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Agile customer experience

M&A or Stress Test your existing business – How to bring businesses together to create value

M&A or Stress Test your existing business – How to bring businesses together to create value

A lot of M&A activity tends to focus on legal and financial aspects but equally important are the operational and commercial elements, as they often show where the businesses can add value / improve efficiency and effectiveness by coming together (integrating) as little or as much as you believe will create value.

We have conducted many of these due diligence activities over the last few years (both face to face and virtually) and whilst our approach is generally the same, our expertise, findings and outputs are all bespoke to the situation. I thought it would be useful to show our approach and the benefits. This approach can also be used to stress test an existing business to help build a strategic plan for improvements or identify opportunities for revenue growth. 

What approach do we take?

  • We start with a kick-off meeting to understand more about the companies involved and objectives – this will help us to decide where / what we want to see and who we want to meet. We also agree the approach and messaging to stakeholders to maintain confidence (if required)
  • We request information (which we walk through also) – this will be adapted dependent on the organisation we are looking at – e.g. is it multi-site, how do they serve customers, how many years have they been operating etc. The request can be extensive for businesses with high volumes of customer contact, operational activities or customer interactions
  • We begin our stakeholder process (remote or on site) – conducting interviews with agreed colleagues from executives to operational leaders to ascertain insights into the proposition, the processes, people and organisational design, and the priorities – we do this in order to gain insights into how the business currently operates, the future strategy and plans and evaluate alignment or differences between peers, or colleagues within the organisation. Often the stakeholder process also includes interviews with clients, prospects, lapsed clients and partners too.
  • We attend sites and sit with colleagues to find out more about the organisation – getting a feel for how an organisation uses its buildings and runs its operations is insightful. We know what to look out for! We also use a question framework with front line colleagues and first line team leaders which supports the stakeholder interview process.

How does the approach add value?

It is important to have an experienced team leading any activity.  We use practitioners, (people who have run/led businesses and functions) and bring specialists in where required to use their more specific skills to review and interpret information and suggest improvements. This could involve workforce planning expertise (where there are contact centres to consider) and commercial contracting expertise (to review contracts commercially as opposed to legally). The team have well-honed skills in questioning and interpretation to get to what we need at pace.

Importantly, Custerian bring together what we see, hear and can evidence through data and insights and then align this to objectives / priorities and create actionable outputs. This adds another dimension that supports integration planning that many may not consider.

The other way we add value is by working closely with other partners such as legal and financial. By partners sharing key thoughts and risks / issues identified and agreeing the impact, you can really help to inform any offer made or for stress testing, ensure financial targets are achievable and then measured appropriately.

How quickly can this be done?

We have developed draft reports within a 3 – 4 week period for medium sized companies. This tends to be a requirement of due diligence activity, as often Letters if Intent (LOI) as issued with a 30-day window. For stress testing it is actually also useful to conduct the work at pace and then continue this into action planning whilst the momentum is there to deliver.

What kinds of things are considered in the approach?

We have delivered outputs incorporating views on many things. Here are just a few:

  • Commercial risks & opportunities
  • Efficiency & effectiveness of operations
  • Colleague engagement
  • Organisational design
  • Transformation capability and opportunities
  • Technology risks, issues and opportunities

We would also outline the priorities and roadmaps to improve and create further value and can even offer additional solution design if required to get the process of improvements and value creation moving!

The Top 4 benefits of our involvement summarised:

  • You get to understand more of the ‘how’ the business operates as opposed to what the financials say
  • You obtain valuable insights from your clients, prospects, and lapsed clients and partners about your proposition, processes, people and priorities
  • You gain a wider perspective from colleagues, a feel for the culture of the organisation(s), where challenges may lie, or opportunities exist to create better aligned organisations – that can be used to inform integration or business improvement planning
  • You gain roadmaps and prioritisation plans for improvement that you can pick up and start to work on now, with your own teams or with some ‘kick start’ support – especially for stress testing

It would be great to hear of any other thoughts you have in relation to this activity and if you would like to chat, please do get in touch via – beverley@custerian.com or simon@custerian.com

 

Beverley StagCusterian Outcome Creation Specialist 

Categories
Agile customer experience

Changes Done, Well

Change Done, Well

Changes Done Well Custerian

We all experienced (been involved in, or seen) changes that have worked, but often we have seen change done badly (we tend to remember those well) and those are the ones we tend to remember.

Change is a given, a bit like death and taxes, but now the PACE is unprecedented – it’s like a roller coaster of a life time

I often hear people saying well change is a constant, so we just have to embrace it and get on with it, that is certainly true of the last 7 months, however often we are really just adapting to changes that are happening rather than driving it or embracing it.

