Archive for November 2010

Announcing Categories for Spring 2011 Recognized Innovator Awards

November 29, 2010

The TSIA Recognized Innovator Awards are presented at our Spring and Fall conferences to our TSIA partners, who submit applications and are judged by a group of TSIA members, expert alliance partners, and industry experts. Finalists are selected, and I lead Innovation Tours of the finalists booths at the conference Expo. Tour attendees also vote on Best Innovation Demo. I announced the winners today at the closing TSW Awards Ceremony. The Spring 2011 awards will be the first time we have included our new discipline, Education Services, as a focus area for the awards.

The categories for the Spring 2011 Recognized Innovator Awards are:

Innovation in Knowledge Management (KM). Creating, maintaining and leveraging content to speed issue resolution and project success is not only a core process within every technical support operation, but increasingly other services divisions are launching KM initiatives to share learnings from the field across a global operation. The Recognized Innovator in this category will provide documented case studies of how their technology and/or services are enabling service organizations to more easily publish knowledge and effectively use that knowledge to improve business results. Examples could include:

  • Field Service. Delivering knowledge to field agents through mobile enablement, as well as tools to capture information gleaned from field experiences to share with the field support and/or customer community.
  • Professional Services. Enabling services teams to easily capture libraries of lessons learned and best practices for reuse, as well as centralizing resources such as customization and integration templates to streamline future projects.
  • Support Services. Automating the process of capturing and publishing content, enabling customer collaboration for knowledge, and tools to enable support techs, as well as customers performing self-service, to easily find the answer to a question or help diagnose a problem.
  • Education Services. Capturing information to share with customers regarding the use and administration of technology, best practice libraries, FAQs and lessons learned.

Innovation in Value-Added Services. As documented in “Complexity Avalanche,” Value-Added Services (VAS) programs enable customers to fully consume purchased products and services, helping them quickly receive full business value and speed the repurchase cycle. In addition, VAS programs are providing new revenue sources for budget-strapped service operations. The Recognized Innovator in this category will have documented case studies showing how their technology or services are being leveraged to boost service and support revenues through delivery of Value-Added Services. Examples could include:

  • Field Service. Tools to allow repairs or preventative maintenance to be completed less expensively, such as remote diagnostic and administration tools.
  • Professional Services. Cost effectively delivering services projects to improve margins, or remote administration tools to allow customer projects to be delivered without travel.
  • Support Services. Services to improve marketing and sales efforts for premiere service offerings, as well as technology that enables premiere support programs such as proactive support and remote administration.
  • Education Services. Upsell potential with targeted classes for experts or for specific industries or types of companies, improving margins through use of tools such as computer based, online or remotely delivered training classes.

Innovation in Social Collaboration. When evaluating the impact of social media and communities on service organization, it is important to separate the hype from business value. While customer social media strategies continue to struggle for staffing and a credible ROI story, leveraging social media tools and processes to enable enterprise collaboration—between employees AND between employees and customers—has emerged as way to effectively share information across the enterprise, identifying experts on any given topic and making their expertise available to others. The Recognized Innovator in this category will have documented case studies showing how their technology or services are being used to improve the capture, sharing and consumption of ideas and expertise across employee, partner and customer communities.

  • Field Service. Tools that allow field service techs to post questions and share expertise on diagnostics and repair procedures with other techs around the globe, cutting resolution time for onsite repairs.
  • Professional Services. Technology or services that encourage PS consultants to share best practices and tips and tricks for implementing, customizing and integration products; also enabling collaboration between consultants and development for technology issues.
  • Support Services. Collaboration tools and processes to better enable global support teams to communicate emerging trends or newly discovered bugs, as well as improve communications with other groups within the company—such as development and QA.
  • Education Services. Enabling customers to collaborate on best practices for using technology can generate useful content for education, as well as internal collaboration to share information about training content and techniques that prove effective with a global audience.

Lydia Zaffini, our director of partner programs, and myself will give a webcast for all TSIA partners on February 4th at 9:30am to discuss the awards, explain the categories, talk about tips for applications, and answer any questions you may have. If you are interested in being a judge for the awards, please send me an email ( Thanks for reading!


Conversations with STAR Award Winners: Patrick Saeger, VP of Customer Success, SuccessFactors

November 19, 2010

The Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) began awarding STAR Awards to member companies in 1990 to recognize exceptional service operations. For the very first time, I’m pleased to bring you interviews with some of the STAR Award winners from our recent Technology Services World Conference in Las Vegas. First up is SuccessFactors, the winner of the 2010 STAR Award for Excellence in Emerging Business Support. I’d like to give a warm welcome to Patrick Saeger, Vice President of Customer Success for SuccessFactors.

