What are your customer’s desired outcomes?

Any student of Customer Success should know the definition of Customer Success from Lincoln Murphy:

Customer Success is when customers achieve their Desired Outcomes through their interactions with your company.

Nice and simple.

Lincoln and others have explored this concept in lots of detail, and the Desired Outcome boils down to two different parts:

  1. Required Outcome
  2. Appropriate Experience

The required outcome is what the customer needs to achieve while the appropriate experience is how they need to realise it.

Mess these two parts up and, you do not have a successful customer – there are subtleties to this but let’s leave it there.

So how do you figure out these two parts?

One of the initial steps is to understand your customer more than they know themselves. Again simple in concept hard in practice.

A common tactic to understand your customer is to conduct customer interviews. The key to which is the type of question you ask.

One type questioning I like is from the Socratic method, yes there are other methods/ways. But for now, I’m going to explore the six types of Socratic questions adapted from R.W. Paul’s work on critical thinking.

  1. Questions for clarification – Why do you say that?
  2. Questions that probe assumptions – What could we assume instead?
  3. Questions that probe reasons and evidence – What would be an example?
  4. Questions about Viewpoints and Perspectives – Would you explain why it is necessary or beneficial, and who benefits?
  5. Questions that probe implications and consequences: What are you implying?
  6. Questions about the question: What does…mean?

Using questions in this style during interviews you can start to break down what the customer is trying to achieve (required outcome) and how they want to achieve it (appropriate experience).

Of course, once you have some results, you need to build experiments to confirm your hypothesis, but that is content for another day.


Business agility

Agile is not new!

Although if you listen to many current business leaders it is the latest in innovative thinking that will save the world and their business. They are partially right, but it’s not new.

Agile was “born” in early 2001 at a small gathering of software development pioneers in Utah. Out of this gathering came the Agile Manifesto. (In fact, as I write this post that manifesto is now 18 years old, almost a generation ago.)

Agile Manifesto

We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Agile in business

A couple of weeks ago I attended 1st Conference all about enabling Organisational Agility in 2018. Overall an awesome conference that got my mind thinking – always the sign of a great event.

For those that don’t know Agile software development is a change-based delivery methodology. From this perspective there are many ways to do agile:


For business, agility is about responding the change in a whole of business perspective. Sounds easy, not so.

To reuse from Sharon Robson‘s presentation agile is:

  • Customer-centric
  • Focus on Value
  • Visibility
  • Transparent
  • Collaborative
  • Team work
  • Flexible/Adaptive
  • Reflective
  • Learning
  • Improvement

All good things for business, but very hard to do in practice.

Many of the speakers highlighted that today business is very focused on the “how” of agile but not the “why” or Kokoro of agile. They are stuck in the Shu of Shu Ha Ri and not moving through the various stages of mastery.

Having been an admirer of agile for the better part of a decade I’m hoping to write a bit more about agile over the coming month. Maybe I’ll explore some of my more recent experiences and flesh out some more thoughts – like agile performance management.

What is Customer Success?

Over the last few years, I have been working at the Head of Customer Success, which for many might seem a strange change of pace from the HR Technology Consultant/Expert/Whatever.

However, it is not that far from what I had been doing. A lot of my career had been spent in project delivery roles of various technology platforms. Over the years I started to realise how critical change management was in the process.

My views on change management could be summed up in a simple cartoon for years I was using on the back of my business card:


The image is from Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid, although I don’t seem to be able to find the originally published version anywhere.

This approach to project implementation moved my focus from just being about time, cost and quality. To ensure that the end solution actually met the customer, or user, in this case, needs and added value to their day.

Jump forward and this brings me to the definition of a customer success function that I have been using for the last few years. The basics came from Lincoln Murphy‘s book on Customer Success.

To me customer success needs to be focused on 5 areas:

  1. Orientated around the success of your customers using your service or product – adding value to them.
  2. Revenue generating – yes with a subscription economy if you are not driving up customer lifetime value you are doing it wrong.
  3. Proactive engagements that have a context to the customer – these are the best to engage and demonstrate value for customers.
  4. Analytical focused, not just relationship based – you cannot scale a customer success function based totally on relationships.
  5. Predictive so you can let the CFO know churn and growth numbers.

There are lots of ways to execute on these factors.

The Five Horsemen and you

A rambling post of thoughts for you.

For a few years there has been talk of the “five horsemen” of tech – Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. The opinion of having Microsoft included has varied over time the final number doesn’t matter, these five organisations are massive – in terms of impact, revenue, employees and valuation.

In fact they are the largest in the US stock market! What a change. In 1996 (20 years ago) the five largest companies were – General Motors, Ford Motor, Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores and AT&T. Even ten years ago the list had not changed a lot – Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart Stores, General Motors, Chevron Corporation and Ford Motor. Today the top spots are filled with technology based companies.

(It is not just US companies – Alibaab is a valuation of $210b with approximately $16b in cash.)

