Let’s fast forward about 6 months and Imagine that the Corona crisis is over. Well, not really over, but being on a way of economic and especially psychologic recovery. There will be (yet another) new normal, a new equilibrium of life, personal as well as business. Societies, governments, economies and people have learned to deal with an unprecedented situation.
How will the situation look like for businesses?
And how will software vendors and consultants be able to improve the situation of their customers?
Businesses were forced to a grinding stop, with obvious and disastrous results not only for themselves, but in particular for their customers’ experience. They will have seen huge losses, in spite of governments providing lots of stimulus in terms of trillions of dollars. Businesses more than ever before are facing the need to look precisely at where they spend their money and how they get their restart accomplished. Many people have seen or still are in unemployment. They need and want to contain their spending, too.
Business leaders know that their situation has changed. They do know that they need to make their businesses more resilient. They surely have learned that a – to use this buzz word – digital transformation is not an option. It never was, but Covid-19 taught them the lesson that they severely underprioritized this topic.
So the why and the what have been hammered down.
What business leaders do not know is: How? They do not yet know how to recover and how to initiate or to continue their much-needed digital transformation.
Overall, this translates into a situation of uncertainty for all types for businesses. Uncertainty that leads to reduced appetite for investments, which again can impair business’s ability to do what they need to do.
And this type of uncertainty for their clients is not a good situation for vendors and consultants to be in as well; just that it creates a certainty for them.
The certainty that their business gets harmed, too, if they are not able to provide their customers with a way forward.
How can vendors and consultants do this? Sure, they are businesses, too; but they are in a unique position to contribute to the resolution of their clients’ challenges.
There are a couple of points to consider for vendors and consultants alike.
- First of all: They must not be part of the problem.
- They need a relentless focus on solving real business problems with technology.
- They need to deliver easy and simple to implement solutions to these business problems.
These three points are boiling down to trust, agility, and relevance as being the key currencies that vendors and consultants have and have to use.
Let’s discuss them one after another.
Don’t be a part of the problem
I picked up this quote during the Zoho analyst day end of January, where CEO Sridhar Vembu made it part of his keynote, saying that it is Zoho’s “business code that our customers should not find us a costly input”. Of course, I am using it slightly out of context here, but the key point for vendors and consultants is that they provide an input to their clients – at a cost, often at high cost.
Of course the counterargument is, that this is OK, as vendors and consultants also often provide significant value. This, without taking any detour leads to the discussion of cost (client argument) vs. value (vendor/consultant argument).
There are two challenges involved in the value argument:
- Normally, the cost comes before the value can get harvested. This was true in the old days of on premise software and is also true in a subscription economy. The fee is to be paid. And consulting, e.g. the implementation of business software, is usually paid by the hour.
In both situations cost are a certainty, and value gets aggregated over time after the cost incurred. Basically, there is no balance of financial risks; instead, risks are shifted towards the customer.
- Especially after a crisis the clients may not be able to invest enough to be able to get significant value out of the investment. This even happens at the best of times. How many projects needed to get stripped down so much that software users feel the urge to circumvent the newly implemented processes? It happens all the time.
The solution sounds fairly simple, although it isn’t. Apart from maintaining a low cost structure of their own, vendors and consultants need to strive for a fair balance of the risks. Fairness is building trust, trust is good for customer experience, which in turn is good for business success.
Concepts like value based billing or service dominant logic and others may show vendors and consultants a way.
Focus on solving real business problems
As said before, businesses have real problems getting back into routines. They are in a dilemma. They lack the funds, and they know they are not far enough on their path to digitally transform themselves.
With their products and services becoming increasingly indistinguishable from their competitors’, businesses need to focus on the higher levels of the pyramid of customer expectations.
On the other hand, nearly everybody is still busy with the bottom rung of the pyramid; they are busy with making it happen at all, and not yet able to restart the ascend to its higher layers of efficiency and emotions.
This holds true for vendors and consultants as well, by the way.
For them this means that they need to rapidly identify the individual challenges facing their clients. Apart from having monetary strains these problems can involve a broken supply chain, or the inability to deliver. It might even be an inability to produce invoices. Obvious challenges are employees not being able to collaborate with each other and with their customers, or a lacking degree of intelligent process automation. All of them affect their customers’ experience.
Most, especially the bigger, vendors and consultancies have the capability to identify their customer’s unique challenges. What they need to exhibit is the agility to adapt their product and delivery strategy, maybe even a part of their own business strategy, to create a short- and mid-term focus on these challenges.
This involves an outside-in view that regards the own success as a consequence of the customers’ success.
Deliver easy and simple to implement solutions to real business problems
Once the customers’ challenges are identified that can be addressed, build and deliver the solutions that are of quick value for the customers, and convince them of your solutions. These solutions might be new altogether, they might be a re-bundling of existing ones. They might just involve a changed pricing or a different messaging and go-to-market approach.
Whatever the solutions are, they need to be relevant to the customers.
They are relevant if, and only if, they are able to deliver value to the customers, and quickly. For this, they also need to be easy to implement. employees not being able to collaborate with each other and with their customers.
Call to Action
For vendors and consultants (as well as all other types of business) the keys to continued success are trust, agility, and relevance.
These three keys are related to and influence each other.
Relevance is probably the one that is most easily maintained and many companies also exhibit the necessary (business) agility that addresses their customers’ challenges with adequate offerings.
Not being part of the problem – trust – is probably the hardest one to achieve, as it might involve the adaptation of operations models.
But then: What better time to tackle it than now?