September 5, 2018
One of the most important things you can do for your business is start asking the right people the right questions. Speaking with and listening to our clients and dream clients (the right people) gives us the ability to fix business problems and build a strategy using what they tell us. This, in turn, helps great things happen. You can establish a stronger value proposition, upgrade your offer, or create valuable content around their needs.
Although we’ve got a bunch of enterprise projects in our portfolio, our goal is to become the go-to technology partner for big organizations. And that’s a whole different story. The first step of our journey towards that goal was to… start asking questions.
Over the past couple of weeks, I was working on a complex study of enterprise clients and their experiences with outsourcing and finding technology vendors. Together with Szymon, the co-founder of Monterail, we interviewed eight inspiring people, directly involved in the technology buying process, from nine organizations hailing from different fields and industries, including leading consulting and accounting companies, a telecom provider, banks from the private and corporate sectors, global IT leaders… Quite a broad scope of services and experiences.
Given my graduate background in sociology, I felt a thrill at the thought of conducting interviews. It’s one of those skills you should never underestimate. Similarly to studying cultural anthropology. Although those fields may, at first glance, seem somewhat removed from my purview as Head of Marketing, they permeate my daily work quite heavily. Asking the right questions and listening closely to the answers is useful almost every day.
Having worked with some corporate clients from Europe and other parts of the world, such as Merck, we’ve noticed considerable differences in the course of our collaboration when compared with start-ups and SMEs. In the case of the former, it involves a longer and more complex decision-making process, multiple stakeholders, and specific vendor selection methods.
Being on the same page with smaller businesses came quite natural to us as we share a similar mindset, roots, culture, and founder experiences. Stepping into the shoes of a corporation’s C-level person, however, requires a little mindset shift.
Frankly, this research project of ours was an eye-opening experience. Although we collect client feedback as a matter of course, this time was different. How often do you get firsthand information from organizations outside your customer group?
During our meetings with managers, directors, buyers, and other highly placed executives, I learned how their decision-making process looks, what are the most frequent challenges they face, and how they handle enterprise projects.
Today, I’m sharing the most important insights we applied at Monterail to bolster our relationship with enterprise-level clients.
Let’s dive in.
Basically, there are big, strategic projects and smaller ones, like internal tools for example. The former are usually implemented on the global scale. Therefore, they often play a key role in an organization’s operations, are inherently connected to the company’s plans, and, as such, carry considerable risks.
Smaller projects are not that small at all. Although they operate on a relatively smaller budget, risk for the project initiator remains, and it’s connected to their reputation. Smaller projects also grant you considerable flexibility in terms of tool specification and dev team size.
Armed with this information, a software company like Monterail should understand well what kind of tools it will require to tackle specific needs (especially in the case of smaller projects). It is crucial, however, to obtain all the necessary information regarding business objectives, and perform your own in-depth research before committing to projects lacking precise definition.
Furthermore, the team should work, to the extent that it’s possible, independently. Basing on expertise and experience, it should focus on delivering specific solutions and precise suggestions on solving a given problem. The enterprise’s key decisions will be pretty much supported by your insights. Hence, the team should not only have development and design skills, but should have an understanding of the business perspective. Think about adding a Business Analyst to the team. At Monterail, merging technology and business cases is handled by Darya.
The tricky part is that there’s no one person with the final say. Usually, decisions are made by consensus by multiple stakeholders and it’s crucial to understand their role in the process.
It all starts with buyers responsible for making contact with vendors and IT services providers like Monterail. They look for companies, handle research and selection, and then forward their recommendations up the decision chain in the organization. The suggested vendors are subsequently assessed by Innovation Managers, Digital Marketers, Operations Directors, and similarly-named executives representing the many aspects of the organization.
Corporations looking for an IT vendor must go through a few phases: preliminary vendor selection (or using a pre-approved vendor list), comparing offers in detail, making recommendations, obtaining management approval, accepting risks, and securing the buy-in of the IT department if the product is going to be synchronized with existing tools.
And in a pyramid management structure, the whole process involves many stakeholders. It must take time. So try not to rush things unnecessarily.
As some projects are undertaken in the form of additional activity besides the manager’s core responsibilities (e.g developing a new tool to boost team performance), the manager’s approach to them may differ.
Sometimes, enterprise representatives want to be involved in the process and cooperate closely with the team. On the other hand, you might need to act as a product owner. In this case you will probably engage managers only to make crucial decisions and answer specification-related questions. The collaboration workflow you've established with other clients may just not work here. Ask meaningful questions and be the party who suggests the right model. Write down expectations of both parties to avoid miscommunication.
Security has been crucial for enterprises long before the arrival of GDPR, mostly due to storage and processing of highly sensitive customer data. As most of security measures have to be implemented on the enterprise side, you might end up advising on the matter. Make sure your team is able to comply with strict regulations and provide sufficient data protection solutions. Bear these regulations in mind when designing the database structure, role-based access, permission systems, and architecture to allow your clients to implement the security measures appropriate for the data they are handling.
Understand that every product has its own unique nuances, so it’s crucial to dive into the business logic of the app and suggest the best solution for the specific data/risks.
Of course, it should matter to every company but in the enterprise decision-making process it’s even more important. Buyers usually take advantage of the approved list of vendors, as they include companies which have already shown their ability to cooperate with huge organizations and deliver projects on schedule, and have proven themselves reliable partners. Thus, choosing one of them mitigates at least some of the risk.
Building a good reputation can help you reach buyers who are open to new vendors offering the solution they’re looking for. You can do that by sharing case studies describing successfully delivered projects and by appearing at industry events.
Understand that enterprise employees responsible for the project may become overwhelmed with loads of other tasks and may not be able to meet every deadline. Take that into consideration when committing to working with this type of client. You will need an experienced account manager and project manager to lead the project and react appropriately to different situations.
Want to develop an enterprise app?
Our team has built over 100 products for enterprises, SMBs, and startups which helped us understand different business processes. We will ask you some meaningful questions to make your vendor selection easier.
The partnership is built through countless meetings, solid know-how, and above all, understanding and accepting various business approaches.
It’s a hard nut to crack. But it’s possible with the right people.
A cherry-picked team ensures smooth delivery and takes the burden of constant control and some risks off enterprise parties. It simultaneously bridges the gaps between strategy, business, operations, and technology.
The first phase of the study is finished, but our journey towards in-depth knowledge of various enterprises is far from over. Right now, I’m preparing a second, more precise phase of interviews with a series of corporate experts, this time focusing on enterprises from the broadly defined telecommunications and utilities industry.
What’s the objective? Gaining an in-depth understanding of their buying process specification and building stronger relationships. Plus, one secondary objective would be to allow us to create tailor-made content based on their insights that would help corporations find answers to their most pressing needs.
Plus, I’m looking for someone who would like to share their know-how and cooperate to deliver better, more meaningful software. Together.
Are you that person? I’d be glad to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org