Friday, November 03, 2006

Coming up for air...

The last month has been pretty crazy - we've been taking a good hard look at the strategy work required to deliver our new business and how we use products and services to do this. That's driven a whole lot of design activity that we are right in the middle of. There are some really good things that we've done and some things that we've learned that will be critical for making a new business come to life. Here they are in no particular order

1. The importance of the design process

OK - This seems like a really obvious comment. Everyone these days is talking about design - as a bit of an apple fanboy (sad but true) I've been going on about how we need to design things better for customers so that they work together. By taking a good two months to design what we want from both a customer perspective and a business perspective we are having the hard conversations now as opposed to starting down a path we might not be able to get out of later. This is helping us get senior engagement early and I am certain will mean that the actual build process is shorter and tighter - we won't be holding many options open at that stage for sure.

2. External skills and diversity are critical when you are looking at a transformation project

After 3 days into this process we had an 'aha' moment. While the 4 of us were all really focussed on executing our strategy and turning ourselves into something very different to what we are at the moment (think lean, fast and delivering services that customers love and contrast to what you think of Telecom today) there is no doubt that you gradually drift back to what you are comfortable with and what you know - this is exacerbated by the fact that we're all male, middle-aged (shock!) and well above the average age. Hardly our target market. We've brought in a number of people to help us through this - some internal (mainly female and with varying backgrounds) and a Design coach from Optimal Usability - Michael Andrews. He's been superb - not only is he a very experienced design professional, he's brough a level of customer focus to what we are doing that has meant that we just don't talk about things relative to how we operate today - really refreshing!

3. Turning yourself into a design-led, customer-focussed organisation is hard

As someone who has talked about being customer focussed and got frustrated about that, I have been surprised at the extent of the change I've had to make to be able to design products, services and a business from a customer perspective. Thinking about every decision in a customer oriented way takes a level of change that our current organisation is probably not able to achieve.I say this based on the following evidence

  • I'm open to customer oriented thinking - but doing this on a decision by decision basis means putting aside your entire decision making framework based on business outcomes, technology etc. That is a massive change - I suggest you try it to see how different it is!
  • We are only just learning the way to ask questions from a customer perspective - Michael has been awesome in getting us to frame up the initial questions of how a customer would want to experience the service in language they would understand. This a new skill for us.
  • While we touch customers every day our actual interaction with them and experience of how they understand our products and services is really limited - we don't feel their pain enough. Tomorrow we're going to get some people to do some usability testing on existing products so we can see where we are starting from - I expect to take some grief...

4. Our new business model is the problem to solve - not the product set

We started off looking at this from the perspective of designing new products and services and the processes that sit around them. Seemed reasonably straight forward - the fact is the change is so big that you have to design what your new business looks like from top to bottom so you know what you're delivering to. This has been controversial - we're getting a lot of push-back on this along the lines of 'trust us - we have this under control'. The fact is - if we are finding it hard to turn ourselves into more customer oriented people and design that way in, how can we possibly trust people to design a business model who don't have that world view. Still employed this week so hoping that some of what we are saying is resonating...

5. This is not delegatable

Well - I certainly couldn't delegate it and I won't be. It's pretty easy to delegate stuff you know that's incremental or relatively low risk. This is complex, requires new skills to be learned and we're banking the business on it. Seems like something too big to be delegated 3 levels down but what do I know.

Huge month - and i reckon the next 2 will be even bigger - must do some daily updates for a change.

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