Skip to main content

Corona is over - and now? Trust, agility, and relevance are your currencies

Picture by Sven Brandsma
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:
1.     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.
2.     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?


Last Year's Top 5 Popular Posts

SAP CRM and SAP Jam - News from CRM evolution

During CRM Evolution 2017 I had the chance of talking with Volker Hildebrand and Anthony Leaper from SAP. Volker is SAP’s Global Vice President SAP Hybris and Anthony is Senior Vice President and Sales GM - Enterprise Social Software at SAP. Topics that we covered were things CRM and collaboration, how and where SAP’s solutions are moving and, of course, the impact that the recent reshuffling in the executive board has. Starting with the latter, there is common agreement, that if at all it is positive as likely to streamline reporting lines and hence decision processes. First things first – after all I am a CRM guy. Having the distinct impression that the SAP Hybris set of solutions is going a good way I was most interested in learning from Volker about how there is going to be a CRM for S4/HANA. SAP’s new generation ERP system is growing at a good clip, and according to the Q1/2017 earnings call, now has 5,800 customers with 400 new customers in the last quarter alone. Many

SugarCRM explains how the third wave of CRM adds value

The news On October 4 and 5, 2023, SugarCRM held its Connected event followed by an analyst summit in London. The first day – Connected – was targeted mostly at customers while the second day focused on analysts.  The event started off with an intense speech by Katherine Grainger, DBE , a British rowing champion. Her core messages were about team bonding, the importance of communication, continuous improvement, and perseverance (well, at least that’s my take). This was followed by information about what is new in the software and, more importantly, a customer panel.  The main sponsor, Mobileforce , placed some words about the partnership. In addition, the analysts had 1:1s with customers, partners, and Sugar executives. The second day was filled with information targeted at analysts. CEO Craig Charlton and his executive team shared about financial status, strategy and more in-depth product news. Sugar being a privately held, VC backed company, the financials are of course under NDA, s

How to play the long game Zoho style

The news On February 7 and 8 2024, Zoho held its annual ZohoDay conference, along with a pre-conference get together and an optional visit to SpacX’s not-too-far-away Starbase. Our guide, who went by Chief, and is probably best described as a SpaceX-paparazzi was full of facts and anecdotes, which made the visit very interesting although we couldn’t enter Starbase itself. The event was jam-packed with 125 analysts, 17 customer speakers, and of course Zoho staff for us analysts to talk to. This was a chance we took up eagerly. This time, the event took place in MacAllen, TX, instead of Austin, TX. The reason behind this is once more Zoho’s ruralization strategy, transnational localism.  Which gives also one of the main themes of the event. It was more about understanding Zoho than about individual products, although Zoho disclosed some roadmaps. More about understanding Zoho in a second.  The second main theme was customer success and testimonials. Instead of bombarding us with presenta

Relevance, reliability, responsibility are key for AI – the SAP way

The News A lot is going on in the SAPverse during October and the early days of November 2023. First, SAP conducted its CXLive event with CX-related announcements, then the company reported good Q3/2023 figures, a new version of its CX software that includes new generative AI capabilities got released and lastly, it executed its SAP TechEd event with a good number of AI-, BTP-, and ERP related announcements. As this is quite a lot, I covered the CX world in a previous post and will cover the TechEd related news in this post.  So, what is new at SAP TechEd ? For one, it is enough to fill a 17-page pre-event news guide that SAP sent out. SAP certainly is able to stack up the news for major events. I took the liberty to ask ChatGPT for a summary of the document, which I slightly edited afterwards. Here we are: AI and Development Environments: ·       SAP introduces SAP Build Code with generative AI, improving application development and testing, while new AI capabilities are integrate

The Generative AI Game of Thrones - Is OpenAI toast?

The News This has been an exciting weekend for the generative AI industry. On Friday November 17, OpenAI announced that the company fired its figurehead CEO Sam Altmann and appointed Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati as interims CEO in a surprise move. The press release states that Altmann “ was not consistently candid in his communications with the board .” Surprised was apparently not only Sam Altmann, but also the till then chairman of the board Greg Brockman who first stepped down from this position and subsequently quit OpenAI. Investors, notably Microsoft, found themselves blindsided, too – or flat footed depending on the individual point of view. Satya Nadella was compelled to state that Microsoft stays committed to the partnership with OpenAI in a blog post that got updated on November 19, 11:55 pm. All hell broke loose. Microsoft shares took a significant hit. A number of additional senior OpenAI personnel quit. Both, Altman and Brockman, voiced the idea of founding anoth