Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Flotsam and Jetsam

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there. (Will Rogers)

Flotsam and Jetsam generally describe debris floating around the Ocean traveling in whatever direction the tides take them. Although this sounds quite relaxing if you are on a float in a pool, this is quite a dangerous state to be in if you are a software company. In many cases companies ( or teams within companies )organizations in this stasis are unaware problems may exist. Quite to the contrary, companies in this situation may feel they have conquered the mountain and only need to sit at the top.

As an example consider a Technical Support organization within a software company. Customer comments and surveys about the support provided by the organization are consistently positive. In fact, internal employee interviews about the organization are consistently positive. The organization and it's leader feel the reinforcement for the direction and service they are providing, which unfortunately leads to stasis.

The organization has not changed processes or support systems for years. New modern service offerings such as online support or customer self service support are never considered or proposed at the annual planning cycle to bed funded. Projects with software engineering to implement just in time help to reduce technical support calls are never initiated. Proposing to become a profit center by packaging some of these new offerings into premium customer support, is never considered. Implementing technologies into the orgranization like the WebEx remote support application never gets off the ground.

The company may also be faced with a scalability challenge with the organization. As the company grows and engages in new opportunities it will require an increased bandwidth in Technical Support. How fast can the organization grow without modern tools in place?

So in the end the company loses these important revenue growth opportunities, opportunities to improve profits by improving efficiency and the opportunities to establish a modern foundation that is ready for future growth.

What about the market, is it really supportive? Around the fringes of such an organization you may find that the current customers are very happy with their support, especially if they have been customers for many years, they may be the squeaky wheels, these customers are accustomed to what is being offered and are happy with it. But what about the prospects, the XY generation, the customers yet to be sold? Are they happy with having to use the telephone? Does this factor into a buy no-buy decision? Would they be willing to pay for premium support?

Will Roger's got it right, there may be many environmental clues pointing to the fact that an organization is on the right track, but any organization will get run over if they just sit there.

Or to put it another way if you're not busy growing, you're busy dying.

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