How does IT keep focus on the customer?
How does IT keep focus on the customer?
Key Take Aways
- The end customer gives our company the right to exist. Developing and subsequently serving this customer demand is the goal of our organization.
- Our continuous improvement of the flow of value must ultimately have a positive effect at the end of it, where the value is perceived.
- Teams that want to put their customers at the center of the decisions they make, benefit from having factual information about customer behavior.
IT is the business. Let’s start with that. Just as Finance, Marketing & Sales, Research & Product Development, Human Resource Management or Logistics. All these organizational capabilities, and more, are generally useful and necessary to create value for our customers. That is all business. The extent to which these business functions are integrated will vary from industry to industry.
The rise of Information Technology
By now we’re all aware of the fact that technology currently offers the greatest opportunities for organizations and possibly poses the greatest threat (for example, as a result of bad investment choices). After all, it is information that originates throughout the entire value chain, which is exchanged, combined and enriched.
Information forms the foundation for many small and large decisions and the underlying technology is intimately intertwined with all business processes. Information Technology is therefore on the radar of anyone who is in any way substantially involved in any business process. Data is the new gold. Data is everywhere. Often the information flows are not artificially bounded by the frameworks of the organization, but belong to the lifeblood of an entire ecosystem that also includes suppliers, the government and other business partners.
Who is our Customer?
Therefore, the first question we want to answer for our business as a whole is: who is our customer? After all, that customer is the one who determines what is valuable. Asking the question is easier than answering it. Viewed in this way, the client of our organization is someone who pays for our products and services, who uses the product or service or even integrates it into his own portfolio of products. They derive value from it; it solves their problem, it performs a task. The end customer gives our company the right to exist. Developing and subsequently serving this customer demand is the goal of our organization. How we’re going to do that is what we call strategy.
Are some more equal than others?
It is quite possible that a team provides a service to a customer further down the value stream and does not maintain a direct relationship with the end customer. A direct buyer does not always make a customer. After all, the final value of the service is only determined when the initial service reaches the actual end customer. For example, an IT team that makes a shared digital workstation available to their colleagues in the organization ensures that they in turn can serve the end customer in a smarter, easier and more creative way based on the specific expertise they add to the value stream. This way, forces are combined to bring the full service to the end customer on behalf of the organization. These are co-workers, in need of digital workstations. They’re on your team. They are not your customer.
The occupation of an IT team could be to ensure that its company can have a reliable, easily scalable and secure technological platform. If the company is a hospital, that platform helps to save the lives of patients. If the company is a school, this platform offers the springboard for the talent of the future. We need to establish this narrative as it provides a better view of the purpose of the company and the objective to be derived for the team. We all want to connect to something that is bigger, something that contributes positively to the world and makes a difference.
Analyze to better understand
The analysis of a value stream requires the end-to-end perspective. Our continuous improvement of the flow of value must ultimately have a positive effect at the end of it, where the value is perceived. The IT products and services help the organization to better identify and support end customers. The team responsible for the production of IT products and services would do well to make IT Services available in the organization in such a way that it is clear how you can get them, what they cost (also in terms of the effort you have to make to get hold of it and make use of it), what value you get in return and who you’re going to call in need of help.
Dive deep into the Process
Without a clear understanding, both for the team and for the buyer, there is only the implicit expectation that the team can always deliver everything at any time to anyone. That seems like an attractive value proposition, but it is a treacherous form of variation and a false promise, not realistic to achieve. Without this understanding, there is no relative “standard” against which the team can measure and improve. “If you are unable to describe what you are doing as a process, you simply do not know what you are doing,” Dr. William Edwards Deming said.
Know thy Customer
There are a number of tools that can help you build a deeper understanding of who your customers are, what they need, and how the interaction proceeds in all places where a customer may come into contact with the services of your organization. Consider the use of Personas and the Customer Journey Map.
Teams that increasingly want to work in a more customer-oriented way, teams that want to put their customers at the center of the decisions they make, benefit from having factual information about customer behavior. They feel the need to share their customer insights with other stakeholders. Direct observations of customer behavior, being a customer yourself, talking to customers, and having customers test your product are indispensable elements for understanding The Voice of the Customer properly.
The Obeya for Customer Orientation
One fact is always clear. Our customers ultimately determine what is valuable and give our organization the right to exist. All the work that we do, all the collaborative relationships that we maintain, and all the improvements in the work process, maintain the ultimate goal of providing these customer needs. For that reason, it is wise to portray the interest of that customer on the wall, as the starting point in the Obeya.
Remember the promise you made
This can be done in a powerful way by making a selection of a few Personas, a visualization of the Customer Journey Map showing the most prominent usecases, and naming the company’s Mission Statement. For example, Walmart says: “We save people money so they can live better.” Tripadvisor says: “We help people around the world plan and have the perfect trip.” Nike says: “We bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Adobe says: “We move the web forward and give web designers and developers the best tools and services in the world.” What does your company promise?
Go beyond the obvious
Infographics are a visually appealing way to display both the Personas, the Customer Journey Map and the Mission Statement. Visiting Huawei in Shenzhen in 2017, I noticed a huge banner above the exit in one of the assembly halls for network equipment: “Work Lean. Happy Life.” After all, the Obeya is a place where many people come together every day, so the temptation is there, probably with the best intentions, to hang huge banners with motivating, encouraging quotes. Be my guest, I’d say but please do it together, as a team, and make it meaningful, knowing that a slogan loses its power over time. At a completely different organization, I saw signs on the wall saying: “This is where we unify the team. To accomplish great things together. For the Planet, for our lives and those of our customers. We work to be better every day.” More to my liking, to be honest.
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Apparens believes in the Obeya. Every team deserves one. We wish to bring the Obeya to every company out there. Work connected, on the wall. Our solid Obeya Navigation System puts your customer at the center of attention, aligns strategic Objectives and Key Results, and sets teams up for continuous improved performance. You’re back in control. Your team is engaged. Your customers happy. Success is anchored. We know you want this, and encourage you to go for it on your own. That’s why we share much of our insights and research with you. If you need any help with creative thinking and problem solving, just get in touch. We find it both challenging and highly rewarding to make that difference for your team.