Have you ever worked at a company where the computer systems didn't work, users were frustrated, and management had nothing but headaches. To make the pain go away -- management creates new strategies, new applications, new procedures.
Alas, after several months, you discover the relief was only temporary. You miss business opportunities and your headaches return.
What would it feel like if you had a magic recipe that made your frustrations disappear? Unlike Coca Cola's secret formula, business authors have shared their secret formula. To create a refreshing IT strategy, simply combine select ingredients.
1 box Free Prize Inside
6 cups Customer Evangelism
1 quart Purple Cow
Mix ingredients together.
Chill for one minute.
In Free Prize Inside, Seth Godin introduces edgecraft -- a process that allows you to find the soft innovations that live in the edges of your product. He describes edgecraft as a straightforward process:
1. Find an edge - a free prize that has been shown to make a product remarkable. (“A free prize isn't a gimmick. It's a game-changing soft innovation; a cool twist that doesn't cost a fortune but that transforms the way people think about your product or service.”)
2. Go all the way to that edge - as far from the center as the consumers you are trying to reach dare you to go.
Most IT strategies start with technology and focus on making technology remarkable. When your core business is retail or finance or something other than software, a strategy to push the tech envelope is usually a losing battle.
If you design software that competes with commercial software, you'll find that companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle will creatively destroy your best efforts. Your best efforts are no match for companies that have focused their energy and resources on new product development.
What's a strategist to do? Skip to the next edge until you find one that rings true. Remember, the edge you're seeking isn't your primary reason for being. Successful edgecraft depends on two things: “Pick an edge that matters to your consumer and figure out how to get right to it.”
What matters to the users in your company?
How about customer service? Don't users love easy-to-use software? Can you go all the way to the edge and be remarkable? Absolutely. Your IT department is perfectly positioned to create and own the user experience. Users will be thrilled when they see applications that are flexible and easy-to-use.
How do you engage customers to the point where they embrace your service and tell others about it?
That's why the recipe calls for 6 cups customer evangelism. Creating Customer Evangelists, written by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, contains case stories that highlight the six tenets of customer evangelism. These principles provide a framework for planning activities that engage customers. When you read their TiVo case study, you'll learn how to use customer evangelism in business.
My favorite concept? Bite-size chunks. It has been my experience that users finally "get it" once they see a working model. Their eyes starving for examples, users gaze upon prototypes in hopes of understanding abstract applications.
Don't think you can champion the concept of bite-size samples within your company? Free Prize Inside devotes an entire chapter on how to sell your ideas.
By the way, customer evangelism is an inexpensive and effective marketing framework. In fact, this framework dovetails with a free prize; Seth writes, "You can't afford to do huge media and PR buys because the return you'll receive is unlikely to justify the investment."
What's more, when you focus on customers, it's unlikely that users will jump ship and smuggle IT services into their departments.
Every CIO in American can benefit from this approach. They may, however, continue to focus on technology and get the same result: Their next IT strategy could be their last IT strategy.