Mirror Mirror on the wall….. Where do I begin my transformation?

There are two things that are common to leaders of all business entities, big or small. They all need business growth & they all worry the future. Exactly for this reason, here is this ‘one’ word that can’t escape them. It contains both a dream and the nightmare; In business world, we call it ‘transformation’. It carries the most anticipated promise as well as the most terrifying insecurity. Its biggest paradox is damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Simply put, we have entered into the era of discontinuity. The future is snapped from the past. Linearity is gone. This is what is re-writing the rules of business models, success & winning strategies. Hence we must embrace this ‘word’ & become a producer-director of the script of transformation.

Bigger purpose of discussion is to figure out, where to begin? This precious thought stays in our minds all the time. In this piece, let us examine potential, deeper level changes in the very first mile of transformation. It is interesting when I asked this question to many business organizations across Asian markets. Perhaps, due to the national culture with different support ecosystems and partly due to stage in evolution of markets, the treatment of ‘first mile’ of transformation varied. To some, first mile is meant to examine the cost structures to address competitiveness. To others, it is capabilities of practices, process or people or even their go-to-market architecture. While, there is no consensus on which first mile transformation should leaders attempt, there indeed is wide acceptance, that continuous transformation is key for survival and prosperity. It is the plate that is never empty of unfinished agenda.

If I have my pick, I always consider ‘customer’ piece to be the first mile that needs leaders’ first examination. Not just, because, customers are important for all business entities but also because this element is dynamic, has the highest change quotient and is the centre of gravity for all transformations in any business unit. I have seen successful entrepreneurs looking at this piece in 5 blocks. Together, these blocks attempt to construct, future-proof architecture of ‘first mile’ transformation. Let’s introspect.

The first block that needs to come on the operation theatre table is the ‘Value Proposition’ that we offer to our customers, the very core of any business. Basically, there are just three things any business does, Creation of value, delivery of value& capturing of value. when combined with what customers are willingly going to pay for the value, they become the ‘value proposition’. Simple way to transform this element, is by asking what problem of the customer are we solving? Is there a better, cheaper or faster way we can solve. This makes a good recipe for transformation. Remember, you don’t judge. Ask your customers.

The second block for CT Scan is what I call ‘Key Partnerships’. No business can stabilize, grow & scale up without network effect of partner facilitators. This is not a one time fixture. It needs continuous reconfiguration & reinforcements. I always recommend to create a list of ABC categories of our partners. Periodicity of review, addition, alteration varies category-wise. We must recognize that rapid changes are occurring in the partners’ domains too. I have always used partnership index as a standard measure to track the pulse of this transformation. Changes in customers’ requirements, industry eco-systems and Govt regulations are constantly pushing us to keep re-defining key partnerships.

The third block to come under scalpel is in revenue model canvas called ‘Revenue Streams’. In today’s world, we cannot scale up operations based on single revenue stream. Naturally, vulnerability will be too high & risk of commoditization even higher. There is also a lifecycle of each stream. Organizations are better off, constantly architecting a canvas with multiple streams. At a very broad level, there are two categories, transactional and recurring. Within these, you can imagine enormous opportunities into multiple domains, practices & verticals around your business nodes. I am told that even for a simple musician category, there are potential 47 revenue streams.

The fourth block under the spotlight in the first mile transformation is what is famously called ‘CRM’. If your business depends on repeat customer engagements and every handshake occasion across touch points is aiding or eroding relationships, then this piece needs urgent transformation. You may have a compelling product or service but if you don’t transform the customer experience, you will lose out. CRM is indeed the backbone of first mile of business. We must transform interactions. I have experienced this block to be the most complex but most impactful.

The last block that must be brought to the operating table is what everybody calls as ‘VOC’. The voice of the customer is most talked about but least understood aspect of customer centricity. The proof is very much in the pudding. Usually, it is always a good idea to start with VoC driven transformation as it brings outside-in perspectives. My first question to leaders, is always to check how they capture inputs and insights of customers, who all see and act on it and how does that embed in their transformational journey. It is often said that best strategic ideas leadership get is not from with-in but when they listen to their customers.

So much for the first mile of transformation. It is good to begin here. The impact on business growth will be immediate. We can always ask the Mirror for next set of transformation later!

The writer is former senior VP with Canon regional HQ Singapore that governs 23 countries in South & Southeast Asia. He is renowned for his expertise in the domains of strategy, leadership, change & transformation, talent building & customer experience. He is an MBA from IMD Lausanne and FMS Delhi. His twitter handle is @alokcanon. To know more about him visit his Linked-in profile www.linkedin.com/in/alokbharadwaj/ or facebook page www.facebook.com/alokbharadwaj.creovate.in