Updated: Jun 17, 2020
The UK, Europe, the World is in the middle of a major event. The impact on people's lives is a lot to take in. I haven't come through this unscathed either - I was made redundant, along with a significant number of colleagues, in April 2020.
Ironically, this has presented one of the most opportune moments in my career to take stock, reflect, and re-plan for the future. It has also allowed me the time to deconstruct, assess, and learn from the past.
This Blog is to articulate the rapid, exciting journey I've recently taken to set myself the goal of implementing "The Ultimate Customer Journey". I hope you enjoy.
Yes, it's inspired by Simon Sinek, an inspiring speaker on Leadership. I completely buy-in to his principle of "Start with Why?" While we're on the topic of inspiring people, please do take a look at my book review of Turn the Ship Around, by L. David Marque, probably one of the most inspiring books I've read on Leadership, Intent-based Leadership, powerful.
The task in hand; why was I embarking on this journey of self-improvement; to stay sharp, apply emerging technology, and, ultimately, learning! Then I asked the same of what I was trying to achieve, The Ultimate Customer Journey. I guess there is also a part of me that wanted to prove I could do it and not just talk about it, I wasn't just another protagonist without sound judgement.
I set myself the objective of defining the Goal. I produced a high-level Motivation Map; what are the Goals, Drivers, Principles that needed to be defined? I started at the top, the "C-Suite":
From the outset I clearly identified the primary Goal:
A completely friction-less experience for Clients and the leanest Operational Expense processes
Applying Critical Thinking, I defined the sub-Goals I'd need to achieve - think big elephant and how one might eat one? A bite at a time.
Alongside the [sub-] Goals I associated the influential Drivers and Principles, such as; the Driver for the Goal "Digitally manage all interactions with Leads and Prospects" is influenced by the Driver, "Convert more Prospects".
It was now time to associate the Requirements that were going to realise the Goals. A similar 'elephant eating' process took place, whereby I broke down Requirements into 'deliverable chunks'.
This concluded the necessary work to clearly define the motivation of the project.
The Motivation Map applied at the strategic thinking level (C-Suite) is one of the most effective tools in an organisation's resources, the responsibility of the Enterprise Architect. Without Critical Thinking, Analysis, and Synthesis, the path of sunken costs is almost a given
I had now codified the [sub-] Goals, my 'Four Pillars':
Digitally manage all interactions with Leads and Prospects
Digitally manage the Sales process
Digitally manage the On-boarding process
Provide Insights for cross-selling
Now that the motivation was established, it was time for the Business Architecture.
The Business Functions and Business Processes; this would enable me to understand what actions I needed to take, for what purpose, and for what value?
The following is the high-level Customer Journey I designed, influenced by first-hand experience and informed thinking:
Again, I want to emphasise the importance of planning and critical thinking. It is typical for most organisations to want to control their interactions with their Clients, their Leads, Prospects, Companies, etc... and possibly try to 'tap into' these connections - hopefully not the level of Cambridge Analytica - I highly recommend Christopher Wylie's book, Mindf**k, weaponised data and behavioural science, if you're interested in what one can achieve with data, rightly or wrongly.
Through rigorous planning I had unlocked some capabilities I hadn't anticipated. For example, when I discuss the technology I implemented later in this Blog, I will discuss the rich communities of integration and workflow automation tools available.
My point is this; I had discovered some very capable technology that I could easily retrospectively fit into my plan - because I had a plan, I knew exactly where and how it could add value! Through web data extraction and platform integration, it was possible to mine Client-related data available in the public domain. As you can see from the Business Architecture, this enabled me to cover a diverse range of Parties, whose data could be used, legitimately (to the best of my knowledge), namely:
Customer (Debtor - Financial Services)
Petitioning Solicitor (in the event of a Winding-up Order, for example)
This was progress, invaluable progress. However, the next bit was fun, digital signatures. I knew I was going to get to play with this before I'd started the Motivation Map - let's imagine for a moment that I had no plan or awareness of digital signatures.
The power of the plan meant I could peruse, muse, analyse. The model below highlights the [obvious] Business Architecture that illuminates the digital signature Capability.
This brings us nicely to Capabilities and the Technology I was going to need.
Ideally, I would've applied my typical critical thinking and Enterprise Architecture approach to fully evaluate which technologies would be the most pragmatic - I'm on a budget, it's highly likely I'm going to rule out Salesforce.com and Dynamics 365 early ("Fail Fast"); perfectly capable tools, both, of which, I highly recommend for large organisations.
