Managing markets from the bottom up

Consumers are taking the guesswork out of customer data.

Bruno Giussani writes up a presentation from Doc Searls in Paris, who turns business management on its head: out is customer relationship management. In is "vendor relationship management," or VRM.


The project is being launched within the Harvard’s Berkman Center. The core concept is that the individual should be able to manage their relationships with their vendors and suppliers, based on the idea that they actually know more about specific preferences, updated data, etc. And, further, that most CRM systems oversimplify customer data in order to segment, and to effectively manage the info; ultimately they are just a sales system, not a relationship system (emphasis supplied).

Searls famously described markets as conversations.

Despite efforts in some mature markets to treat it otherwise, information is fast becoming a commodity. Over time patients will likely gain increasing control over their health records, for example. So instead of going to the doctor and answering the same questions over and over again, patient-related information - X-rays, for example - might be furnished directly by the health consumer herself.

Likewise, information technology agencies in large corporations are increasingly confronted with "consumer-led IT," or what happens when the IT department moves from down to hall to your office. Of course two examples do not a trend make, but there is little doubt in my mind that as information finds its way out of CRM systems and into the hands of consumers, business relationships will be a little less one sided.

Today Searls takes his suggestion a bit further, wondering if some social networks are just better versions of the old ones - Compuserve, AOL and Prodigy. Personally, I'm hoping that OpenSocial and the Open Handset Alliance succeed in a big way.