All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

Has Marketing Automation Started Making Sense?

B2B marketing automation has a long way to go, suggest the results of a recent survey of more than 350 marketing professionals in the United States and Europe. Act-On Software commissioned Econsultancy to conduct the research for its State of B2B Marketing report released last week.

Only 51 percent of respondents said the CMO or equivalent took a keen interest in marketing automation, and just 37 percent said the issue got executive support outside the marketing department.

Among the other key findings:

  • Only 27 percent of the respondents strongly agreed that marketing automation had resulted in increased contributions to the pipeline. Forty-nine percent somewhat disagreed, and 20 percent strongly disagreed.
  • Twenty-four percent of respondents strongly agreed that marketing automation was delivering ROI, while 55 percent somewhat agreed that it was, and 18 percent somewhat disagreed.
  • Twenty-four percent strongly agreed that they were more efficient because of marketing automation. Fifty-eight percent somewhat agreed, and 13 percent somewhat disagreed.
  • Thirty-seven percent agreed they were using marketing automation to its fullest capacity, while 38 percent say they somewhat agreed that they were, and 23 percent somewhat disagreed.

Marketing automation’s low adoption rate is due in part to CMOs in certain industries — such as manufacturing, higher education and financial services — not being familiar with it, suggested Paige Musto, Act-On’s senior director of corporate marketing.

CMOs in such industries “just need to be further educated on the benefits of marketing automation over email service providers,” she told CRM Buyer.

Clobbered by the Pace of Change

Marketing automation “is a rapidly evolving industry,” noted Meg Columbia-Walsh, CEO of Wylei.

“Many businesses and senior level executives are struggling to keep up,” she told CRM Buyer.

“As companies begin to fully utilize what’s available, they are looking for partners like Wylie to guide them through the learning curve,” Columbia-Walsh said.

“It’s crucial for the business to support the CMO and vice versa,” noted Tom Frommack, COO of ePurchasing Network.

Buy-in for marketing automation should come from both the sales and marketing departments, Act-On’s Musto said, because it “directly contributes and impacts the workflow, processes, and outputs of both departments.”

Look Before You Leap

Companies must understand the marketing automation landscape and the vendors, and “truly do their due diligence to ensure the system they bring on is the right fit and purpose-built for their size company,” Musto cautioned.

“The survey found there are only three areas where more than half [of respondents] are using marketing automation,” she noted.

Those areas — email, Web forms and landing pages — are “the more basic functions,” according to Musto, and “can point to a potential misalignment between system, strategy and skillset.”

That could explain why only a few respondents thought marketing automation solutions resulted in increased contributions to the pipeline, delivered ROI, or helped them to work more efficiently.

Another problem is the rapid evolution of the field, suggested ePurchasing Network’s Frommack.

Marketing automation “introduces new and maturing capabilities that are not easy to stay current with,” he told CRM Buyer, or that “have the maturity to demonstrate value.”

There is a lack of “specific measures to link to concrete or abstract business value,” Frommack said.

Strategies for Implementation

Businesses interested in marketing automation should start by leveraging the features most commonly used — such as website visitor tracking, CRM integration, list segmentation and email marketing, recommended Musto.

Then they can add more sophisticated tactics, such as lead scoring, automated programs, dynamic content and progressive profiling.

“You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with everything out of the gate, so start small and build,” Musto counseled.

Companies should ensure these basics are in place before jumping in:

  • Have a strategy and plan;
  • Appoint a project lead;
  • Choose the right platform;
  • Select the right implementation partner; and
  • Build the business case for investment.

They should “also look at how the leaders in the report use marketing automation,” suggested Musto, including “the features they’re leveraging, the value they place, and what they measure.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Consumers Gain More Power to Seek Data Breach Damages

By John K. Higgins
Aug 21, 2017 1:43 PM PT

There are no good outcomes of an electronic data system breach. At best, companies dealing with e-commerce technologies face the formidable task and the resulting cost of repairs.

In addition having to fix information technology systems, companies suffering breaches may be increasingly vulnerable to legal action taken by customers whose personal data was affected. A federal appeals court decision handed down earlier this month underscores the potential legal leverage available to consumers whose electronic records are hacked.