Customer Relationship Management System
Let me cut to the chase, I went with www.hubspot.com. Using this platform was a pleasure - capable, functional, extensible and competitively priced (yes, I bought these licences as well; Sales Starter, Marketing Starter and Service Starter). I found this platform so powerful that I couldn't imagine many use cases, if any, that I couldn't fulfil.
Desired Digital Capabilities
Generate Leads:Website, Email (automated and template), Landing Pages, and Forms
Qualify Leads: Sequences (automated comms), Integrated VoIP, Integrated Live Chat
Close Deal (included the integration for esignature)
Create Quotes (produced Quotes in branded, beautiful PDFs, analysed)
Register Introducer Lead
Calculate Introducer Commissions (calculated through the Product Catalogue)
Gamification of Introducers
Create Petitioning Solicitor (included the integration with web data extraction)
Create Client Checks (automated Sequences will remove manual collection)
Prepare Client Contracts (automated through esignature templates)
Service Client Request
Create Landing Pages in a Foreign Language
Basically, if you need the above capabilities in your organisation, www.hubspot.com is capable, and competitively priced. Note that these are capabilities based on my design, as opposed to capabilities based on the product - the technology was determined as capable, based upon up-front critical thinking.
You'll notice that Close Deal and Create Petitioning Solicitor are highlighted; these capabilities represent the only capabilities that had to be integrated with external services (non-Hubspot capabilities). I think one would agree that that looks like good value for money, based on the total spend, of course - we'll get to that.
However, I fell foul of my own [critical thinking and planning] advice because I didn't step back and reflect. Too excited. I consider myself somewhat of polymath, and that my diverse knowledge would 'protect' me from the pitfalls. It didn't. All too often this happens in large organisations - it's easy to fix. Plan, evaluate the strategy, and explain the motivation, (and empower, inspire, communicate...).
No matter how tedious it seems to revisit your Strategy Map and Business Architecture, it will unlock new thinking and ideas
New Behaviour: Since the start of this project, I've been doing my morning and evening walks (about 6km and 3km respectively) and spend this time planning, thinking and contemplating. Without a shadow of a doubt, I'm a more effective problem solver, more creative, and motivation replenished when away from the keyboard.
Something I'm passionate about is understanding motivation and how to drive it within one's self, teams, and organisational structures - I'm inspired by the three factors that increase performance and satisfaction:
Two more book recommendations; Edward de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats" on how to critically think within certain behavioural constructs.
And Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking Fast and Slow", highlights the differences, and impact, of intuitive thinking and rational thinking. Read both of these books and you can drone on for hours at parties about evaluation, inference, reflection, analysis, observation, explanation, problem-solving, and decision making!
Back to the technology on our Ultimate Journey; to be clear, all of this wavering and re-work was all the fault of an uber-cool company called Workato.com, a company I discovered through the Hubspot Marketplace. I was trying to find out what integration method I could use to connect with the likes of Docusign, QuickBooks, Xero, Hubspot, G-Suite, Microsoft 365, TIBCO, you name it.
I'll come back to Workato.
Hubspot: Customer Relationship Management Platform
I'm not going to consume too much energy describing the solution, I've actually built the fully operational demonstration platform which can be accessed through "The Ultimate Customer Journey" @theforum.
N.B. A massive thank you to the Hubspot guys, Gary Allen and Nial Shanahan, and everyone at Hubspot.com.
While I don't want to go into too much detail about the platform itself (it does a million 'things'), I do want to highlight a popular Use Case, one that I've seen time and again.
It's a popular requirement - especially within Financial Services - for the Business to manage a number of external Parties (Clients, Debtors, and Brokers - those Parties that introduce new Leads), but it's been a challenge to realise this capability within the digital experience.
