Reimagining Support Functions

An excerpt from the forthcoming book “Organizing and Managing Insanely Great Products” by David Fradin with RN Prasad.


With the coming “Perfect Storm,” the staffing or support functions in the organization like Human Resources, Finance, Legal, Marketing Communications, Operations, Business Process improvements, and IT are being reimagined.  With technology-driven automation and digitization, these functions can become more productive, expand their scope, and contribute to the success of the organization.  In this section, I will discuss how each area can be reimagined.

Innovation

Innovation, once the purview of only the research and development organization has now, with the digital age, can be done in all support functions and line functions in addition to manufacturing, marketing, and sales. 

Human-Centered Design

For the reimaginedsupport functions, one should use human-centered design as a primaryconsideration.  Human-centered design oras some call it design thinking will make it easier for your employees to getwork done.  Plus make it easier toimprove customer satisfaction.

Business ProcessImprovements

A business process can be improved using artificial intelligence (AI).  The AI can sense, comprehend, act, and learn in real-time.  Accenture says create self-adapting, self-optimizing “living processes” that use machine learning algorithms and real-time data to improve continuously.  A full implementation, according to the Accenture survey, has resulted in a 200% improvement in enterprise KPIs by reimagining processes from scratch, enabling better human-machine interaction, and accessing dark data.

Likewise, HR and productmanagement should team up to review the existing product management lifecycleby reviewing each outcome from each task in the lifecycle in terms of valuecreated and whether or not it can be executed better, faster, cheaper, or withfewer people.  Plus you should look atwhat would provide a competitive advantage and then select with IT’s help therobots, the data analytics, the AI, the machine learning, and the people toimplement.

All of this is leadingto what is now being called Integrated Business Services or IBS.  IBS delivers value-add services end-to-end,addressing enterprise-wide business problems consistent, high quality, andcost-competitive manners. IBS takes into account new digital capabilities suchas cloud computing, robotic process automation, analytics, machinelearning,  and blockchain. Integratingbusiness services provides new efficiencies and increased productivity.

Marketing

Marketing and IT are nowcollaborating to manage the customer experience instead of just customeracquisition.  This is enabling marketersto treat each customer as an individual by understanding their preferences andbehaviors. So this is done by data analytics and cognitive computing tounderstand the context of customer desires and needs and decide the best way tointeract with them.  Content getstailored and delivered both digitally and physically.  For example, a customer expresses an interestin a product online and then when they wander into a store, a smartphone appdirects them to the product and perhaps notifies a salesperson nearby as to theinterest.

Instead of relying onoutsourcing to marketing service providers and advertising agencies, thecollaboration between marketing and IT is bringing this function in-house.

Since the productmarketing manager is closest to the customer and has detailed knowledge aboutthe product, the organizational structure needs to support the people in thatrole.

The rapid changes in this area and the others discussed in this section will require that IT be more agile and develop faster than ever before; otherwise, the organization may find itself at a competitive disadvantage. If IT is not quick and agile enough, the product marketing managers should be empowered to go outside the organization to get the job done.  It is simply critical to product and company success.

This means the productmarketing manager must keep up with developing cloud-based applications andtechnologies. Organizationally they need the authority to direct marketing andIT for the best customer experience solutions.

Finance

In the past, finance hastended to be in charge and referred to as the finance/legal/distribution salesprevention department.  However, today,with the customer as king, finance must seamlessly support the marketing andselling process.  Not get in the way. Aswith other departments, AI will be deployed.

Finance will need toundergo a mindset change to understand that what they do must help the customergain value and support a quality customer experience.

To that end, finance hasdata that can help product success management make better decisions and quicker.  Finance should be organized such that productmanagers have the authority to request and get the reports or data on theirproduct dashboard when they want them.

Because many product managers are not familiar with many finance competencies like calculating return on investment, finance could be quiet helpful to product managers by helping them calculate their product ROI to the company and for its customers. Accordingly, product managers should be given the authority to request such assistance.

IT

To give the organizationa competitive advantage, the IT department needs to integrate technology,processes, and people at the speed required by product management, marketing,sales, and other organizations.

Data Analytics

People in the field ofdata analytics believe that analytics will transform how organizations aremanaged as well as the markets in which they operate. More and more data isbecoming available from inside and outside the organization to help understandthe customer plus new analytic tools and services are becoming available tocomprehend all that data at a deeper level of detail.

Data and analytics is acore asset for strategy, marketing, operations, and customer service. Speed ingathering and analyzing is critical. However, senior managers need to supportdata-driven decisions.  This has been thekey to Google’s exceptional success since its decision making is almostentirely data-driven.

Analytics have driventhe improvements we have seen in product usefulness and user experience withthe product such as at Linkedin and Paypal over the past 10-15 years. Bothproduct’s user interfaces have significantly improved.

In addition to seeing what has happened, predictive analytics is predicting what is going to happen in the future.  The data and the predictions must be available to product management when they need it not later as is too often the case. 

Support

As discussed elsewherein this book, customers have to figure out the support silos the companyprovides, raise multiple issue tickets and get little or no help.

Customer support isusually measured by resolving individual tickets and not their ability to takea holistic view and fix the problem at their source.  Frequently, I tell the support person for aproduct I am having trouble with what the systemic problem is (since I can seeclearly what is going on as a Product Manager). However, most don’t seem to care or tell me to call some other number.

So, in addition tochanging and reimagining the metrics for success, support departments need touse analytics (including monitoring social media), predictive analysis to seewhat is going on in the support stream and incentivize solutions emanating fromthe support team.

Human Resources

Although I discuss HR ingreater depth elsewhere in this book, under the title of HR reimagined, a fewadditional comments seem to be in order.

Workforce development is increasingly important since the lack of career growth is a driver of people leaving their company.  Product success managers should learn more about artificial intelligence and ways that it can help them with their product throughout the entire product lifecycle. As organizations continue to expand globally, cross-culture training and leadership is becoming more and more critical. The agility to deal with the disruptions and opportunities will increase.

HR’s role willincreasingly be more focused on building and maintaining the capacity of theorganization in addition to assisting in the formation and maintenance ofcompany culture.

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