We’d all prefer to maintain world record pace throughout if we could, but for most of us that is not possible, and in my view finishing fast is definitely preferable to starting fast.
After the event you will be remembered mostly for how you finished rather than how you started.
Focussing on finishing well cultivates a results based culture where outcomes matter the most. A focus on starting well will push strategy to the front of the priority list. When I have to choose I’ll select optimal results with reasonable strategy over perfect strategy and average outcomes every time.
A challenge for many IT organisations comes from a definition of success which allows a project team to claim they finished well long before results are in. An IT operating model which allows projects to claim success because of on-time and on-budget delivery is missing the critical realisation phase where benefits are measured. Many project teams have moved on or disbanded before the results are known which effectively leaves players congratulating each other at the three-quarter mark.
Imagine an athletic event which awarded prizes based on performance at the three-quarter mark regardless of how things looked at the end? Crazy but exactly what many large organisations do with their IT projects.
I like to run my projects starting at full pace to establish momentum and a culture which can’t tolerate too many obstacles to moving quickly. This is followed by a sustainable rhythm which allows all the players to last the distance. Then finally moving back to peak performance after release where everyone is focussed on reacting quickly to customer experience and feedback.
The cooling off lap and prize giving should only occur after measurable results are collected which match the project objectives.
Pace-Layered Application Strategy™ is a Gartner Concept http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/pace-layered-application-strategy/ promoting the division of application development across systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovation. The key point is these three layers require different approaches to achieve success.
I’ve spent the last 3 weeks bouncing between a large SAP project (system of record) and a smaller Salesforce.com project (system of innovation). The first has a large project team, an expected duration of around 18 months and a governance model appropriate for a large CAPEX budget. The second has a very small agile team tasked with delivering a solution in 4 weeks within a limited OPEX budget.
The interesting observation I’ve made after the last three weeks is that job titles matter a whole lot less when building a system of innovation. The team is outcome focused not deliverables focused. Hand-offs occur between people based on skill rather than job title. In contrast the project delivering the system of record is following an industrialised process with rigid boundaries defined by titles held by each team and team member.
One model encourages identifying blockages and figuring out who can clear them “today”. The other model is based around responsibility for component deliverables rather than the overall result. This leads to accountability not being shared across the large team with conversations structured like “that’s the responsibility of xxxxx” rather than “what do we need to do to get this delivered”.
The other observation I’d make is that an organisation embarking on a pace layered approach to application development needs to think carefully about which engagement partners to use. The “right” partner will differ across the three layers. Systems of innovation need more commandos and fewer generals as one example. Systems of innovation need small numbers of people with multi-disciplinary skill rather than large numbers of people with well-defined but narrow capability. This can be a problem for large organisations operating a “preferred supplier” model which gravitates towards engaging a small number of large firms, because in some cases these firms and the teams they deploy are not experienced in agile development where job titles become close to irrelevant. Engagement partners need to be selected based not just on their experience in a particular technology but also their proven capability to operate in the pace layered tier being used for the project.
An Irish musician said this to me once. It was in the context of Irish folk music performance, but it applies equally to business.
So why is it that business so often fails to foster active engagement with their customers? I typically get asked to work with clients who want to deploy a CRM system to manage customer relationships. But so often all this means is they want to a tool to throw to the sales and marketing people to help them keep track of who is talking to who. Problematical already given most direct and indirect sales teams who are incentivised through commission don't want to share any information.
Business processes are not purely internal within commercial organisations; they are tightly coupled to the ebb and flow of customer interactions. Deploying CRM without any attempt to actively engage with customers usually fails to deliver truly valuable business objectives. The goal should be to deliver a tool to foster a healthy active life cycle that includes the customer as the most important element. Social CRM helps, but that can just be a tool for a traditional sales team to listen and not to engage.
The musician equivalent of businesses that face inwards and neither listens or engages with their customers is like a pianist who never looks up and never listens. And whilst listening might help you hear the cheers or the boos, it won't by itself make start a conversation or establish a community. Before the cheers or boos become audible there is so much to learn through engagement. Is your audience actively listening and watching? Have they turned their backs on you and are pretending you are not there? Arms cross looking dissatisfied? Or worse, walking out?
That is why "Salesforce" is such a poor brand for the Salesforce.com platform. It positions the platform as a tool to help the sales team. Which I guess is where it all started, but the world has moved on. Certainly customers have. I prefer to rebrand any CRM installation I work on as a platform for engagement. Sure there are components to increase demand and better process qualified leads. Sure there are components to more efficiently process customer service requests. But you can do all that with your back to your audience and never actively engage eyeball to eyeball.
Allowing customers to directly engage has to more than an initiative to improve efficiency. I see organisations moving in their understanding of engagement from sales and service support, to the point of "allowing" customers to directly enter data. The platform is seen as a tool to benefit "us", the busy performers facing the inside. However the next step is the key one, moving to the point of recognising the need to engage activity in conversation and community. That is where Salesforce functionality like Ideas and Answers becomes powerful, allowing customers to engage with each other and with the business. Through online portals that allow users to collaborate together and with the business, CRM moves from relationship management to a tool to foster community.
The good news for organisations that just give CRM to the sales and marketing team for internal use, without listening and without engaging, is the best is yet to come. The real reward will come when like a musician the organisation faces the audience and engages, and then tailors their offering to what you see and hear!
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Research and Development in the State of Victoria (Australia, see http://www.diird.vic.gov.au) is doing just this. They are deploying the Salesforce.com platform, but the Salesforce brand was fortunately abandoned early. They refer to the system as GEMS, the Global Engagement Management System, and it is designed to deliver better engagement not just better internal efficiency. FuseIT Australia (http://australia.fuseit.com) is pleased to be helping this forward looking government agency move into the world of cloud computing and stakeholder engagement.
Does your organisation need help to face the audience and engage?
Car advertisements are often the slickest most expensive that get screened on TV. This one really caught my attention with at least this car vendor understanding what's important in their market.
All software products have fluctuating popularity as user expectations and features change. So how do you work out which is the best if you want to back a product that has good momentum?
Evaluating the job market to see which product is most popular within a category is one interesting approach. Check out http://jobgraphs.com/crm-softwares-demand-comparison/ with CRM products in mind.
Monitoring the trend in the job market is a good way to spot the ebb and flow of popularity. Here we can see demand for Salesforce.com professionals increasing significantly between March and April.
For those interested in CRM, watch out for the new kid on the block, Nimble will soon be lauched with a fresh take on Social CRM.