This is true often in work life and our personal lives. Most people don’t like change, as they want to do what they have always done, it feels safer and so on …. we have all read the book on the ‘emotions’ that people go through during change.

There are a few personality types that thrive on change, but that doesn’t mean they are all great at getting change done well – you have the idea makers (lots of different ideas (scope creep), the planners and updaters (they love excel, to do lists) and the deliverers (who just want to get on and do it, hate all the talk, let’s just crack on).

Leading Significant Change is not for the faint hearted – as you have to be designer, negotiator, counsellor, planner, coach, auditor, communicator, motivator.

Covid created a ‘Burning platform’ – but it doesn’t necessarily mean it was done well.


Recently through discussions with various business leaders I have heard stories about how at the start of Covid there were significant challenges that had to be overcome, quickly and
that the teams: rallied together; were creative; focussed; resilient and got the tasks in hand done with a huge sense of pride.

From setting up homeworking, getting premises changes made, ramping up resources – for those businesses who have thrived (eg. online, distribution, food).

However, some of this now needs to be reviewed, as part of the future operating model not just a ‘temp fix’ – there are conversations about how inefficient or too costly some of these solutions may have been, or that for some it’s not sustainable.

Digital leaders – this put them on a pedestal – this became the only channel or the ‘promoted channel (not always best for the customer) this had a huge step up in focus. Many digital projects fast tracked and delivered from concept to production in a matter of weeks, some of which had been fighting for attention for months, even years.

So why don’t changes get done? Or done well?

In my personal experience, and our teams experience when working with companies whether that be for kick starting an existing change, or a new change there are many reasons as to why change fails from: cultural; leadership; governance; lack of focus; resources; skillsets; inadequate support, too complex, and many more.

However based on a recent poll that I did: 50% said this was due to inadequate change leadership; 25% due to the Purpose and Outcomes not being clear; 17% poor planning, 8% due to lack of engagement or support.

Adapting something should be simple, and often is, little adaptions feel easier. Changing is much more challenging but not impossible – often we make the change impossible


Change should be delivered with PACE, and this is not about the methodology you are using, which could be agile, prince and other methods. Using PACE framework is at the start, throughout and the end of change – ensuring that you have done this with PACE.

So, I will explain a bit more about this.

Custerian 4 P's approach

Purpose – creating a clear sense of why we are doing something – it’s about creating understand (if we understand it, we will get it quicker) – the reasons as to WHY we need to change. What’s the problem / opportunity? What do you want to achieve (objectives/outcomes), how would you describe once you have achieved it (Vision).

Agility – often mistaken for getting on with something quickly. That isn’t what working with agility is about. That would be like saying right we need to run ….. setting off running before you heard the end of the brief ! You still need a clear purpose, the journey of how you are going to get from A to D (depending on the change, this doesn’t always need a detailed line by line plan), break it down into bite sized chunks of time (so in the next 2-3 weeks we need to), and then having the ability to quickly react, adapt and evolve in response to circumstances – which maybe a business need, the effects of part of the change, or user research.

Contribution – three things are important about contribution.

1. Change Lead/Owner – at the outset it is important to define who is the change owner, some companies are calling this a Product Owner – this is the person who is accountable for making the change happen – they are there to who is going to give support, break down the barriers, galvanise the team. They are the Change Lead and Champion, typically there are less than 10% of people in businesses who can fulfil this role – this isn’t the project manager! Someone with a successful track record of delivering change, well.

2. Getting the Right Contribution at the Right Time, so who needs to be in the team? and when ? SME’s, partners, suppliers, who is the change impacting? What are their persona types – how do we get their input & involvement? Identifying some of this at the discovery sessions, and then ensuring you are reviewing this throughout for the weeks ahead.

3. Governance – where do you need to update or get contributions from the wider
business ?

Empowerment – often leaders and teams make the mistake of saying off you go you are empowered to make this change happen, or even worst just assuming the team knows what they can and can’t do.

It is important at the outset to decide what level of empowerment it warrants ?

a. Tame problem/Minor step change – something you can just let people sort it out

b. Wicked problem / new product – lots of collaboration to master the resolution or delivery

c. Critical – to the survival of the business, product line growth – important that someone take the lead and tells the team what they need to do now, next

and then what level of support do the team, members require…

 

So if you want change done well, remember PACE: Purpose, Agility, Contribution, Empowerment or if you have a struggling change programme or project – in order of priority CPAE ! 

Often an Outside In view can help – to get a fresh set of eyes, a different perspective, not teams who are familiar with your ways of working. 

That is why our clients get in touch with Custerian to work with a clients teams to get the right stuff done, brilliantly !

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An Agile Approach To Change

An Agile Approach To Change

Can you really use technology as focal point to drive rapid  business wide change?

Can you really use technology as focal point to drive rapid business wide change?

