Can you outsource success?

3 minute read.

I’m in the success business. I work at Percolate, a marketing technology startup. I help drive the successful use of our technology by customers. I’ve done the same in roles before this at Yammer and then Microsoft.

Customer Success Management (CSM) is a pretty new role and function. It started with enterprise technology startups. It’s now applied at many companies that focus on subscription offerings. I’ve written about it here: Customer Success Management – Experience Hacking for the Subscription Age. That links to a slide deck on SlideShare and is a useful primer if you need it.

The belief is that customers cannot achieve successful use of enterprise technology alone. This makes sense since it is often less than simple. You wouldn’t expect a simple iPhone app to need customer success intervention.

Its most important goal is retaining the customer. It’s most applicable where the service is subscription based where it is easy for a customer to churn. If customers use technology with success and derive value from it, use will continue. This is a key assumption behind customer success efforts.

Success management is not just about enterprise technology. The self help business which is worth huge amounts is in many ways about success management. The focus of all the books and programs is to achieve success through some endeavour or another.

success-design-chanceThere are similarities between the two approaches. A common factor is that to achieve success you have to start with the individual or organisation. If the individual or organisation is not committed, success will not ensue.

If you read my primer you will see that it emphasises a robust program, another common factor . The elements of the program vary. From having a good strategy and planning process to support technologies and community. Rooted in this is the belief that success can not be left to chance. The view is that good design gets the organisation there with a greater chance at success. 

This would also hold true to the individual. It’s no less what many countless self-help programs promise. That if you follow a good program well, you will be successful.

Of course the suitability and robustness of the program is important. But that consideration is for another post.

You could argue with what has greater influence on chances of success. It could be that the commitment and attitude taken is more important. In an organisational context as well as for the individual, there are many other factors too. For instance, in the organisation, culture plays a key role.

The point of this post is not to argue one over the other. Let’s assume you need a balance. I also want to come back to my main focus which is customer success management in an enterprise context.

Let’s accept that a function like customer success management is necessary. We’ll believe that it should incorporate a well designed approach. We’ll agree that on balance, the customer needs to commit. Organisational factors like culture also need to be supportive.

Now to the crux of the matter. Why is it that so many fail to take responsibility?

I often see customers accept the validity of the program. They accept that the technology will not deliver results on its own. They accept that they have to take responsibility and commit. Yet all too often I find they don’t.

I see many reasons why this is the case and wanted to list a few:

  1. Accountability: No one knows who is responsible and so its easy to pass the buck
  2. Purpose: No one knows what they are trying to achieve or why and there is no wiifm (what’s in it for me) for key users.
  3. Resources: Not enough time or the right people are not involved to do what it takes to achieve success.
  4. Attention: So many competing tools and areas of work compete for attention. This leads to a lack of focus.

One to to highlight because it’s so pernicious is: it’s the vendors responsibility.

It may be the raison d’être of a customer success manager. Yet there is no way ultimate responsibility for customers success can fall in his or her hands. There are many reasons for this but most of all it’s because the CSM is not part of the organisation. It’s why I think you cannot outsource success, to answer my main question.

It doesn’t matter how integrated a CSM becomes in the customer’s business nor how good the program is. The customer has to commit and take full responsibility for the best chances of success.

#customer-success, #strategy

Round up of latest #innerventures trends

It’s been a while since I updated on trends in this space so quite a few to add.

You can see other updates like this by checking out posts with the #innerventuresupdate tag as well as the original posts I curated under the #research tag which I then used in the InnerVentures trend report that you can find here: Trend Reports

Digital Marketing Innovation Framework

digital marketing innovation framework

This post is in the Sense Making category for good reason. I’ve tried before to look at this space – check this LinkedIn post: Marketing Technology Solutions and the Digital Transformation Challenge.

Unlike the article before, this attempt really has me stepping back and trying to form a view without too much influence from outside perspectives. I wanted to plot a landscape or framework as I’ve called it, within which digital, innovation and marketing coincide. I started with a diagram and this one has been iterated several times. I’ll go on to explain some of the main elements in a moment.

First to also just add that I’m doing this as a precursor to my new job at Percolate which I start in August and to serve as a baseline (hence the Version 1 under the heading in the diagram). I expect to be learning a whole bunch of new things and want to go into the new job with an unadulterated view. After a few months, I’ll come back and revisit this to see if it makes sense and may revise it further based on my insights in the interim.

