Monday’s Musings: The New Engagement Platform Drives The Shift From Transactions

Published on August 27, 2012 by R "Ray" Wang

Convergence In The Five Forces Of Consumerization Of Technology Drives The Next Big Thing

Social has given us the tools to connect.  Mobile has given us the ability to interact any time and anywhere.  Cloud delivers access points to us with a rich array of content and information.  Big data provides us with the context and information to make decisions.  Unified communications and video transform how we share ideas.  This convergence of the five forces of consumerization drives the next shifts in technology.  The move from transaction to engagement and from engagement to experience is happening now.  The era of transactional apps rapidly makes way for the era of engagement.

If Business Value And Outcomes Are The Goal, Then We Need An Engagement Platform For The Enterprise

The arrival of engagement platforms does not signify time to throw out the transactional systems. In fact, those systems provide the foundation required for engagement.  The engagement layer exposes transactions and allow for deeper interaction and richer sources of information.  However, the transactional systems lack the ability to support engagement.

In fact, organizations around the world struggle with building the right engagement strategy for their customers and employees.  While crafting the right strategy should be designed prior to any technology selection, once completed, the technology to support the strategy does not exist out of the box from ANY solution provider.  Unfortunately, the technologies to achieve engagement remain disparate and hodge podge.   Many solution providers seek to achieve the engagement layer from different heritages:

  • Pure play social solutions morph to engagement apps.  Vendors such as Broadvision, Jive, Moxie, Lithium, Tibco, and Yammer have delivered many elements of the engagement layer.  These horizontal offerings provide an opportunity to assimilate disparate offerings across multiple processes and roles.  The challenge is finding the tools that support consistent integration at the process, meta data, and data layer.  Gamification vendors such as Badgeville, Bunchball, BigDoor, Crowdtwist, and Gigya play a key role in delivering outcomes and influencing behavior through engagement.  Platforms such as Atlasian, Box, GoodData, and Tidemark open the door to a new era of engagement apps.
  • Legacy transactional systems in transition to engagement. Major ERP and CRM vendors seek to address engagement with “social” and “mobile” features.  While many of the vendors have the components for engagement, the struggle will be to embed a sense and respond design point into both the interaction layer and process flows.  Salesforce embraces the social enterprise and uses Chatter as its entry point in creating engagement.  SAP attempts this with its CubeTree/SuccessFactors acquisition in Project Robus.  Oracle attacks this problem through a customer experience suite.  Microsoft acquired Yammer to create this layer inside Office and its Business Solutions portfolio. IBM embraces social business with a series of acquisitions and product enhancements to its IBM Connections product.  More importantly, IBM has built and acquired a portfolio of software solutions that sit on top of the legacy transactional systems, delivering high value and high impact.
  • Consumer offerings could enter the enterprise. With consumerization of IT increasing, platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter provide a rich engagement platform that could be adopted in the enterprise.  Meanwhile, solutions providers such as Adobe blend consumer with enterprise as they provide the tools for engagement on the web and in mobile.  The challenge is dealing with societal norms between work and personal information.  The challenge is meeting enterprise class requirements for safety, security, and sustainability.
  • Vertically integrated prosumer platforms already deliver engagement. Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft have the unique capability of delivering an end to end solution from hardware, consumer device, operating system, database, applications, and partner ecosystem.  Engagement platforms form the basis of future business models as consumer and enterprise blend into prosumers.  The challenge is meeting the disparate needs of enterprise and consumer.
  • Marketing and advertising networks provide rich profiles and targeting.  The ad networks are moving fast to shift engagement and offers.  While daily deal sites play one role, companies like Glam Networks also now deliver key components for ad targeting and optimization that compete with Google, Apple, Yahoo, and other media properties.   Marketing automation platforms such as
    Eloqua, Hubspot, InfusionSoft, Marketo, NeoLane, Pardot, and Parature already have may key components.  The challenge is engendering trust among the users or consumers to share more information in exchange for deemed value.

