If I Were The Customer

2012-10-03 16.07.04I’m starting to get my thoughts together in preparation for a session on business development strategy.  This is an area that’s fairly new to me, so I’m in research and idea generation mode.  Today I’ve been trying to put myself in the mind of a customer, playing around with what I would want from a strategic service provider and this post is the result of that. 

Readers should bear in mind that in the outsourcing business customers are buying services not products and that often their needs are heavily shaped by commercial and procurement strategies, I’m setting those aside for now.  Also my wish list is very unlikely to match any real customers needs, it’s just a thought experiment.

First off I need to define the type of customer that I’m likely to be:

  1. Large, at least 10,000 users
  2. Complex, probably international with multiple business units with many legacy Windows applications and collaboration services requiring rationalisation
  3. Security conscious, but erring on the side of usability, as I believe users work around systems that stand in their way and I don’t want that
  4. Balanced, interested in reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) and increasing total value of ownership (TVO) , not just on going for the lowest direct cost of ownership (DCO)
  5. Cautiously ambitious, conscious of the need to manage risk, but also excited about the potential of cloud services, delivered flexibly to any device with a modern operating and support model

If I were buying services today this is my first stab at defining what I’d be looking for:

Ability to execute

My top priority would be a service provider with a demonstrable ability to execute successful transformations and large scale modern service operations.  Importantly though this evidence might be emerging rather than solid.   What I mean by this is that evidence of historical ability to execute traditional services might not be that relevant to services designed for a cloud based, mobile future.  Too much expertise in the past might mean a lot of inertia, out-dated processes, tools and fixed costs. 

I would be looking for solid evidence in tangential/leading edge service areas that were being applied to my area of service interest.  I would be looking for leading edge tools, solid partnerships with cloud technology providers, strong cyber security experience.  I’d want to see a service/support model that was as modern as the technology. 

Since I’m expecting this ability to execute evidence to be emerging I would expect to see good evidence that the service provider was working openly with early adopter customers, was being honest about capabilities, was sharing risk and had strong C level backup from within the company and its partners.

Finally I’d be looking for particular focus on ability to execute rapid, low risk transformations that reflected the relative immaturity of the enterprise cloud, mobile, self service world.  The evidence I’d be looking for would demonstrate that they could deliver low DCO without risking my SLAs, TCO or TVO.  At the same time I’d not want to be committed to some expensive, long running consultancy engagement where I would be funding high priced consultants who were learning on my dollar.

Business focus

I’d want a partner who thinks in business terms, rather than technology terms.  Ultimately I need to deliver business value and I need a partner to help me do that, the products and technologies are just a means to that end.  I don’t want a partner who just delivers new versions of products off the VMware, Cisco, Microsoft … conveyer belt.  I don’t want to just let my tens of thousands of users loose with technology, I want to enable them deliver real business value. 

I don’t want all this business value delivery thinking to be done specifically for me by consultants who bill direct, I want low TCO and high TVO to be embedded in the DNA of the service providers operating model.  I want to see evidence that everyone thinks about delivering value to me from the consultants to the service desk agents and that approach is common across all customers.

Completeness of vision

I’m not looking for product and technology roadmaps, or lists of product features, I can get those directly from the underlying technology providers.  What I’m looking for is a completeness of vision that clearly links my evolving business needs to the services that meet those needs. Then I’m looking for evidence that the right mix of products and technologies have been selected to provide those services. 

I need a joined up set of services aligned to business need and integrated to deliver simple, seamless user experiences that are flexible enough to adapt to the different usage patterns in my business.  I need evidence of how these services can solve business challenges, work for different types of employee, different types and sizes of location.  I need to see how these services will evolve to keep pace with but not outstrip my needs.  I want to see how my providers service and business vision can challenge me to move my business forward.

I’m also keen to make sure that the services are delivered in a flexible, agile and cost effective way and that they can be tuned to the needs of high value, highly demanding people and places as well as being cost effectively delivered cost effectively to large scale less demanding user populations.

Standards enhanced by value

It’s a given today that I want services that are largely standard across the service providers customer base, although these need to be customised to fit my scale, complexity and security needs.  However while I’m buying into the benefits of standardisation to get low cost, evergreen services, I still want a lot of focus on my business.  That focus isn’t on bespoking the products and technologies anymore, it’s on lowering my costs and maximising my value, it’s on reducing my risks and helping me plan for the future, it’s on maximising user adoption of the services and encouraging the use of the standard services in creative ways. It’s on building new capabilities on top of standard services platforms in a safe way and integrating services from multiple providers. It’s on flexible and agile change to match the changing shape and needs of my business.

Pragmatic and Authentic Partnership

I want my service provider to be pragmatic about the maturity of their offerings and the industry in general, not just chasing after every buzz word and automatically adopting every technology release from their partners.   I want to be able to have an open and honest dialogue about risk and reward, about business benefits and hype.  I want an authentic relationship where both parties are honest about what they want from the relationship and put the measures in place to encourage that behaviour from both sides.

A Journey

I want to go on a journey, building up the sophistication and scope of my solution, relationship and partnership over time.  I want change at a pace that my business can absorb, but I also want to be challenged to move at the pace that the market demands.

Ideally I’d like to go on that journey with other like minded customers.

Creativity

I want a creative relationship, where both sides are prepared to experiment and risk failure to improve

The photo is of the Hull Marina which I was walking around today as I pondered this post

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

2 Responses

  1. Stu Downes says:

    I’d add a twist to differentiate between new and existing customers. Existing customers are, as you say with journey, needing to understand their roadmap alongside service excellence. Potential customers are, in my view, needing to speak to existing customers about today – not a case study which st best is 3 months old by by the time it is approved.

  2. I completely agree Stu, since this is me we are talking about I wouldn’t set much store by case studies anyway

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