So without further ado, here is a breakdown of some of the main elements of the framework, in brief:

Employees and Customers

These are in my view the two largest constituent stakeholder groups. The only distinction to make as I have is where the two overlap. I’ve specified (in brackets) that these are advocates – a pretty normal label. The point to add perhaps is that on the employee side it’s not just anyone. There is probably some degree of training or professional qualification. In contrast, on the customer side, those that engage probably do so not by virtue of any degree of qualification. At least on the conversation front. Customers that engage in conversation about brands likely do it out of passion.

Conversations and Commerce

I’m not sure these are the only two categories of interaction these two subgroups engage in but they are probably the most important. They’ve even been combined in a hip new trend amongst consumers which I discovered in researching this post I wrote about on chatops. Chris Messina coined the term conversational commerce to describe the way consumers interact not so much with employees but with bots within messaging apps when transacting with services. That is probably an entirely separate train of enquiry.

Suffice it to say that the importance of individuals engaged in meaningful dialogue that ultimately lead to profitable outcomes cannot be overstated. At least in the context of this post. The one thing I would stress it that it does contain the element of (digital) technology that allows for a lot of these interactions both on the conversational level (social media) and commercial levels.

conversational commerce

Translation Engine

By this, I don’t mean literal translation. The translation I am referring to is between the requirements or needs of the customer and of the services / products the company offers that go to meeting them. For me, this is an essential and critical element of the interaction – one that drives relevance. More on that in the next section. What is worth noting in this section though are the sub-sections.

Now I know that marketing technologies are hugely complex and fragmented in their purpose and function as I wrote about in the first post I shared above. Again I’m taking a stab below at what I think are the most important. The separation between employee and customer segments are not as clear cut as the diagram would suggest – there is much more overlap.

Content: Here I’m focusing on the creation side of things. Good content marketing, storytelling and collaborative authoring tech and processes that allow multiple people to contribute based on their passion and knowledge. This would also probably include or incorporate user-generated content.

Channels: Obviously once you have the content you need to get it to customers in the right format and channel and that of course increasingly means mobile. But that’s not the only channel and the key thing is to make the contact impactful dependent on context.

Storage/Workflow: This is where assets are kept and who has access to them (permissions) is determined. This is also where processes are embedded in workflow and some of these workflows will touch the customer. In other words, the customer will be exposed to some of these workflows or processes and may even be an active participant, for example with user generated content.

Demand/Sentiment: This is probably one of the most important because it touches on the measurement of marketing impact and effectiveness. It has to do with accountability. It covers data gathering, reporting and analysis. Demand would cover things like lead generation and capture and sentiment things like net promoter scores if that is something your organisation subscribes to.

One element I haven’t included is AI and automation because it probably encompasses all of the sub-sections above. It early days yet but I can see this kind of tech taking greater and greater prominence.

Innovation and Marketing

This is the one area where I will perhaps borrow from outside perspectives and I’ll “stand on the shoulder of giants” to do so.

In the first instance, I would refer to Peter Drucker, the grandfather of modern marketing. He also intertwined it with innovation and I fundamentally agree with this. More fully, Drucker said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

drucker marketingDrucker’s other fundamental view (see image) also ties in nicely with that of another key thinker on innovation and that is Clayton Christensen who gave us the “jobs to be done” paradigm. The jobs to be done framework emerged as a helpful way to look at customer motivations in business settings within the context of his disruptive innovation theories. I thought it was a perfect, classical context in which to frame modern day activities.

As you can see from the diagram, the two opposite ends of the spectrum left and right are effectively inputs to the translation engine and are the main elements covered in the jobs to be done paradigm.


Assuming you have done all of the above well, this should give rise to the total sum of experiences that go to make the brand up. I don’t intend to explain what a brand is. Suffice it to say that I still see it playing a dominant and all-encompassing role for marketing efforts. Especially in an increasingly fragmented digital landscape it can serve as a beacon that guides employees and customers alike.

So that’s my view of this space for starters. It combines state of the art technology and practice with time-tested, classical marketing and innovation theory. I wanted to anchor the new in what I thought was still fundamental and unchanged. I’ll revisit this in time. Anyone adding a different perspective, filling in any gaps or making any corrections would be most welcome – please add a comment.


Five paradoxes to navigate when trying to reinvent your business

5 paradoxes reinvention

Often labelled change or transformation efforts (and there is some confusion about which is which: We Still Don’t Know the Difference Between Change and Transformation) there is little doubt organisation’s of all kind are under increasing pressure to keep pace with a rapidly shifting marketplace. I chose reinvention because it’s the more innovative and proactive approach in my mind. Fashionable these days is also the label disruption which is probably overused and somewhat pernicious. I also aptly used the term navigation because the waters are choppy and the destination or purpose of many of these efforts, whatever you label them, is very seldom reached as planned. It’s no secret that success rates are greatly in question too. But the question is what gets in the way.

