A personal note from SAMA’s new CEO

By Denise Freier

President and CEO

SAMA

After being at SAMA for a few months as the new CEO, I wanted to reach out and share some early observations and appreciation for your support during my transition. I believe that it is vital for SAMA to continue to find more channels of engagement so that we can make SAMA more essential to you, our SAMA community.

First, I need to share that I am very thankful for my predecessor, Bernard Quancard, and the SAMA staff for where we are today. I’ve also had the pleasure of engaging with many of you, either by phone or in person at a SAMA event. These last few months have been equal parts humbling, challenging and energizing — humbling because our community is made up of so many smart, driven and passionate individuals…challenging because the business world is changing so rapidly, and SAMA has to evolve to keep pace…and energizing because I believe more strongly than ever in SAMA’s potential to positively impact the present AND future of our members.

In all, I’ve had conversations with roughly 75 SAMA stakeholders, including customers, SAMA board members and training partners. Here are a few early observations that I want to share:

  • Many of you consider SAMA a “best-kept secret.” We need to continually evolve our offerings to remain your key business partner, further develop our value proposition, and do a better job of communicating to our members.
  • We want to nurture a wider and richer community to accelerate the discovery of changing trends and proven best practices.
  • We will continue to build our library of original research and thought leadership to make sure you have the latest insights and information you need in order to become (and remain) essential to your strategic customers.
  • We need to stay laser-focused on our on-time execution. That means producing “turnkey” insights, resources and training that you can put to immediate use with your customers.
  • We intend to do more to foster peer-to-peer exchanges with ideas such as micro-communities within the larger SAMA community for more targeted connections. SAMA will work to make it easier for you to connect with peers.

As we move into the next few months, where would YOU like to see us focus our attention? Please feel free to respond to this email, pick up the phone or bend my ear at the next SAMA event.

Thank you again for your commitment to joining our efforts to elevate our unique practice of strategic account management around the world.

397d7d3f-857f-4137-b5b7-8c85615155a5

Denise Freier joined SAMA in 2018 after more than 40 years of executive and sales leadership at IBM.

In the Press
Velocity profile
Crain’s announcement
Forum Magazine

Digitalization and You: The Future of Work

By Nicolas Zimmerman

SAMA Editor-in-Chief

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report estimates the proportion of total work hours performed by humans will drop by almost 20 percent by 2025, from 71% to 58%. Machines and algorithms, the authors say, will increase their contribution to specific job tasks by an average of 57%.

This will have huge implications for you, your company and the very meaning of work. Below are just a few findings from the report, the rest of which you can (and should) download here.

If you work in strategic accounts, you should actually feel pretty secure about your continued indispensability in a more digital, computer-driven world. In Table 4 below, which highlights the skills that are likely to become more and less relevant by 2022, the “in demand” skills (e.g., analytical thinking, complex problem solving, leadership and social influence) include many of the character traits found most often in top-performing SAMs.

For a deeper look at how the forces of digitalization will reshape the SAM job, see this excellent post from University of Auckland professor Kaj Storbacka and SAMA’s former senior knowledge content developer Elisabeth Cornell.

Fostering Ecosystem Co-Creation Around Digitally Enabled Innovations

This post is adapted from an article of the same name scheduled to appear in the Fall issue of Velocity. The post, and the article on which it is based, describe the business case at the center of Arcadis’s 2018 SAMA Excellence Award™ for “Outstanding use of data and digitally based processes to impact co-creation.”

By Carmel Woods

Global Internal Communications and Engagement Manager

Arcadis

Digitalization is transforming the markets in which Arcadis operates, creating uncertainty and opportunity for our clients as well as the account teams assigned to them. Our corporate strategy, released in 2017, reinforces our commitment to becoming the leading digital business in our industry. To get there, we have implemented a number of initiatives enabling our account and delivery teams to help our clients capitalize on new digital technologies. These include:

  • Creating a market-focused “pivot program” designed to ensure early identification of future market challenges for our customers, enabling us to help lead them through those challenges
  • Investing in primary research capabilities, such as our Industrial Capex survey, which allow us to unlock large data pools. Using these capabilities, we are able to more successfully challenge the way our customers make key asset investment decisions and respond to the uncertainty caused by digital transformation.
  • Using technology like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and a new global strategy alliance with Autodesk, we are helping clients better understand their built assets and enhance asset performance.
  • Training all senior account, solution and delivery leaders through the Vlerick Business School Executive Program, an interactive three-day course facilitated by a digital transformation expert, Dr. Stijn Viaene
  • Developing sector and account planning workshops that support focus and lateral thinking on digital opportunity
  • A flagship Deep Orange™ design-thinking sprint process, in which we submerse our clients in an intense design sprint around a specific problem statement while connecting them with specialists and other organizations from our digital ecosystem, leading to accelerated development of digitally enabled solutions

Deep Orange in action: Addressing an airport terminal capacity problem

Experience has taught us that co-creation is key to digital success. Recognizing this, in 2017 Arcadis introduced Deep Orange™, our flagship program designed to help clients navigate, solve and optimize digital uncertainties and opportunities in a sprint environment. Based on a four-day co-creation sprint, Deep Orange applies a human-centered, prototype-driven process for innovation to products, services and business design.

