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.

10 things to do in 2010

While we are still in the first few weeks of the new year I through it would be good to look at come of the things you should focus on during 2010 to.

In no particular order here is my list of 10 things to do in 2010:

  1. Have an HR/Talent Management/Recruiting application blueprint
  2. The IT environment in many organisations is complex and needs constant management, even in the smallest of organisations. To help with managing the complexity ensure you have a strategy/roadmap/blueprint to follow.

  3. Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  4. It seems finally organisations are starting to take note of the value that can be achieved from a decent career’s web site. While content and design are critical understanding a bit about SEO can help your jobs appear in the elusive number 1 spot of search results. Even if you do not have a career’s web site having your personal brand appear in search results can be a great thing.

  5. Implement a workforce planning program, with a foundation around competencies
  6. The recent CedarCrestone HR Technology survey found that organisations who were using workforce planning and competency management tools had significantly higher sales growth than those that did not. While they say they are not suggesting causality but over the last few years there has been stronger linkage between sales growth and these areas.

  7. Think beyond Facebook and Twitter when looking at social media
  8. With so much talk about Facebook and Twitter I feel people have forgotten that social media is more than just these two sites. Remember social media is about user generated content, including blogs, images, video, audio, ratings, reviews etc.

  9. Focus on high quality hires, never settle for less
  10. This should always be the best line of your hiring decisions. Period.

  11. Ensure your HR/Recruiting function is metrics driven
  12. Related to workforce planning is being metrics driven and I am not talking just about lists of headcount either. Gaining a deep understanding of your business and it’s drivers is critical to success. Do you know the best performing source of talent? What about the performance of your succession plans? But do not create an environment where you have an over reliance on benchmark based data as this basically turns the measures in to commodities by assuming what works for one organisation will work for yours.

  13. Don’t be afraid to experiment
  14. This one is for the Australian’s out there, experiment and fail!! As a population we tend to be afraid of failure. Do not be afraid. Organisations that experiment and fail regularly then to succeed.

  15. Learn about Web Squared
  16. You might be asking web what? Web Squared is the next evolution of the whole Web 2.0 idea. Web Squared builds on the idea that everything and everyone in the world cast “information shadows” or data. This data when leveraged provides extraordinary opportunities to organisations.

  17. Begin to think how you can bring real time into your operations
  18. The first part of web squared that you can bring into your organisation today is leveraging real time data. Look at real time data as key signals that form part of your business processes.

  19. Never ever forget about change management
  20. One of the biggest reasons for projects, of any sort, to fail is a lack of acceptance in the final outcomes being sort by the project. This can be alleviated through an effective change management program.

HR Technology Best Practice

Over night I received the results from Cedar Crestone’s 2008-2009 HR Technology survey, while I am yet to digest the full report, a quick review of the document and the assocaited press release reveal some interesting facts. Oh, the statistics are mainly North American focused but if history has shown me anything they predict a general trend for Australian organisations.

Some of the interesting points:

  • Use of administrative applications are obiovusly mature, however the results are showing an initial movement from in?house to software?as-a?service (SaaS) solutions. Now is this driving vendors or are vendors driving this move, not sure.
  • Talent management applications are very important and that these applications are helping organisations deliver higher financial performance.
  • The Employee Self Service and Manager Self Service trend is still deliverying value and reducing the size of HR departments and improving transaction cycle times.
  • Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 is still the arena of early adopters, with the biggest area of usage being recruiting and branding. The survey shows that organisations using these tools had double the sales growth of organisations that did not. This reminds me I really need to push/define my Enterprise 2.0 services more.
  • A final theme change management is the one key differentiator towards achieving a successful HR technology project. Which is good news as this is another key services of Inspecht.

Some points emerged in the results that I want to cover further.

those taking an integrated talent management approach strongly outpace organizations with a best of breed approach on operating income growth nearly three times (13.1% vs. 4.8%)!

Now it is important to understand the definition of integrated; “If two or more of the talent management applications are from the same vendor as the underlying HR management system, they were designated as having an “integrated” talent management approach.”

This little nugget seems to go directly against previous research reports that we shoud be moving towards a Core HRIS vendor and a Core Talant Management vendor. Could it be ouch for folks like Taleo who are heavily pushing their Unified Talent Management approach? Or one could say the Cedar’s history as an ERP implementation consulting firm might bias the results? I don’t think so.


