Tuesday 10 September 2013

Struggling to make the shift to services? Write your own obituary!

It is clear that organisations across the globe are making the shift to solutions. Often the ultimate aspiration is providing the outcomes the customers (and in some some cases the customer's customers) want and need. Often this journey is described in terms of a service ladder - gradually moving from providing products to supporting the products with spares; through to remote or condition based monitoring; and finally onto contracting for capability or outcomes. While a logical flow and an inherently attractive proposition, successfully making this shift to solutions in reality is challenging. A critical issue is winning the hearts and minds of people who are used to a world of products. If you've always worked in a product or technology centred business then a commonly heard fear is "won't services cannibalise the product business" or put more directly "aren't we sowing the seeds of our own destruction - we'll kill the product business if we are too good at offering solutions".

Hearts and minds are always difficult to win, but one useful trick is to play on this fear. Recently we have been experimenting with asking organisation's to write their own obituary. The exam question we set is "write or record a short obituary for our services business. Imagine we are five years down the road and we haven't made our services business work (while all of our competitors have). What would the press be saying about us? What would they put our failure down to? Who would get the inheritance (e.g. which competitor gets our business and why)".

A simple trick, but the responses that are generated are both illuminating and in some cases humbling. Senior executives start to verbalise ideas like "ACME Inc has divested all of its remote and condition monitoring efforts and sold them to Monitoring-R-Us, a private company specialising in industrial solutions". Five themes consistently shine through these obituaries - the failure of the organisation concerned to keep pace with change; the inability to break away from the product-dominant culture; the need to get closer to customers and really understand their businesses; the reluctance to make the necessary investment - dabbling rather than committing to services and solutions; and missing the opportunity that the era of big data and sensors offers. In another blog I'll try to write more about these issues, but in the short-term if they strike a chord with you, join us in Cambridge on 1st October for the Cambridge Service Alliance conference - "Successfully Making the Shift to Solutions" - where we'll hear from organisations that are making the shift and overcoming the barriers. 

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