Today I was listening to TWIT’s episode “Headless Body in Topless Bar” where the discussion continued and what struck me was the impact these five companies are (and will in the next decade) have on our lives and the workplace.

The impact is and will be profound  – they are all shaping today’s workforce and tomorrow’s. Be it through smartphones, collaboration, social media, retail, search, machine learning, logistics and artificial intelligence. Yes Microsoft might be replaced by a Telsa/SolarCity (or another) but the fact still remains technology and the companies that create it are defining the modern era.

Some initial thoughts – What is the impact of these technologies on your workplace? Are you embracing them?

It must of been the recent earnings announcements from many of the five, as Jason Calacanis today published an interesting piece on what the five could be also doing on the M&A front. As he states it is pure speculation based on a tweet, but the results are interesting.

Jason talks about how poker players act differently depending on the size of their stack. When you have a lot of money the game you play is very different to when you don’t. Just look at the “stack size” of the “five horseman” and then their M&A activity compared to some “traditional” companies:

Tech companies that are wildly deep-stacked right now:

1. Apple $200b+ in cash/equivalents, $593B valuation
2. Google $75b+ in cash/equivalents, $551B valuation
3. Amazon $16b+ in cash/equivalents, $366B valuation
4. Facebook $23b+ in cash/equivalents, $362B valuation
5. Microsoft $105b+ in cash/equivalents, $457B valuation
6. Cisco $60b+ in cash/equivalents, $157B valuation

Those six companies have $470b+ in cash/equivalents and $2.5t in market cap.

Zuckerberg has been the master of acquisitions in the past couple of years, having the audacity to pay $22b for WhatsApp and $2b for a *pre-customer* Oculus. Think about that for a moment. Zuck paid $2b for a company without a market, and that may take a decade to have 100m users — if that ever happens!

And look what just happened. Unilever, GM and Walmart just sat down at the big game and shot the locks off their wallets:

1. Unilever bought Dollar Shave Club for $1b
2. GM bought Cruise for a rumored $1b+
3. Walmart is buying Jet.com for $3b
4. Verizon is buying Yahoo for $4.83b

Jason goes on to review a few companies who are the most desirable to deep staked players aka “five horseman” and some companies “wanting” to sell.

Interesting in both lists are two enterprise software vendors – Slack (desirable), and Zenefits (“wanting” to be sold).

Finally have a think about your workforce. Is your talent pool deep-stacked? Can you use that talent to out maneuver your competition? Can you make bets like Facebook’s $22b for WhatsApp or are your stuck with buying Jet.com for $3b?

What’s Next?

I’ve been thinking about writing on my blog for a while now, and this post doesn’t mean I will write regularly (but you never know).

So what is next? This is something I have been searching for over the last few years.

Today I read a good summary, by Chris Dixon, on some key computing trends that will shape our future. Chris sees that these trends are being impacted by two mega-trends in both hardware and software:

  • Hardware: small, cheap, and ubiquitous
  • Software: the golden age of AI

The mega-trends allow for profound new computing platforms to emerge, Chris says they are currently gestating. Chris’s six areas are:

  1. Autonomous Cars
  2. Drones
  3. Internet of Things
  4. Wearables
  5. Virtual Reality
  6. Augmented Reality

Now these should not come as a surprise to you, you would have to have been living under a rock to miss all of them.

But have you considered their impact on the future of work (yes I used that term)? What about on your HR Technology strategies? Are you vendors thinking about these changes? How are you going to educate the workforce? How are managers going to adapt?

Let’s have a quick look at each.

  1. Autonomous Cars – Obviously transport and delivery will be impacted big time. But what about employees and their commute with an autonomous car?
  2. Drones – Chris’s article mentions jobs that involve climbing buildings, towers, and other dangerous structures will be performed more safely and effectively using drones.
  3. Internet of Things – Equipment, plant and facilities monitoring all “run of the mill” examples. Will the use of IoT in the workplace give us our first truly useful digital assistants?
  4. Wearables – An obvious impact here is on wellness in the workplace. What about uses around monitoring for work for safety and productivity, ignoring the privacy debates?
  5. Virtual Reality – Training programs will be profoundly impacted by VR. Already we are seeing organisations use the technology, for safety training. What about eHealth design, construction etc?
  6. Augmented Reality – Again training will be profoundly impacted. So will meetings, presentations and conferences etc. Don’t forget all of those “manual” labour jobs that have standard operating procedures will be enhanced with AR.

This is a very short overview, in fact you could write 1,000’s of words on each an the future of work.

Chris briefly touched on deep learning which I see creating a seismic shift in how we manage recruitment, performance management and career development.

All of these technologies have the ability to profoundly change jobs in the workplace, are you ready?

4th Australian HR Technology Survey


Earlier this week Navigo Research opened up our 4th Australian HR Technology Survey.