Today’s talent management tools from best of breed vendors tend to focus mainly of recruitment, preformance management and sometimes compensations management. What they miss is learning management, which is key for developing one’s internal talent pool. Could this missing link be the key to why organisations who have a fully integrated environment are returning greater financial results?

Another result showed that organisations with comptency management achieved significant sales growth. Comptencies form the core of being able to manage your employees, aka talent. With separate systems it is very hard to have a consistent comptency framework so most organisations either do it very poorly or not at all.

Some further reading and analysis of the full report is in order.

The business value of social networks

Tuesday night I was on a panel for the NSW Knowledge Management Forum with three others, Laurie Lock Lee, Tania Maley & Jodie Miners who was roped in as Tania was running late. I have to admit I was a bit hesitant before the event given Laurie has just completed a PhD in the value of social capital to enterprises!

However in preparing for the discussion I reviewed Laurie’s blog and previous work and found I should be able to contribute positively based on my perspective of social networking for HR.

Over the next hour and a half the four of us discussed all sorts of topics, including the value of social software to business! I suspect we could of kept talking for another hour or more. At the end of the day it came down to four high levels of value, recruitment, retention, sharing knowledge amongst silos and leveraging the hidden networks within an organisation. This is a vast simplification of things but a good summary.

From an HR perspective there are several specific areas where leveraging social networks through social software adds value to businesses. Many of these areas are very specific and small but they all add up to larger benefits.

  1. Driving employee engagement
  2. Leaveraging disengaged talent
  3. Sourcing of passive talent
  4. Candidate relationship management
  5. Background checking
  6. Team development
  7. Learning and development
  8. Self service support forums
  9. On boarding

I’m not going to cover all in this blog post, as that would take a long time. Instead I felt I might cover the major factors driving my list; that of Mark Granovetter, Frederick Hertzberg, Emilio Castilla and Alex Edmans. There is also the work by Watson Wyatt on corporate communication, while I feel it is important there could be an element of commericla biasis in their studies.

Mark in 1973 as part of his book “Getting a Job” (and paper entitled “The Strength of Weak Ties”), documented that 56% of participants in his studies found their existing job through a personal contact. Granovetter also found that 55.6% of the connections were made through “weak ties” who were seen “occasionally” (more than once a year but less than twice a week), and 27.8% “rarely” (less than once a year). These “weak ties” are more likely to professional contacts rather than family members or social contacts.

Research by Professor Emilio Castilla from MIT Sloan School of Management found that employees recruited through employee referral programs can have a higher performance over employees recruited through other means. While Professor Castilla’s research was for a single call centre, the findings have been confirmed further by organisations in the US and Australia.

Frederick Herttzberg in 1959 released a book called “The Motivation to Work” where he divided workplace factors into two groups. Motivators and Hygiene. The Hygiene factors of Job Security,Salary,Relationship with Peers,Work Environment and Company policies were needed otherwise people will complain. However along the would not motiviate people to want to work. Whereas the motivators (Achievement, Recognition, Work Itself, Responsibility, Advance, Growth) were all required for employees to feel engaged.

The work published in 2007 by Alex Edmans, Business Professor from Wharton School, found that happy employees do in fact drive company performance. He measured an annually rebalanced portfolio of Fortune magazine’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” from 1998 – 2005. Companies on the list returned 14% during that time compared to 6% for the overall market.

The Watson Wyatt reports on communication found that organisations with “most effective” communication programs provides a 91% total return to shareholders from 2002-2006 compared to 62% for “least effective”. Improved communication effectiveness is associated with a 15.7% increase in market value and effectivly communicating organisations had an employee engagement level 4 times that of least effective.

This week in Sydney

Arrived in Sydney late Monday evening for a very busy week, lots of meetings, attending Web Directions, Port 80, AussieTUB, presenting at a user group on Change Management and sitting on a panel for the NSW Knowledge Management forum discussing the value of social media and networking for business.

During Web Directions I might live blog the sessions just not decided at this stage if there will be value for my readers. If I don’t live blog it I will cover the event on Twitter.

For the talk on Change Management I am trying to new presentation style, even got myself one of those fancy remote presentation clicker things, and to make things more interesting the talk is to a group of HR professionals, who should be by all accounts experts!

My talk is a summary of the 1 day workshop I have put together on Change Management taking the audience through the need for change management and a structured approach for implementation. The slides will go up on SlideShare afterwards if you want to have a look at them.

