Tips and Tricks for Working Remotely

This is not a typical post for the McMann & Ransford blog so for those of you in search of one of those, excuse the self-help nature of this post and come find us next week. In light of the surge of people transitioning to working from home for an extended period of time the first time, we thought that one of the few ways we could help was to pass along some of the lessons we have learned about working from home and managing teams remotely.  The following list of recommendations hopefully can assist some of you as you adjust to a completely (or partially) remote-based work environment.

1) Separate Work Time from Non-Work Time

This one should be familiar to anyone that has ever allowed their work to come home with them – you can’t let the lines blur too far between your personal life and your work life or soon you won’t have a personal life.  The work never stops and has the potential to consume you if you feel like you need to immediately respond to everything and clear everything from your to-do list.  This is incredibly difficult when you are working from home and your hours are more flexible, and you are trying to “prove” your worth to people that can’t see that you are getting in early and leaving late every day.

2) Separate your Work Space from your Non-Work Space

The easiest way I have found to separate your work time and non-work time is to physically separate the spaces where you enjoy personal time vs. the space that you work.  This doesn’t have to be a separate floor, separate room, or anything that significant if your space doesn’t allow for it – trust me, when I first began working remotely, I shared an apartment and the only place I had to myself was my 10×10 room; I was still able to manage this separation. It is as simple as establishing a place to do work. As soon as you start working in bed, on your couch, etc., the line between work & personal space begins to blur.  That risk goes both ways – you might get distracted with other things and be less productive if you do not have a “work space”, but the opposite is also true, you may find yourself working into the night on things that don’t matter and risk getting burnt out unnecessarily.

3) Get Out

Despite everything I said in the last recommendation, you need a change of scenery every once in a while, especially if you are doing any type of creative work. If you can leave the house, go to a coffee shop or a park. If you can’t leave the house, find a spot outside to work or move your desk close to a window and open it up.  Even taking a 15-minute walk around the block can help clear your mind and get you out of the house. In fact, I bet most people do this in an office environment without thinking much about it. Working from home, especially when you aren’t doing any other traveling outside the house, means that you are spending days in the same environment which can be mentally draining.  In order to stay focused and productive, I’ve found its critical to inject a different environment into your work-life occasionally.

4) Schedule EVERYTHING

Depending on your role, your calendar may already be full with phone calls and meetings, which is a forcing-function to remain productive throughout the day. However, for most people their calendar is not already scheduled for them for an entire week, and you need to make sure you have time set aside for your work task.  If you are already in a habit of scheduling your blocks of work time, particularly your individual “heads-down” work time, feel free to skip to the next suggestion. Scheduling everything (as far in advance as possible) and sticking to that schedule seems to help with this. In addition to your phone calls and meetings, set meetings with yourself to get done everything else you need to do.  For example: if you get overloaded by emails that you spend all night replying to, schedule 30 minutes twice a day to go through and catch up on emails; if you need to do an expense report, schedule it once a month; if you need to create a presentation for a meeting later in the week, put it on the calendar for an hour a day until it is done.  This scheduling doesn’t need to be limited to work activities, you have a more flexible schedule now, so take advantage of that and schedule lunch (because if you don’t, people will fill up your calendar and you will inevitably miss it), schedule time to work out, pick up your kids, etc.

If it is on the calendar, treat that time as sacred and don’t move it unless you absolutely have to do so, and do what you planned to do – don’t get drawn into other activities. Additionally, the act of reserving time on the calendar as “busy” can show coworkers that you’re unavailable, so you won’t get bogged down with outside distractions if they can wait. Final suggestion here – don’t schedule anything for yourself for more than 90 minutes at a time – it is difficult to remain focused for that long, and if you start blocking out entire days to work on something, you will inevitably not spend that entire time exclusively on the activity you had planned.

5) Establish a Start-Up & Wind-down Routine

In addition to scheduling your actual workday – think about how you get ready for the day and wind it down. What time are you going to start working for the day? Are you going to have breakfast/a cup of coffee first? What about shower and get ready for the day?  You will likely get a lot of advice on when to start and what to do to be productive – some people swear by getting ready for the day as if you are going into the office, but I have found that you need to determine what works best for you.  There is less advice out there on this topic, but I feel it is just as important, and that is determining how you will wind down your day.  Are you going to stop at a certain time? Are you going to do a specific work activity to close out your day (e.g., clean out your inbox)? Or are you going to do something else to signal the workday has come to a close (e.g., creating a to-do list to begin the next day with)?  Whatever you choose, something needs to replace the drive home that otherwise signaled that the day was over. (this ritual helps with tip #1, establishing work and non-work time).