I specifically addressed this issue in my demonstration platform (The Ultimate Customer Journey), which I wanted to draw out from all the eye-candy. This screenshot provides some useful data, such as:
The Lead was generated from a Broker's website
The Lead came from a Solicitor's firm
This Broker has an active Deal in process - valued at £5,000, and 'Closed'
No Business User has ever needed to interact with this data:
The Broker's website generated the data in Hubspot
Hubspot associated the new Contact with the Solicitor's firm (automatically)
Hubspot surfaces relevant associated data (Deals, for example)
Assuming the Business has configured Hubspot's [very intuitive] Product Catalogue, not only can you send beautifully generated PDFs to Leads (all tracked and analysed), but you can compile various Lists to interrogate your data, to let you see things like:
Which Broker generates the most Revenue
Which Broker generates the Clients with the longest 'life'
Geographically, which Brokers generate the most "X Product" Deals
Which Brokers currently have Active Deals awaiting Contract Approval
Send promotional material to Brokers meeting 'X' criteria
Powerful, I'm sure you'll agree.The experience, as you see below, is clean, and intuitive - notice the blue band indicating an outstanding Task (prepare Contracts) that has been automatically generated, as a result of a Deal progressing to the Contracts' stage.
Now here's the smorgasbord:
And for those interested in what the digital CRM experience is like on a mobile device (smart phone or tablet), the following might be useful:
Workato.com: Automated Workflow & Integration Layer
Workato.com wasn't my first choice, I went with a similar platform called Zapier.com, another pretty cool company, but their solution isn't quite as mature, and the experience feels clunky once you've been on Workato - I re-worked everything I had built after rushing ahead on Zapier, before discovering Workato, although I will always maintain it was a pivot, if I'm ever asked!
A positive to take from the 'rushing ahead' experience; I got to implement the same thing twice and, therefore, could compare ease of use and capability. Workato every time.
So, digital signatures; I chose Docusign. Why Docusign over, say, Adobe? Honestly, it leapt out at me on the Workato platform (I think I was then distracted for at least an hour). It is so simple to integrate two independent service providers with whatever logic you can muster. Set a few parameters (signer's email, signer's name, template to use, etc) and presto, off goes a signature-request based on one's document template (secured and audited in Docusign).
If you design the template with its required fields as parameters (Client's name, email, company name, for example), and tell it the signature order (if you require a counter-signature from, say, the authorised Account Manager), Docusign will manage the "Envelope" and collect all required signatures.
There's also a whole host of options around whether the recipients can download the document, get a certification, use their 'cached' signature.... quite a functional and useful set of features. The "Envelope" concept is pretty cool, once the signatures have been collected, the Envelope becomes "Complete" - this is an event from which we can trigger the next step in the Business Architecture (probably something like "Email the account manager, pop a bottle open and celebrate your new deal!").
Here's some Docusign eye-candy from my Ultimate Customer Journey platform:
Web Data Extraction
This was one of those "Reflect, analyse, evaluate, and problem solve" moments, you know the kind?
I thought I'd take a closer look at the Architecture around Lead Generation:
Applying my polymathic skills, I had a pretty good idea from where I was going to get data, data that could be mined for Lead Generation... the internet's a pretty big database. I set up a service to extract the Notices from The Gazette, looking for:
Deemed Consent (Winding-up)
Notice to Creditors
Petitions to Wind-up, and
But note that the web data extraction could've been configured to collect any Notice type.
I then dug into the data and realised that the Notice didn't just contain company (and individual) insolvencies, for example. It detailed Petitioning Solicitors, Creditors, among a whole pool of useful data. In it went, courtesy of Octoparse.
You get bored one evening, get yourself a free Octoparse account and just have a few hours of fun, you won't regret it.
Did I achieve The Ultimate Customer Journey?
Yes, I believe I did.
To help support my belief, I decided to bring together all the layers:
Strategy & Motivation
One of my favourite methods of conducting evaluation, analysis, explanation, and decision making, is the application of systems thinking and causality models (I fear Mr Rymills has created a monster, a man whom I owe a lot). The following is not going to be a dry assessment of what I've done, instead we're going to get visual.
N.B. If you're not seeing any animation as we get to 'the pictures', try re-loading the page - all animated GIFs run once over 40 seconds and stop, save the environment.
Systems Thinking: Synthesis
How do I read the Models?
Before we get into the Models, allow me to describe the legend:
Blue Nodes: Represent the cause and effect at the departmental budget level,
Green Nodes: Represent cause and effect Business semantics that support the Synthesis; Retention, Attrition, Satisfaction, etc.,
Red Nodes: Represent cause and effect in areas of the Business where you really don't want to see problems - these models, for simplicity, abstract out "Total Cost" and "Client Attrition",
Orange Nodes: Cause and effect, from The Ultimate Customer Journey - the effect of implementing what I had originally set out to do.
