To begin, a question: When was the last time you consulted your CIO before adding an app to your phone or tablet?
Gone are the days when solution providers could show up with their latest product or version, demonstrate technical features and business functions to the IT team, and thereby seal the deal. Today’s decisions about business solutions are shared across the company, and purchasing power resides in the hands of multiple executives: the business owner who expects a consumer-grade experience that delivers on his or her objectives, the economic evaluator who expects both demonstrable ROI and acceptable risk, and the technical buyer concerned with architectural integrity, security, and integration. Most importantly, all three are concerned about the impact of change on employee engagement and the customer experience.
By Jessica Sharman, Head of North America Value Advisory Team, SAP North America, and Eric Stine, Chief Customer Innovation Officer, SAP North America
At SAP, understanding how our customers – and the market, generally – are evaluating enterprise business solutions makes us reevaluate how we approach customer engagement. We need to continuously learn what our customers value, propagate those insights across the organization, and repeatedly adapt to the impact of these changes and the changes in the market overall.
During the enterprise resource planning wars at the turn of the century, SAP led the market in moving to a consultative sales approach so that we could help our customers reengineer cross-functional business processes with a focus on measurable business value. Now, we’re finding that our customers are also increasingly thinking about the stakeholder experiences their business processes are creating – not just about how to make the processes themselves more efficient. This means we now need to work with our customers to take a holistic view of their customers’ and employees’ experiences. We need to find the areas where process change can have the material human impact that drives business success, which involves looking at more than just operational key performing indicators like cost of goods sold, turnover or customer lifetime value; and leading indicators like customer satisfaction, net promotor score and employee engagement.
The core question becomes: How do we make the experience better for the people involved? We can’t just push technology for the sake of it or retain a process because we’ve always done it that way. Sometimes the answer isn’t improving a process – it’s completely reimagining or even entirely eliminating it. In a sea change from the world of 15 or 20 years ago, the businesses are no longer subordinating process change – they’re embracing it.
Today we put ourselves in the shoes of our customers’ key stakeholders, considering how they interact with the business, and figuring out what experiences they need in order to achieve the company’s desired business outcomes. If customers are abandoning their shopping carts before they complete a purchase, we help the company understand why and show them how they can improve conversion prior to abandonment. If their employees are leaving by the end of their first year, we help them understand what’s breaking down culturally, operationally, and educationally. Is it a flaw in the role profile and recruiting process? A lack of suitable onboarding and training? Or cultural processes around development and advancement that create an impression of limited growth potential?
The key is to focus on which experiences, positive or negative, matter most to these stakeholders.
We actively incorporate a human perspective to help our customers listen to feedback, understand what it means, and act on those insights more systematically and on a larger scale than ever before. Systems are transforming with new technologies such as voice integration, chatbots and conversational AI, natural language processing, real-time feedback processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. They are starting to respond in real time to their environments and to the people who use them. And the experiences they create have never been more scrutinized.
What does this actually mean in practice? It means we engage across a broader range of business stakeholders, assess value potential through both leading indicators about experience and operational KPIs around outcomes, and work together to design solutions with a more strategic, empathetic, and outcome-based focus. As a result, we are updating the approach and methodology we use. Instead of business process-mapping, we are journey-mapping key stakeholder experiences. Today, we embed an enterprise architect, a business solution director, and a value adviser at each customer exploring transformational change, supporting them with industry executives, subject matter experts, and thought leaders from our centers of excellence in key business domains.
A great example of this new engagement model is some recent work we did with a global leader in technology and telecommunications. Having announced aggressive cash savings targets; a material headcount reduction through voluntary separation and rebadging initiatives; and made a significant, eight-figure investment in laying fiber for a low-latency, high-resiliency fifth-generation wireless network, this Fortune 25 company looked to us for help transforming their business. In order to reap the benefits of their recent investment, grow revenue and market share, and do so with a workforce that was 10% smaller, we partnered with them across the value chain of corporate finance, customer service, sales commissions, supply chain, and retail operations. Together, we identified opportunities to embed intelligent robotics, machine learning, and other accelerators that will drive material value in optimizing the customer experience while taking the “work out of work” for their employees. Next, we’re partnering with them to explore how we might completely transform the employee experience from hire to retire. This would not have been possible without the sponsorship of, partnership with, and leadership by a host of leaders across the organization, including their CEO, CFO, head of sales, controller, CIO, and chief administrative officer.
This is a great example of customer/vendor collaboration – looking at a problem holistically and with the key stakeholders in mind, leveraging a variety of technologies to solve it. It takes more creativity and a willingness to go deep in joint problem-solving, and it may require each party to bring some new skill sets to the table. The investment is worth it – and will result in more creative, more holistic solutions to the diverse and novel business problems that our current business environment is posing to all of us, each and every day.
What does this actually mean in practice? We explore that question in detail on the Experience Matters Podcast but in short it means we engage across a broader range of business stakeholders, assess value potential through both leading indicators about experience and operational KPIs around outcomes, and work together to design solutions with a more strategic, empathetic, and outcome-based focus. As a result, we are updating the approach and methodology we use. Instead of business process-mapping, we are journey-mapping key stakeholder experiences. Today, we embed an enterprise architect, a business solution director, and a value adviser at each customer exploring transformational change, supporting them with industry executives, subject matter experts, and thought leaders from our centers of excellence in key business domains.
Where Do We Go From Here?