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Firms and Service Partners Must Abandon the Project Mentality

In recent discussions with both IT and marketing leaders at over ten firms, they consistently noted one common barrier to improving customer experiences. As one said, “Getting the capital expenditure budget for the project is actually not that hard. But approval for on-going operational expenses is very rare.”

This build-launch-and-forget mentality was never a good idea. Even basic brochureware web sites of the 1990s required a surprising amount of care and feeding. But the persistence of the project-centric approach in the era of customer experience works directly against positive outcomes for either the business or the consumer. For example, the project approach results in:

  • The production of many isolated customer experiences, with little or no regard for the customer’s experience as a whole. (Hashtag: #apostrophesmatter.) Firms end up expending huge amounts of time, effort, and money on improving this or that specific aspect of the customer experience, but still miss the mark from the customer’s overall, holistic view.
  • The inability to measure, analyze, and optimize a given consumer touchpoint. Today, the launch of, say, a website is not the end, but only the beginning of its ability to produce real business value. With the project approach, however, the build phase (“getting the website up and running”) often consumes the available resources – not just budget, but also personnel resources, internal consensus, and executive attention. Few of the rich customer engagement practices planned for Phase 2 – personalization, optimized customer journeys, integrated marketing campaigns, etc. – are ever implemented. As one agency lead noted, “The dirty little secret of CEM is that Phase 2 never arrives.”
  • A vicious circle in which firms and service provider partners are unable to build the long-term, strategic relationship that is crucial for success with customer experience management. Service providers are regularly asked to respond to a request for proposal (RFP) that minutely details the build requirements for the project while providing little or no insight into why it is desired or how it will be used. As a result, service providers are relegated to the commoditized build phase, with few opportunities to demonstrate their skills with higher-value strategic and operational aspects of customer experience. Moreover, restricting service partners to the build phase provides an incentive for them to try to extract as much revenue as possible out of the implementation — precisely the behavior that client companies fear most when outsourcing for services!

Moving from projects to solutions

In order to make real progress with the customer’s experience, firms and their service provider partners should:

  • Shift from a project mentality to one that views the deliverable as an ongoing business solution for improved customer experiences. In other words, shift attention from the build to the business value.
  • Adopt practices that get to the business value more quickly and sustain it more easily.

We analyze the benefits of this solution-based approach in our new report, “From Projects to Solutions: Accelerating Web Development for Customer Experience.” (The report is available at no cost upon registration.) In particular, we note that select service providers and vendors (as well as a few end users) have developed methodologies (such as parallel development) and features (such as reusable components) that vastly accelerate the creation of a web property.

In addition, and more importantly, such approaches can create multiple “feedback loops” in the build phase that allow the solution to be tested, corrected, and optimized long before it goes live.


Because users (and, eventually, consumers) become involved before completion, this approach effectively pulls operational elements into the build phase. By erasing the border between build and operate, business leaders can rapidly demonstrate business value and remove barriers to on-going operational funding. At the same time, the service provider hired “only” for the build phase can demonstrate how they will add value for the ongoing operational life of the program — thus encouraging a more strategic relationship and increasing the lifetime revenue from the client.

We encourage you to read the report and contact us to learn more about the shift from projects to solutions.


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