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Lifting Our Heads Up

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I had the pleasure recently of participating in one of our full-day presentations for a prospective customer.   It was the now familiar gathering of a broad range of institutional staff as well as three individuals from our team that know a whole lot more about our software than I do.  We did the expected “company” PowerPoint, followed by the usual multi-sessioned agenda covering various aspects of Encompass.  Lunch was spent discussing implementation – timeline, resources, proper preparation.

At one point, though, I felt compelled to speak (brief aside:  great Boston University English professor I once had wrote a great book of Conrad criticism named Coercion to Speak; but I digress).

We had spent the majority of the day talking about the granular details of our solution, but we hadn’t yet put those details into the context of “why?”  Why was this particular educational institution focused on making a change from their existing vendor to something else?  There are always reasons – contracts are expiring, the current vendor isn’t enhancing as much as desired, peers are going in iModules’ direction – but those feel like tactics, and not goals.  I commented to the prospective customer staff that were in attendance, “please, don’t lose sight as to what your goals are for wanting a new solution.  What is the strategy you want to pursue in trying to achieve them?  Help us understand.  That way, we can focus on identifying ‘what constitutes success’ for you (the goals), drive the implementation toward achieving that success (the strategy), roll out those features that are designed to help move toward those goals, and then you – and we – will be able to determine ‘how we did.’”

I think I struck a chord.  Heads popped up from taking meticulous notes and the conversation changed a bit.  It led to some superb side-bar conversations.

That focus on strategic goals, though, isn’t just about implementing our software.  It’s about a multitude of projects we undertake with customers – individually as well as collectively.  Are we collectively lifting our heads up from our notepads long enough to discuss strategic goals?  Are we collectively ensuring that our strategy drives our tactics?

  • - Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

  • - Emerson College

  • - Providence College