Don Marti

Sat 26 May 2012 07:39:41 AM PDT

Market discipline, and offloading

Doc Searls recently put up a good short intro to the VRM concept: Turning Consumers into Customers. Plenty of links there for more info.

One more aspect of VRM, though, is that it's potentially an important part of three other trends: individualization and Big Switch-ization of IT, and the increasing self-servitude of everything.

As an individual, you have access to better tools for information discovery and sharing than the vendor IT Department does. Some of those tools are local, others can run as a service. And it's way faster for you to start using a new technology or service than for the vendor to do it.

So if somebody is going to use a computer program to match up people who want to buy with stuff that wants to be bought, why not run that program on the platform that works best? And the platform that works best is a mix of end-user devices for UI and raw cycles, plus high-efficiency large-scale data centers for back-end tasks. (Appropriate back-end tasks are: enforce security and consistency. If you do anything else on the server side you're probably doing it wrong.)

For a vendor, using VRM is almost like making the customer do bank transactions at the ATM, or get support from the web site, or use the supermarket self-checkout machine. Customer information that's out in the market, kept up by the customer, is information that customers pay to maintain and that you don't have to. (Big Data in-house requires expensive data centers and statisticians in Aeron chairs.)

A CRM migration is an IT Project with a capital P. A VRM migration is "hey, you notice all the traffic to the web API from That's cool."

So VRM is nice and logical and all, and there should be a lot more of it. But the catch is that although it might be great for enabling all kinds of efficient market transactions and conversations and all that fun stuff, it's absolutely terrible for confusopoly-based price discrimination, and many vendors depend on that. At least VRM will tend to raise the relative price of working that way.