John Ragsdale: Patrick, thanks for being here, and congratulations on your STAR Award win! Could you start by telling us a bit about SuccessFactors?

Patrick Saeger: SuccessFactors is one of the fastest growing software companies in the world and the leader in a new category called Business Execution Software – BizX as we call it. We help companies solve one of the most important problems in business today – how companies get work done everyday – by improving business alignment, team execution and people performance through robust business insight and increased collaboration. We’re enabling companies to bridge the gap between strategy and execution by allowing every person in an organization to execute against their goals better and faster. We are one of the largest software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies by # of end user seats sold out there. We have more than 3,000 customers with more than 8M end users, across 168 countries and 34 countries. Our fully integrated BizX Suite includes 19 products (modules) such as Recruiting Management, Goal Management, Performance Management, Learning & Development, Employee Central, Workforce Planning & Analytics.

John: Before we get into some of the details of your award application, I’m intrigued about your department name—Customer Success instead of Customer Support. Would you talk about SuccessFactors’ focus on customer success? Is the department name due to a customer-focused company culture?

Patrick: Yes. SuccessFactors is an immensely customer focused organization. As our CEO frequently says – “Our customers must win!” As a pure SaaS company with subscription-based pricing and recurring revenue, our business model depends on successful customers. If they are not successful, we are not successful. By this, I mean they not only apply our technologies successfully across their company, but they achieve business objectives and get real business value.

A substantial component of what we do will continue to be traditional, transactional customer support – but it isn’t about closing cases. The name of our organization serves a constant reminder to our employees, our company and our customers, what our true mission is. The outcome of any transactional support activity or delivery value added services must be successful implementation and use of our solutions.

John: While your STAR Award was for emerging companies, which we define as companies with less than $500 million in total annual revenue, SuccessFactors has a “big company” presence, with SMB, midmarket and enterprise size customers across North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific. Even our largest members talk about how difficult it is to support global customers, could you provide any insight into how you are able to provide global support on an “emerging company” budget?

Patrick: We are a global organization by design. Every dollar we invest in customer support, we think about how it will strengthen our global presence and our global capabilities. As a result, all of our processes and foundational support systems are consistent globally. Second, we have been successful in demonstrating the value of our Platinum services to our customers outside North America – especially in Europe. This has allowed us to budget for greater ramp up our global team and provide services there that build more intimate customer relationships. Lastly, we have been innovative in how and where we staff our global teams. For example, we have an outstanding group of people in the Philippines which supports North America. This allows us to provide more people and more service than we would be able to if staffed in more expensive geographies. Also, they are able to leverage this investment with our Asia customers. In Europe, we have a virtual team distributed in the region and they leverage Web-based technology to increase teamwork and collaboration. This allows us to focus on getting the best talent and not be overly concerned about centralization.

John: One of the hottest topics in support right now is social media, including online communities and emerging support channels. According to your STAR Award application, you’ve had some great success with your Customer Community, including an Idea Factory moderated by product management, and One Voice that keeps customer updated on product developments. Could you talk about your experiences rolling out a community, and how you were able to garner such great customer adoption?

Patrick: I think that success starts with providing resources and content that are meaningful to customers. The One Voice sessions, for example, are super valuable and help our customers stay abreast of planned changes and improvement in the product. They offer the ability to speak directly to the people making those decisions. Also within the community are our case management system, training content, knowledge bases, industry research and even ROI calculators. When customers visit to access these resources, we have the opportunity to captivate them and share information. Our online community continues to be a work in progress and there is much more we want to do to increase customer adoption.

John: Another element of your application that judges loved was your success with Value Added Services. SuccessFactors has introduced premium support offerings, including SuccessGold and SuccessPlatinum support levels, and customers are loving it. According to your application, your largest, most complex, and most successful customers rely on your Platinum Customer Success Plan. What is the value proposition for SuccessPlatinum, and what elements of the program seem to be most attractive to customers?

