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.




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

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

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!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Pizza -- with a slice of Technology

Attie Vandermerwe, EVP - Customer Success Consulting Services

Our team just completed a really compelling customer success story about Domino’s Pizza – the world’s second biggest pizza chain and a pioneer in home delivery. A few years ago, in the face of aggressive competition, the company’s market share took a dip.

That’s when Dominos regrouped -- and reinvented its business model. It kicked off a massive strategic investment in technology to infuse each part of its operations with tech-enabled capabilities. The goal: to make Domino’s the “easiest company to order a pizza from.”

The investment paid off. Customers now do most of their pizza ordering online – and then track their orders from oven to doorstep. Point-of-sales analytics is helping Domino’s learn more about customer preferences. And a solid network backbone means that the website never goes down, especially on Super Bowl Sunday. Which is coming up soon!!!

Dominos realized that technology and data are just as critical -- and as core to the business -- as its store franchise operations and secret pizza recipes. So thorough has been Domino’s digital transformation that it has sometimes been called a “technology company that just happens to sell pizza.”

But justifying such a significant technology investment, and massively realigning a company’s business priorities in the process, is easier said than done. It’s an art as much as it’s a science. It requires companies to:

·        Identify the real value that the technology solutions will deliver
·        Quantify the impact of this business value on
o   The IT organization
o   The business
o   The end customers /consumers – the most important stakeholder of all
·        Communicate this technology impact, so the results speak for themselves

Furthermore, companies need to continue to find new ways to capture value from their initial investment.  For example, Domino’s is leveraging data to better segment its customer base and understand buying behavior -- not only to improve how it makes and delivers pizza, but how to design better pizza stores and make every customer engagement an interactive experience.

The question is: how are you telling your technology impact story? I’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Value Messaging at Scale: How to Make it a Sticky Habit

L. Venkatraman, VP - Value Engineering and CIO Services, Mainstay

In my previous blog I outlined five habits of highly effective IT organizations. (Thanks for your insightful comments and suggestions, btw. Very helpful!)

But how can organizations manage to make these five habits stick? In other words, how do they make business value messaging a permanent practice? Not just for the CIO, but for all the VPs, directors and project managers across your organization.

In most organizations today, business value messaging is left to the discretion of each IT leader. It’s seen as a “style” or even an “artistic” skill that can vary wildly from one leader to the next. Some are naturally gifted in translating IT language into business language. Others feel uncomfortable outside the confines of their technical domain.

How about at your own organization: Is business value messaging a unique art -- or is it a consistent, repeatable practice? I would argue that if your IT organization wants to become a true strategic partner, you’ll need to practice business value messaging at scale. That means creating a formal business value realization program with full business alignment, rigor, repeatability and standardization. Here are five steps to get there.

1. Pick a Leader
First you need to Identify a leader to run your business value realization program. Your CIO’s chief of staff might be a good candidate for this role. Next, staff the team with someone with good business acumen and another with great communications skills. They’ll work with your IT leaders to develop standard processes and outputs across the organization.

2. Identify Sources of Business Value
Identify key projects that you know will add value to the business. These could be projects that:
·        Improve business processes (to boost efficiencies and productivity, or control costs)
·        Create new capabilities for the business (to improve competitive advantage, generate revenue or improve profitability)
·        Strengthen the foundation (to enable future growth and profitability)

Seeing each project through the lens of business value communication compels you to create business-friendly narratives, hard numbers, and visualizations that can appeal to a broad business audience across multiple channels. Consider creating a single-page “project inventory” focused on business value realization.

3. Define Use Cases and KPIs
Business leaders want to see business outcomes. So, for each project you identify, build 3-4 use cases that are expected to deliver 80% of the total benefits. Be specific. For example, explain your new customer application in terms of how its predictive analytic capabilities will boost retention and subscription renewal rates. Explain how other KPIs are impacted, such as retention costs, complaints per customer, customer satisfaction, etc.
Make sure your case studies are clearly articulated. You may have detailed spreadsheets and PowerPoints, but do you have a concise 30-word and 100-word summary of why you’re doing the project, and what benefits are expected?

4. Create an Editorial Calendar
It’s best to assume your business stakeholders have short memories. One-off communications are quickly forgotten, so reinforce your business value messaging with frequent communications that are both memorable and easily consumed. Of course, leverage all the channels and formats at your disposal:
·        Channels: Email communications, QBR meetings, intranet, internal social media, in-person meetings, cafeteria displays, etc.
·        Formats: Slide decks, blogs, dashboards, web pages, IT annual/quarterly reports, infographics, video-graphics, etc.

To orchestrate the communications, I recommend creating a basic “editorial calendar” that lists all the content assets to be published, the format and channel to be used, and when they’ll be published. Using a simple spreadsheet for the calendar is fine for most programs. Just make sure all your project teams have reviewed and bought into it.

5. Create a Content Library
Once your business value communication program is up and running, you’ll quickly accumulate a ton of content, most of which can be easily reused and repurposed across other channels and formats. To make the most of your assets, organize a “central repository” in which your published content can easily searched and retrieved for new communications.

Hopefully these five steps will help make your business value communications more consistent, repeatable, and scalable. In other words, making it a “stickier” habit. At a minimum, you’ll avoid the scramble of putting together communications on an ad-hoc basis. For example, preparing an IT annual report – a task can seem truly mountainous in the face of your other responsibilities – suddenly becomes an orderly, hassle-free exercise. Best of all, your credibility will rise in the eyes of business leaders who will increasingly view IT as a strategic business enabler.