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SupportWorld, Jan/Feb 2013

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A Very Short Introduction to "Outside-In" Thinking By Ian Clayton "Outside-in" thinking is a philosophy and management approach that places the interests of customers ahead of the organization's capabilities. Organizations that adopt an "outside-in" approach focus on satisfying their customers by efficiently and consistently delivering a combination of superior service experience and successful customer outcomes. In economically stressful times, management teams may focus almost entirely on internal processes— improving productivity, downsizing and so forth. Decisions are made based on internal knowledge and instincts. This is "inside-out" thinking, and it can cause you to lose touch with your customers. This is particularly true for enterprise IT organizations. "Outside-in" thinking, on the other hand, emphasizes the need to look at everything you do from the customer's perspective, and to manage your organization's performance as a service provider or business based upon customer satisfaction levels. An explicit customer-based justification is sought for every decision. The what and how of process engagement and activity performance are driven by the why. "Outside-in" thinking ensures that your organization is customer-centric, not just customer-aware, and it gives you the ability to answer the following key questions: • Who are our customers? • What activities do our customers perform in the pursuit of success? • How do we help our customers perform these activities? • How satisfied are our customers with the service and/or support we provide? Organizations that can answer these types of questions are able to commit effort and resources where they will have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, easily adapt to changes in customer behavior and needs, and make targeted improvements to internal operations and offerings. "Outside-in" thinking is the key to success in the "age of the customer." 22 | Suppor tWorld January / February 2013 Organizations have long relied on tools like consumer satisfaction surveys to gain understanding of consumers' demands. However, traditional surveys and interviews merely capture a snapshot of consumers' needs at a specific point in time, making them lagging indicators, not leading indicators. In addition, consumers don't always have a clear idea of which services might best fit their needs. One of the keys to demand management is influencing consumer behavior and steering consumers toward the services that will meet their needs. This is where "outsidein" meets service strategy and design. Service providers should focus on mechanisms that relate their services to their consumers' value points; in other words, organizations need to look at their services from the consumer's perspective. To create a service environment that pleases consumers and prompts them to make purchases, service providers need to be able to mine their operational data and turn that data into information and valuable business intelligence. This kind of "Big Data" analytics can provide exceptionally sophisticated business intelligence. In addition, social media, such as blogs, Twitter, or instant messaging, allows consumers to freely share their experiences and needs with their service providers. Enabling a social media-based service environment that allows consumers to actively engage and provide real-time feedback is a worthwhile investment. Service providers can leverage this environment to keep a finger on the pulse of consumers' changing needs and steer consumers toward the new and existing services that might meet those needs. They can also use intelligence from this channel to drive their service vision and strategy. Ultimately, social media is most effective when it's coupled with an effective provider-consumer engagement model. Otherwise, it's just noise and busywork. Above all, service providers should avoid guessing at or interpreting their consumers' needs, practices that often result in continually chasing make-believe requirements. This is a common hazard in large system development environments where complex sets of requirements derived from so-called systematic approaches define how the system will behave. Developers then "translate" these requirements into system designs and "imagine" how consumers will interact with and experience the system. Consumers' needs are often considered at the very end, either during consumer testing or after consumers have already been forced to adopt the system. The outcomes? Frustrated consumers, very expansive systems, and sometimes both. An "Outside-In," Consumer-Oriented Information Fusion Traditionally, business intelligence is extracted by using rulebased "Big Data" analytics to aggregate, correlate, and deduce patterns and trends. The figure at right illustrates an "outside-in," consumer-oriented information fusion where business activity patterns, industry trends, and consumer experiences are aggregated and fused, producing the business intelligence needed to define services demands and achieve more successful services outcomes, such as happier consumers, better consumer relationships, lower operational costs, and higher profits. Lockheed Martin models this approach, maximizing business intelligence to enhance its

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