Taken together, the recent decision and similar rulings by other courts “significantly expand the circumstances under which consumers may pursue class actions against companies victimized by hackers who access highly sensitive personal information,” commented Edward McAndrew, a partner at Ballard Spahr.

The case involves the hacking of nearly 1 million customer records maintained by health insurance company CareFirst. The company suffered the attack in July 2014 but only detected the breach in April 2015. The company notified customers in May of 2015. Shortly thereafter, several customers filed a class action suit against CareFirst, attributing the breach to the company’s carelessness, and alleging that customers suffered an increased risk of identity theft as a result of the hack.

Appeal Decision Favors Consumers

CareFirst won the first round. A federal district court dismissed the complaint by ruling that the class action plaintiffs failed to provide adequate support for their claim that the breach caused any substantial harm to customers. The court characterized the assertion of harm as speculative.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia earlier this month reversed the district court’s decision. The customers’ allegation of harm was correct, the appeals court said, because the district court had misread the complaint as to the nature of the data involved in the case, and that the plaintiffs had established that personally identifiable information (PII), protected health information (PHI) and “sensitive information” had been hacked.

These categories include Social Security and credit card data, the Chantal Attias v. CareFirst appellate ruling notes.

The appeals court then connected the dots between the type of data involved in the hack and the subsequent potential for identity theft, and determined that the customers had established “plausible” grounds for suffering harm as a result of the breach.

“Nobody doubts that identity theft, should it befall one of these plaintiffs, would constitute a concrete and particularized injury,” appeals court judge Thomas Griffith wrote.

The plaintiffs had established that any harm resulting from the breach would be “fairly traceable” to CareFirst, according to the ruling.

In its submission to the appeals court, CareFirst contended that the customers had failed to show that the “risk of harm is certainly impending or has a substantial risk of occurring.”

CareFirst, through spokesperson Sarah Wolf, declined to comment for this story.

Companies Face Massive Settlements

The impact on e-commerce could be substantial if customers are allowed to file suit against companies that have experienced breaches without sufficiently establishing harm, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The organization supported CareFirst in the appeals court litigation.

If plaintiffs are permitted to pursue cases like the one against CareFirst, “the Chamber’s members will be mired in lawsuits over breaches that have not caused any actual or imminent harm to the plaintiffs — and yet those cases threaten to extract massive settlements from businesses that were victimized by hackers or thieves,” the Chamber of Commerce argued in an amicus brief.

“We have nothing to add here, so we’ll let the brief speak for itself,” spokesperson Lindsay Bembenek told the E-Commerce Times in response to our query about the decision.

Companies experiencing hacks likely will be unhappy with the results of two other recent cases that reinforce consumers’ rights in situations similar to the CareFirst incident.

The Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this year ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a suit filed against Horizon Healthcare Services regarding a breach of records, in which the court upheld the assertion of harm. The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a 2015 case decided in favor of the plaintiffs in a suit against Neiman Marcus, citing grounds similar to those in the CareFirst and Horizon cases.

However, in contrast to the CareFirst and Horizon decisions, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals this spring ruled against the plaintiff in Whalen v. Michaels Stores, finding that the plaintiff had failed to establish a concrete injury sufficient to bring a suit related to a breach of private data.

Establishing the element of harm or injury is essential for affected customers to achieve legal “standing” for filing suits.

“Ultimately, whether data breach plaintiffs can survive a motion to dismiss for lack of standing will continue to be a key issue. The split in the circuit courts will heighten the cost of litigation for all and increases the potential risk of liability for companies facing class action suits based on allegations of increased risk of identity theft after a data breach,” wrote Sidley Austin attorneys Edward McNicholas and Grady Nye.

The differences among appeals court decisions in such data breach cases could bring the issue before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I think there is a strong possibility that the Supreme Court will eventually weigh in on how standing doctrine should apply where individuals sue companies that suffer data breaches involving sensitive personal information,” Ballard Spahr’s McAndrews told the E-Commerce Times.

However, the Supreme Court may wait until a variety of associated legal issues play out in lower courts, he said.

In the meantime, commercial companies must be more vigilant than ever — not only regarding technical issues, but also concerning the legal implications associated with data breaches.

