What is an acceptable amount of time that a business process or model is in place before we can challenge the assumptions and basis for it?
Maybe this would be a good exam question in a MBA class. Answers are sure to vary and elicit a number of opinions. But I would answer that as soon as a process is in place, it’s fair game for challenges. Every day I think about finding more efficient ways to accomplish tasks or even eliminating processes that don’t add value to the goal of the organization.
The most successful process challenges are sourced from measured results. If the results aren’t what we expect then the process is open for modification in an effort to change the results to be more favorable. That concept seems so simple, but in reality it can be very difficult to execute.
I think the problem is that challenging an existing process or the assumptions that made the process is a bit like challenging the status quo. In many business environments challenging the status quo is akin to “rocking the boat”. It’s considered risky. It could impact baseline business metrics, people, and even the cash flow of the business. Big companies grow to be risk averse and create processes and procedures to minimize risk.
“Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”
Yoda was right. Before we can remove a fear in our life, we must call it by name. Marketing technologists (or really any person in position to challenge assumptions), must be ready to change assumptions, processes, and business model when they have data and results to support the challenge. An essential goal of the technologist is to understand how to deliver better business results for stakeholders by understanding how technology can provide solutions.
The technologist drives new work and solutions within an organization as a result of their everyday actions. The technologist sees patterns and variables in data that may not have previously existed. The technologist finds reasons that customers can’t complete the desired action and proposes ways to remove the barrier(s). The technologist identifies ways to make processes more efficient, regardless of the people involved with the existing process.
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Three examples from my story.
I find myself with opportunities to challenge existing models each week at work. I’m not always successful in changing the model. Sometimes its because my idea was wrong. Sometimes it’s because others don’t agree with my opinion. Sometimes it’s because others are too busy to listen. But there are times when my challenge succeeds in making a better way. Here are three quick personal examples of challenging the status quo:
- In a B2B business model that does not sell direct to consumer the team thought they shouldn’t use sponsored search adwords because that would be considered “direct”. But what if we purchased ad space and sent the consumer to our existing site which honors the B2B contract with the client? It worked and the team found discovered a little about the click-through-rate of branded keywords in search results.
- Customer address changes are a touchy topic when you are selling a financial instrument because it can increase the likelihood of fraud. But address changes are part of life. So why not emulate the process followed at bank or credit union when their account holders need to update their address? It worked for my team and provided the single largest increase in customer conversion rates for any software release the team had ever released.
- In the early days of the internet I became the product manager for a web site where a customer order resulted in a notification to the call center. The call center would print the notification and then rekey the customer data into the order system. This print-to-key process was ripe for a more efficient method. So I suggested it and a few months later we integrated the web site to the ordering system. Bye-bye paper process.
Are you changing the model?
In the spirit of continuous improvement we all need to look for ways to challenge the processes that govern us. Adjust, measure, and react. I’m not talking about creating change just because some process is old. I’m also not talking about using technology for the sake of technology. I’m talking about using the tools of a technologist to understand how the purpose of the business process and how technology can make it better.
What say you?