Under Investment: The Biggest Threat to Customer Intimacy Transformation

I am always asked what puts the journey at risk – under investment is the answer. 

If you are going to make the journey be serious about it.  It is a fundamental change in the way your business runs. And, if you have been reading this blog you understand just how different it is from business as usual.  It will require: money, time, effort, attention, adjustment (things never work as planned), and most of all perseverance.   Something to always keep in mind – think about the transformation as pushing something through a brick wall – if you push just a little you still have the rest of the wall to go through. If you push fast you have less to go through.  Let me be clear it can move fast and you can have great success in the first year – but you would have to invest heavily in new offers, acquisitions, talent, talent development etc.  Also remember the longer it takes the more likely the company will lose interest and find reasons to stop.

I’m always surprised by the way companies look at the investing in the solution led/Intimacy Engine business.  Also, the time frames they attach to the transformation when investing little seem unreal.  Instead of viewing it as a business model change they seem to think of it as a cosmetic adjustment – a sales problem or adding a few consultants etc.  If they were bringing a product enhancement to market they would readily spend 100 million on it or a new product might coast 100s of millions and the attention a new product gets warrants the investment – this is no different.

Why is this?  I think it is because they do not view it as strategic – oh they very much want to do it but can’t get their head around how important it really is.  The firms that move quickest have an unwavering dedication to the journey. The ones that move slowest – talk all the time about the expense and are second guessing the effort all the time.  I believe there are four key variables that can impact both the ability to get through the brick wall, time it takes to get thorough he brick wall, and success getting through the brick wall.

How do you invest funds?

This is important. Do you starve the business or are you investing like R&D.  The companies that move fastest through the first 2 stages of the journey invest heavily like a new product. Those that linger invest like they are hiring new sales reps.  I am not saying that you cannot get a return on the investment in year one, I am saying that you need to invest like you are going somewhere.

Adoption of the new model

This is one of the issues that slow down the journey the most.  How much do you work against the model? Do you fight each issue – we do not do it that way. We won’t pay what consultants are paid, we won’t hire/fire fast, we won’t invest heavily in talent development, we won’t spend the time/money to build True Solutions, etc.  I have seen this at some level in every company that has taken on the journey. We want to do this but we do not cut through the red tape to support it.  Believe me this is a killer.  To this day IBM keeps the staff organizations for their world class solution business separate from the rest of IBM.

How persistent are you?

Every transformation a company goes through will by definition have mistakes. You will pick some poor offers/solutions – you will believe your stuff is better than it is. You will make some mistakes at the customer; you will miss your financial projections.  Why – because you do not know how to do this yet, and the mistakes are necessary for your understanding and developing mastery of the new ways. Do these mistakes stop you – cause you to challenge the whole program.  It is important to adjust rapidly to these mistakes – don’t spend months analyzing them make the changes and move on.  I have seen several firms want to stop at the first sign of trouble.

How much executive time is invested?

You must keep key executives aligned with the journey and make sure they are aware of what is working and what is not working.  If it’s worth doing then it’s worth the involvement. Do not make the mistake of packaging the news – give it to them raw and make them a part of the journey. Hay this is not easy and they need to know it.   Make sure you can tell them what road signs you have passed and what road signs are coming.

In summary, it is difficult for companies to take on these efforts and more difficult for them to invest appropriately and you can help them by stressing the four issues above.