Companies Must Up Their Cybersecurity Game

“The D.C. Circuit decision and others like it are likely to lead to an increase in the types and numbers of civil cases filed against organizations that suffer data breaches of personal information. First, and foremost, organizations must develop a track record — provable in a courtroom — of reasonable actions to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access,” McAndrew noted.

Companies need to create and implement a sound cybersecurity program — including appropriate administrative, technical and physical controls and documentation. Then they “must actually follow that program and the policies and procedures that govern it,” he said.

In addition, organizations “must conduct cyberincident response and internal investigations while anticipating litigation,” McAndrew advised.

Litigation invariably involves not only why a breach occurred but also on how an organization responded to the incident.

“Not understanding and managing the legal risk related to a cyberincident during the response and investigation phases is one of the biggest mistakes I see organizations of all types make. Too often, incident response activity remains at the information technology and security or compliance levels of organizations, being conducted by individuals with no expertise or experience in how the developing evidence is likely to be used in litigation that follows,” McAndrew pointed out.

“Bringing the lawyers in later does not work,” he said. “Unless lawyers are helping to lead cyberincident responses, the die of liability will likely be cast well before the incident response process ends.”

John K. Higgins has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2009. His main areas of focus are U.S. government technology issues such as IT contracting, cybersecurity, privacy, cloud technology, big data and e-commerce regulation. As a freelance journalist and career business writer, he has written for numerous publications, including
The Corps Report and Business Week.
Email John.

Oracle Unveils Exadata Database as a Service

Oracle earlier this week announced the availability of its Exadata platform on its next-generation cloud infrastructure, which essentially means the company is providing Exadata as a Service.

The Oracle Cloud infrastructure is a comprehensive set of integrated, subscription-based services that let business run any workload in an enterprise-grade cloud managed by Oracle.

It enables self-provisioning of multiple bare metal servers in less than five minutes, with each supporting more than 4 million Input/output operations per second. It also allows block storage that scales linearly by 60 IOPS per GB, Oracle said.

The Oracle Cloud offers the following:

  • Elastic compute capacity
  • Online storage
  • Exadata database on demand, on high-performance bare metal
  • Load balancing
  • Developer portal

Exadata on Oracle’s cloud lets enterprises run high-demand applications using real-time targeting, analytics or personalization with extreme performance, Oracle said.

Enterprises can migrate mission-critical database applications and data warehouses seamlessly, and develop new extreme performance cloud applications, according to the company.

Oracle “isn’t the only game in town, but Exadata’s performance, coupled with the Oracle Cloud, which is optimized for Exadata, certainly makes it an attractive option for customers — particularly those with an already heavy reliance on Oracle,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“That said, this is a very competitive marketplace, and I expect we’ll see more ‘mine is faster, better or cheaper’ announcements from the other [Platform as a Service] players,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

The Only One

Oracle Database is available on Amazon Web Services through Amazon’s Relational Database Service offering, noted Doug Henschen, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

However, “Oracle is alone in offering Exadata as a Service,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

This “brings portability to the cloud to those running Exadata on premises,” Henschen remarked. “It’s a higher-performance, higher-scale option for those currently using Oracle Database in a traditional deployment, though some tuning is then required.”

Late to the Party

Oracle last year unveiled Exadata on the Oracle Cloud on its partner network; this week’s announcement appears to be a notification of the service’s general availability.

“Oracle was late to this party and is still largely regarded as being an inferior solution,” observed Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“In Oracle’s class, particularly for high-performance applications, the Nvidia/IBM partnership likely puts IBM in the lead for this kind of solution,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

IBM this spring made Nvidia’s Tesla P100 GPU accelerator available on the cloud, which will help businesses run compute-heavy workloads such as artificial intelligence, deep learning, and high-performance data analytics better and faster.

IBM and Microsoft “seem to own dominance,” Enderle said. “Even Amazon has high-performance applications now. [Oracle] is playing catch-up.”

Good News for Oracle Users

Oracle Exadata as a Service will “give the hundreds of thousands of Oracle Database customers additional cloud deployment options,” Constellation’s Henschen observed.