Patrick: The SuccessPlatinum program is our most widely adopted value added support offering. I think of it as a “success plan” that includes a different set of resources and deliverables aimed at helping customers most effectively use and apply our solutions once they are deployed in production. An assigned primary “platinum customer success advocate” is central to the offering, which provides a go-to resource that really knows the customer, including their objectives, configuration, business process and key events or milestones throughout the year. With this knowledge, we better support customers when questions or problems arise. We can provide guidance in advance of key events or milestones to help them run a more effective process. We can also check in after the fact and talk about success criteria – are we on track and what changes or improvements could lead to a better outcome? Our customers tell us that the SuccessPlatinum program leads to increased adoption, more effective operation of the system, more efficient use of their time to manage the system…all of which are connected to more business value.

John:  One of the sections of STAR Award applications that really influence judges is the Customer Impact section, and SuccessFactors had some impressive results here, such as tripling the number of products supported over the last 3 years with no increase in case volume. You also have some excellent customer satisfaction scores, even internationally—where many companies struggle. Could you talk about customer impacts?

Patrick: Customer support organizations can have a very big impact customer outcomes. However, It is often sum of the little things that add up to make a big impact, not just the bigger, more obvious things. In our case, no single strategy or effort is THE key to customer impact. Our ongoing dialog with Product Management and Engineering improves product usability and leads to fewer defects. Our value-added support services provide a means for us to deliver more impact and support to customers who need a different type of service. Our global resourcing strategies result in more support representatives available to assist our customers, so we can achieve higher satisfaction no matter where the customer is located. Our knowledge base allows customers to find answers to certain questions and problems on their own. All of these initiatives combined help us do the best we can for our customers and have the most impact on their overall success and satisfaction. It is very interesting when instead of asking customers “are you satisfied”, you ask them “did we have a positive impact on … “.

John: One of my favorite parts of STAR Award applications is the “lessons learned,” and SuccessFactors had some great lessons. Would you mind sharing some of your learnings with our readers?

Patrick: I am happy to share some of our lessons learned. The first thing I’d say is that getting here has not been an easy journey – we have had to make some tough decisions along the way and not all of them immediately worked out well. One example is when we first made the decision to build out and grow a substantial part of our team in the Philippines. This was done with the best intention for our customers and we were very ambitions and moved quickly. However, the initial results were not on par with our expectations. It took several months before the service levels and quality of service met customer expectations. There were many apologies at the time but we also communicated the reason for the change, and that our bar for great service was as high as it ever was – even on stage at our customer events. More interestingly though, we learned that customers will support you through change if communication is clear and honest – and the motivation behind change is sincere.

Another key learning point is that programs that provide increased customer intimacy and drive more effective usage (e.g. not just different SLA’s) are not only effective, but they matter to customers. Often, it isn’t about “faster service” – it is about meeting different needs and creating different outcomes. Without SuccessPlatinum as a key part of our overall support strategy, we would not be able to meet the needs of a substantial segment of customers.

John: Patrick, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, and congratulations again on your STAR Award win!

Patrick: My pleasure. Thanks for the invitation!

Leveraging PSA for Education Services: Resource Management

November 15, 2010

Earlier this year we launched our new Education Services discipline, and the TSIA Education Services Advisory Board is now live, with more than a dozen education executives from companies including BMC, Red Hat, HP, Kronos, SAP, and others. A big shout out to my research team member driving education, Maria Manning Chapman, who is doing a fantastic job building out the discipline. My contribution to our education members will be covering the core technology used by education services, and in anticipation we added a category for learning management systems (LMS) to the 2010 Member Technology Survey so I already have some information about what tools companies are using and how satisfied they are with them. In 2011, I will be working on a market overview of learning management technology, which covers a wide array of tools including content development and management, knowledge management, video and screen capture tools, remote delivery/distance learning, etc. Look for this report around mid-2011.

The first inquiry I received from an education member was not about LMS, however, but more on core resource management. What do large companies use to manage education resources? Are there specialty tools, are do they rely on an existing resource management tool?

To answer this question, keep in mind that education services are part of professional services in many companies, with administrator and/or end user customer training part of the total package of services typically sold in a deal. Today’s professional services automation (PSA) suites are sophisticated enough to manage complex scheduling scenarios, making staffing recommendations and warning about resource shortages using analysis tools that factor in consultant skills, training, certifications, location, salary costs, etc.

To get some real-world examples, I contacted Compuware, whose Changepoint PSA suite was named a Recognized Innovator last month in Las Vegas. Today I had a chat with Kirstin Roberts, Lori Ellsworth and Rick Morreau from Compuware, who confirmed that their PSA customers frequently use Changepoint to manage resources for education, making sure the right resource is allocated for any training class, and alerting in advance of training classes scheduled with no clear instructor resource available. It sounds like lots of things are making education resource management more complex these days. As an example, remote/distance learning means that a single resource can teach a class for the East Coast in the morning and for the West Coast in the afternoon, all from their office with no travel required.  With this level of flexibility, resources can be scheduled for multiple projects in a day.

