One of the key values to building and sustaining a long-term relationship with your client is understanding their business. As a technology consultant or analyst, this means far more than simply knowing what products or services your customer provides. You need to get a clear picture of their business goals and challenges, and then map out a technology roadmap to move them forward from where they are today.
Discover Business Goals and Objectives
The first step is to discover their business goals and objectives. Whether it’s at a corporate, division, or department level, you need to get the stakeholders together and map out their business priorities.
Get them to agree to simple statements that everyone can rally behind. Don’t go too broad, like “Improve productivity of my salesforce”, because you can’t pin any sort of metric or achievement point to that. And don’t be too specific like, “Upgrade office productivity apps on salesforce laptops” because there’s no business value assigned to it. Choose something in the middle, like “Standardize the management of salesforce devices and apps to shorten sales workflows and reduce training and IT support costs.”
Prioritize Business Goals and Objectives
Once the business goals are identified, you should prioritize them. As the old axiom goes, “If everything is a priority, nothing is a priority.” So pick out one or two items that are important, not overwhelming in scope, and will show benefit within a few months, not years.
Building a Technology Action Plan
A solid technology action plan can’t happen unless you know where your customer is starting from and where they need to go. It's best to start with where they want to go. If you start with a deep dive on where they are today, the discussion can be heavily biased and limited by that view when it comes time to talk about where they need to go.
So start by assembling a list of functional scenarios, such as:
- Mobile Workforce Enablement -- Access business data and processes on their phones, tablets, and laptops.
- Self Service BI -- Deliver consumable data to your end users to enable them to build the views they need for their roles.
- Business Continuity -- Ensure the business processes and systems run continually with minimal interruption and downtime.
Now, within each scenario, describe the features or scope of that scenario that will meet the business priority. For example, for Mobile Workforce Enablement, it might be “Provide mobile dashboards of key Sales KPIs”, or, less ambitious, “VPN access to company Intranet.”
Depending on the scope of each scenario, there is a set of technology capabilities that enable it. Again using our Mobile Workforce Enablement scenario, if we want to provide mobile dashboards, the technical capabilities to support that may include:
VPN, enforceable security policies, remote wipe, device/data encryption, automated remediation of non-compliance, application conformance to device form factor, private or hybrid cloud-based data access, analytics, application and server virtualization, etc.
There’s your laundry list of technologies that you need to address with your client. This is the desired ‘state’ that your client needs to meet their business priorities. It’s a good time to review all this with your client, and be sure to map them all back to the business priorities, so they can see how each technology supports the needs of the business.
But you can’t just dive in and get to work on anything until you know where you client stands in each of those areas. In Part 2 of this series on Knowing Your Customer, you will learn how to evaluate your client’s current capabilities to build an accurate snapshot of where they are today. Only then can you do the critical gap analysis to figure out the work ahead.