6) Adjust that Routine & Schedule as Soon as You Know Better

Stick to your schedule and routine for at least the first week, but once you have spent a few weeks at home, reflect on your assumptions and see if they need adjustment.  For example, over the years, I have found that my low energy period of the day is between 2-4PM.  I know that unless I am up against a deadline, I am not going to be very productive at this time, so what do I do about it:

  • Schedule my creative time in the morning
  • Set aside my late afternoon time for phone calls (which force me to be engaged and productive)
  • If I don’t have enough/any phone calls for that afternoon, I might plan a late lunch or a workout or something non-work related during that time, and make up for the lost time earlier in the morning or later in the evening when I actually have more energy (for me it is typically 8-10PM)

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always operate on, or align with, your schedule – so this doesn’t work every day, but if you try to organize your day to work best for you, you’ll be surprised how often it works out.

7) Keep it Clean

You don’t have to be a “clean freak” to benefit from keeping your area neat and tidy.  If your work area is clean, there are surprisingly less distractions.  Keep only the essentials on your desk and I suspect you will see an improved ability to focus.

For some people, this extends beyond your workspace. Clutter across the house can be distracting and make you itch to clean up when you should be completely scheduled tasks. With kids who are at home with you, it may be impossible to limit all clutter – but allocating some time in the morning or evening to de-clutter around the rest of your house can keep you from doing it mid-day instead of focusing on work.

8) Don’t Forget About Your Team

In the office, team building comes much more naturally than it does remotely.  Between the proverbial water cooler and the ability to poke your head into someone’s office, there are countless opportunities to connect and build relationships with your team. When you are remote, doing this is still possible, but requires making a bit more of an effort.  Find the right cadence of team calls and 1-on-1 calls with your team to maintain regular touchpoints (even if you didn’t have regular meetings when you were working in the office).  Remember that not all calls have to be (or should be) work-related. For example, I will often connect with coworkers to hear about their weekends or how their weeks are going. It goes a long way to show you care about your colleagues and maintain the camaraderie that you have in a face-to-face environment.

Set expectations for your team about when and how to get in contact with you – one thing we often see is that team members are reluctant to reach out and “bother” their manager for things they would typically be comfortable popping in their manager’s office to ask – and as a result they feel they aren’t getting the support they need.  As simple as it sounds, letting your team know they can reach out to you by phone with any questions they have, texting them or following up by email when you are unable to answer, and returning their call or answering their question in a timely manner, will provide them with the support they need.  Then keep an eye on the team for unusual behaviors and reach out to them if you get any sense that someone needs additional support or attention (e.g., someone used to be very vocal in the office environment, but is unusually quiet on team meetings; or, a historically productive team member is slow to respond).

9) “Managing Up”

The opposite end of the prior recommendation – give your leader the benefit of the doubt when they aren’t able to get back to you immediately, use their time wisely, but don’t hesitate to reach out when you need something critical from them or have important information to share.  Also, keep in mind that just because you aren’t watched doesn’t mean you are invisible – assume that your leaders trust you and know you are working hard unless you do something to break that trust. Productivity will be all over the board as people adjust to working from home, however in many cases it will normalize once everyone finds their rhythm and routine.

10) Don’t neglect your mental health

People adjust to new environments differently – some people are flexible by nature and change doesn’t phase them, while others go through a period of adjustment that can impact their mental state. This adjustment period can be exacerbated by feeling “stuck” in your home. During this time, it’s important to check in with yourself to make sure you are feeling just as comfortable and productive as you would be in the office or traveling. Reach out remotely with a mental health professional if you think you need a little additional emotional support throughout your transition.

Hopefully one or more of these recommendations are helpful for those of you that are adjusting to a remote work environment.  The important thing to keep in mind is to find what works best for you.

 

 

 

Market/Customer Back Portfolio Approach to Maximizing Customer Values and Outcomes

As discussed in our 1st blog in this series, most companies agree that a Portfolio plays a strategic role, yet we consistently see organizations use portfolio as a catch-all at the end result of market sizing and R&D. Oftentimes, organizations fall prey to a “Typical State” portfolio that acts as a broad offer/sales catalogue over time.

