Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Beyond ROI (Getting the Most from an ROI Study)

It has become fairly typical for decision-makers to require IT to do an ROI study to back up budget requests for technology acquisitions. The studies are used to help “sell” the project to decision-makers based on value. But often these studies are not used to their fullest extent to advance the company’s perspective of IT’s role in the organization.

Too often, once an ROI study is finished and the funding acquired, they are filed and forgotten. Sometimes this is done out of fear the studies won’t live up to reality. At other times the studies may be viewed as having done their work in getting funding approved and are no longer useful. This is unfortunate because there is still a lot of value left in these studies that can be used to enhance IT’s role in the organization.

After a project is completed, it’s rare for an organization to measure the success of those projects using the original ROI study as a template. Every ROI study factors in multiple cost structures, and each one plays out differently in the new environment. Some are predictably fixed; others can vary widely depending on circumstances.

For example, when a technology is being completely replaced, maintenance for the old technology can be accurately predicted to go away once the new technology is deployed. New maintenance costs, on the other hand, may or may not actually match what had been estimated. Implementation labor estimates can also vary widely. The more complex the technology, the more this cost element can differ from estimates.

Knowing how each cost element varied from original estimates can be extremely valuable for IT when doing future studies. If the project does not achieve the value initially measure, IT can learn from it and adjust subsequent ROI studies to measure the scenario more accurately

However, when the ROI study proves out by matching the actual facts, IT’s reputation is enhanced and these facts can be advertised to the user community at large. Similarly, if valuable use cases were developed, these can also be used to advertise IT’s success. The communication of success can build a loyal user community for future projects.

IT depends on the user community to help make a new technology a success. If the user community is a friend of IT, they will go out of their way to ensure a project succeeds. This becomes a virtuous cycle and drives tremendous value for the business.

Additional value can be extracted from these previous studies when the next request for project funding comes in. The new request can be backed up by historical evidence of success, helping persuade decision-makers to approve the new funding.

IT doesn’t have a lot of spare time. Many things that would be nice to do are often sacrificed because activities that need to be done take precedence. Measuring the success of a completed project is an activity that too often falls into the “nice to do” category, but given the value it can bring to the organization, it should really be placed in the “need to do” category. By making it a requirement to evaluate success after each project, you can make sure that every ROI study is leveraged for maximum IT value.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

How Organizational Dynamics Can Impact ROI Results

The scrutiny that decision-makers apply to ROI results typically are confined to the numbers. This is especially true if unquantified business value is not included with the ROI study. What is hidden and seldom considered is the organizational dynamics that exist behind those numbers. Accounting for these dynamics can help in the evaluation of the ROI results. They may hint at an organizational bias either for or against the new technology being proposed.

CIOs should take into consideration several organizational dynamics when evaluating ROI results. At the end of the day a change in technology can have a big impact on the organization – both positively and negatively – so it’s important to get it right. Let’s take a look at some scenarios where organizational bias might negatively influence an ROI study. (Note that each point can be flipped to show the opposite organizational dynamic and lead to overly optimistic results.)

For instance, when the current technology experts are nearing retirement, an unfavorable assessment may actually indicate that these individuals would rather stay with the technology they’re comfortable with. Change would take older experts out of their comfort zone and create more work for them. They could suddenly become novices when new technologies are introduced. On the other hand, new technologies tend to favor younger professionals, who are eager to enhance their skills and career prospects. Younger technologists can be catapulted to a new position of importance. However, they tend not to be high in the pecking order, so their opinions may have less influence.

Managing the support model for older technologies can be easy task for those who have an intimate knowledge of the older technology, especially if it’s fairly stable. Though life may be busy, it can have little stress since resolving issues has become second nature to the support team. Work is predictable and it’s easy enough to show that no one is standing around with nothing to do. By contrast, new technology can require less effort to operate, so many employees may want to avoid a scenario where more is expected from them – or worse, where they may no longer be needed.