So, based on what I've just described, if we see any colour filling the "Total Costs" or "Client Attrition" nodes, then we know that the effect of the current synthesis is sub-optimal, based on its construct.
Detailed analysis would address impact over time - if you synthesise an un-balanced model, for example, and assuming there are sufficient interrelated nodes, these models become almost organic in nature and you can watch them play-out over a few minutes (or hours).
You can speed up/slow down the model to simulate your desired transformation schedule - as a minimum it is a useful tool to have alongside any Executive Function, like Portfolio Management Committees (PMC), to visualise the perceived impact on the Portfolio under certain conditions (a sudden slash in investment to cut costs?
N.B. Thinking about it, synthesis of one's portfolio for PMC might actually be a great idea for another Blog - it's on the list.
Back to model play-speed; it's possible to correlate time with cause, which could also be an invaluable insight into how long - in reality - impact could be observed. I'm not going into that detail here, but will do another Blog on Synthesis: Impact & Benefits Realisation.
Also be aware that the 'fill' of the Nodes is indicative to its influences, more positive effect, more growth, negative effect, negative growth. Again, quite cool when the model is unbalanced as you can quickly identify problem areas by observing the 'explosions' of competing and dysfunctional Business activity.
As with "Synthesis for Benefits Realisation", I'll undertake "Identifying Anomalies in Business Structure" in another post (feel free to send me any use cases you'd like me to use @theforum, always better than engineering a scenario).
FYI, I'm not deflecting, it's more because there's something rather seductive about a balanced causal loop, and putting a convulsing, erratic model among these elegant structures would just make things look... not pretty. Pigs are important, so is lipstick.
REMEMBER: Red Nodes need to stay empty (and ideally the Income, Profit and Budgets will be maintained to a consistent high level (no erratic behaviour)!
The following is my first draft, attempting to codify the 'living thing' of a Business.
Synthesis: Initial Draft for Analysis
Imagine you're 'C-Suite'; it's highly probable that you're making fundamental decisions about the direction of your company - I would argue that these models support the Leadership at these critical times.
Let's assume that I've been working with you and your company as an advisor to the Board. We've completed the Strategy & Motivation and conducted the Technology Assessment (responsibility of the Architecture Board).
Once the technology assessment had completed, we could perform the synthesis above and augment the decision making and problem solving.
Simulate the C-Suite Strategy Planning
We all love it, let's try some 'role play'; the Leadership has decided that:
1. Our Operating Expenses are reducing our margin by 2%, month-on-month,
2. Client Attrition is running at a rate of 50% - this needs to improve,
3. Clients typically stay with us, on average (ignoring the harmonic mean), 7 months but Clients who stay more than 9 months have a 96% chance of buying a further two products, which could increase the Customer Lifetime Value by 26%,
4. ROIC (Return on Invested Capital) doesn't have to be recognised for 18 months, but all departments must receive equal investment.
Based on this input, I would proceed to validate the model with the Accountable Stakeholder - hopefully the CEO, since I'm codifying the Strategy on which the company is going to be directed, and she will want to have evidence-based research to support such decisions.
I take the Initial Draft Synthesis, firm-up a few details and assumptions, and produce a Viewpoint to analyse and evaluate the impact Sales has within the Business Flow.
Synthesis: Diluted Impact from Sales
Moving on, I'd produce this early draft and your response might be, "Yes, good, but I don't believe Client Attrition is influenced so heavily by Retention".
Okay, so let's distance it from Attrition in the model and dilute its influence, over Attrition (look for the red "Client Attrition" node, the only red node in the centre of the model, and observe how I have literally just moved it away from the attrition node).
N.B. I'm describing strength and intensity of an influence, do note that one can add multiple relationships to also create stronger influences - these will come up in future Blogs.
Synthesis: Dilute Influence of Retention
Further critical thinking-based discussions would take place and we'd iterate through this process until we reached agreement. You may even invite hypotheses, one might be "But what if we didn't invest in Marketing and directed our investments only towards Sales and Operations?", for example.
To which I would seek validation,"'So, you want to simulate an aggressive ROIC position?', 'Damn right I do, you f**king superstar.'"
I'd be a little taken back, but then spend the next 45 seconds re-drawing the model while you ordered me a large Americano, with plenty of cream (proper pouring cream, none of that squirty sh&*t). And, voila!