Figure 1. Technologies Will Evolve  From Transactions to P2P

The Engagement Platform Requires Nine Main Technology Components

Mapping engagement requires a series of core components and platforms that span across business processes, disparate applications, and myriad of user roles.  As many organizations face cloud/SaaS best of breed integration hell, the principles behind SOA ring truer than ever. Constellation’s identified nine core components that should be standardized across apps to support this engagement layer and allow for an engagement platform to emerge (see Figure 2).  Some components will come off the shelf, others from existing technologies, and many will have to be pieced together.  Why? An out of the box engagement platform does not exist in the market.  The nine components include:

  1. Multi-channel bi-directional sensors. The engagement layer serves a sense and respond design point.  Feedback loops drive the engagement strategy.  Real time response requires a new level of information gathering and capability to respond. Bionic API’s will emerge when we shift to the experience layer.
  2. Listening and sentiment engines. Sensors require intelligence.   Listening and sentiment analysis provides insight into the larger unstructured world.  As sensors pick up more and more unstructured information, listening and sentiment allow us to categorize patterns which can later parlay to insight and provide input into context.
  3. Decision management and analytics. The engagement layer enables better decision making.  Data on its own is just dumb data.  Data will transform into information.  Information leads to insight.  Insight will drive our ability to make better decisions.  Experience layer will shift to predictive models.
  4. Context engines. Relevancy comes from context.  The shift from real time to right time requires relevancy and drives a major component of engagement. Context comes from roles, relationships, location, time, business process, sentiment, and intent.  At some point, context enables prediction when we shift to experiential systems.
  5. Complex event processing (CEP). Mastering mass information requires pattern recognition. CEP delivers the intelligence to recognize and anticipate behaviors. CEP assists in determining context and also modeling event hierarchies.  CEP supports the deliver of segmented value chains and networks. Expect the CEP layer to detect and verify trust in the network.
  6. P2P architectures. More than just identity management, systems must account for the people to people (P2P) interactions.  An individual may play multiple roles and each role needs to be modeled and supported in a P2P architecture. Going forward a machine to machine (M2M) architecture will emerge in parallel with similar attributes and characteristics.
  7. Interaction histories. Every touch point, both physical and digital, requires tracking.  Interaction histories provide a repository for storing, surfacing, and serving up this information.  Engagement is tracked in the interaction history. Engagement is exposed in the interaction history.
  8. Business process management (BPM) and adaptive case management (ACM).  Organizations will model processes across many disparate systems and integration points.  BPM provides the glue to connect systems to people to outcomes.  Defined outcomes will map back to metrics, which map back to business processes, which tie back to individuals accountable for outcomes.  Variants such as adaptive case management play a critical role in addressing unpredictable run-time scenarios.
  9. Master data management (MDM). Common objects such as people, resources, assets, location, contracts, channels require a centralized repository for update and tracking.  MDM serves as a key foundation for ensuring consistency and veracity in the engagement layer.

Figure 2. Nine Components Of The Engagement Platform

The Bottom Line: The End Game Is Driving Business Value Through Outcomes

The move to engagement platforms is not about a technology shift but a business value shift to achieving outcomes.   Sophisticated organizations now buy business value through SLA’s. The solution provider who can deliver outcomes will win in the shift to engagement platforms regardless of whether its software, services, or delivery models.  Thus, the business challenges will focus on engagement for:

  • The Future of Work
  • Next Generation Customer
  • Matrix Commerce
  • Data to Decisions
  • Digital Marketing Transformation

Your POV.

Am I missing any components?  what else should be included? Do you have an engagement layer? How are you putting this together?  What’s next for your engagement strategy?  Have a story on how you’ve achieved engagement? Add your comments to the blog or send us a comment at R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) org or R (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com

Please let us know if you need help with your business strategy efforts.  Here’s how we can assist:

  • Assessing social business/social CRM readiness
  • Developing your social business engagement strategy
  • Designing a data to decisions strategy
  • Create a new vision of the future of work
  • Deliver a new customer experience strategy
  • Crafting a new matrix commerce strategy
  • Moving from classic marketing to digital marketing transformation

Related Research:


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  • alberto

    Great points. KM paradigm does help. I think we’ll see many paradigms emerge as well. great insights and thanks for moving the conversation and thought leadership forward


  • Wang:

    It’s somehow difficult so keep an updated list of all the technologies used in interaction. Innovative business models are seeing the light of the day every day, combined with evolving IT that is not anymore defined by the way people engage and participate(working).

