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(June 20, 2007) I spent the day yesterday sitting in an "Open Space" front end to a conference called Supernova. I wrote this article as I sat in a session called VRM...Vendor Relationship Management led by a guy named Doc Searls, the editor if the Linux Journal. The core idea is that the alternative to CRM systems involves placing the user at the center of things.

It was an idealistic, theoretical chat. People, particularly software developers, are concerned that the existing systems are designed to minimize relationships bertween customers and suppliers. They believe that "things" will improve if the user becomes the real center of the transaction.

Innovation is a funny thing. What these folks were proposing was nothing more than our little old resume distribution and management system writ large. By "our little old resume system", I mean the way things currently work in the Recruitment marketplace with all its competing standards and overlapping redundant systems.

Surprisingly, I thought the conversation was on the right track. It suffered from that unique ability of idea generators to tune out the fact that they are reinventing the wheel.  20 years of resume data processing has taught us all about managing large volumes of non-form data in order to discover meat and meaning.

With the constant hammering about how broken the resume system is, it was fun to have a couple of hours to imagine that our industry contains a model that others might follow. The irony was palpable and delicious. The B2B community is beginning to wrestle with requirements for the same inputs to differing systems.

At the heart of the conversation is a certain knowledge that repetitive overlapping data systems are driving costs and creating real quality problems in the economy. It really is the next frontier in the web's relentless removal of friction from transactions. From the perspective of the people in the VRM conference today, the culprit is the array of systems fielded by our vendors (you and I as customers have a range of suppliers who collect data for and about us).

Imagine that the current data exchange that passes for the global labor market is a bellwether. Coupled with a VRM enabled telephone that handles GPS data, these advocates imagine Starbucks having your coffee when you enter the store. They see surgeons who clearly know which leg to amputate. They imagine drive by contributions to public radio telethons using GPS enabled cell platforms.

Fundamentally, I came to this conference to learn more about how unconferences work. What I found was that by exposing myself to new ideas that I disagree with, I was able to get a fresh view of my on world. I liked the idea of VRM but came away as an advocate for user generate conferences.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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