We’ve seen it time and time again. Sales execs e-mail their colleagues and report what their customers want. They pass on the concerns, interests and desperate requests – “if you had a securitization system that could do this, or a network optimization application that could give us this level of guarantee, or a CRM system that could provide information in this format, we’d buy in a heartbeat.” The messages are heard loud and clear, there is flurry of interest and activity at HQ, and then….nothing.
Companies want to be more responsive. They understand that they need to integrate their services and solutions so that the customers get what they really want – improved business performance. Unfortunately, too often there is a gap between good intentions and the ability to develop real solutions that require collaboration across a number of internal Business Units.
Why is this so difficult? What are the hurdles that companies must overcome?
Our experience has shown that companies trying to develop cross-business solutions will continue to struggle unless they:
Create a “solutions council’ that forces key representatives from the various product and services groups. The purpose of this council is to collectively discuss how the various constituents can respond to customer wants and needs. In many companies, this is formal council or board chaired by a senior executive that meets on a regular basis. In others, it is more of an ad hoc group that meets “as needed.”
Have the right people on the council. The solutions development process will be tremendously expedited if all of the important players participate in council meetings. At a minimum, this typically means the involvement of the BU leaders, SMEs, and marketing experts.
Establish incentives that promote solutions development. Too often it is not in the interest of BU staff to collaborate across inter-group boundaries instead of focusing solely on the services or products that they are incented to sell. While the increase in revenue and customer satisfaction that can be derived from solutions may have significant benefits to the company, this will never be realized unless it is the best financial interest of BU heads themselves to share resources during the solutions development process.
Designate a person within each BU to coordinate with the solutions council. Solutions that are developed in the field in one industry sector may show promise in terms of application into other sectors. However, unless representatives are designated to be responsible and accountable for determining the real applicability of the new offering to the other industry sectors, it is likely that the offering will remain a “one-off” and not become a viable, repeatable solution.
Have a customer that will is willing to be the “beta” application for the new solution. Solutions can’t be developed in isolation - that is, without direct customer involvement. Most solutions are created on the fly, so to speak, by addressing specific customer needs as they arise in the field. Sales and delivery cobble together resources to fit that one customer's situation. To make it a true solution that could be offered to other customers in other industy sectors, however, the IP created during the initial development phase somehow has to captured and communicated efficiently within the organization.
Nearly everyone is on board with the idea that solutions can be an important value-add to a company’s portfolio. Unless they address and resolve the key organizational factors described above, solutions will remain an elusive dream instead of an operational reality.