    Under the technology domain I would include Semantic technology. The difference is even today people are obsessed having access to information, when it should be having access to the “meaning” of the information (where semantics plays an important role).

    Under a knowledge management paradigm it’s important to help people to make the right reasoning, dealing with inconsistent information, and supporting for structured queries against data. This is something I explored here:

    Anyway and despite tech is playing a very important role this is only a part of the picture, to understand a business other layers need to be considered: the social practice and the organization layer, ( )despite catching up the tech revolution is somehow very a very interesting challenge these days and the others to come.



  • […] The New Engagement Platform … Citing a seminal HBR blog post on engagement, Ray Wang is starting to lay out the architecture of the “Engagement Platform”. It’s worth understanding this idea. Wang’s view neglects the employee feedback, learning and performance management aspects of the engagement ecosystem. But, those holes will get filled in. This is what the beginnig looks like. In the long haul, engagement is a conversation about the relationship between employees and customers. […]

  • A key component of Salesforce’s engagement platform is the aquisition of Rypple. I noticed they were not mentioned above. As Facebook and LinkedIn’s (as well as Sability’s) pick fo internal engagement, they certainly are worth a look. Let me know if you’d like some intros this week or a third party view of their offering. Hope to see you at# SF12 this week.

  • Dominique –

    Always great to have another point of view and a very detailed response. Yes, we do see pure play platforms emerging. Social must meet offline as 90% of interactions are probably in the real world and not social. I like your analogy back to the human anatomy. It’s simple and easily explains what’s going on!


  • First of all, we agree on the fundamentals. The macro-trends in the market that are clear: yes, “software is eating the world”, “big data is eating the world”, “cloud is eating the world” and “mobile is eating the world”, but more importantly: we live in an era of people-to-people engagement where people demand value (you call it business outcomes).

    In terms of categories, I would submit that there are pure-play engagement management systems emerging. Totango for one considers itself a pure-play engagement platform for customers (as opposed to employees or partners, which you also refer to).

    Talking about customer engagement: in general (not so much in this blog) I believe there is too much focus on social engagement with prospects and too little emphasis on delivering customer value and customer success. Business outcomes are achieved with customers, not with prospects. So I would love to hear more about how to retain and grow customers, and less about how to acquire customers.

    I applaud that you are trying to define the architecture of engagement systems. I see higher-level buckets or groups of requirements which could provide more clarity:

    The Ears (Listen): Distributed Sensors
    First there are the sensors to pick-up customer sentiment and behavior (before and after purchase of the product). Many of these sensors exist today though we found that many companies lack real feedback on usage and user behavior post-sale. There are many pure-play systems that focus on one particular channel (social, email, phone, etc.) and many of these do some of the (pre-)processing of signals (sentiment analysis).

    The Brain (Understand): Centralized CEP/Analytics/BPM
    This is the biggest white space – the missing piece in the engagement architecture. Not surprisingly it is also where Totango is focused. First you need CEP to handle the feeds from many distributed sensors and historical data stores. Then you need to make sense of it all and make a decision on which action to take with which customer at what time using which channel, in order to maximize business outcome. That’s easier said than done and this is where heavy-duty analytics and decision support comes in. Lastly, to influence business results you need to unlock data and operationalize it: automate actions of customer facing systems and personnel using business process automation. The Brain is probably different when you are focused on engagement with customers than when you are focused on engagement with employees.

    The Hands (Engage/Act): Engagement Channels
    Customer touch points will continue to evolve: social media, phone, email and increasingly in-application communications (software, internet). These systems execute on the engagement strategies you elected and are also function as sensors in its own right providing feedback about the effectiveness of the engagement and starting the process all over again. Lifelong iterative learning.

    My two cents.

