By: Peter Getchell, Navint Director, Subscription Revenue 

Companies often start a lot more races than they finish.

Initiatives begin at a hare’s pace in a motivated department like finance, but often hit speed bumps when engaging other departments like Sales and IT. Independent initiatives, conflicting priorities, and siloed approaches can create massive detours. When you also add the pressure of “transforming” your business to embrace the digital and dynamic nature of today’s customer, it’s no surprise to find employees and leaders alike going in circles.

So how do you finish the races you start? You develop a galvanizing definition of done. Getting to this vision is not easy, nor does it happen in a single conversation. In the Continuous Customer™ economy, the importance of done is even more prominent yet more elusive than when we were optimizing for the item-based economy. The customer is ‘always-on’, and we’re striving for a never-ending relationship. However, defining done in terms of how we operate and serve the customer without friction can be achievable—Uber, Amazon, and many others have done so.

Here’s how Navint has helped clients define the finish line.

Start with the Customer

Today’s done means shifting from an internal view of our operations to the external perspective of our customer’s experience. It means enabling Continuous Customers™ by removing friction in every interaction and across the entire experience with our company, from initial engagement to getting paid. We need to start with the end in mind from the customer’s viewpoint.

The most straightforward example of this is what we call the Uber ‘close the door’ concept. As a customer, I care about accessing a vehicle and informing the driver of where to go. Those are the only two actions I’m motivated to perform. I’m not motivated to exchange money or my credit card. So, Uber engineered their service to process payment once I close the door; it’s both frictionless and elegant. The payment is as much a part of the customer story as accessing a vehicle. In this example, done isn’t fully defined until billing, invoicing, cash application, and accounting has happened once the customer closes the car door.

The customer story is a single, unifying thread that crosses every department and function. It’s the ribbon at the finish line that everyone can focus on as they run the race.

Include Every Department, Every Function

Successfully cultivating Continuous Customers™ changes the business dynamic, making back-office operations a legacy paradigm. Every business function is customer facing and any internal operational pain is mirrored in the customer experience. From pricing and packaging to finance, from sales to product, the customer is intertwined. Therefore, everyone must be at the table when defining done.

Legacy businesses aren’t the only ones that need to rethink their business under the Continuous Customer™ lens. For example, we have a client that is a digital native and has a very innovative culture. They are hyper-focused on their customers’ success, developing new products and services with agility and creativity. Their challenge is to scale their operations to match their market growth and product innovation. Done is no longer defined as optimization of a customer’s use of a product; done is defined as optimization of a portfolio of products to a portfolio of customers.

We work with customers to define what success looks like for each business function. As a part of defining one business function’s success, we encounter strong dependencies on other business functions or external inputs. In the ‘close the door’ example above, the business function of payments relies upon a trigger from the driver and preexisting payment method details with authorization from the customer. Relying upon back office operations to figure it out separate from product development most always results in friction that will be felt by the customer.

Whether it be at registration, water stations, cheering sections, or the racers themselves, everybody has a role to play in the race to done.

Map the Continuous Customer™ Vision

Defining a common vision of success is a powerful start that can spur multiple transformation initiatives because it’s commonly understood where we want to be when we finish. The Continuous Customer™ vision is a collection of statements defining what success looks like when operating in a recurring revenue business model—what defines done. Good vision statements leave little room for misinterpretation and are supported by goals and guidelines that are clear, measurable, and specific for each stage of the customer journey.

We use the vision statements to design the future in terms of organizational structure, job roles, processes, data controls, and system architecture. To be effective in designing the future, vision statements must represent a common understanding of success across all the business functions. To the points above, related business functions need to be at the table arriving at a collective understanding to ensure one function’s view of success doesn’t cause friction in another.

All departments and functions must funnel their energy towards the same Continuous Customer™ vision, the same finish line.

Design the Future Enterprise Architecture

If the vision sets the view of done from a Continuous Customer™ perspective, the enterprise architecture defines done from a mechanical perspective. Which people perform what functions? Using what information? Provided by whom? Using what systems? These questions are answered in the enterprise architecture.

The enterprise architecture has many layers that provide a consistent picture of how an organization works when it’s meeting the vision. These layers document a common understanding of an end state to be built. From that end-state picture, transformation initiatives can be kicked off toward a common goal. Organizations can be restructured if needed, processes can be redesigned, data can be cleaned and controlled, and systems can be selected and implemented with confidence.

Organizations that invest in defining a future state architecture benefit in both the near- and long-term, especially as priorities, customer opportunities, and market dynamics change. The enterprise architecture is a living artifact that very rarely is thrown out and replaced. It’s incrementally adjusted and provides an ability to rapidly assess the impact of changes on the mechanics of the company. Tactical actions such as buying software, defining job roles, and training personnel can be made confidently when there is a commonly understood future design.

Similar to adjusting your race gear to weather conditions, the enterprise architecture is the equipment that is critical to race day and may be modified along the race.

Success in the New Race

Getting to done with Continuous Customers™ is tricky because we are navigating in uncharted territory. We’ve not raced here before and don’t have predefined models like TQM, SixSigma, Lean, etc. to apply and drive what done means. But if we start with the customer, involve everyone, and document our journey—we’ll cross the finish line in record time.

At Navint, we help clients finish the transformation races they start by leading them to the definition of done. We partner with clients through the steps above and enable them to take a running start with best practices we have seen and implemented in the Continuous Customer™ economy. We are your racing coach, trainer, and cheerleader in the race to transform your business, and we help you cross that finish line.

To get more information or to learn how we can help your business, you can email me at pgetchell@navint.com or contact us today.