One of the areas we explored in our recent survey on tech buying (for Gartner clients in our product marketing teams program, here are links to two of the formal research reports that have been released, here and here), was the diversity of buying teams–effectively how many (and what) different groups were involved. In studying the results, it is difficult to make any strong assessments about findings, but there does seem to be an implication that the involvement of more groups increases the likelihood of project success (for the customer) and high quality deal (for the vendor). Again, implication vs. strong finding.
(Source: Photos by Dan Meyers from Unsplash.com)
In thinking about this, it reinforces ideas around the power of alternative perspectives. Simply put, getting feedback and thoughts from someone who looks at a problem, or a set of data, or a plan in a different way will usually reveal new ideas that can improve the resulting actions.
For our survey, we say the value of looking to independent resources rather than just vendors, but it also applies within the team. Those respondents that involved both corporate IT resources (likely looking at broad corporate issues like standards, supportability, etc.) and business unit IT resources (likely focused on fit, business integration, etc) were more successful. Extending that to include the users and support functions also seemed to increase the odds of success.
But isn’t there a risk here? We also see challenges achieving consensus and managing through different objectives. Broad involvement could also derail projects, right?
But I think it can be managed. It requires, first and foremost, clear goals and objectives for the project to be declared and shared. These should be cast in “soft” stone–only to be revisited if significant business change has occurred. Ideally, develop these goals with some level of participation from the diverse groups. Make these high level rather than minutiae (e.g. a goal should not be “easy integration with our other platforms” or “security conformance.” The goal should be more like “improve the customer experience on our Web site through both navigation and performance improvements.”).
Once established, these goals become the unifying theme and idea, that brings other groups together. As you work, then each group and suggest ideas to achieve the goal and risks against it, from their own perspective. They serve as guide rails for collaboration. And, yes, occasionally they may put chinks in the “soft” stone of the goals, but that should be the exception that is driven out of deeper perspectives versus simply different opinions on what should be done.
As a vendor (whether providing products and services), you should foster these broad interactions–both within the organization and with resources outside, including your own teams. If there are discussions about privacy risks, bring in a privacy expert from your organization, or a services expert who has worked with companies on similar issues. Or, connect them with an external expert, who understands your product well and can help build confidence in how to address the risks.
It is hard to think of any situation where gaining a variety of perspectives would not pay dividends, as long as it is done wisely and with a shared purpose focusing the discussions.
Customers and their vendors who recognize this should improve their chances of success.
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