I’m no expert change practitioner and have made my priorities of where it fits known before. Based on my lay observations over the years as a participant or observer of a great many efforts in this space, I think this will be a constant tussle. I put it down to the ever present paradoxes listed below.

Change and resistance

The pace of change is increasing exponentially hitting many industries incessantly. Inherent in many organisations that have operated in the same way for many years and been highly successful at it, is a natural resistance to the change they see outside. Until it’s too late that is, but that’s for another point. And the paradox is that sometimes the greater the external need to change is, the more resistance there is to adapting to it from internal forces.

Leaders and blockers

Leadership (that is, senior executives) are often looked to, to drive the transformation. Indeed they are most often the ones that come up with the need and plan to change. Sometimes they end up being unable to live the change. It ends up being lip service. They expect others to do the heavy lifting on change work. In extreme cases they actively block the change. At worst, their lack of authentic engagement stymies successful change.

People and tools/processes

It’s easy to look to tools and/or processes first for solutions. They are inanimate and don’t talk back. You can draw pretty diagrams, flow charts and graphs or point out funky features that will lead to success. The difficult work is dealing with people and they are also through whom the real execution takes place. The culture (another loosely formed construct with powerful impact) of the current organisation and how receptive it is to changing is where work is also required but seldom with looked to first.

Network and hierarchy

Hierarchical management approaches have served the organisation for many years and although it has come into question in recent years, may still suffice for larger organisation’s that operate at massive global scale. What it is definitely less effective for is when change is required especially when it needs to happen fast. Information flows are not efficient in a hierarchy. In a network, information is not bound or contained and can flow as it needs to, to find its most useful outlet.

Innovation and crises

The worst way to try and reinvent yourself is when you are reacting, when you are being forced to make it happen out of necessity. Far better would be to have the luxury of foresight and planning and a deep level understanding to decide what and how you will reinvent the business. Not as a knee jerk reaction. Far better ultimately would be to have the capability to ingrained into the business – to be able to predict changes needed ahead of time and respond intuitively and ahead of the curve.


Product review of Spire-a Quantified Self Device which measures breath to increase mindfulness

Today I am reviewing a wellness gadget / device called Spire which measures your activities like steps, walked distance, burned calories like other fitness trackers but it is very unique when tracking breath and analyzing tension, calmness and focus times.

As you can see on this pictures it comes with a beautifully designed wireless charging plate and a USB cable, also a free slot to charge another USB-device. Spire can be worn on a belt or bra. I am using it now since 3 months and quality is very high which means: bluetooth connection to the iOS App (Android is under development) is very stable, battery lasts minimum 5 days and I don’t notice it while wearing on my belt. Congratulations to the Spire time for an excellent complete redesign of the iOS-App which was launched June 28th!

Now I am going to coverage the most important usage scenarios for me:


Measure your breath in Real Time

In the landing page of the App I can easily see how often I breath per minute. 11.5 is very relaxed and calm (until 15 BPM). “Focus” is defined as 15-19 BPM and “Tense” is > 19 BPM. Really helpful insights if I am currently in a certain situation (e.g. phone conference) and see how it changes depending on my activity (listening vs presenting), engaged vs disengaged or topic (interesting / boring)

Get a Boost when you are feeling tense

Spire knows when you  are tense and can push a notification alert to your smartphone (if you want) and recommend an exercise. This can be a calmness or meditation exercise around breathing (from well-known teachers like Deepak Chopra and Thich Nhat Hanh) or freshness and productivity booster for work.  I have tried all exercise and really enjoyed the style. Very nice voices, short exercises which are easy to integrate into everyday life (around 3 minutes) and they bring me directly back into calmness and  more mindful and present state.


History of your week: Breathing and Activity Pattern

Spire App also offers a weekly review where you can see how calm, focused and tense you were. Easily it can be switched between activity and breath. That certain Wednesday was a successful working day because I wasn`t stressed, had more than 1 hour of calmness and relaxation and more than 2 hours of full focus time.


I can also drill down and find out where I was in a tense state. So yesterday for example I had a tense situation at 5:57pm at our Kindergarten Festival. It started to rain and I was in a rush helping to move kids and stuff inside.



Spire is an excellent gadget for Quantified Self of measuring calmness (should I rather say: Quantified Selflessness?), focus time and tension additional to activity tracking of steps and distances. 129.95 US$ are not too much because it is currently the only device in this price range and market segment which can track your breath. Stanford University’s Calming Technology Lab.  was involved in the R&D of this beautiful product. I find it very useful if you really change your daily habits and that is the most difficult thing: wear Spire everyday and make the exercise without skipping if the alert notification pops up. Exercises are great and helpful but it is is so easy to agree to its effectiveness without doing it. The magic is not inside the device, it is in your daily practise and your personal way to become more mindful and know what is good for you and not. It can help to discover patterns of chronical stress that you were not aware of. That is maybe the most important use case.

