Workplace collaboration has an outcomes challenge – get intentional to overcome it

With the coronavirus, workplace collaboration is getting a big boost. Just check Zoom’s stock price in the last two months. Workplace collaboration is hardly new but it does have a slew of new angles, technology vendors, experts, etc. The ingredient often missing in all the hubbub (literally and in the market) are effective outcomes.

Zoom is doing well because it allows for people to work remotely – that is the association investors are making. I’m sure related technologies will get a similar bump. If only remote work was a guarantee of improved productivity, businesses would get an equally magnificent bump in meaningful output. That seldom corelates.

If it were true, selling improved productivity through workplace collaboration wouldn’t be so hard. Renowned investor and founder David Sacks has recognised this and I riffed on his observations before – post below:

As I mentioned in that post, productivity is anyway a mugs game and not the thing to be focusing on. In this post I want to drill down on one area to be focusing on.

I cannot remember exactly where I got the image above from but it nails it. I think it came from Mary Meeker in one of her famous Internet Trend Reports from the last couple of years. Very prescient although nowhere near being fully realised yet.

Now far from me hyping “The __________ Economy” construct further. Subscription, Sleep, Passion, Velvet Rope. Take your pick, they are coming fast and furious and I am partly guilty. That’s too many economies for my liking but permit me one more.

The Outcomes Economy

The good thing is I cannot take credit for trying to break that new construct – this recent article from a SAP Insider does that: Adapting for Success in the “Outcome Economy”.

But I have touched on this topic before, most recently here: State of Enterprise Collaboration. From that post this doodle:

The point I am trying to make is that the point of all this collaboration, remotely or otherwise, should be outcomes. Not productivity.

Improved productivity (in the context of workplace collaboration) is a vanity metric. It talks to increased output which may look good but does not help you understand your own performance in terms of the only metric that counts – business outcomes.

There is increasing recognition of this although it may not yet qualify as an “economy”. So let’s look at what some are doing and how to focus on and measure what matters.

Getting intentional on outcomes

The Customer Success profession is arguably one with the greatest vested interest in driving and proving business outcomes. If they can collectively show how the use of the technologies they typically support are driving business outcomes – boom 💥

They can prove the value of the technology invested in and achieve renewals, upsells, cross sells, etc. The holy grail of the Software as a Service business which is subscription based, is that the customer sticks with the vendor in perpetuity. The customer of workplace collaboration technologies especially, that sees improved business performance, not productivity, will follow the vendor to the end of the world.

Gainsight, a vendor itself of customer success software, is starting to focus on this. Their head of customer success describes their efforts thus: We had launched a program last year called “Verified Outcomes” in which we track the percentage of customers where the decision maker has acknowledged outcomes or value. We showed how the metric has been trending over time.

This is an admirable effort but is it enough? I like that it gets the customer involved by acknowledging the outcome or value. This should be done both before and after the outcomes are achieved. But then this begs the question of how value is measured. Perhaps they do have an approach to measure and track this, its not clear from the post this approach is shared in.

In my work I am trying to take it to the next level. Below is a simple two slide deck with template that you can download if you like. It shows my approach to customer success with the customers we are engaging with.

A key thing to be managing alongside these efforts is tracking business value outcomes over time. I’ve touched on that with others before too: Metrics that matter and the ideal customer success dashboard.

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