As discussed in our 2nd blog in this series, there are 3 significant decisions to make when building a market-back portfolio that addresses your customers’ needs and drives significant value for both them and your organization. This blog focuses on decision #2: What challenges do customers have that need solving and/or what opportunities do they have that we can help them create?

Another way to think about this is to truly understand the objectives your customers in key sub-segments have that you can help them address. Key considerations when making this decision:

  • Conduct your own research – obtain feedback from direct customer interviews – in addition to electronic surveys – and gather insights from your market-facing resources. Also leverage but don’t rely on market publications/ reports; if the information is in those reports, it is often either too generic or you are too late and therefore run the risk of being undifferentiated in the market.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of individual buyer personas – e.g. the CFO’s objectives are often much different than the CIO’s, and even the organization as a whole.
  • Be careful of overweighting one customer’s situation – that often results in many custom solutions.

A Sample Framework for Determining a Segment’s Key Objectives

Doing the above leaves you with a lot of data that has been gathered that now needs to be organized to “triangulate” on those key items that truly matter and need solving in the market. As you can imagine, using many sources and focus areas can provide a lot of possible areas to address, so taking the time to assess it all is important to develop a few key insights that are valuable and actionable. We find that a simple framework helps define what is truly important and worth solving for:

For example, in the Community Financial Institution (CFI) sub-segment of the financial services market, we discovered that branch expansion may be limited due to federal restrictions, so many in this sub-segment are looking for innovative strategies to increase the member/customer base in new regions without the ability to build new branches. Another example is in healthcare systems and hospitals that have nursing schools. We found that many are not able to hire as many newly graduating nurses as they want/need even though they are in their own educational program. Hence, there is a need to understand why and provide a solution.

Remember, there are 3 significant decisions to make when building a market-back portfolio that addresses your customer’s needs and drives significant value for both them and your organization:

  1. What market segments and sub-segments are you truly targeting?
  2. What challenges do they have that need solving and/or what opportunities do they have that we can help them create?
  3. What solutions can we provide to address those challenges and opportunities?

 

We will dive into the last one and its implications in the next blog in the series.


Written by: Mark Slotnik

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Growth Initiative Cycle

All businesses must manage competing priorities and limited resources when determining how to develop and deploy new solutions to remain relevant in the market. As businesses grow and build out new offers, it’s imperative to formalize a process to evaluate, consolidate, and align new topics to the organizational strategy. This blog walks through the Growth Initiative Cycle, a deliberate process to facilitate decision-making and help organizations ensure they are investing resources in areas where they will make the greatest impact.

 

 

Step 1: Idea Identification:
The first step of the process is to bring some ideas to the table.

Ideas should flow from different levels of the organization on two timeframes.

  1. Ideas can be presented on a regular cadence (e.g., quarterly) to create a predictable structure for continuous growth and improvement.
  2. Ideas can be presented opportunistically, based on the demands and circumstances of the market. If a great idea for a new offer pops up, it can be entered into the Growth Initiative Cycle ad hoc so the organization doesn’t miss the window of opportunity.

Step 2: Idea Preparation and Analysis:

Idea sponsors present a business case around each idea, detailing the financial and strategic implications of investing in the solution.

Once an Idea is initially vetted, the Sponsor of the idea (either the individual who proposed it or a leader representing the individual’s Idea) builds a business case for it, detailing the:

  • ROI – what’s the NPV of the opportunity?
  • Strategic Importance Estimation – how strategically important is this Idea to the business’s portfolio?
  • Time to Market Impact – how long will it take to get the solution up and running?
  • Difficulty Estimation – how much effort is required to take the solution from conception to execution?

Step 3: Idea Evaluation and Prioritization

In the Idea Evaluation and Prioritization phase, the Growth Board vets the solutions and weighs them against one another to determine which ones will progress to development.

Once Ideas are formalized and analyzed through the business case, they are vetted and reviewed by the Growth Board. The role of the Growth Board is to weigh each solution for approval/investment after a formal presentation and discussion. The Growth Board prioritizes which solutions should be pursued by comparing them across a handful of criteria including: risk, speed to impact, strategic role (offensive vs. defensive), alignment to strategic direction, etc.  These criteria should be agreed upon in advance and weighted based on their relative importance to each other – for example, if limiting risk is part of the corporate culture, something with a low investment risk may win-out over all other options.

Step 4: Solution Development and Execution  

Solution development is planned and the requirements and detailed timeline are defined.

At this stage, the development for the approved solutions requires planning and enablement. This starts with high-level phased planning, including stages of operationalization and funding.

This phase entails building an Enablement and Execution Plan, which typically includes the following:

  • Detailed timeline of activities
  • Ownership of each activity and who will be involved at each level
  • Talent requirements
  • Steps to acquire or move talent internally
  • Capability requirements
  • Steps to acquire or move capabilities to needed areas in the business
  • Training requirements
  • Determining gaps and pressure testing the plan
  • Sales models and GTM models for the Solution
  • Budgeting for each activity
  • KPIs and tracking metrics

With the development plans in place, the organization can move into the final step of the process.

Step 5: Progress Monitoring & Reevaluation

Solution reviews are implemented to ensure that solution development and roll-out are on-track.

Finally, each solution should be tracked to determine the success relative to the expectations determined during the previous phases.  Incorporating review checkpoints into the cycle is critical to serve as both 1) “off-ramps” if an investment is not living up to expectations and there are opportunities to change paths or “get out”, and 2) input into refining the evaluation process moving forward.  The progress of each ongoing initiative should be openly discussed with the Growth Board and other key stakeholders on a regular basis. A way to manage this is through quarterly reviews with the Growth Board and monthly reviews with the business units and leaders responsible for implementation.

This continuous Growth Initiative Cycle protects the business’s time, energy, and resources for the initiatives that matter most. Successful implementation leads to meaningful solutions that respond to market needs and are aligned with the organizational strategy and portfolio.


Written by: Sarah Cushman

About the Author:

Sarah Cushman is a Senior Consultant with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.

Employees’ Experiences Effect on the Ability to Attract Quality Talent

Part 2 – Feedback Unlocks Understanding

In our previous blog in this series, we explored how any negative messages the talent market hears from your employees can damage your employer brand, resulting in difficulty attracting new talent. Developing an accurate understanding of your employees’ experience and addressing any issues is crucial for aligning your “true” reputation with your branding. This ultimately supports recruiting activity, as well as helps you retain the quality talent you already have.

There are many ways to develop an understanding of your employees’ experience. The approach that we have seen to be the most successful includes providing employees with the opportunity to provide feedback and using that feedback to make improvements. The benefit of collecting feedback from your employees is two-fold: 1) it provides insights into areas to focus on for improvement, and 2) it shows your team members that you value their opinion and, therefore, can actually help improve employee satisfaction.

The following methods can be used to elicit the perspectives of your team members:
• Surveys – An organization-wide Employee Feedback Survey is proven method for quickly gauging employee satisfaction and gathering data points on specific areas of opportunity. That said, response rates are often lower than desired, and feedback is typically only surface level. One thing you can do to improve the quality and quantity of responses is to allow participants to remain anonymous.

• Focus Groups – Creating focus groups with diverse participants that include representation from all the different business functions, levels, and backgrounds enables you to dig deeper into your employees’ experience. With this method, it is crucial to create an atmosphere of transparency, honestly, and impartiality as focus group members will only be truly honest about their experience if they feel safe. In addition, because participants only represent a sample size of your talent, it is important to pair focus groups with at least one other method.

• 360 Reviews – Although commonly used in many organizations for individual development, 360 Reviews are rarely utilized in aggregate to identify trends. By finding a way to keep the feedback anonymous and analyzing the collective data, you can unlock the pain points employees are confronted by within your organization.

• Team Meetings – Regularly scheduled in-person team meetings are a great opportunity to seek feedback from employees. Allocate just 15 minutes at least one a month to allow employees to speak about any roadblocks or issues they are having throughout day-to-day operations.

• Suggestion Boxes – Physical suggestion boxes have become a thing of the past, but organizations can leverage electronic means of gathering the same information. The most common method is to set up an email account that employees can use to send suggestions, which will be taken under consideration by the leadership team.

Although the methods above are immensely helpful in developing a better understanding of your employee’s experience, the key to making any of them successful is developing a feedback culture and instilling an open-door policy. In addition, to truly get an accurate picture, it helps to have an impartial party lead or support this effort to ease employees’ feelings of discomfort about sharing negative feedback upwards in their organization. That said, the most vital part of ensuring a continuous loop of quality feedback is to show your employees that they are heard by actually doing something with the feedback and making necessary changes – we will discuss this more in our next blog in this series.

In addition to collecting employee feedback, you should also be conducting research on stories in the market. This includes regularly checking online reviews posted on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed. Furthermore, keep an ear to the ground and communicate with the talent market about what candidates may be hearing about your organization and its work environment. In this case, no news is not necessarily good news and ignorance is certainly not bliss – you want to hear the positive stories about you as an employer because, if they are reaching your ears, they are reaching your potential candidates’ ears as well.

Having a baseline understanding of your reputation and your employees’ experience tells you whether your employees confirm your employer brand marketing. It also helps you pinpoint areas that may be misaligned. In our next blog in this series, we will discuss the ways to address these areas and improve employee satisfaction – therefore, allowing you to align your reputation with your branding and enhance your ability to recruit – and retain – quality talent.

 


Written by: Jackie McMann

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About the Author: Jackie McMann is a Manager at McMann & Ransford with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 clients to transform their business models, develop differentiated portfolios, and inject best practices into professional services.

Co-Sourcing for Professional Services

Often the road to building a new, more consultative offer or capability in a captive PS business is a significant stretch for the current business processes, methods, and frankly, the talent. Also, sometimes building a captive PS business from scratch – at least one that is to accomplish more than implementations – is a similar challenge. This blog, and those to follow, explore the idea of co-sourcing to develop a consultative business from scratch or develop consultative capabilities in a captive PS business.

What is the difference between the typical captive PS businesses and a more consultative business?

A consultative business usually solves issues more aligned with executive issues. As a result, the activities are more varied than implementation offers and managing client executives through the process is different. This requires a different set of skills and business processes.

Let me first say that this is by no means a statement or belief that the current PS people cannot perform in a more consultative business; the challenge, and the benefits of co-sourcing are about time-to-success and getting all the mechanisms in place for continued success.

What do we mean by co-sourcing?

Co-souring (in this case) means having a Partner that has the experience in building captive consultative businesses – and therefore can help build the business. Most companies aim to fully take the consulting business over at a specified time or when certain criteria have been achieved, but a few companies have the Partner continue to manage the business indefinitely.
We have found that co-sourcing in a captive PS business is a new thought, and it was originally proposed to us by an executive that hired us in four different companies helping them build the PS business. This executive came to believe it would just be faster with less trouble to have us manage the business through the build-to-success phase. Through that process we learned that there are many requirements for the more consultative business or offer, including the ability to:
1. Build Service-Chains,
2. Build Account Pathways or Journeys,
3. Hire, train, and coach consultative type resources,
4. Launch operating mechanisms,
5. Develop and stand up training programs, etc.

There are instances when developing a properly operating consultative PS offer, practice, of business calls for a faster, more predictable program than building it organically, and less risky than acquiring an existing capability. In these cases, co-sourcing (having an experienced group build, manage, staff, sell, deliver the new business, practice or offer) is an interesting and viable alternative.

A few examples of this are:
1. PS wants to add an outcome offer to its portfolio but has several challenges in becoming successful quickly enough to meet business objectives. These challenging decisions/actions could include:
a. How to build outcome-based offers,
b. Which offers should built,
c. How to price the offers, and most important
d. How to sell, deliver, and manage the client through the delivery of the offer.

2. PS is currently a hodgepodge of talent and offers and the company wants to quickly move to a best practice business.

How is co-sourcing financially managed – how does the contract work?

The pricing for this type of relationship is usually based around covering direct cost with risk sharing success payments. Risk sharing lowers upfront investment and both parties on same side of financial models. But, for any risk sharing partnership to work both organizations financial incentives must be aligned and paying success fees should be celebrated not treated like the black-death. In following blogs, I will dive into this idea more detail. You will find it takes many of the concepts we have discussed in other topics but from the point of view of having a Partner do the heavy lifting.

 


Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

Employees’ Experience Effect on the Ability to Attract Quality Talent

Part 1 – Reputation Overrides Branding

There is no disputing the fact that an organization’s employees are key to the success of any company, regardless of the industry.  This means that attracting quality talent and branding yourself as a great employer are always high priorities.  For the majority of organizations, employer branding is looked at from a marketing perspective.  The focus is on injecting the talent market with messages and mission statements that promote your organization and its values.  This is an important part of recruiting desired talent – but if your employer branding misaligns with the story the market hears from your current and past employees, the market is inclined to believe the latter.

The unfortunate truth is that the market has become deaf to your employer branding and marketing.  Most organizations, including your competitors, are spending resources to promote themselves positively as an employer; therefore, the candidate market is so saturated with similar mission statements, organizational values, and positive messaging that candidates are inclined to seek other information to gauge whether you are the right fit for them.  In future blogs in this series, we will discuss ways to differentiate your messaging to help you stand out from the pack but, for now, let’s explore how your potential candidates may come across alternative sources of information about your organization and how those sources can convolute your employer brand.

Talent communities can often be tight-knit groups and candidates have the opportunity to learn more about you, as an employeer, in a multitude of ways, including: word of mouth, online reviews (such as Glassdoor), workplace interactions, etc.  Ultimately, it is your current and past employees’ experience that shape your employer reputation.  For example:  The demand for physicians is currently exceeding the supply, therefore health systems and hospitals are in high competition with one another to recruit quality physicians into their organizations.  Because of this, candidates are known to reach out to currently employed physicians to better understand the work environment before making a decision or accepting a job offer.  This includes anything from community networking to messaging via social media to requesting the opportunity to meet a potential peer during the recruiting process.

So, what happens when the story candidates hear from your current (or past) employees misaligns with your employer branding messages?  Well, logic tells us that when told two conflicting stories, we should believe the source that doesn’t appear to have any motive to misrepresent the reality.  Organizations do – and should – care about the public’s perception of them as an employer, therefore they do have a clear motive behind the messages they put out into the market.  Employees, on the other hand, are generally speaking from experience and are unlikely to have an ulterior motive.  Of course, there are always outliers, such as disgruntled past employees who may misrepresent their experience out of spite, but candidates may not know how to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind that every organization is putting out positive employer branding messages, but the top employers’ have a talent base that echoes the same sentiment.  This is exactly why employee experience needs to be viewed as key pillar of employer branding.  In future blogs in this series, we will elaborate further on the techniques to differentiate yourselves, as well as ways to better understand and improve your employees’ experience to ensure that your reputation aligns with your employer branding.


Written by: Jackie McMann

More from this Author

About the Author: Jackie McMann is a Manager at McMann & Ransford with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 clients to transform their business models, develop differentiated portfolios, and inject best practices into professional services.

Solution Development: Introduction

As we have discussed in other blogs, Solutions are a critical element in winning in a market segment by addressing the challenges and opportunities for clients in that segment.  Building and taking solutions to market is one of the most impactful business activities – therefore, it requires a deliberate and thoughtful process to maintain momentum, utilize learning along the way, and codify the solution.

This blog introduces our five-step Solution Development process:

  1. Frame the Market Idea: At this point, you have identified a challenge or opportunity in the market and have done some initial vetting internally. After receiving the green light from the Growth Board, the Idea moves into the first stage of Solution Development, where you confirm the topic’s significance in the market and conduct a high-level economic analysis of the Solution – What is the investment? What is the ROI? If agreed that the Solution is worth pursuing, it moves to the next stage…
  2. Develop Solution: Developing the solution involves providing some solution detail and understanding of the investments necessary if the market buys this solution. Key outcome of this phase is to determine whether the solution is achievable (i.e. do we have capacity and capability?), impactful (i.e. are business outcomes material to both the market and our organization? Is this worth it?), and actionable (i.e. can we sell and deliver?). Additionally, it involves digging further into the financials to determine the type of investments – besides capacity – that are required if the market buys the Solution.
  3. Validate Market Interest: Now, it’s time to interact with the market to validate whether buyers are willing to spend money on this Solution. You’re also testing positioning and messaging at this point to secure and close initial projects at 2-3 pilot accounts.
  4. Validate Solution Applicability: Once you have accounts to work with, you can begin to deliver the “vision” of the Solution. This phase is about validating the Solution economics while ensuring that the Solution IP (new or existing) is impactful. Additionally, you are identifying the skills and capabilities necessary to be successful in the account.
  5. Determine Requirements to Scale: The final phase of solution development is about validating the capability to scale and launch the solution. At this point, a decision has been made that this is a viable Solution and that the business should move forward in making it a Solution in the Portfolio and may even end up as a new line of business for you. Therefore, it’s time to assign accountability for building the business, determine how to scale the Solution, and officially launch the new Solution.

These 5 steps come together to give a holistic picture of the Solution – from a market & customer and internal & company point of view.  The coming blogs in this series will walk through the details of each of the steps to help you develop an approach to determine whether the solution is worth it, and if it is, what it will cost and the benefits it will bring.


Written by: Sarah Cushman

About the Author:

Sarah Cushman is a Senior Consultant with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.

Market/Customer Back Portfolio Approach to Maximizing Value and Outcomes: Part 2

As discussed in our previous blog, most companies agree that a Portfolio plays a strategic role, yet we consistently see organizations use portfolio as a catch-all at the end result of market sizing and R&D. Oftentimes, organizations fall prey to a “Typical State” portfolio that acts as a broad offer/sales catalogue over time.

There are 3 significant decisions to make when building a market-back portfolio that addresses your customers’ needs and drives significant value for both them and your organization. This blog focuses on decision #1: What market segments and sub-segments are you truly targeting?

Key considerations when making this decision:

  • Specificity matters – it is best for your customers, sales teams, delivery teams, etc. This doesn’t mean you won’t sell to other portions of the market, but there needs to be a target customer profile on which you base a new solution (or set of solutions). The narrower that profile is, while still being large enough to be financially meaningful to the business, the better, because your solution will be more tailored to their specific needs.
  • Give yourselves freedom to look at the financial opportunity through a lens of “what’s possible”. In other words, don’t limit the financial assessment to only your current solution set – think about all the potential areas that you could have “permission” to play.
  • Customer satisfaction surveys are helpful but do not provide the type of data needed. Instead, conduct market research interviews with key customers. They are a good way to validate their needs and appetite to buy and increase customer satisfaction by having meaningful business outcome discussions when interviewing.

Segmentation Process

In most industry vertical markets (e.g. financial services, consumer packaged goods, etc.), there are too many buyers or customers to view them all individually.  Organizing a segment into sub-groups with similar characteristics (both demographic and “buying” characteristics) helps you understand how/where to best allocate scarce resources. We do this by using process for organizing a market segment into sub-segments through a three-step approach.

Note that this is a continuous process that should be revisited and updated as you better understand the market and as the marketplace changes over time.

One of the key outcomes of sub-segmenting the market is visibility to which accounts and offers should receive the majority of your time, energy, and resources – i.e., identifying the sub-segments that are most important based on propensity to buy, ROI on time spent on an account-by-account basis, and identifying the offerings that would impact the greatest number of important sub-segments.

Remember, there are 3 significant decisions to make when building a market-back portfolio that addresses your customer’s needs and drives significant value for both them and your organization. We will dive into the other two decisions and their implications in later blogs in the series:

  1. What challenges do they have that need solving and/or what opportunities do they have that we can help them create?
  2. What solutions can we provide to address those challenges and opportunities?

Written by: Mark Slotnik and Sarah Cushman

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Leveraging Services to Swallow the Fish

Anyone considering the move to Hardware as a Service (HaaS) understands the necessary transition period where they are exchanging product revenue – usually recognized immediately – to longer contract revenue – recognized over the life of the agreement. While in future blogs, we will discuss the changes that must accompany the selling and delivery of HaaS, this blog will explain how advisory services can help businesses overcome the challenge of the Fish.

Implications of the “Fish of HaaS”

Legacy companies must “swallow” the financial fish1 as they transition to the XaaS business model. Top-line revenue shrinks as revenue from large, pay-up-front deals are replaced with incremental payment plans. Additionally, costs rise in the near-term due to the investment in new capabilities. Over time, however, top-line growth occurs, as does cost reduction due to a rise in efficiency and scale.

Overcoming the Challenge: Organizational Focus and Market Support

There is some good news for companies that feel truly dedicated to the transformation – once all the preliminary work is done – solidifying the offer, structuring to sell, and delivering on the promise of real impact for the customer – the market is very supportive of the strategy. As long as progress is being made and the company is transitioning accounts into the HaaS model, the market usually supports the effort.  Developing and maintaining this market support requires clear, ongoing communication. Additionally, the organization’s unrelenting dedication must be maintained to transition the business to the new model; if there is any wavering, the house-of-cards will come crashing down.

What can be done to improve the overall financials during this period? 