When a technology has been used by an organization for an extended period of time, its technology experts can develop very close relationships with their vendors. This can be good when the relationships turn into partnerships that help the organization. But when the relationships become too cozy, vendors may begin to exert undue influence. For example, they may convince organizations to stay with the vendor’s solution even if it’s outdated or lacks advanced capabilities that could help the company achieve its business objectives.


Not all IT organizations fit neatly into the scenarios described above, but they can give CIOs insight into why some employees may resist moving from an existing technology. Of course, there are legitimate reasons for staying with an older technology, and all of them should be fairly evaluated. But CIOs and other decision-makers should also consider the backdrop of organizational dynamics that could unfairly influence the position to stick with the old technology.

Monday, July 16, 2018

EPMO: Your Job? No Title? No Worries.


Do you lead your organization’s EPMO (Enterprise Project Management Office)? Are you familiar with the role? Regardless, within the PMO you may be already performing all the duties of an EPMO and providing the same level of support. But the real question is: Does your organization’s executive team realize it?

Let’s briefly set aside the issue of “title” for the sake of this discussion and agree with Ashley Stahl, Forbes contributing author1, that it can be challenging to communicate one’s true level of professional responsibility with words on a business card or when introducing ourselves by our role.

As you may know, a PMO “sets, maintains and ensures standards for project management across an organization.”2 It is typically housed within IT and reports to the CTO/CIO. The office is the purveyor of best practices, communicates the status of key projects, and maintains project direction with an overarching goal of delivering value to the organization.  

On the other hand, the goal of an EPMO, according to the Project Management Institute (PMI)3, is to align IT projects with business strategy and collaborate with an organization’s executives through all phases of strategic planning to increase a project’s chances of success. An EPMO leader typically reports to a CFO/CEO, is housed outside of a business unit, and affects a portfolio of projects, enterprise-wide.

In today’s competitive environment with the constant push to decrease costs, increase productivity, improve customer satisfaction, and enhance user experience while continuously finding new ways to support the business, it’s just a matter of time before the PMO naturally morphs into an EPMO. Many times, there is no formal discussion or change in process or shift in job description. Successful IT leaders in the PMO are organically becoming more focused on strategy and starting to actually drive organizational success. 

Has it already started happening to you or within your organization?

There has never been a more important time to quantify and communicate the business value of your efforts. You know what you are delivering, but have you found ways to simply and effectively communicate that value to the executive team? 

Stay tuned for future blogs. We will explore roles and responsibilities of those in an EPMO role, the potential impact on an organization, and the ways you can secure your position, with or without a fancy title, as a strategic partner.



1https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2017/09/07/how-important-is-your-job-title/#eca1876e3d8f

2https://www.cio.com/article/3277972/project-management/epmo-enterprise-project-management-office-explained.html

3https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2013.pdf

Monday, July 2, 2018

How Product Reviews Can Sharpen Your Customer Success Assets


By Attie Vandermerwe, Vice President, Consulting Services
What do your customers really think about your products and services? One of the best ways to find out is by reading product reviews on sites like Gartner Peer Insights, G2 Crowd, and TrustRadius -- to name just a few of the most popular sources of high-tech industry user reviews. Think of these sites as “Yelp for IT.” Here you’ll find candid opinions – good, bad and indifferent – written by actual users of your software and hardware. And you can find out what they think about your competitors too.
Product-review sites contain rich stores of product-usage data and insights that you can utilize in multiple ways. For example, your development teams can use the feedback to improve the product and directly address issues discussed by users in these online forums.
But don’t forget that your marketing teams can also leverage these sites to create more focused and effective customer messaging and communications. Product review sites can serve as “listening posts” to help you hone in on what really matters to your customers, which is not necessarily your typical solution brief hype.
Mainstay has been helping tech companies compile and analyze user reviews – and then leverage the findings to create more powerful sales and marketing assets (customer stories, blogs, videos, infographics) that respond effectively to what your customers say they like and dislike about your products – and those of your rivals.
Here’s what a typical engagement looks like:
        Phase 1 – Strategic review of relevant product-review sites
        Phase 2 – Create a Product Review Scorecard
        Phase 3 – Use the scorecard findings to review existing customer-facing assets and identify gaps and misalignments
        Phase 4 – Update existing and create new assets based on the review
After realigning and/or refreshing your customer assets, Mainstay can provide regular updates of peer-review sites and monitor changes to user sentiment. We’ll issue alerts when we see significant new feedback related to you or your competitor’s offerings. We’ll also provide a demographic summary of the product reviewers, including the size and type of company where the user is employed, and his or her job category.
To date, our product-review assessments have revealed a spectrum of insights from actual users. These include critiques – and praises -- of technical features, costs, service performance, implementation and integration difficulties, training, product roadmaps, and more.
Remember these peer-reviewers are often key influencers at the organizations that buy your products and services. It only makes sense to put your hand on the pulse of these front-line opinion makers with the aim of creating extremely relevant marketing messages and assets that address their real-life experiences and needs head-on.
To learn more about our Product Review Assessment Services, reach out to me at Attie@Mainstaycompany.com.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From Shadow IT to Shallow IT: How CIOs Can Leverage Cloud Service Partners to Drive Business Transformation

