Value Network Participants; Who are they?

There was an interesting post on the Noop.NL blog the other day, The Customer Value Problem: Ditch the Value Stream! He stated:

The value stream is a potentially harmful metaphor. I think we should replace value streams with value networks, and customer value with stakeholder value.

Again and again I hear people referring to “value streams.” The value stream is a metaphor suggesting that “value flows” through an organization (possibly with hand-offs across several teams) in the direction of the customer. The value stream metaphor is a somewhat less rigid version of the value chain metaphor, as popularized by management guru Michael Porter.

He makes some excellent points. I use the Value Stream Mapping process for clarification and to build structure. I usually end most learning sessions with an influence map emphasizing the structure is the beginning not the end. The blog did add some good points and one of them is just who you are working with during the Value Stream or the Value Creation process.  It led me to think about who is involved in the Value Network.

Your success has a lot to do with not only marketing to the right companies but marketing to the right internal champions. This can raise an interesting issue in terms of who is the right internal champion for your efforts or initiative. Consider the fact that in most cases, your product/service is not the best overall choice for the entire organization. Few times are there a clear-cut, hands-down winner. There can be a very tricky political landscape to navigate that will result in someone winning and someone losing. One of the reasons many marketing driven companies still fail is that they forget about the people skills needed to manage this transformation or change in a positive way. The people skills are what makers your marketing work and the reason your top sales performers get to go to club while the marketers share pizza in the back room! The fact is that the sales people have already navigated the political landscape of your organization much better than you have (Said tongue in cheek to get a point across).

At the present time, we are going in a structural change within the sales and marketing arena. It has moved into a world of shared experiences with the essence of teamwork and collaboration at the forefront. Building these teams from the silos that exist in your organization (no matter what size) is an extraordinary task. It will take special skills to meld these components together. One such organization created their Value Network that consisted of Sales, Marketing, IT, Engineering and Accounting. An overview of that team:

  1. Sales was an above average performer that was extremely well-connected with his customer based but lacked technical and social media skills.
  2. Marketing was well connected in social media, graphic design but had little customer or analytically experience.
  3. IT was very competent in troubleshooting and installation and application but had little interest in discussing benefits and spent more time downplaying the features.
  4. Engineering was very technical and well-schooled and was very upbeat about the features and benefits offered on the product. Saw ways the product could fix a lot of things that the Customer was having problems with.
  5. Accounting’s initial role in the team was for the customer financing.

Here was the customer’s buying team:

  1. The purchasing consisted of two people, one for fact finding, narrowing down the selection but was not authorized to spend the amount of dollars for the purchase. The final purchase had to be signed off by a senior buyer.
  2. User Group: This product was to be used by 2-shifts with multiple operators. Supervisors and users were involved in the trial process.
  3. IT department was involved to determine level of support and compatibility.
  4. Accounting was involved to determine evaluate finance and purchase terms.
  5. VP of Operations ultimately had to approve purchase.

The purpose of this blog is not to go into the team dynamics but to bring awareness to the different perspectives that exist inside the organization let alone when you bring the team of decision makers from the customer’s side of the equation into play. Your customer’s team may very much look like yours or have many of the same dynamics. The power within the team to make the decision may vary widely but most anyone can be a deal killer.

So how do you go about bringing unity to this mix of players? I believe the only unifying agreement is in defining the Value Proposition you offer the customer. Without this clarification, mixed and inconsistent signals will be sent throughout both organizations. As you have heard me elaborate many times the lack of clarity not only prohibits flow within your organization but it is also will prevent your customer from making a decision. If your value proposition is well stated and understood the chances are that the internal champion within your customers four walls will be able to well, Champion your cause much better.

P.S. The other item to note is that many times people like to talk to people in other organizations at the same level that they are, example: VP of Operations may want to talk to VP of Sales.

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