chasing down a story are almost gone. There are exceptions but that's pretty much the case in technology media. That's because the ad driven model for media both print and digital is forcing costs and prices down in what I see as a zero sum game.

Here is an example. At the TIBCO event, I heard that one colleague was running between four different events in the same day. That's insane.

It is one of the main reasons why the diginomica team developed a partner model based on a different way of developing content based upon a nuanced blend of (often) event driven analysis and storytelling. Why do that?

It is incredibly difficult to develop meaningful content when you are standing on the outside of any industry. Events provide the best place to source stories because that's where you are most likely to find many customers in one place. A good media property will use that for several purposes, including the gathering of contacts that can be followed up later. That's an essential part of what we attempt to do.

Nowhere has this been more evident in the work Reed and I did this last year in videoing SAP HANA startups. It is not the only playlist by any means but should provide a good feel for the possible. Assembling those collections has involved  our combined travelling something like 45,000 air miles in the last year. We were fortunate in several ways.

  1. SAP provided us with the expense mandate to go get the stories, recognizing that Skype calls or Google Hangouts were not going to cut it.
  2. SAP gave us absolute discretion in the sourcing and content editing.
  3. Very often, the stories led us into entirely new areas we were not expecting and which proved genuinely exciting
  4. Along the way, we found a handful of stories with commercial value and benefit that potentially run hundreds of millions of dollars.
  5. In every case we met people who are imagining a new future.

So to say that  'analysts and journalists don't even bother to look' is downright offensive. It isn't wholly true. It's more the case that the economics of current media models do not allow for good old fashioned storytelling in a way that appropriately rewards everyone.

The flipside is that enlightened vendors understand the value of independently produced storytelling and encourage the same. That came across loud and clear in my conversations with TIBCO's team where one exec pointed me to Successful Workplace. It is a modestly trafficked site that brings together around 15 people prepared to freely story tell on topics as broad as streaming data, integration and marketing. One that caught my eye: omni channel marketing lessons for retail banking, Explaining why banks struggle with OC, the author observes:

The one single word that describes why banks will have a more difficult journey than retailers is ‘legacy’. Banks have not only build complex products and services, they have also been masters in creating complex organisations, IT systems and business processes.

The author then sets out the way people expect retail banks to provide service, offering a glimpse into a possible future. He closes out with a plea for change that resonates well with me. It is the kind of thing that serves as a good jumping off point for a great conversation around a topic of broad interest in the language people understand.

Simply reporting new and interesting stuff is not enough. Sometimes - in fact most of the time - you have to story tell in order to encourage people to get to where they need to be rather than bludgeon them into accepting a future for which they are not  yet ready. That's why I love to here what customers are doing and then watching as others ask questions about how they did this or that.

Ultimately, it is about the conversations that are encouraged and speaking personally, I'll back that model all day long.

Image credit: Successful Workplace

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