Here’s how we approached the solution

Lernaean Hydra, your time is up.

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Naturally I can’t publish the whole thing if only for sheer volume, let alone sensitivity of information from some of the underlying cases, but I will pick a few areas just to demonstrate the approach and hopefully let readers see how.

At this stage we have a high level description of goals we need to achieve, but before we get to the point where we have plans with timescales, budgets, resources, success criteria and all the other important things, we need to know a little more about what is involved in each solution, whether we have the capability to do it successfully, what order they need to be done in and what impacts positive or negative each solution might have. We also need to produce business cases to establish that the investment in the solution is at a level that provides an acceptable return taking into account any risks and opportunity costs and finally we need to establish measurement means and metrics in order to track benefits.

Before thinking about delivery of something like this you have to first analyse the receiving organisation and understand the dynamics into which you are introducing solutions. Everything that is wrong is as it is for a reason and sometimes that reason is a force that is still in place and waiting to thwart your best efforts.

Using models can sometimes be overkill, especially when used by enthusiasts rather than pragmatists. In reality if box doesn’t need ticking don’t tick it, but the time it took to decide that was a very small amount of time well spent in the interest of thoroughness.

Already, the small section of this picture we picked upon has exhibited a complex web of problems that impact each other in many ways and we have as yet not even attempted to find solutions.

The identification of solutions and selection of the best approach to each is the next important step. Once we have this in place we then need to start thinking about how these solutions will be delivered successfully within this specific organisation.

In order to demonstrate the method, lets take some examples that are not too complex or too simple. I will select three problems to address, but later I will focus on just one of these in order to keep this readable. 1. Poor packaging. 2.   Poor help and support.  3. Low skilled staff.

Having again used the “ask why 5 times” approach we came to the conclusion that:
1). Staff were not trained because we had no written materials with which to train them. Even the offshore staff could be trained if we had the materials. The reason for no materials is that we bought the hardware in Asia and the little black and grey manuals in 6pt txt were unreadable and unfathomable, but we just accepted this as par for the course in our business. We accepted it because nobody had veer suggested any other potential solution and there was a assumption that had we ever considered doing it, it was probably very expensive. The main reason though was that we felt we had already paid for this and were not willing to do it again. On top of this, there was no role in the hierarchy with accountability for the customer experience.

2). Help and support was poor because support staff had no idea how to help them and were only there to listen and to deal with total failures demanding returns.

3). The packaging was poor because we accepted the Asian packaging aimed at a different market, language, culture and price-point and never took responsibility for this, nor did we ever appreciate the importance of packaging in the user experience.  Visit diagram 1 in the last episode for a reminder of the user journey

A simple dependency chart revealed the order of attack and we had a plan.

There are a few headings you need to use when considering an organisation in this context:

Here is an example of a very simple and fairly abstract table used for this purpose.

Goals Create legible training and help material

 

Design attractive packaging and instructions Train the support staff

 

Participants  

New people need to be hired or reallocated for this

 

New people need to be hired or reallocated for this

 

The people who develop the material are ideally placed to train as well
Social structure This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place.

The knowledge Is with suppliers and in another language.

.

 

This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place

Purchasing are money focused not customer focused and they buy this stuff in Asia very cheaply.

This activity has never been built into the structure and currently there is neither budget nor accountability in place

Sales staff walk away when the deal is signed leaving nobody responsible.
Customer service is seen as a cost base

Environment This stuff is purchased by “Commercial”. They are a law unto themselves and seem to have gained almost untouchable status. Ideally they should be considering this type of issue when selecting a supplier.
Sales won’t touch this.  It needs a place of importance in the structure

 

This stuff is purchased by “Commercial”. They are a law unto themselves and seem to have gained almost untouchable status. Ideally they should be considering this type of issue when selecting a supplier.
Sales won’t touch this.  It needs a place of importance in the structure

 

No consideration has ever been given to training Recently we outsourced most of it and this has made matters even worse.

Nobody seems to have much contact with the offshore call centres and it is a very hot potato just now

Processes The process currently involves receiving batches, spot checking goods and then checking them into the stock control system.
QC happens again just before dispatch but it is poor and often there is an acceptance that support will have to carry the can. Sales have sold and dispatch have dispatched.

 

The process currently involves receiving batches, spot checking goods and then checking them into the stock control system.
QC has no interest in packaging they only consider the hardware items

Nobody questions the quality of packaging, support or other peripherals.

