VRM London

I went to the VRM London meeting yesterday (kindly hosted by Sun). I have to admit I was somewhat undecided before I turned up, but there are clearly a lot of passionate and imaginative people driving it, and within an hour I already had a few pages of implementation ideas and compelling applications that could be based on it.

VRM stands for Vendor Relationship Management (the counter-point to CRM – Customer Relationship Management). The short version is that by asserting a single point of control for your data as a consumer, you can add value and privacy for both yourself and companies you deal with.

The benefits to the user include:

  • The ability to ensure your data is accessed in the way you want. You can make sure that data is kept up to date for people or companies you want to have a relationship with, and that access (at least to fresh data) is blocked for those you don’t want to deal with.
  • The ability to bring companies to you, on your terms, rather than having to go to them. Ultimately I think widespread adoption could enhance competition and stimulate the economy as a whole.

The benefits to companies include:

  • Being able to keep data up-to-date. In some industries this is a serious problem.
  • Access to a greater depth of data than users would allow if they didn’t have granular control of it
  • The ability to cut out brokers and middle-men (excluding the VRM host, although the business model of individual VRM providers is up to them)

Here are a few use cases:


Bob loves music. He’s heard of a VRM host, and signs up. He inputs or uploads details of his music collection. He enables access to his private music collection data for a few music services and sends them a message asking for recommendations. The music services then respond, recommending new music to him and offering him their best price.


Bob is looking for some home insurance. He inputs data about all the belongings in his house that he wants covered, his postcode (zip code if you’re merkin), and then sends a message through the VRM host to insurance companies giving them one-off access and asking them for a quote. The insurance companies respond. He then selects the quote he wants, and provides them with his identity and whatever other personal data is required to establish a relationship. The chosen insurance company can then be given persistent access to Bob’s private house contents data so that he can quickly re-insure when he buys something to avoid being underinsured.

The insurance company wins because they can cut out the brokers. Bob wins because he gets cheaper insurance and can reduce the hassle of re-insuring. He doesn’t want to be underinsured if something goes wrong.

Invisible auctions

The exact same data could be applied to another use case. If Bob gives a shopfront like Ebay access to his private house contents data, they could anonymously list his posessions on their site under a “make me an offer” feature. If some collector out there really wants the chest of drawers Bob inherited then they can make him an offer without needing to know who Bob is, or what else is in his house.

Social Networks

You can see the pattern here. If Bob’s friend list is stored on the VRM host he can enable complete or partial access to any social network he wants to join, saving him from having to recreate those connections afresh.

Reverse Marketing

Bob is interested in music and wouldn’t mind being sent invites to gigs, but he doesn’t want to be inundated with rubbish. He tells his VRM host that he’s interested in receiving direct marketing on that subject, and will charge marketeers 50p per message he reads to encourage them to send him only relevant messages. In return he grants them access to his music data so they can figure out what to send him. Whenever he reads an email, they pay him 50p. They win because he buys gig tickets, and he wins because he gets only the marketing material he might be interested in.

Further reading

If you’ve got time for a little reading, I’d heartily recommend checking out Adriana Lukas’ VRM one-pager and Doc Searls’ Blog.


5 Responses to VRM London

  1. Adriana says:

    Bob, this is great stuff.

    Not sure about the last one as being VRM although it has some commonality. For now it’s Graham Saad’s project/idea that he is bringing into the VRM fold…

    Thank you for joining us and very glad to hear that it wasn’t an evening wasted. There will be more opportunities to dig deeper and I hope you’d be willing to contribute to the conversations. Much work to be done,

    Interesting point you raise about social networks. Yes, having your contacts data under your control would certainly enable you to go from one socnet to another. But ultimately, if people have their contacts in the Mine! where you can add applications allowing you to manage them and connect with others.. what value would a social network platform add to that?

    As I keep saying – in the long run there are only two platforms – the individual and the web. 🙂

  2. richmarr says:

    To me Graham’s email use case seems like it’s a specific business model within VRM. The only extra development needed being UI and geekery to handle incoming emails (although possibly email can be swapped for feeds).

    I’m starting to get the point that VRM could provide the ability to do life-streaming, “facewall”-type functionality, non-public blogging (only friends get access perhaps). Will VRM hosts be attractive enough at it to pull people away from others who already supply that? Ultimately if we see widespread adoption of VRM then it’s likely social networks will try and adopt it so that they can be the consumers’ portal to the world… so it might be a moot point anyway.

    Anyway, thanks for organising. Good job. It was a pleasure to meet you.


  3. Adriana says:

    Actually, life streaming is the last thing that VRM is about – Doc would come out in hives too, as I do, at a thought of life streaming! This is about people taking charge of their data and then deciding what to do with it. If they want to life-stream that’s their choice but that is really not the point. The point is to make possible that others may want to do very different stuff with their data, information, context, knowledge etc. And emails don’t really provide a good enough handle. I have spent last few years moving my stuff (and others’) away from email to feeds.

    The conversation to be continued…

  4. Graham Sadd says:

    The point that I tried to make is that there is NOT a ‘one size fits all’ solution. VRM is a concept and individuals can and should be able to choose the breadth and depth of their involvement (NOT Doc or Adriana!) be it ‘life streaming’ or control over their email regardless of others preference for feeds.
    BTW – It’s spelt Sadd 🙂

  5. […] Richard Marr has written a good synopsis of his undestanding with some very handy 'use cases" illustrating what VRM might be used for in the future  […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: