Accelerating time to value

How exciting, It’s budget season! A time of year that gives us a chance to get out and talk to our partners and future partners about what’s going into their pipeline.  What’s hot, what’s not, and what’s really eating at them. 

For us these conversations are fantastic.  They give us a grass roots view of where the industry is heading, the challenges businesses are facing, and a waffle free view on emerging technologies. 

This year the theme has been overwhelming: How do accelerate our time to value?  Not just getting stuff out the door faster, but from concept to converted opportunity, how do we demonstrate real business value in the shortest possible time?  In fact, we had four such conversations, unprompted, in a single week.

The problem is very real.  At an enterprise level, customer acquisition and procurement costs in the tech industry can easily reach into the seven figures.  While the raw numbers for SME’s are usually smaller, if anything, the pain is proportionally worse.   

In some ways such a spend makes sense.  After all, getting your it right or wrong these days could easily bring significant impact to your business.  It would seem like businesses though are starting to recognise this effort for what it really is: Waste. 

Three Questions to Answer, three problems to solve:

In our journey, we recognised a pattern, three questions that needed answering and three problems that needed to be solved.    This isn’t rocket science.  If you think about any procurement decisions you’ve been involved in (dinner out with your family as an example) you will have probably gone through these steps.

Cutting to the chase, those three questions first:

  1. Do we need this? Perhaps an obvious first question, but often surprisingly hard to answer.  Do we have a problem that is actually worth solving?  This is as opposed to the question of just do you have a problem.  A definitive answer here can solve everyone a lot of time (and money)
  2. What does “This” look like? Ok, we have a problem but what would an ideal solution look like? What other impacts are there across the organisation? Now that we know this, does it still make sense to solve this problem in this way?
  3. How do we measure value? Essentially, what’s the business case here. What is the actual measurable net benefit going to be?  What sort of return can we expect? 

Or in short form: need, solution, value.  This should hopefully be pretty fundamental stuff at this stage.  Answering these questions however isn’t always so straight forward.  And well, getting or giving a little help can go a long way.

Even if you have answered those questions, there is a solid business case, and you are ready to hit go.  There are still three fundamental problems across their people, processes and platforms, that organisations need to overcome. 

  1. Which investments and opportunities should have priority? How do I make sure I’m focussing on the right investments in the right order?  Where does this solution fit in that picture? Getting this problem right is the first step in solving our next two.
  2. How do I shorten the time to value? Quite simply, If we made the decision today, how can we have the solution up and generating real value as quickly as possible? A problem that definitely crosses the boundaries of people, processes, and technology. 
  3. How do I demonstrate maximum return?  And finally, it’s one thing to show before and after shots.  It’s another to demonstrate in real time, just how much value your solution is (or isn’t) generating.  That is value that exists right now that wouldn’t exist without your solution.

Compared to the first three questions, our perspective and experiences suggests these are much harder problems to solve.   The first three questions usually apply only to the specific solution.  The three problems typically cover much broader aspects of the business.

They are also heavily related.  If I can confidently prioritise my investments, from the get-go I know I will be bringing increased value in a shorter time.  Finally, being able to demonstrate that value in real time means I can be even more confident in those decisions, making adjustments as necessary.

You have a solution, right?

Of course we do. I mean, focus your opportunities and optimise your delivery is our tagline.  To be honest, we’ve perhaps underestimated the value we can bring on both sides of an accelerated, monetized (or valuetized?) procurement pipeline.   I can assure you; we certainly don’t underestimate it now.

Flippantly the answer here is simple, we need to enable people to make faster, more targeted decisions.  The currency behind those decisions is knowledge.   Targeted, tailored knowledge leads to faster decisions and accelerated outcomes.

There’s also a delivery component to it.  Increasingly, there is an expectation for solutions to drive value from well… day two.  Proof perhaps that cloud technologies have matured to the slope of enlightenment, but there’s a little more to it than that.

There are definite solution patterns to all this related to an earlier observation of ours:   Turn key is king. It’s easy to show value in a mature, commodity, off the shelf solution that is, if not based on industry standards, specifically tailored for your problem.  For many, demonstrating that value in real time however, still remains elusive.  

The short of it is the more niche or specific the solution, the greater it’s chance to show an accelerated return on value.  With that in mind, businesses will become more expectant of instant value return simply because increasingly, businesses can get it.   

Ultimately what it boils down to is vendors who can demonstrate more value earlier into the conversation will likely fair better when it comes time to cut that cheque.   To get there first you must understand what that value actually is.  Then of course, you need to deliver it.

Where does your desired solution fit in that picture?

Photo attribution Time Malone via wiki commons