If you understand German, you also might want to watch my son`s review on Youtube



Review of Jiyo-a Wellness Wellbeing Mobile App by Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra, a well known and leading figure in the meditation and alternative health movement, has launched on June 12th together with his his co-founder Poonacha Machaiah a new service called Jiyo.

This wellness services is focused on a mobile App experience (iOS, Android) and also works fine in a browser. It collects a lot of data from sensors and content sources like Apple Health, Fitbit, Moves, Jawbone Up, HeartCloud and Google Fit

Jiyo wants to prevent intensive typing. You can easily share the lessons you have done on Twitter and Facebook, adding your own comments, experiences or/and photos. You can interact with other members (freemium or premium) but it`s a difficult to search for people because it does not search through your address book, Facebook or Twitter account. So currently I still have zero followers and no interactions or motivations from a peer group as you can see in my profile.  It also shows that I have done these two exercises around breathing which I found really helpful, easy to do (less than 3 minutes) and great inspiration to do something in your daily habits (before you dive into your dreams or start your working day)

As you can see here a number of different kind of exercises are available. Quality of the content (videos, photos, inspirational ideas) is very high and I found every single one useful and could recommend it.  There is so much more content in the premium channels which I haven`t purchased yet (1,99 US$/month).


Here you get a short impression of the varity in the premium Jiyo+ Channels, currently counting 24 channels.


So how does a Jiyo landing page in the Browser look like? Here you can see that you see a summary of your own activities like average number of steps this month or hours you slept combined with content. I have not spoken to other Jiyo Users yet but it`s possible that the content / exercises in my Jiyo are customized for me because it knows my gender, age and activity patterns.


jiyo Landing

Here is one notification about a sport exercise which I have received on my mobile app and found very useful. It`s a stretch exercise with your bike which opens chakras.



First summary:

I am very impressed about the excellent usability and user interface of the mobile App. It is so focused on exercises which are easy to do and achieve, integration into daily habits and routines shouldn`t be an issue. Notifications on my mobile help not to forget that this App is existing (yes, that already happened to other meditation Apps I have installed).

I really love the idea of integrating usage data from other activity and wellness trackers and get tailorized content. That`s an extra value I would pay for and I am close to subscribe to Jiyo+ – and write a second blogpost. I would also allow Jiyo to access my breathing patterns and history from Spire.

Finally I want to close with this remarkable and beautiful quote from Deepak Chopra why he actually built Jiyo. Nothing to add:

“I’ve always had this idea, I don’t know why, but the idea was that if I could reach a billion people and help them personally transform, we would have social transformation. Because society is a function of a critical mass of people with similar intent. If I want a more peaceful, just, sustainable, healthier and happier world, then we have to be the change we want to see in the world, as Mahatma Gandhi said.”

Find and share your gift by working out loud #wolweek 2016

This is the first day of this year`s Working Out Loud Week #wolweek and Simon Terry has recommended to reflect about PURPOSE.

First I was contemplating about the term “purpose” and what it exactly means in German. Is it more about intention, a goal, aim, only a task or it more about a higher meaningful purposeful goal with significant core values which makes the world a better place? Well, I guess this question exactly triggers the right aspect and to starts my and your own journey (‘The way is the goal’ — Confucius)  into a purposeful (work) life where I am first discovering my own gift:

  • my talents and skills: am I using them to help others?
  • my  (working) time: how should I prioritize my time?
  • my power and influence: How I could I have a larger positive impact on the life of others?

I have made the experience that joining a Working Out Loud Circle as described by John Stepper is really helpful to discover my own gifts because of this impressive feedback culture which should exist in every great circle. A circle is a protected and confidential space (video conference or on-site meetup) where a group of people meet every week for 12 weeks to reach their goals. Using public social media channels is part of the exercises but not an isolated goal without a senseful meaning behind it.

Working Out Loud is not a wild and uncoordinated broadcasting of news or random (personal) information. That is what I hear a lot as major concern: “Why should I want to read that others are currently eating a cookie?”

For me it is a learning space with very concrete purposes: helping other people and organisations to achieve more. That is the main focus. It`s all about supporting others and reaching own goals is a secondary gain.

I have modified the famous quote from Pablo Picasso: The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso

Find your gift, share your gift

#wol, #workingoutloud