Change management approaches

As I mentioned over the last few weeks I have been through some training in PRINCE2 project management and change management, provided by a local vendor Project Laneways (a bit of plug they are highly recommended and say I sent you), the end result I am a PRINCE2 Practitioner and certified in the Principles of Change Management through the APMG.

As part of the change management course we covered several different approaches to managing change, predominantly based around the book Making Sense of Change Management. The approaches ranged from general ideas, to more detailed frameworks but none really provided a full change management methodology. Which is both good and bad. Good as it allows students to pick and choose the best method of managing change, but bad as there is no detailed process for managing change as with PRINCE2.

Some of the approaches we covered were:

  • Lewin; Three step model
  • Bullock and Batten; Planned change
  • Kotter; Eight steps
  • Cameron and Green; based on Kotter
  • Beckhard and Harris; Change formula
  • McKinsey; Seven S model
  • William Bridges; Managing the transition
  • Senge; Systemic model
  • Stacey and Shaw; Complex responsive processes

The best in my mind are really a combination of Lewin, Bridges, Kotter and McKinsey.

Change management and technology implementation

For many years I have felt that change management has been one of the most underrated and overlooked component during technology implementation. (For the IT folks out there I am NOT talking about change control I am taking about the people and organisation aspects.) I have been involved in change management from several perspectives and as part of my consulting now offer services are change management. Given this I felt I should probably get some formal training, over the last few days I have been completing the APMG’s course in Change Management.

As a bit of background there is significant research out there to back up the position that if you don’t have change management your technology project will more than likely fail. Some of the more recent studies are:

  • A 2002 McKinsey study found that ROI of projects was 143% when change management was used and only 35% when it was not.
  • “Projects with excellent change management programs met or exceeded objectives 88% of the time, while projects with poor change management met or exceeded objectives only 17% of the time,” stated Tim Creasey, Prosci’s Director of Research and Development and co-editor of the 2007 report “Best Practices in Change Management”
  • Kotter found that only 15% of organisations making transformation succeed.

Watch for more posts in the coming weeks on change management.

Organisational change management

While there are lots of reasons for project failures, both IT and non IT, a major reason is poor execution of organisational change management. During the implementation of the project each individual impacted needs to come to terms with the change. Back in 2000 William Bridges and Susan Mitchell Bridges provided a good way of looking at change in their article on Leader to Leader, Leading Transition: A New Model for Change. They highlighted 3 phases people transition through during change, I have similar before so I am fairly sure the are not the original authors but I just cannot find the original reference, The phases are:

  1. Saying Goodbye
  2. Shifting to Neutral
  3. Moving Forward

The first phase is where you have to saying goodbye to the way things were, for many the hardest part!

The second phase is when people basically come to a complete stop they don’t go forward or back. They are overcome by the fear, uncertainty and confusion of the change and this can take all of their time and energy.

Remember many people fail to let go, or fail to see through the haze in the neutral zone but many also are scared of moving forward especially in organisations that penalise mistakes. They just get stuck!

The final phase is moving forward when people begin to behave in the new ways and adapt to the change. Only once people are at this stage will your project be a success in their eyes, too many people failing to get to this stage will result in total project failure.

How important is user experience?

Very! Critical!

I have always believed that user experience is one of the most critical aspects to all products and services, include software. Which is why when I purchased my Gapingvoid cards a couple of weeks ago I picked this design.

A positive user experience makes not only initial deployment but also ongoing support of an application easier. In summary benefits of a positive user experience are:

  • Less training
  • Less resistance to using new tools
  • Less ongoing support
  • Happy users, managers, executives, support teams and project teams

As if we needed further that the user experience matters the CedarCrestone 2007–2008 HR Systems Survey, 10th Annual Edition found that organisations that took the time to improve end user experience actually had a higher operating income growth over ones that did not. Only 22.5% of survey respondents had specific plans to improve the user experience within their HR application environment. I suspect there is no direct link between the two but it further highlights that organisations who are thought leaders in their HR practices have higher revenues.

Bottom line user experience matters!

Blasts from the Past

Over the last couple of days I have been looking for inspiration on what to blog about, so I started researching a couple of topics on communication, collaboration and employee engagement. Funny enough I found some of my old posts, so I thought instead of writing something new I would give you “5 Blasts from the Past“.

  1. Into the Grey Zone
  2. A culture for collaboration
  3. Corporate Communications
  4. Corporate Blogging and Knowledge
  5. Find, Use, Share, Expand

I hope you enjoy.