The survey examines the local HR Technology landscape and specifically focuses on vendors/solutions used, satisfaction, expenditure and future trends. The resulting free report is designed to provide organisations with the information to plan, justify and execute HR technology projects.

If you work in HR Technology in Australia (and New Zealand for that matter) please take the time to complete the survey.

This year we have expanded the survey. We are trying to get an understanding on purchasing trends, views on SaaS/cloud, budgets and overall satisfaction with the various solutions being used.

So please go take the survey:


HR Technology Conference

Next week I am heading off to Las Vegas to attend the 16th Annual HR Technology Conference. This will be my second visit to the conference, the last was in 2001/2002. That time the event was held in Chicago and was an amazing experience back then. I can only imagine the improvements over the last 10 years.

HRT Badge 2013

What am I expecting?

Three days packed full of conference sessions, walking the exhibition floor visiting many different vendors, meeting new people and catching up with old colleagues.

In particular I am looking forward to hearing from many of the industries thought leaders. Specifically how the latest trends – such as SaaS, social, mobile, analytics, gamification, Big Data and MOOCs – are influencing not just HR technology but also approaches to HR service delivery.

A key take away I am looking forward to is to understand the level of HR Technology adoption in Australia vs the rest of the world. I suspect we are still behind but you never know.

Another outcome I am expecting is to understand the business outcomes from the various case studies, and how they might apply in the Australian workplace. Translating US case studies into the Australian workplace is not always easy. This has been one of the challenges international vendors have faced when demonstrating specific use cases of their solutions to Australian buyers.

While I am looking forward to the whole event, there are a few sessions that I am specifically looking forward to.

  • Opening keynote from Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics, Grown Up Digital and more recently Radical Openness.
  • The session on Awesome New Technologies for HR to see the new tools and approaches.
  • Lexy Martin’s 16th Annual CedarCrestone HR Systems Survey launch. Particularly interested in how the result compare to our HR Technology Report.
  • Getting to a few of the HR Tech Talks – talks about work, technology, management – modeled on the famous TED Talks format.
  • IBM Watson will be demo’ed as an HR Advisor, that will be different.
  • Closing Keynote from Jason Averbook.

I know of a few other Australian’s heading over and at least two vendors, if you are attending let me know.

If you cannot attend follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #HRTechConf.

I will also try to write a blog post or two but suspect I will be very busy!


Originally posted at Navigo Research

Navigo Research 3rd Australian HR Technology Report

One of the first things I did after joining Navigo Research was to pick up the finalisation of the HR Technology Report. As of this week the report has been finally made available and can be downloaded over on the Navigo Research web site. (Yes it was late – long story for another time.)

The report is in it’s third year and makes interesting reading for anyone involved in the HR Technology industry in Australia.

A few of my takeaways from the report are:

  • Australian businesses are behind on the adoption of cloud based offerings – 76% of Australian organisations have deployed their HRIS solution using a licensed software model, Software as a Service (SaaS) less than 1%
  • We still do not understand the power of social media and the enterprise – 75% of HR departments have no plans to use Enterprise Social platforms.
  • We have old technology and there are not many plans to replace them – 60% of organisations have been running the same payroll system for more than 5 years and only 35% of organisations are spending more.
  • Social recruiting is starting to take hold – 22% of organisations are currently it.

Anyway that’s enough from me if you want the rest of the information you will need to download it.

Some content for you

In the interests of trying to save some of you from subscribing to multiple locations I will try to cross post content from Navigo Research here.

A few recent posts.

You have to action your data for it to be meaningful

A recent study by Cleo Magazine has found that many organisations are complying with the reporting requirements of the new Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Act) but not actually actioning the details. In fact until they were contact by Cleo they did not realise there was in fact a salary gap between genders, even though the information was in the reports submitted to WGEA.

Social Network Analysis and Succession Planning

A very neat use of LinkedIn Company Insights to look at the movement of staff between the different financial institutions in Australian. Also some thoughts on how social network analysis can be used for succession planning.

Since writing the post I have caught up with Riges Younan from Avature. Avature has a feature that allows organisations to build organisation charts within their talent pools. This reminded me a bit of the analysis undertaken by Dr Laurence Lock Lee in the post.

Speed, Agility and HR/Payroll Software

A short summary of the recent conferences (ATC and SuccessConnect) I attended. The outcome of which was a thought that while we are getting faster software  releases through SaaS/Coud offerings, have we restructured our businesses to take advantage of these features?

Where has all the content gone?

A short update.

As some will know I started a new job about 6 weeks ago. Like all new jobs things have been fairly busy, but I have been writing, just not here.

Most of my blogging is going to be over at the Navigo Research site.

I will still be blogging here, just at this stage not sure on the content. For now if you want to catch my blogging you will need to subscribe to both places :).

Over the next two weeks I will be in Sydney for a couple of conference. First the SuccessFactors SuccessConnect 2013 23-24 May  and then Australasian Talent Conference 28-30 May. I have some free time during this trip if you would like to catch up drop me an email.