People ask the guy next door when stuck and they tell customers to read the manual, or they are if in doubt, to  send it back

Before you can attempt to drive these changes through, you need to understand the way decisions get made in this organisation. Remember we are not doing this with the intention of changing or fixing any of these behaviours, our only goal is to make the most of what we have in order to deliver our changes.
There are three fundamental lenses we use to look at decision making in organisations, and in the interest of remaining jargon-free, lets call them Rational, Political and Garbage can. There is usually an element of all three but generally there is a strong leaning in certain functions such as in this case programme management.

In this organisation it looked something like this:

 

Who are the key stakeholders and what is their interest?

Now lets diagram the key stakeholders who can impact delivery of our project.

Above you see a representation of the various groups involved and the distance apart represents their level of interest and involvement.  The ones outlined in Orange are the ones directly impacting the customer experience though as you can see some could scarcely be more remote and detached from it.

Others such as finance and Purchasing are key drivers if not always actors in the state of customer experience, though mostly unaware and disinterested.

Clearly there is work to be done to rally these stakeholders sufficiently to deliver a result.

Here is another view from a communications viewpoint

communications planning digital transformation

  1. Clearly we need to convince finance to release some capital. Finance are mostly outcome driven, though they also like to stick to process so until we present a strong business case correctly presented, we will not achieve much.
  2. We need Operations and Customer services both to adapt new ways and this will stir up certain rivalries that need to be handled by HR.
  3. We need HR onside for process changes, but also because we are recommending a Head of Customer Focus to champion the customer experience and have jurisdiction across channels and across departments form the proposition right through marketing and sales and support and who above all else, will be accountable for customer experience.
    We need a well defined and supported plan with clear structures and accountability for any changes and enlist HR in refining this, debugging it and implementing it. We can then get their moral support.

We need Purchasing to get much more involved with the customer experience aspect so they understand the total cost, not just the hardware when making their decisions and we need to communicate better with external and offshore customer service people. This will be a substantial change for purchasing and will need to be carefully planned with HR to ensure there is sufficient incentive.

Before

Lack of training and support material and the skills to create it meant that customers were leaving in droves. This in turn put pressure on price-point and didn’t do much for morale either.

After

Customers received cleverly packed products that were very easy to get started with. They hardly ever needed support and when they did the staff were unstressed and happy to help.
This dramatically reduced churn, increased margin and also grew the top line

 Finally we will need to take a closer look at the technical situation to see what is possible and how big a job any changes might be.

 

The technical solution was twofold.

  1. We needed to purchase a Knowledge Management System to keep track of the training materials and make it available to the website, the trainers and the customer service staff as well as to the SME and author teams who would keep it up to date. There are many good COTS versions available and this is a straightforward technical solution.
  2. We needed an ESB solution to hold a single copy of each piece of critical information in SAP so that we could access it quickly in high volume and without putting any strain on the SAP installation. This we would need no scaling of SAP and no high cost integrations for each new web page or system. A standard ESB would provide simple APIs, web services and publish subscribe PUBSUB approaches for our development teams.

Before

After

programme after view

 

The programme plan

Let’s now create a first draft of the programme for this one chosen problem of high customer support  costs and low customer satisfaction.

Do remember that we are not trying to document an entire programme in a blog and there will be major omissions, but do feel free to bring this up in the comments section.

Below are the key headings

  1. The vision and benefits.
    Important changes in any organisation or even in an individual rely on beginning with a clear vision of the future and why you want to get there. This vision should motivate you along the way and provide guidance in times of ambiguity. The benefits should form a solid business case and stand up to close scrutiny.
  2. The journey
    Every vision entails a journey and it is made up of a beginning, a middle and an end. The middle will develop fully later when we get into project planning, but for now the” where we are”, “where we want to be” and a high level understanding of “how we will get there” is what is needed to get off the ground. The important thing about the middle is that we include the business and IT changes required to drive benefits along with technology.
  3. Knowing when we have arrived.
    Benefits measurement strategy and progress monitoring are both part of this.

We must have a measurable outcome to focus on even if the measurement metrics seem vague to some, we also need a way of knowing how we are doing while still on the journey to the first deliverable. Remember that there are usually deliverable in the sense of process, or technology to come first and quickly followed by business change and benefits realisation. Before the process or technology changes are made there is no opportunity usually to begin on delivering and measuring benefits.

The benefit of approaching a Digital transformation in this manner is that the odd occasion when it may seem you are being a little too pedantic  will be counter balanced many times over as a result of the accuracy of the diagnosis, the rightness of the solution and the quality of planning and communication that enables your programme to succeed.

The true goal of Digital Transformation is not replace expensive technology with even more expensive technology, but to create relevance and harmony between the business goals and its activities and to support that with a blend of People, process and technology interventions in that order.