A Place to Stand

Joel Schectman at the CIO Journal blog at the Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Obama campaign used Salesforce to manage communications with its core constituency.

Schectman reports:The tool scoured messages for keywords such as “healthcare” or “education,” and displayed issues on a dashboard campaign staffers could look at to figure out what concerns or questions were surging in citizen correspondences with the campaign. The dashboard also allowed staffers to look at what issues were trending by state, city or town, allowing the campaign to adapt its ground game in real time, according to [Salesforce EVP Vivek] Kundra. Those insights could help staff in the field that had mobile versions of the dashboard. “

I find this development fascinating, partially for its creative use of a tool ostensibly designed for a somewhat different application (sales) and successfully applied to the campaign trail.

More importantly, it’s yet another instance of the “tools that build tools” which were foretold as part of the future back when I was a management grad student at the dawn of the personal computer.

The quest for human understanding often begins with the search for “a place to stand” from which one can get a new perspective on the situation. Powerful computing tools put to this use produced immersive simulators like the CAVE at the University of Illinois back in the mid 90’s. Now even the CAVE runs on a desktop machine, and regular folks without special grant funding can buy into cloud services on even more powerful servers.

The power is there. Tools like Salesforce make it possible to assemble custom reports and dashboards which report the metrics that matter most to our organizations.

Are people in your organization mobilizing the latest tools for understanding your customers? Are the people who are doing it training others in their methods?

Does your training software give you “a place to stand” to see where your training efforts stand, and where needs may be emerging?