Customers, customers, customers, customers, employees.

When you look at thespending on business technologies, that's roughly the emphasis that companiesplace on one side of the sales wall versus the other.

On one level, it makes sense. Customers spend the money and, as we've allheard, they're always right. Then again, there's nothing that can improve the customerexperience more than employees who serve customers face-to-face, in customerservice centers, or even behind the scenes in technical or management roles.

Remember that flight attendant who watched your screaming kid while you tooka sanity break? How about that waiter who served a joke that lightened a miserable  day? Or the bus driver who stopped where she wasn't supposed to because it wasraining? Do we have the technological cart before the proverbial horse? GartnerResearch Director Yvette Cameron thinks so. 

How to Get Work Done

CMSWire sat down with the 27-year IT veteran at yesterday's AchieversAspire ExecutiveSummit in San Francisco, where the shiftingtechnologies for employee recruitment, engagement, collaboration and successsparked thoughtful conversation.

Cameron, who holds a degree in math and statistics, has an evangelical focuson enterprise human capital management (HCM) processes and technologies. Before herwork with Gartner, she spent 14 years leading HCM product strategy and marketingat SAP, Oracle, Saba, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards.

Murphy: There are a lot of new enterprise technologies for employeeengagement, employee success, customer expectation, customer success and more.Where should a company with a limited IT budget begin?

Cameron: It's a good question. With any strategy, I think the answeris to start small -- pilot programs, small programs to test success -- so youcan evaluate the results and start again. This idea of failing fast and learningis really the hallmark of how we're going to achieve technology success in ourorganizations.

I would say, first and foremost, you want to have tools to help employees getwork done. Those tools are no longer the HR systems of performance managementand compensation -- those don't help to get your work done. What we're seeing isheavy adoption of work management tools, task management, collaboration,file-sharing and so forth. People need tools to connect, to share knowledge, tobuild community and culture and, ultimately, to get their work done, which isabout serving customers.

Murphy: That whole chain of systems I mentioned before aren'tinterconnected at this point. Should they be? And, if so, when will they be?

Cameron: There is a tremendous amount of spin on the consumer side.Spending on customer relationship management (CRM) enterprise software is almost four times the spending on HCM software. With the workforce costing about 70percent of what a company spends, that seems lopsided. The point is thatorganizations are spending a tremendous amount of money to understand theircustomers and to engage them. We need to do the same thing on the employee side,starting small as I said earlier.

I don't think those two types of systems -- CRM and HCM -- and the componentswithin them are going to become one solid system. They will be discrete systems.I think the long-term answer would be, yes, it would be great if they were [asingle system]. But the reality is that we're probably going to have a series ofwell-designed, purpose-built tools for customers, for employees, for aspects ofthe customer-employee relationship that eventually do need to plug in andconnect. But it's going to be about integration. And the integration point --data, process flows, etc. -- the most critical point is going to beunderstanding the profile of the individual. So, if the question is will they beconnected, yes. They won't necessarily be on the same system, but they will beconnected on the single most important point, the data, the attributes of theindividual.

Murphy: Social business seems like a great concept, but it doesn'tseem to be gaining traction in the workplace. I hear a lot about companiestrying to collaborate on an internal social network, and they have some initialexperiments, but the conversations die and the employees never feel like it'sFacebook at work. What's your view of that?

Learning Opportunities

Cameron: I think the biggest challenge for social software in theenterprise is its name. When you put "social" in front of it, by itsnature, it feels superfluous and frivolous. It's not business software.

Murphy: Would it be better to call it "collaboration?"

Cameron: Absolutely. The reality is that it's one of themost fundamentally important tools that an organization can bring in. Anotherreason for its failure is that it's been deployed in a siloed instance. To yourearlier question, you can bring in stand-alone tools that do some interestingthings. But social, to be effective, has to be integrated into the way peoplework -- integrated into the daily conversations, the daily process flows and theother productivity tools, whether it's Outlook or a CRM system, so that I canget work done in the way that I, personally, choose to conduct my business. Ifsocial technologies are deployed as a place I go -- like going to a refrigeratorand get the box and then go to the social network and have a conversation --that's not going to work.

Murphy: A lot of social tools, like Achievers' Connection orYammer, look at lot like Facebook.  The younger generation -- Gen Y and thesub-millennials -- seem to be shying away from Facebook. They're not doing whatbig sister and big brother are doing. Are we going to see an evolution of socialbusiness tools so that they look more like Twitter or exist only in mobile?

Cameron: That's a good question. I would say technology in general ismoving to mobile. Applications are going to stop being a URL that you key in andwill literally be an app on your phone. I think we're looking in the future tothe componentization of large modules into app-like processes. Achieversactually fits in well to that. Underlying all that is the importance ofintegration. As far as the user experience, people are looking for information,decision support and recognition or engagement -- that ability to identify withfriends and have friends identify with them, whether it's at work or personally.There's a total blending there.

The user experience of Facebook might be a little much in the long term. Ithink we're already seeing that paring down of the data. But the ability to seea face, to have the geo-location so I know where a person is, who's near me, soI can share information or fun, that's not going to change. In fact, that'sgoing to become more foundational to even how enterprise software is working --more intelligence. So yes on the mobile. Frankly, I think all applications aregoing to be mobile, and all applications will also be moving more towards thisengaging, immersive, personalized, contextual experience. The Facebook apps andthe Achievers apps have that. They may be a little wordy in some cases, and Ican see that paring down. But we can't lose the focus, which is engagement --engagement with each other, information and content.

Murphy: I'm not sure if this came from Gartner, but it's often said thatthis is the "Year of the Customer." Do you think the customerexperience is really changing? Or is that marketing hype to push software?

Cameron: My focus is primarily the employee side, human capitalmanagement. So I'm not as in tune as far as the nuances of the changingengagement with customers. But what we have seen clearly is that the power hasshifted from businesses to customers. The spend in customer relationshipmanagement software is the highest of all the categories of enterpriseapplications. Certainly, if this isn't the year, next year will be. It has trulyflipped on its head.

We need to apply that same thinking to our employees. The idea that we knowmore about our customers than the employees who are serving them doesn't makesense. I think that if we truly want to make it the year of the customer, wehave to make it the year of the employee.