In our recent book, Competing for Customers, we describe the new hyper-competitive pressures that technology companies face as they move to cloud-based, subscription services. Our thesis is that these companies must adopt new business practices that optimize their ability to listen to customers needs, engage customers to define and quantify the value proposition, and ensure business value is attained through adoption services. But what about the customers of these companies? How can they thrive in the age of the cloud? What should they expect from their technology providers and what new pressures will CIOs encounter in this market transition?

With the advent of the cloud, CIOs are experiencing a revolutionary change in their roles and responsibilities. Subscription-based solutions can now be “turned on” vs. “implemented,” greatly reducing the IT requirements for deploying and maintaining these solutions. With cloud services, limited or no systems integration is required, minimal support services are needed, and the data center isn’t impacted. All of this is changing the fundamental nature of IT organizations, as “Shadow IT” gives way to what we call “Shallow IT”.

What does “Shallow IT” mean for CIOs and IT organizations? Is the gig up? Not at all. Rather, we believe this next-gen IT organization will mean a renaissance for IT teams. Thinks about it: For decades, IT has been the black sheep of most businesses. Basically, they could do no right. If they delivered a new IT solution on-time and on-budget, they were merely doing their job. But if there were any bumps along the way -- even if not of their making -- the daggers would come out. That’s why the CIO is often the most endangered species in the C-Suite.

But with the shift to cloud services, IT’s stock is swiftly rising. No longer is IT a bottleneck to deploying critical new capabilities: There’s no more waiting to stand up a new data center; large upfront CAPEX investments are no longer a barrier to new IT solutions; and systems maintenance or performance issues are no longer directed at IT. The new IT organization is now free to take on truly valuable tasks, such as identifying and adopting innovative technology solutions that could redefine the competitive nature of the business.

For example, what if IT could help a retailer identify technology-enabled solutions to drive performance for its store network by researching the marketplace, providing a data-driven selection process, and managing a pilot-to-purchase process to ensure success? IT has now gone from a “keeps-the-lights-on” organization to a “consultative” business partner focused on driving business value.

So many IT organizations will look at their current resources and ask whether they are equipped to take on the new roles and responsibilities of the next-generation IT organization. In Competing for Customers, we discuss ways to facilitate this transition without a total retool of the IT team. Our research showed that the balance of power between the technology buyer and the technology provider is going through a massive shift in favor of the buyer. CIOs can put this new-found leverage to good use, starting by imposing strict standards and responsibilities on your cloud technology providers.

