Social Media

A year ago the conversation was all about whether or not social media and social technologies were relevant in the B2B space. It wasn’t entirely clear whether the enormous impact of Facebook and Twitter would be mirrored by some industrial strength B2B equivalent. A year on and it’s no longer OK to be seen scratching your head quizzically when someone mentions social – if you don’t get it – you’ve had it!

Bloggers and tweeters don’t go too far off piste normally but there is nothing quite like sub-standard telco customer support to drive even the most focused to go right off topic and declare their frustration at their mobile phone operator or ISP. Customer support only needs to be a little bit wrong to make a dramatic difference to user experience and we are all so used to expecting best in class service that even a 10 minute wait to be dealt with by a call center can get us really piste off. It’s not just consumers that need to be kept happy. Business software needs to deliver a great user experience too. OB10 will hold their hands up and admit that their customer support hasn’t been their strong point in the past and that’s why they’ve invested heavily in customer experience. Their newly unveiled portal is a massive improvement both in substance and style.

I was excited to read about Alusta last week – the end-to-end framework or platform that Basware have developed for their procure to pay offerings and I was keen to understand a bit more about it when I hooked up with Juha Häkämies VP Market Development, Rowan Lemley, product Marketing Manager and John Webster, VP Global Product Marketing What is Alusta exactly? Is it the purchase to pay panacea or simply vaporware – a new marketing spin on an old set of products?  Actually a bit of both – but in a good way.

Basware have just made a very interesting announcement and launched Alusta, a “cloud-based platform for business-to-business transaction collaboration." According to their announcement yesterday, Alusta (Finnish for "platform") provides "open, centralized access to all Basware services via a scalable, secure, open collaborative commerce ecosystem for buying and supplying organizations of every size and location." If it lives up to half of the hype, this will be a truly impressive platform. Alusta isn’t ground breaking. It isn’t even new thinking but what it promises is to bring together a wide set of leading edge tools technologies and techniques to create a purchase to pay platform that could be world beating. That’s the promise anyway. So what’s it got that’s so impressive?

In the first post on this topic, we picked up on a theme from Jason Busch at Spend Matters. He reckons that the quality of information available to purchasing and finance community improves as the new breed of practitioner analyst joins what we’ve called the “thought leadership ecosphere”. The traditional analyst community lack the real insight that practitioners offer and as the new breed of practitioner analyst has found their voice through social media, the quality of information available to us all is increased markedly. But just as information quality has changed, so have the rules of the game and vendors who have in the past courted the analysts to get their marketing messages out now need to understand how to engage with the new information community. How do we get this new engagement right? There’s no definitive set of answers but we can see some examples of people and organisations that do get it right.

I have a great deal of respect for the analyst community. They provide a valuable service, if somewhat overpriced but they have for a number of years suffered from the same problem that Hollwood suffers from. They take themselves too seriously. Jason Busch has written on this matter more than once and as time goes by the view he's been espousing for some time is being proved right over and over again. He’s not espoused the view that analysts take themselves too seriously – that’s my spin on it – rather, it’s that the quality and value of the debate in the procurement and finance world is improving markedly as the voice of the practitioner expert becomes louder and more articulate. Allow me to explain why I agree with Jason and what the purchasing and finance community should do to take advantage of the change.