Vendor relationship management -- VRM of course -- is something new on the technology horizon.
"VRM provides customers with tools for engaging with vendors in ways that work for both parties."
As a definition, this is a bit vague, but a look at some of the ideas this group is bandying about is helpful. The idea is to create tools that help empower individual customers / consumers / viewers etc. to manage out from ourselves our needs and wants, thereby giving us better tools to support our recent empowerment in the information age. So instead of just feeling empowered and overwhelmed, we feel empowered and in control.
There's a very good diagram here that helps to understand how a VRM system might work.
Examples of VRM
- Instead of having to deal with telemarketing and mail efforts to support public broadcasting, perhaps having provide us with a way to donate directly on our own, revealing only what we want to reveal. This one is a project of the VRM Project at Harvard (see resources below)
- Being able to generate offers -- sort of like consumer RFPs, but less cumbersome -- instead of lead generation. So perhaps I could put out an offer for a bookkeeper, or a house painter, for example, and be able to effectively manage the responses to that. I would identify myself as a lead, and vendors would respond to my offer
- You want to buy a server, so you use Technorati tags to identify your needs and the stage of your purchase, and monitor the incoming expressions of interest using an RSS reader
Essentially, VRM feels like it could be like a want-ad on steroids, a combination of Craigslist and virtual agent. We never really got CMR (Customer Managed Relationships), we got stuck with somebody else's CRM. So we can't really tell them what our needs are, what segment we are in, or anything else that might help both parties. We have to engage on the terms of the vendors only.
VRM is a concept about creating the tools to turn this CRM/lead generation formula upside down.
It reminds me a bit of the electronic invoicing and payment systems introduced first in the 1980s by companies like GM, and embraced on a much wider scale in the early 2000s. Companies were faced with miscellaneous invoicing formats from their thousands of suppliers, and were forced into a very inefficient process. Technology changed that, ultimately for the benefit of the suppliers and the buyers, although it was the large buyers who drove the development and adoption of the process. Just-in-time inventory really only became possible because of the infrastructure established around invoicing and payment, which could then be extended to ordering.
All rather exciting. And just when you thought the information age was starting to look mature and predictable. Surprise!
Thanks to the Computer Assisted Management for Performance list at GoogleGroups for the heads up on this.
The RFP idea came from Phil Windley, here.
The server purchase example came from Don Marti, here.
More examples of other people writing on this idea are here on the wiki.