Our recommendation for CIOs is to rethink the traditional services that technology companies provide to your company. In the age of the cloud, these providers should be providing an end-to-end customer lifecycle service model that includes:
  • Business case services to clearly define your ROI of moving to their solution
  • Strategic business use cases that define the current and future business-process impacts from their solution
  • Business KPIs including baseline metrics and post-release targets
  • Adoption services that provide the change management, education, and training required to move your business users onto the new solution
  • Business value realization services to track the progress of the business case and report on the value created on a periodic basis

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In conclusion, CIOs need to take advantage of the power shift of moving to cloud solutions, make the necessary organizational changes to adapt to this new business model, and ultimately position IT as a strategic resource to the business.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Planting the Seeds of Growth: Takeaways from the Summit on Customer Engagement


Spring is in the Air
With springtime in full bloom, it's exciting to see signs of growth all around us. I'm not talking about just the flowers and trees, but also the business growth we're witnessing in companies that adopt smart customer advocacy practices! Last month I had the good fortune to explore a wide range of successful strategies with some of the world's leading customer advocacy experts at the Summit on Customer Engagement in Redwood City, Calif. 


Wow Factor
At the summit, I was thrilled to share the stage with Jeanne Talbot, customer marketing manager at CloudBees, a fast-growing DevOps software company based in San Jose. Jeanne and I talked about how customer advocacy organizations could benefit by borrowing techniques from "investor roadshows" to generate excitement around the value of customer success. We call it "Wow-ing" your stakeholders -- both internal and external -- and it really works. (See our presentation, and others, here.)


Creating Unique Experiences
While metrics and KPIs are great ways to communicate value, there's nothing like creating a truly awesome customer experience to solidify your relationship and drive retention and revenue. For example, after learning that one customer was having trouble recruiting IT talent, Jeanne focused on using case studies to reposition the company as a high-tech thought leader. As a result, the company's recruitment challenges eased -- and that sowed the seeds for a multi-million-dollar service upsell. 

And when a senior executive at a leading gaming company wanted to get more visibility, CloudBees' advocacy program stepped in and helped secure his appearance at key industry events. He's now become a key advocate for CloudBees, helping to fertilize future sales.

Key Takeaways from the Summit
·       Lead with customer value first
·       Engage stakeholders early and often
·       Personalize your approach with every client
·       Give credit where it's due (the rest will come)


Tasting the Harvest
If you missed this year's summit, you missed the chance to sample a delightful selection of wines and other potables at a tasting sponsored by Mainstay and Point of Reference. In between the clinking of glasses, you could hear advocacy experts debate the challenges and rewards of a successful customer advocacy program.

A common theme of our chats was the sense that we need to build a strong professional community centered around customer engagement and advocacy -- especially as more and more businesses adopt customer success strategies to sustain growth in today's subscription economy.

Mainstay is looking forward to being part of the conversation as the practice of customer advocacy continues to gain momentum. 

As always, please reach out with any questions.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Customer Advocates: ‘Point Guards’ of the Modern Enterprise


Stephen Curry is arguably basketball’s best point guard. He dribbles the ball with ease through the toughest defenses and passes through the tightest of openings. More importantly, Curry is the ultimate playmaker, coordinating teammates and orchestrating complex plays with masterful precision.
When you think about it, customer advocates are a lot like point guards. They’re experts at orchestrating complex customer interactions across multiple teams. When they’re on their game, customer advocates can help your company win on the highly competitive corporate playing field.
I’ll be exploring the similarity between the two professions in depth at the Summit on Customer Experience on March 5-7 in Redwood Shores, Calif. I’m excited to be co-presenting with Jeanne Talbot, a 15-year veteran of customer advocacy for companies such as Lexmark and CloudBees.
Jeanne and I will talk about how successful customer advocacy programs require tight coordination of customer activities across a broad set of internal teams, including sales, marketing, customer success, and the executive suite. Program leaders need to master fundamentals such as building strong relationships with customer sponsors to ensure participation, and tracking the business impact of advocacy activities to secure resources and grow budgets.
Jeanne will detail effective customer advocacy strategies she’s used to win over her company’s top executives and customers alike. Then we’ll open the floor and listen to your experiences in customer advocacy and identify unique opportunities to gain the confidence of marketing, sales and product executives at your company.
Ready to become the next Stephen Curry for your customer advocacy program?  Stop by our session and learn how to develop your point guard skills and win the MVP award for your business!