Katie has been a “go-to” change agent in the cloud computing space for more than a decade, always on the hunt for processes that need to evolve, ideas that need to see the light of day, and more scalable ways to service customers. She started her career in technology as an individual sales rep, where she quickly noted the need for more intelligent marketing support. This led to her founding the firm’s first marketing practice, and eventually to leadership roles at Xerox and Appirio where she managed everything from solutions, to strategic programs, to global methodology and operations. She is currently leading Okta’s Expert Acceleration practice, where she is responsible for the quality and scale of its global expert ecosystem. Katie resides in Rochester NY, and when she’s not taking on risky home renovation projects, she likes to throw big family parties and support local politics. To burn off steam she likes to box and dance (not at the same time).
Why are you so passionate about helping professional services businesses?
Services are where the promise of the product is fulfilled. For many product companies, their service partners are their strongest advocates, eager beta testers and , frankly, a candid outside voice about the realities of a product in a customer environment. Plus, there is nothing more gratifying than engaging with a team of experts who can be a trusted, nimble guide to a future state.
Most IT services companies now offer some level of productized IP, from a packaged methodology to a true product, but few do it particularly well. Why do you think that is, and what can services companies learn from product companies to drive a better outcome?
Technologists developing IP at a services firm tend to focus on the “what”, not the “why”, of the offer. And when there is a “why”, it’s not all that different from what else is out there. Like any product, customers need to know why this solution really matters to them and why it’s special. Put some of your best/most grizzled customer-facing folks (e.g. account managers, sales reps) on the case to help crystallize the actual benefit language to customers that will translate well in the deal cycle AND in delivery.
At Okta, one of your focus areas was to accelerate the understanding and use of new products by external partners and your own internal customer success organization. What were some of the most effective tactics that you used to do this that services companies can adopt for their own IP?
For implementers, its labs, labs, labs! Oh, and lab guides. Get consultants hands on early and help them understand the early use cases for this IP. You will be surprised about how much they figure out (and QA) from there. For success orgs, involving them in later stage product design is key, so they can help to formulate the customer value taxonomy around that product. Putting together a cross-functional team of customer-facing roles and product teams before going to market is another effective way to propel knowledge across the organization. This will also reduce your dependence on lengthy and costly enablement programs that many times come in too late for the experts to truly scale up knowledge.
Many companies gather but don’t effectively leverage insights from NPS / CSAT feedback. What steps can companies take to better integrate feedback collected into their delivery approach?
First, gathering customer feedback and CSAT data needs to be a job. Someone needs to own it, and more importantly, when results come in, embed it as part of the organizational workflow. The owner should NOT be the project or account team, but sit at the practice, functional or geographical management level. The action can be owned by many people, but translating the feedback into action should be a measurable task with a name accountable. Also, create an ambitious, global target and report on it quarterly. A single, easy to understand target sustains attention. And finally, pay attention to whom you are NOT getting feedback from. Project health scores should consider not just survey results but also a lack of response.