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  • Writer's pictureKerri Williams

A Journey of 1,000 Miles


Seamless. Integrated. One-Stop Shop. These are all words that have been used to describe the ideal digital customer experience at one time or another. But ideal seems to be a relatively new frontier, without many organizations fully bringing their visions of integration to fruition, at least not without a few bumps.


When I think about digital integration — for Community, Support, Success, Product etc, the prime example most point to is the Trailhead space for the Salesforce Community. Encompassing various needs of hundreds of thousands of users all in one fairly seamless digital customer experience. More recently, SAP has done a beautiful job with their journey in creating SAP for Me, a ‘digital companion’ for their customers encompassing success, support, product adoption and more — hats off on the transparency of their roll out plans and communications as well. You can also that Qualtrics has invested in this space as well, withtheir Customer Success Space alongside their Community and other customer facing resources, just to name a few. Each of these examples are at different stages of their maturity on the path to integration, but all appear to subscribe to the notion that a seamless, integration digital customer experience is the way forward.

So now that we have some ideas what it could look like, the question becomes how on earth do we get there? In this post series, I share my own 1,000 mile journey to an integrated digital experience from kickoff to launch and beyond, with key learnings from collaborating with over 100 internal and external individuals to launch a best-in-class, integrated and seamless digital experience serving an entire ecosystem of users across multiple personas.

As you can imagine, there are about a million moving parts when it comes to launching a fully integrated, seamless one-stop shop for your customers. Having a clear path forward with identifiable milestones will help be absolutely necessary in order to complete the journey. And while it always starts with just one step, you need to know where you’re going first and know what the most efficient way will be.

When you consider all of the opportunities to streamline your current disjointed experiences, it can be pretty overwhelming — multiple data sources across platforms, complex backend integrations, numerous technologies and development streams, UI/UX inconsistencies, existing sites, plus internal and external enablement and change management. And this is to say nothing yet of the people side of a project like this — various stakeholders and departments, Steering Committees, Core Teams, and in this current climate the potential for a revolving door of resources moving in and out of roles over the course of launch.

It’s scary. And it’s hard. There will be ups and downs, frustrations and triumphs, teamwork and plowing through. There will likely be questions around value and ROI — digital CX and Success are still fairly new concepts in the grand scheme of customer interactions, and it’s challenging to find more than a handful of amazing examples to emulate and benchmark against. But, any journey worth taking is bound to have some uncertainty attached, this is still very much a new trail to blaze.

What follows are learnings from both wrong turns and key signposts. For better for worse, it’s a journey worth taking and maybe you’ll find some helpful guidance as you work to build something amazing — if you do, I’d love to see more examples! Or, if you’re not interested in reading the nitty gritty details in the following series over the next while, here’s my high-level recommendations as you begin to map your own journey:

Know your North Star. These initiatives must have clear objectives, strong executive support and success measures to know when you’re straying away from the path. You’ll also want to select a series of benchmark metrics to help you monitor success afterwards. Ultimately, if you can’t measure it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it?

Define your MVP and Stick to it. Scope creep is very real in large projects especially with many cross-functional stakeholders and it becomes easy to say ‘oh we can add that’ for every piece of feedback from an important customer or highest paid person in the room. This becomes death by 1000 cuts, so having a strong Product Owner to manage the program will be key to helping align teams on an MVP early, agree on a prioritization model and be a ruthless advocate for the plan. Make sure you have sign off from business sponsors, and leverage them if you need help holding back the masses. Better yet, get a Governance model in place asap!

Don’t Boil the Ocean. There is a tendency to want to minimize tension for end users over time, and thereby it might just be easier to ‘rip off the bandaid’. While this can work at times, the plan needs to reflect a realistic vision for delivery. Iteration will take you a lot farther and allow more time for testing, user feedback and validation. Focus on delivering incremental value rather than the big bang. It doesn’t feel as exciting in the process, but it’s a safer, more stable approach that allows you to measure and grow.

Communicate early and often. While you may not always know exactly what the end result will look like, sharing your plans and allowing customers and stakeholders the opportunity to weigh in sooner rather than later will save you a ton of potentially painful discussions in the long run. Leverage your User Experience Research resources, your Product Teams, your Customer Success Managers to ensure you’ve got a full picture of the impact on customers. Sharing is Caring, so the more information you can provide, the more likely they are to reciprocate support.

Lastly…

The.Journey.Never.Actually.Ends. Once an initial launch has happened, these types of programs require ongoing resources, Governance Councils, stakeholder support and more. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it program — it will need organizational love and support to continue to grow. Change is hard, but preparation will allow for a smoother transition for all.
In the series of posts to come, I’ll be sharing my insights regarding some of the following topics in more detail.
  • Analytics & Success Measures

  • Planning Your Experience

  • Cross-Functional Teams

  • Platform Preparation

  • Testing & Feedback

  • Change Management & Communications

  • Go-Live

  • Post-Launch Operationalization

Looking forward to sharing more of my journey with you and hopefully you’ll find some inspiration to help you begin planning a path of your own soon.

*Authors Note — All content and insights shared are strictly my own opinions and perspectives based on my experience working with a massive number of amazing hardworking individuals across multiple organizations.
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