Passive, Active, Or Proactive?

Sales people are result oriented. They don’t stop till they get things done. So this particular sales man drives a hard drive. He pushes and edges his way forward. He calls and counsels and goads. He sells hard, he sells soft. If the deal is hard, he thinks harder. He thinks out of the box, he thinks from inside it.

He even ‘listens’ to the customer! He tells the customer what they want. And they listen with respect. He brushes aside competition because the company he represents can do much more. He does everything in the book. And then everything that’s not in it. And finally, who can resist his hyper drive? Who can resist the incredible promise of value he makes?

The deal comes through. And there’s the project kick-off meeting.

In come the tech guys and the project manager and the solutions man. A room of powerful delivery guys!

Out come their notebooks. And the moment the customer starts his opening line, alas! Tragedy strikes…..

What a terrible disaster!

The room is suddenly filled with stenographers, hurriedly writing down whatever is uttered. The entire room of techies suddenly transform into a bunch of studious college kids whose only drive in that moment is to keep the gap between their written words-per-minute and the customers spoken wpm as low as possible. So it’s a catch up game, and some of them even peek into the notebooks of their neighbors to see what that difficult word was that they missed while trying to concentrate on spelling ‘reinvigorate processes’.

Back in office, work starts. Data entry operators key in the steno-notes. Project managers export that into MS Excel and delivery managers use that to estimate time. Project Leaders convert it into Scope documents and break it into deliverable components for engineers to begin building. Everyone focused on their component of the whole project. Everyone trying to ‘deliver well’ their component. And that tough, difficult-to-spell phrase of the customer, “reinvigorate processes” was never figured in anybodys notes.

This is a somewhat exaggerated account of what Forrester found out in its recent research on Application Outsourcing (AO) vendors led by Navi Radjou. Forrester finds that more often than not, AO vendors do deliver successfully by the agreement, but fall short when it comes to offering meaningful improvements. Forrester says that there is increasing disconnect with offshore players taking a passive approach to projects while customers are in fact looking for more value from them.

Very often the enthusiasm and the proactive, energetic drive visible during the selling phase can be positive factors in swinging the deal in a vendors favor. Sadly though, this is seldom followed through. The result is a huge disconnect in the mindset of the approach taken in dealing with a client during the sales phase and that of the delivery phase.

Ask the key stakeholders of this operational drama to sum up the mission for the whole exercise in one sentence.

Then step back a bit, and brace yourself to listen to things that make your jaw drop.

  • …To automate the inventory requesting process.
  • To replace the old SAP process because they have been using it for 18 years.
  • To increase efficiency since current applications are not efficient.
  • You might even hear ‘to deliver on time’…

what else have you!

Sadly, ever since we lapped up the Y2K opportunity, we still seem to be on the same mode of ‘tell us what to do, show us how you want it to be done, and we will get it done well, and cheaper than anyone else!’

To be successful, India based service providers must quickly graduate to assume the role of enablers to customers business and should join hands with customers and together tackle their business challenges.

To top service providers this extreme stereotyping may be invalid – this is really not something unfelt, or unknown. In fact many companies are actively setting up Consulting teams to be able to do exactly this. Nonetheless, such insight from customer feedback certainly calls for service providers in the industry to hold up the coffee mug, put the nose at its rim and take a good long sniff, assess themselves and design an approach that would mean making a conscious, across the board commitment and internalize it by aligning relevant processes and resources in front of customers in order to be able to proactively offer improvements and value-adds to clients.

Of course, it means a foothold on the next ladder up on the proverbial value chain – which is a very agreeable result given the way the dollar has been behaving lately.

And this is not the first time you are reading that nor the first article that’s talking about the urgency of that need.

Whether the right solution is to set up a consulting arm is anybodys guess. In my opinion, I think a consulting department with a finely-tuned blazer team is all good, but what is really required, if I may repeat, is a shift in approach and attitude across the board, especially to those sitting in the same room as the customer.

And the first step will be to question all your key team members along the delivery chain, individually. And the question to start asking is if that man in your team, facing the customer and designing the solution, is thinking passively, actively or proactively about making a difference to the customer.

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6 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Prakash

    1

    Nice blog man…It was like sitting in the conf room with the Customer for a Kick off and requirements collection…Great…

    [Reply]

  2. Jaisundar

    2

    Thanks prakash

    [Reply]

  3. Raja

    3

    Sundar,
    This is really well written: hard-hitting and addressing the issue with a solution. I might not belong to the IT business but, I am able to relate to it. Keep it going.

    Cheers,
    Raja

    [Reply]

  4. Jaisundar

    4

    Thanks Raja, glad to know that!

    [Reply]

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