Increasingly we are using new technology aligned to an agile development and user centric development pathway to create incubator solutions that develop from need, to paper concept, to live system in a matter of weeks – In fact we have created a 30 Day Plan for this because it is entirely possible to do it that fast.


However first it is worth setting a bit of context. Especially as most peoples first reaction is “you can’t create a live solution in 30 days”. However I will say we have previously done so now for 2 utility companies, a logistics business and one of the UK’s largest retailers.


Let me be clear. Change delivery is a function of hard work & detail. But the start is simple

We adopt a pretty simple model to change. This is because whilst driving change is a very complicated, involving and detailed activity, the actual components of it are not. Now this quick blog is not about our whole change approach, but in a nutshell you need to:

  • Be very clear about what you do better than your competitors (and what commercial value you are looking for. This is usually your Purpose/Proposition & Marketing/Business Plan
  • Engage all of your Colleagues in your brand in a way that allows them to contribute to it and feel good about themselves whilst doing so
  • Ensure all of your internal processes & procedures support your Colleagues in delivering the brand to your Customers
  • Make it a priority focus on, and continually refine how easy you make it for customers to get at the things you do best, that they want most and drive the greatest value

The trick of course is to do this whilst breaking down not only the horizontal silo’s, but the vertical barriers that most business put in place to de-risk & control decision making.


The role of ‘Agility’ in change


I have written previously about agility and on change. The main thing you need to remember is it really is best only to do agile change once you have a clear Purpose and Marketing/Business plan. This informs the direction of travel for any agile activity.


Once you have this ‘Agile’ becomes a very powerful way of working as it creates momentum in Colleagues against a common purpose, and this can transform a business in a very short amount of time – again easy to say, but hard to do and the devil really is in the detail.


For me ‘Agile’ is NOT an IT/IS approach. What it is, is a collaborative, iterative, visible and outcome focussed way of working that enables you to de-risk (provided you cover the steps above) any change programme because you are harnessing the greatest asset your business has, your colleagues, within a framework that focusses the change on the things that deliver greatest business value. 

Using technology as part of an Agile approach – A 30 Day Plan
If you want to unpick the implications of things like: Cloud; Big Data; Web Services Architecture; App Driven Development; .Net Code. Then simply adopt the following as a generic approach and you will not go far wrong:


What used to be very expensive and high risk to deliver single application solutions that took years to create, can now be used as part of a highly Agile – “Don’t Tell – Show” approach, which is a good thing, because technology drives more than 85% of all off business activities.

So what is holding us back?

Oddly quite often it is IT/IS. This is because whilst business capability can and does change quickly, culture does not and this is because people, not capability, create the business culture. This is why we often see ‘disrupter’ businesses as a generational thing, when in fact it is simply a function of education.

In IT/IS terms, it is like not updating your operating system. Just think how fast you’d become out of date if you did not update your Microsoft or Mac operating system (Ok it can get irritating updating every 3 months). You would soon be out of date.


Giving your Colleagues an update

We have come across this on nearly all of the engagements we have had since we founded Custerian. It is why I think we have developed specific skills in this area.


It is why we use technology and various service design principles, all under the umbrella of agile change, to help our Clients to move about talking about new CRM applications or Warehouse systems or multichannel cross platform solutions.


What we always find is Colleagues who, whilst initially hesitant (ok sometimes resistant) soon warm to the fact that rather than spend weeks ploughing through requirements specifications for something that will have changed by the time it is developed. They can quickly create a paper prototype of the application, which can then be developed in a ‘Live’ application within days and then put back into user testing and use.


What does ‘Live’ Mean?

Just for clarity Live in this context often means that the application being created is done so using real data, is integrated with internal systems and data sets, is operating in a fully resilient data.

architecture/systems and can therefore be sent live if desired once the testing is finished.


Or put even more simply. Rather than talk to you about how a system requirement can be met. You can look at it and test it in the real world to see if you want it or not.


We would like to share Our 30 Day Plan

We have set out our 30 Day approach and you can download it by giving us your email HERE.

This is an approach we have developed and used and it can take 30 days. The reason it will take longer is down to the culture shock that it creates internally. However this is a shock worth having as increasingly we are finding that internal functions are specifying end point solutions without involving their IT/IS function.


This is a function of the fact that a lot of these teams sit in areas that have a more external face and as such are exposed to constant Customer (& often board level demands) to increase the speed and capability against an app technologically enabled world.


They are desperate to move the discussion and capability along and our 30 Day Agile approach facilitates this.

By Simon Norie - Co-Founder & Empathy Creation Specialist
Data led Board level Brand marketeer. Passionate about aligning Colleagues to a common purpose they can contribute too. LinkedIN www.custerian.com