A strong critical mass Advisory (Professional Services) business focused on customer issues can drive significant revenue.  Let me be clear that this is not always the case.  If your product is very expensive, and it is the big wheel driving your financials, then leveraging advisory as the financial powerhouse is more challenging. However, in situations where services around the product are the big wheel driving the financials, advisory services can be used effectively to boost revenue and improve the financials during the transition period.

Example 1: Metals business

For example, let’s say you are a metals business and you sell to mid-stream businesses that take your raw products to created finished products that are put into cars, oil, and gas tanks.  In this case, it’d be a strong financial decision to move into a situation where you assume a greater part of your customers’ business. This might entail becoming a partner who works on the customer site and drives improved manufacturing through your economic power or your more sophisticated metal technology.  A company could leverage advisory services to transform the customer to be able to leverage the new offer. This would increase upfront investment by the customer and drive better and faster outcomes for both companies.

Example 2: Train engine manufacturer

In another example, you sell train engines, and most of your value is derived from long-term service contracts.   Your goal could be to move to contracts that pay you based on your impact on the metrics that matter to the railroads – average speed and downtime.  That aside, it would be a major undertaking for the railroad companies to embrace and leverage the new HaaS contracts.  Large Advisory contracts could be undertaken to make this a reality.

Example 3: Drug distributor/ medical device manufacturer

A final example is in Hospital industry. The product company might provide a product that gets implanted in the patient or this example applies to a drug distributor.  In both cases, much can be done to improve the efficacy of product usage. In drugs -assuring the selection of the right drug – price and efficacy can be overtaken by a vendor and in the case of hip, knee or shoulder replacements, the seller could greatly impact the diagnosis, speed to repair, and speed of recovery. In both cases, Advisory would greatly assist the Hospital in making the necessary transition to the improved new way of doing medicine.

Obviously, customers’ real issues and opportunities must be understood to make HaaS real and impactful.  But, the addition of Advisory services helps both the product company in increasing upfront revenue and the buyer in making the transition meaningful faster with less risk.

  1. B. Wood and Thomas E. Lah, Technology-as-a-Service Playbook, https://www.amazon.com/Technology-as-Service-Playbook-Profitable-Subscription-ebook/dp/B01FG3TDA8.

 

 


Written by: Dean McMann

More from this Author

About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

Market/Customer Back Portfolio Approach to Maximizing Customer Value and Outcomes: Introduction

As we have discussed in other blogs, portfolio serves as the linkage between your organization and the value and outcomes you provide to your client. Looking at the critical functions to winning in a market segment, Portfolio defines your “Where to Play” or “Where to Act” strategy, effectively:

• Providing specificity for not only what needs to be offered – but why, and
• Defining entry points into market segments and specific customer accounts and
• Creating the “how” to create and realize pull-through opportunities (i.e. customer journeys).

However, while most companies agree with this description of portfolio’s strategic role, we consistently see organizations use portfolio as a catch-all at the end result of market sizing and R&D. Oftentimes, organizations fall prey to a “Typical State” portfolio that acts as a broad offer/sales catalogue over time:

Some of the common struggles of organizations in the “Typical State” include:

• Becoming overly enamored with market size and opportunity too early – and missing highly profitable segments that truly need their products and services and/or
• Lacking the patience to build their strategies before developing new solutions for a particular segment.

Building an Ideal State portfolio requires a different sequence of decisions. First, you need a robust and coherent segment definition. With where to play and act clearly understood, then define the segment-specific portfolio strategy to answer what you will address and solve for that segment. Then, determine how your current solutions fit for that market segment strategy, which allows you to prioritize new solution design to complete the puzzle required to solve your customer’s key challenges or opportunities. This may result in some high-value PS on the front end that is designed to pull-through much larger purchases.

There are 3 significant decisions to make when building a market-back portfolio that addresses your customer’s needs and drives significant value for both them and your organization:
1. What market segments and sub-segments are you truly targeting?
2. What challenges do they have that need solving and/or what opportunities do they have that we can help them create?
3. What solutions can we provide to address those challenges and opportunities?
We will dive into each of these decisions and their implications in later blogs in the series.


Written by: Mark Slotnik and Sarah Cushman

About the Authors:

Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high-value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.  

Sarah Cushman is a Senior Consultant with McMann & Ransford and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies to solve complex challenges, drive differentiation, and create long-term value.