  • Mahei

    thanks for the comments. great points. as another peer noticed, customers and employees need to give permission firs to be engaged. that fundamental point is missing in the comms structure along with the empathetic protocols you mention. Without both, no one is engaged and without engagement, we’ll hit fatigue very quickly given the velocity of comms today.

    cheers and lmk when you are back in the bay area!


  • Great post Ray!

    Thoroughly enjoyed how you’ve fleshed your thoughts out.

    This is a key point: “The move to engagement platforms is not about a technology shift but a BUSINESS VALUE SHIFT to achieving outcomes”. A fool with a tool is still a fool but change their mindset, change how they perceive the information that is put in front of them to provide simply the RIGHT solutions at the right time adds a layer of empowerment for a solutions provider to take their stakeholder engagement to the next level.

    If the engaged is a previous client, then interaction history becomes pivotal. Enterprises first need to acknowledge the distress/compliment of the comms via the social web then through learned empathic protocols out-listen the client to hear what needs to be heard. The more information that can be distracted from client, the more effective and efficient the funnelling process. History is the best teacher when one knows the context of the client’s pain-point. The client too is the better teacher because simply asking them what they feel are the best solutions to their problem helps the enterprise shape their solutions.

    Metaphorically is an enterprise’s systems and solutions are like play doh, let the client’s interaction/engagement be the tool that shapes their solutions. It’s a co-creative process. which over time is beautiful thing because the enterprise gets personal buy-in from the client. The new pattern begins. Less prediction = less waste.

    Transactional apps are simply the door knockers to the first door in the Chamber of Shaolin. What happens beyond the doors is the shared and created experience.

    All the best Ray! Love it!

  • Prashant,

    And yet… it sounds so simple. The challenge will still lie in how we execute and for that, organizational transformation will remain a big hurdle! Thanks for your comments!


  • Agree totally. Yes, the new era of customer engagement! In new era of immediate discovery, businesses engaging their customers would retain their customers & win!

  • Doug

    Great points. Keep in mind engagement models that I’m envisioning also apply inside the organizations for employees and for other folks such as vendors, suppliers, and partners. These stakeholders in a P2P world are more than just the traditional “customer”


  • Madhu

    As I’ve mentioned in the past, my blogs are really draft notes in time. The reports capture things in finality in a period of time. People do play a large part and I really appreciate your call out in this. You can’t engage without people and in some cases, people may not choose nor want engagement. Thanks for sharing!


  • I think Ray has missed a key point. Social Businesses are no longer supported by Information Systems alone. People Centric Software Systems are the key back bone for Social Enterprises. Big Data Analytics about People are required to drive engagement in Social Businesses. Transactions via connected people lead to Social Influence and Business Performance. Ray is missing the point about people, who are key to Social Businesses.

  • First irony: I “Chatter”ed this article internally. There is a significant human-computing-interface problem when moving from transaction to engagement systems in the enterprise. The “form” metaphor for engagement (or content) is restrictive and counter-intuitive. There is an unmet need for back office systems that can integrate (not paste-on) engagement within the UI. (For example, the tablet version of Chatter is orders of magnitude more intuitive).

    The second unmet need is to integrate this engagement within processes and adapt processes with the appropriate agility. I think that we’ve reached the end of advantages that can be achieved through traditional BPM.
    Not to say that it’s the end of BPM, but the notion that processes can be defined with granularity results in rapidly diminishing returns. (Your idea of outcomes is a better path for agile processes.)

    My other thought goes to business models. The “Discipline of Market Leaders” proposed that companies need to be innovative, operationally efficient or customer intimate for long term success. The goal for transaction technologies and BPM has been to improve efficiency whether to reduce call volumes, enable just-in-time inventory, accelerate procure-to-pay… The other 2 models have been orphans in enterprise software. CRM was primarily designed for efficiency, although in can enable customer-centricity. And, a lot of vendors talk about how efficiency can aid innovation – a dubious argument.

    Engagement models will enable the customer-intimate organization. Flexibility – maybe experiential systems, could enable innovation. Of course, these new engagement models provide methods of customer-led innovation that was once thought impossible.

    My sense is that BPM and MDM need to change dramatically to support engagement models. BPM to enable flexibility. MDM to become more self-correcting and stepping away from rigid definitions.

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