“There are many other options in the cloud, and many are fast-growing for cost and other competitive reasons,” he pointed out, but “Oracle has long been every database vendor’s biggest competitor.”

Oracle “is the world’s most popular database” Henschen said. “Migrating data, queries and tables that you’ve already set up on one database to an equivalent cloud service is far easier and faster than rewriting from scratch.”

The cloud “happens to be where companies are encountering or aggregating lots of high-scale data,” he noted.

The new service “is undoubtedly good news” for Oracle customers, “because they’ve likely been having serious performance issues before,” Enderle remarked.

That said, Oracle “will need to step it up a lot” to catch IBM, AWS and Microsoft, he added, “because even Google seems to be moving faster at the moment.”

Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

CRM Health Check

As an industry, CRM continues to grow and shower benefits on its users. It’s hard to imagine that some businesses still don’t use some form of CRM, but the data presented in a new infographic from Algoworks suggests there are still businesses buying their first CRM solutions or changing vendors. It’s a compilation of data from all over, with some credible inputs from Gartner and others, so it’s worth taking a look.

Only 49 percent of businesses have a CRM system, based on the graphic, so there’s a lot of white space in the market, which suggests it’s possible for some upstart to swoop in. However, the history of markets indicates they go in the other direction, settling into a tri-opoly, and currently there are just a few more competitors than that.

Breaking With the Past

With a compound annual growth rate of 15.1 percent between 2012 and 2017, according to Forbes, the industry is healthy.

It’s generating US$36.5 billion in revenues, according to Gartner, but that number needs to be taken in context.

Thanks to pioneer Salesforce, CRM was the first area of software to adopt Software as a Service, and that did two things to the revenue number. First, it flattened the number by charging for use rather than ownership, and that reduced the overall revenue you could have expected had the industry remained in the Siebel model of conventional software.

The other thing that SaaS has done is to make the revenue stream more secure and repeatable. With multiyear deals, it’s easy for vendors to make their growth projections, because so much of their revenue is already under contract. You could say what SaaS takes away, SaaS gives back.

More useful for the customer is the return on investment. For every dollar spent on CRM, an average business earns back $5.60 — a good reason to not go without it or build it yourself.

Beyond those numbers, though, we can run into contention as adoption issues raise their heads. We still haven’t gotten away from the stereotypical salespeople who won’t use SFA (sales force automation) for fear of I don’t know what, maybe unicorns. Perhaps that’s why 43 percent of CRM customers use less than half of the features in their CRM systems.

That’s puzzling, but there are several explanations. Through bundling, CRM vendors actually might be delivering too much functionality. More realistically, though, CRM customers may use less because the technology doesn’t conform with their use practices.

Now, you can say a lot about use, but throughout my career in software, more than 30 years, I’ve noticed that organizations maintain bad or at least suboptimal business practices to the point of trying to make software emulate those ideas rather than using a new implementation to make a clean break with the past.

Every business believes it is unique, that its practices amount to its secret for success. In reality, though, hanging onto an old process for the sake of comfort, both prevents fuller adoption and retards a business’ evolution. This is a debate that can’t be won — but also throughout my career, I’ve tended to tread cautiously when confronted with a CRM failure. Too often, it’s not the software that’s to blame but how it’s used.

Fine Fettle

Enough of that. One happy outcome has been the surge of marketing automation. For too long, marketing was a stepchild of accounting because businesses tried to control spending with early marketing automation packages rather than truly marketing.

That all changed with the introductions of Eloqua and Marketo. While both of those companies have been absorbed by larger entities, they remain influential for leading the way in automating the marketing process using statistics, analytics, and newfangled metrics to boost marketing performance.

Mobile solutions continue to surprise. Sixty-five percent of sales reps using mobile CRM have achieved their sales targets, while only 22 percent of reps using non-mobile CRM have done likewise, according to Algoworks.

In fact, 55 percent of salespeople will use phones and tablets exclusively to get their jobs done. The numbers are similar, if slightly lower, for CRM users generally — a category that includes service and support as well as field service.

As we all should know, social media Grow your business with social media management services from Deluxe! no longer is an option — it’s where customers are, and where smart vendors go to meet them. Up to 46 percent of consumers use social media when making purchase decisions.