Education customers use more of PSA than just resource management. The integration to billing systems and ERP means attendees can be entitled, tracked and billed correctly. The Compuware team offered several examples of how education services are using Changepoint today.

  • One company uses Changepoint, integrated with their online registration system, to track class sizes, manage training resources, and even generate invoices for all the people registered for a course.
  • Another company tracks each training class as a separate SKU within Changepoint, which are sold as packages to customers along with other consultant services. Delivery of all services, including training, are managed by the product manager as part of their deployment methodology.
  • Another customer integrated Changepoint with their LMS to handle training “credits” and track cost.

I clearly have a lot to come up to speed on for our new education services members, so if you have any cool examples of how companies are leveraging innovative technology for the process of education customers, let me know! And as always, thanks for reading!

Final Thoughts from TSW: Core vs. Context at the Heart of Trends

November 8, 2010

Is it too late for a final “what I heard” column from TSW last month? Now that things have calmed down a bit and I’ve had time to reflect, I found a recurring theme in many of my conversations: core vs. context. As every consultant knows, analyzing core vs. context is one of the best decision drivers for large and small dilemmas, and using core vs. context has helped many technology companies make some tough decisions in order to survive the economic disaster of 2009. This thinking is forcing companies, and definitely service organizations, to re-evaluate what their core competencies really are. Specifically:

1) In what areas are you ahead of peers and have competitive differentiation?
2) Which products, programs and services are generating the most profits?

Faced with tight budgets, prioritizing these areas for additional funding (additional staff, new technology, new processes), and de-emphasizing the rest, is driving some interesting shifts–both new trends and accelerating older trends. From what I heard, I’d say three of these are:

  • Outsourcing social media is a great idea. One of our Recognized Innovators was Sykes Enterprises, a BPO, who had impressive case studies about their SYKES’ Online Support Communities (OSC) offering, which runs online communities on behalf of technology companies with fantastic results. Let’s face it, social media is not in everyone’s DNA, and with the possible ROI from a really effective community, why not turn your moderation and forum management over to the experts? I co-authored a white paper with Convergys who also has great examples of being a BPO for technology customer communities. Here’s a link to register for a free copy of that white paper: Battling Complexity: Trends in Outsourcing – Using Innovative Technologies and Support Solutions to Help Technology Companies Stay Ahead of the Complexity Curve.
  • Lack of IT resources and/or cooperation is THE cloud driver. Having been an IT analyst for Forrester for years, I have long been a defender of IT for having to do an amazing job with little visibility or appreciation (just like customer support!). BUT, every time someone asked me for a product recommendation and said they preferred a cloud/SaaS/OnDemand solution, I asked them why. And every single time the answer was the same: We don’t have IT resources to help with any projects; if we wait for IT the project will be delayed 1-3 years; IT will force us to use a hugely complex product we don’t want, etc. Clearly, and I don’t say this lightly, one of the primary drivers for cloud technology is the fact that after a decade of cost cutting and outsourcing, internal information technology is no longer a core competency of many technology companies today.
  • The knowledgebase is core to the success of a KM program. I have been flirting with “the knowledgebase is dead” headlines for the last couple of years, as interest shifted from proprietary knowledgebases to search technology that will locate needed content anywhere. Spending on knowledgebases has been low, especially compared to search, and satisfaction with existing knowledgebase tools is shockingly low. But what I heard loud and clear from more than a dozen people at TSW was the knowledgebase is FAR from dead. It is core to the success of any knowledge management program, it is is a key piece of Knowledge Centered Support, companies have staff dedicated to KB creation and maintenance–there will always be a place for a structured knowledgebase within technical support. Members want MORE KB options to choose from–not fewer. And, while they appreciate that most vendors in this space sell a suite of knowledge, search and channel management tools, they only want to buy one piece at a time, and want it all to work together. No one sees a single stovepipe for KM technology as realistic for large companies.

OK, enough recaps. I have invitations out to our recent STAR Award winners about doing blog interviews, so hopefully in the weeks to come I will be bringing you some behind the scenes looks at some incredible service organizations. Stay tuned! And as always, thanks for reading.