I want to return to the journey to customer intimacy to provide assistance in understanding what is needed, what changes, how the organization changes along the way, etc. Let's begin the discussion of the commercialize stage. Specifically - how do you know you are ready for commercialization?
I think this begins when you have had some success in at least one area of the business:
- You have more than one offer but a complete portfolio - You have a small set of offers, usually at least one that functions above the safety line and at least one that is directed at a space where you have credibility and can pull through product. These will have been vetted in the market and proven to be meaningful and have enough market opportunity to continue investment in them. It is important that you build on a firm foundation when you move towards the commercialization phase. Also, remember that you might have to start several offers before you have a set that meets the above criteria.
- A team that is performing the sales and account functions appropriately - To move forward your group must be able to consistently perform the Idea Selling TM program (selling to executives through the power of ideas), and your group must be able to drive accounts through the Service Chains TM. Depending on the teams you begin with, this has different challenges - internal people will have to learn the skills of consulting and external consulting hires will have to adopt to the rigor of the model. Both of these are challenging, but you cannot move forward until your team can perform.
- Ability to make money at the project and account level - You must be able to put it all together at the account and project level. This business may not make money overall (depending on the size and breath of your enterprise), but the projects and accounts must be profitable to move forward. If you are struggling with this, it is usually a training issue - people are not following the model or do not know how to add consulting value.
- Demonstrated ability to pull through some product - The model is not proven to be working if you do not pull through something other than consulting - hardware, software, outsourcing. As stated above your portfolio at this point will include an offer or more than one offer that has the objective of pulling through product. This must be proven to happen consistently to move to the commercialization phase of the journey.
- Ability to manage the business - This is both a leadership and organization question. Let's take them separately: The leadership of this business, like the business itself, is much more about what happens at the customer then headquarters - the rubber meets the road in the field. Effective leadership must happen close to the customers - you must have a feel for what's going on, what your people are able to do, and what help they need. This is proactive leadership, not administrative management. Now the organization must support the leaders to be working this way.
By the time the business unit is ready to move to the commercialization stage the broader organization must be ready also. This includes:
- The HR function must be aligned. As you recall, pay is different for these people; hire fast fire fast is different for this organization; talent reviews are different; a much greater investment in development and training is needed, etc.
- Finance function must be tracking the correct data the correct way - utilization, realization, project profitability, account profitability, etc
- Less internal meetings - like all new things, errors will be made. The ability to act fast is crucial. The amount of time spent in the field is very different than other businesses, therefore, internal distractions must be kept to a minimum.
- Belief that broader company understands and supports the business - You can't move forward if the company is wishy-washy about the business. They must fully understand what is at stake and why the journey is so important and worth the effort. They must understand where you are and why moving forward is possible, what the next phase of the journey will look like, and what new challenges and opportunities it will hold.
See also: The Customer Intimacy Journey: Phase 1 - Form