Synthesis: ROIC Simulation
After a while, you'll feel sheer exhaustion at the mere sound of my voice, as it speeds up and gets louder with all the Americanos. You'd demand to see an Execution Plan, before you're compelled to stab me in the face with your 'stirry stick'.
However, before we go rushing to the Execution Plan, I would be compelled to challenge what seemed blindingly obvious. We removed the investment in Marketing yet the Digital Transformation that went ahead within Operations and Sales was enough to get the Business back to a, 'well-oiled' machine.
You owed the Marketing Director a favour so we put them back in and headed onto the Execution Plan.
I'm sure you'll agree that there's something very seductive and intoxicating about these Models? They represent such a beautiful depiction of something so esoteric and nebulous - like a Business - yet communicate so much information that act, in my mind, as neon signs on how to build great technology.
The role play,
After being presented with the Execution Plan, you'd ask, "'And why is it you're not in full-time employment?" 'Well, I tend to try and cover all the topics in this Blog in a single interview, they're exhausted!'"
You'd lift my spirits by saying, "It was worth listening to you drone on just to see you build The Ultimate Customer Journey!"
If you enjoyed this Blog, please share freely. If this has inspired you sufficiently to read more, check out my Current Projects. If you have a technology-based challenge on which you'd like my advice, please get in touch.
If you'd like access to the materials and content in this Blog, it can be found in the Forums - I do ask for some details (GDPR compliant).
By investing in digitised CRM, an organisation can achieve optimal operating conditions and maximise Marketing, Sales and Operational resource. Frequent, well-planned Strategic Digital Transformation will result in increased ROIC
Architecture Modelling Tool: ArchiMate, https://www.archimatetool.com/
Causal Loop Tool: Loopy, https://ncase.me/loopy/v1.1/
The tool I used for creating the Synthesis models is developed from Nicky Case, if you enjoyed the models, please donate to a person who makes his living from creativity and contribution - Patreon Account, Nick Case.
Loopy (the modelling tool)
GIF Generator: LICEcap, http://www.cockos.com/licecap/
Expense & Hours
Obviously the figures I'm articulating here is one simple measure of many considerations within a 'complex system', technology and business transformation.
However, let's assume I did 170 hours over 15 days, 11.3 hours per day. Now let's actually put that into something that might look like a business proposal:
Person Hour Effort: 170 hours
Elapsed Time: 28 days based on 6 hour days - all humans have 'peak performance' each day that 'peak' lasts for about two hours, then a few hours less productive - would you rather a ROIC of £12 an hour for two hours, or £1.68 an hour, for 12 hours? Rhetorical.
If you want to read more on Productivity, read Effective Coaching, and the Fallacy of Sustainable Change.
Project Management Office: Apply a 1:5 (per hour) ratio for PMO activities (for PMO, I've wrapped up Programme Change, PMO, and Business Analysis into one).
OPEX & CAPEX
Person Hours (Strategy & Architecture): 170 hrs
PMO (1:5) Person Hours: 34 hrs
Total Hours: 204
Hourly Rate: £200
Licence Costs: £500
Total Service Costs
Total Licence Cost
(this was, obviously for one user, me, and I did have to purchase to access certain features - but hey, my planning illuminated exactly what I needed to purchase based on my Digital Capabilities Assessment)
TOTAL PROJECT COST: £41,300
[not applicable, research project, but more than happy to give this a go with a real Business - get in touch]
I believe I've created the workings of a Digital Transformation strategy, focused on Marketing, Sales, and Operational Business Capabilities, linked with Customer Relationship Management, within Financial Services.
Based on the content, data, and research I've conducted (through delivering this project to myself), I would proffer that only 10% was specific to the Use Case I was addressing (things like "Petitioning Solicitor", for example, probably wouldn't be used for a Manufacturing company?!
This tells me that 90% of what I have produced can be reused effectively - if you'd like access, I'm more than happy to contribute, simply login @theforum (you'll need to provide your email address. Set me a challenge, debate a contentious topic, and contribute, along with other members.
If you're reading this Blog, chances are you're employer is undertaking some form of Digital Transformation - FYI, Synthesis & Causality Models, provide an invaluable technique to actually get a meaningful response to the question "What is your Digital Transformation motivation and impact?"
The overall value would have to be determined by establishing a Baseline position - this is the art of Enterprise Architects the world over. Find the Architect in your organisation and engage with them, I've never met a bad one yet!