In January 2003, Ecosystems’ software development team suggested that the company read a book called Extreme Programming. The book discussed agile methodology—the framework that the development team used to operate. They intended to improve the working relationship between the business and development team by explaining agile methodology. But reading the book did a lot more than that. It ultimately led to the Value Management Office.
The Value Management Office is Born
Reading the book didn’t just help the business understand the development team. It became an “aha” moment in Ecosystems’ history when we realized that the methodology was full of concepts we had already been practicing. Agile methodology is a mindset that places the customer at the center. The whole time, the development team and business had an underlying unity and cohesion because they both operated with a customer-centric mindset.
This realization didn’t just create a bridge between software and the business. It became our company-wide operating model. Development and business consulting were equally critical to the success of Ecosystems as a whole—not separate entities. With that understanding, Ecosystems’ services became one cohesive service: the Value Management Office (VMO). The VMO is a unified service of software and consulting that affects the sales and marketing of our client companies.
Qualities of the Value Management Office
Customer centricity is in the DNA of the Value Management Office:
1. Listening and Iteration
Listening to the customer is key in order to show value based on the customer’s priorities. It’s not about trying to fit the customer into the platform or update a few numbers. Iteration and customization mean altering the entire structure of the platform-—and the conversation itself—-to reflect the customer’s priorities and challenges.
Example: Recently, a value consultant guided a customer through a business case. The customer jumped into the customization, claiming several areas of value to be irrelevant. After a few eliminations, the business case showed very little value. When the value consultant asked the customer, “Why do you want this solution?” they responded by explaining their true priorities and challenges. Only then, through listening and iteration, could the conversation center on real priorities and discover true value.
2. Collective Ownership
Collective ownership in value management means that the customer is just as involved in shaping and defining the business case as the value consultant and sales team.
Example: A few weeks ago, a value consultant was on the phone with a customer at an insurance company. The customer saw the business case and immediately jumped into the framework with the value consultant, revising it, adding comments, and organizing insight. By the end of the call, the customer, sales rep, and value consultant had established collective ownership and buy-in.
3. Elegant Simplicity
By producing updates frequently, the Value Management Office delivers incremental updates rather than one launch after weeks of hidden processes. The Value Management Office works to make the value of products and services clear. Often, these products and services are highly complex with many different layers of business value. It’s critical to eliminate extraneous information to refine value to its core.
Example: We focus on defining wins that need to be met by the end of each week, 24-hour turnaround for many deliverables, and quick response time in accordance to SLAs.
Example: On the day of a customer meeting, a sales rep asked a value consultant for an update to a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). With only a few hours before the meeting, the value consultant completed the update and turned it around in time for the rep’s call later that day.
Example: One of our value consultants worked with a client who needed to show the value of a solution to an executive at a major bank. The VC and rep had a business case that was very detailed, with several layers of value. To prepare for the executive level conversation, they streamlined the value to remove unnecessary detail. They simplified the value to match the priorities of the executive, focusing on cost savings, improved efficiency, and mitigated risk. As a result, the $5 million deal closed quickly. The value was clear when complexity was replaced with simplicity. Finding simplicity amidst complexity is not easy. Even Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.”
Agile methodology is a mindset that we apply to all areas of our life’s work at the Value Management Office. By blending software and value consultants, our focus is not on consulting or software, but on delivering specific outcomes for our customers. It’s how we conduct our life’s work: consistently prioritizing people over process.