So CRM appears to be in good nick. The market continues to offer white space even as vendors invent new apps based on artificial intelligence and machine learning, the next big wave for CRM. Less wonderful is the fact that the CRM customer may be having difficulty absorbing all the new technology — but as the saying goes, that’s a champagne problem.

When all is said and done, CRM may be reaching an asymptotic limit, a ceiling. With all of the technology available today, we don’t lack for solutions. What we do need is better understanding and ways to use the stuff.

That comes from methods and training. It comes from being able to risk not performing a business process the same way we did it before CRM. That can be daunting, but we’re clearly entering the second half of CRM’s rollout, and second acts are notorious for efficiencies and economies that derive from methods.

Sure, there might be job losses, but if we can bite the bullet it also will mean jobs gained in the more creative aspects of the vendor-customer ballet. Look at marketing automation pre- and post-Eloqua.

The opportunities and just plain fun that marketing processes have generated in a decade (not to mention increased revenues) are striking. So, as we enter the autumn selling season and a raft of announcements no doubt coming from Salesforce and Oracle, it looks like CRM is in good shape to continue its 20-year run.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at

What’s Up With Google Docs

Google on Wednesday introduced a number of collaborative features to its office productivity tools. The latest versions of Google Docs, Sheets and Slides will include new editing functionality that will enable office teams to work together in real time on the most up-to-date versions of their files.

The new features will ensure that every collaborator is working on the same document, explained Birkan Icacan, product manager for Google Docs.

Changes to the documents can be made not only via a desktop, as was possible with previous versions of the software, but also via Android and iOS mobile devices. Users also can approve or reject edit suggestions via the apps. Further, documents can be reviewed with Litera Change-Pro and Workshare add-ons.

Google has introduced new templates for Docs and Sheets, which should help save time on the formatting of documents. Included are new built-in add-ons that allow for greater customization, and tools specific to a particular workflow.

Google provided five new examples in the general template gallery: a new mutual nondisclosure agreement from LegalZoom and Docusign; as well as templates from Lucidchart, PandaDoc, EasyBib and Supermetrics.

Tracking the Changes

The new improvements to Docs address the fact that many documents aren’t written by a single person. These new tools are meant to accommodate the collaborative approach to document creation.

It’s typical to make dozens of edits with multiple team members when crafting a document, especially if it is a legal agreement, project proposal or research paper, Google noted. The new updates to Docs are designed to make it easier than ever for team members to manage the changes.

Among the new capabilities are the option to assign custom names as a way to maintain a historic record of a document’s progress; to track changes in the “version history” — which formerly was known as “revision history”; and to ensure that everyone on the team knows when a document truly is “final.”

Further, the new system will offer users the ability to view a “clean version” of a document so they can see what it would like without comments or suggested edits. Without strikeouts and other distractions, the “clean” preview would be easier to read.

“The new features focus on tracking changes and collaboration, and this bring it much more in line with Microsoft Office, which is one of Office’s strong points,” said Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics.

In the process, “it removes one of the major criticisms that business users had with Google Docs,” Entner told the E-Commerce Times.

Tracking More Than Changes

The cloud-based model of Google Docs could be its greatest weakness, however.

“Google Docs for business has been a difficult sale, because Google wants to know what you’re doing, and businesses tend not to go for that,” said Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“Consumers will make the tradeoff of privacy for access, but businesses often expect to pay for something and actually get it — not become the product themselves,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“That’s the fundamental issue for Google Docs in business — that and Microsoft’s lock-in, which is not negligible,” added Kay.

Microsoft in recent years also took a hard turn and began migrating toward Google’s cloud-based mode, which paradoxically put Google a better proposition, noted Kay.

“If you’re going to have to give your information away to somebody,” he suggested, it “might as well be Google, because features are secondary.”

Google Docs’ stiffest competition might not come from Word 365, but from an organization’s legacy software, which still — at least, for now — runs on the latest versions of Windows.

“Some people are still getting along fine with Word 2000,” said Kay. “After all, what do you really need in a word processor? Yes, there’s collaborative stuff, workflow and whatnot — but I’m not sure features sell the platform.”

Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and
Email Peter.