Friday, February 22, 2019

Who Decides What Best Practice Is, Anyway?

Peter Armaly is a Senior Director and Advisor for Oracle SaaS Customer Success. He is responsible for program design and execution of skills enablement for the customer success organization and in that capacity he works closely with senior executives both internally and externally. Peter is a highly accomplished marketing and customer success practitioner/leader who leverages his background by speaking and blogging about the challenges and opportunities around developing sophisticated customer-centric approaches.

Keith Fessler is a Senior Client Optimization Specialist and Subject Matter Expert on Oracle’s Customer Success Value Realization Team, focused on Field Service. With 40 years of pragmatic cross-industry consulting experience at IBM and Oracle, Keith works with Oracle’s Customer Success Managers and their customers to help them develop strategies and game plans for transforming their service management, field service and cloud environments in order to achieve desired results through value-driven transformations.

Peter’s a big fan of coffee and a lesser fan of meetings,  but when you can combine both, magic can happen. Recently, Peter sat down with Keith to chat about one of Keith’s pet peeves, the term “best practices.”

Peter:  Hey Keith, I see we’re both approved to attend Oracle’s Modern Customer Experience (MCX) in Las Vegas. Aside from the wonderful opportunity to meet customers, we’ll be presenting some messaging to them, hearing about their experiences of working with our solutions and services, and getting a more focused look at what our product teams are releasing to the market.

Keith: Hi Peter, looking forward to seeing you in LV. I’ll also enjoy seeing at MCX a number of the customers I’ve worked with on optimization efforts and attending the Oracle Field Service Cloud Customer Advisory Board where we really get to hear their feedback on current product capabilities. At that same meeting, we’ll also get to hear from product management what’s coming in the next few releases. I’ve got an interesting topic teed-up for a short-session at MCX on getting customer perspectives on “best practices” and what they mean in the customer’s own environment. Plus, I’ll be trying to get customer interest in participating in a survey (with shared results to participants) on “best practices”.

Peter:  I’m detecting a hint of insurrection in your desire to survey people about “best practices”.  The term has been around forever and I know that it’s a topic you’ve long wanted to explore. Is that because you feel it has fallen victim to marketing’s devious devices and you’d like to skewer it a bit or is it because you truly believe there are some practices that can work and that deserve to be widely shared?

Keith:  The term “best practices” is something we trip over all the time, given its different orientations in people’s minds. I tend to think of it as a one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor.  I believe the discussion needs to consider the notion of a “better practice” as being more of the goal. A “best practice” may not be the right thing for an organization to chase for a myriad of reasons. Your current environment limitations, the expense of changing to adopt to the “best” practice (the technology, the process, roles and responsibilities, the organizational implications)¾AND potential overkill stemming from the “industry-accepted” practice that you may not really need, be it “best” or not.   Broad initiatives for achieving “best practices”, in many situations, are used as a shield to deflect criticism from poor current process execution or striving for goals in terms of execution that really are not achievable, in point of fact, based on your current situation. There needs to be a balanced look at achieving an advanced practice for processes or sub-process activities, at a granular-level, to weigh impact, course, speed, and spend.

Peter: As my high school biology teacher said when gazing down at the baby pig on my table, “Now that’s a good dissection.” Okay that clears things up and I agree with you that there needs to be a balanced look at achieving advanced practice. Maybe that’s the term we should be promoting instead: advanced practice. It has a more realistic aura about it and not so absolute. I’m lately from the marketing world and have been seduced by its drive towards simplicity in messaging. Don’t get me wrong. Marketers, I realize, are under a lot of well-deserved scrutiny these days, but I think the simplicity thing is smart. Authenticity works; it’s what customers respond to and so if “advanced practice” sounds more authentic to us, it probably sounds more authentic to others.

It also aligns well with the Oracle service you and I are associated with, Customer Success Advanced Services. One thing I’ve learned in this long career in technology is that it’s unwise to ever declare that anything is “the best”. Things change too rapidly and by the time the words slip out of your mouth, some startup has figured out a new and better way of doing what you just said was the best.

Keith: Yes, Peter, agreed! “Advanced practices” does capture the essence very well.  A broad advanced practices approach may not fit in every customer situation, and the determination of where to focus is indeed a case-by-case review of what it would take to achieve an advanced, or more optimal, process execution if you injected a new process practice (or set of practices). Who defines the “best practice”?  Advanced practices can be said to be the next evolution of current practices, but where does the designation “best practice” come from?  Some Industry process models can be thought of as an amalgamation of best practices, as they are often comprised of practices which have been defined in relationship to one another, in the context of the overall model, making them best practices in the context of the model.

Our Advanced Customer Services Success Planning approach includes the calibration of our customer’s process maturity in key areas, into an objective-oriented, metrics-based, monetization-governed success plan for transforming portions of the operational environment. Our Success Plan includes outlining SME-driven, domain-specific process and KPIs initiatives, domain-specific technology initiatives, and domain-specific organization initiatives. Course, Speed, Spend are the watchwords of the game, inclusive of real savings. They’re often achievable with advanced practices, if impediments to enabling new practices can be removed.  Then, of course, it’s not advanced practices just for the sake of saying you’ve got them. It’s about impact and cost vs value, as you look to make changes.

Peter: Keith, my man, all great information and you won’t find disagreement from me on any of those points.

Keith: Sounds good Peter!  I knew you might be of like mind on Success Planning, and the rigor that needs to be applied to get operational results from change.  I’ve got some related notions and topics we should discuss, as I’d bet you do also.

Peter: Sounds good. Let’s make it happen.

For more from Peter and to learn more about the talent you should be keeping an eye out for your team, take a look at “Talent and a Team for Our Times.”

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