Deep Orange follows a three-stage approach based on key success principles, bringing together account teams, technical experts, digital disruptors, facilitators and, of course, customers.

For one of our Big Urban Cities (BUC) key clients, we deployed Deep Orange to engage a broader coalition of ecosystem partners, ultimately delivering immense value to our client by improving passenger experience, increasing sales from retail outlets in the airport and enhancing passenger safety through capturing and using data to solve complex challenges.  

Our client, an airport operator, is seeing unprecedented growth in passenger traffic.  To meet demand, they are investing heavily in the transformation of the airport by allocating more than 1 billion euros to deliver a new and extended passenger terminal. Until the new terminal is operational, our client’s existing terminals are struggling to meet demand. One terminal in particular is consistently operating above the capacity it was designed to comfortably accommodate, and passenger satisfaction has declined markedly.

Thinking laterally, our client hypothesized that, through technology and big data analytics, it would be possible to more efficiently operate the terminal and better manage the passenger journey, leading to better overall customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, the data on which to build a solution did not exist, so our joint effort to solve congestion and improve passenger satisfaction would need to generate its own data.

Taking up the challenge,  we set out to build a digital prototype to  capture the data needed to fix terminal congestion and monitor occupancy, allowing us to give passengers access to congestion “heat maps” that would both ease pinch points and put control into passengers’ hands.

We identified and selected  ecosystem partners and Arcadis subject matter experts to form a multidisciplinary team qualified to address  the challenge. Team members included relationship-holders, aviation experts from Arcadis, data analytics and insights specialists from Accenture, and back- and front-end designers from IBM.

In outline, the four-day sprint unfolded like this:

  • Day 1: Defining the problem
  • Day 2: Incorporating convergent and divergent ideas, building a storyboard
  • Day 3: Using the storyboard to create an actual prototype solution
  • Day 4: Testing and finalizing the prototype, and preparing for the final pitch presentation to senior stakeholders from the client, partners, venture capitalists and Arcadis.

The results

The outcome of the co-creation sprint was a solution that could be quickly applied to help the customer’s current issues while also being scaled to address future, similar challenges. An interactive heat map/visualization tool immediately improved passenger experience in the problematic airport terminal, easing  capacity issues while giving our client the ability to harvest the data to make better decisions elsewhere in its portfolio. 

Scaling digital co-creation

The success of Deep Orange comes from having a clear, simple process that takes into account the realities of the digital world. The approach focuses on identifying the digital realities that drive value in co-creation from the client’s perspective. Keep in mind that:

  • Customer experience is key and valued.
  • Customers are moving targets.
  • Business ecosystems co-create value.
  • Digital platforms boost value co-creation.

In the airport example above, it was important to understand the drivers of the client’s current issues to help frame the data requirements. Aging airport facilities were limiting the capacity around expansion in passenger numbers and retail, so we looked at how we could use big data in the form of passenger foot traffic flows to understand where passengers were spending their time and the flow of traffic to departure gates and facilities. By monitoring and recording passenger behavior, we have been able to test the hypothesis that the client can control passenger behavior by empowering them to make their own decisions — via the communication of congestion information — and in turn, use real-time data to direct passengers to free spaces, retail units, as well as food and beverage outlets.

The analysis allows us to create a user experience app to show quickest routes, allowing the customer to deal with delays and the impact on certain areas of the airport waiting areas and walkways. The ongoing project with this airport client has produced a series of real-time analytics outputs that allow us to give this data a new dimension. With the help of our data scientists, the insights from the data analysis has driven an expansion of scope within the project and a more ambitious financial impact for the airport. 

 

How to work with customers so they are “able” AND “willing” to pay for your value

By Todd Snelgrove, founding partner, Experts in Value

For every individual SAM and SAM team, one of the most important goals is to be able to deliver value to the customer AND make sure you get paid for it. Once upon a time, “all” you had to do was convince the end user of your offering’s superiority to other options — and then let them do the internal selling for you. Today, you’re dealing with a highly educated Procurement function with a great deal of sway over what gets bought from whom.

Don’t despair: All hope is not lost. To thrive in today’s world, you just need to learn to think like – and sell to – both the economic buyer (i.e., Procurement) AND the technical/business/end user. In this post, I focus on eight areas your value program needs to master to get all your customer stakeholders the information they need to pull the trigger on your offering. These will be covered in much greater detail in a one-day workshop I will be delivering at SAMA Academy in San Diego on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

First things first, let’s look at a couple terms from the title of this blog, so we make sure we’re speaking in a common language.

Ability to pay (ATP). Simply put, this term refers to whether or not your customer has the money to pay for your offering. We’ve all had customers tell us our product is too expensive, that another, cheaper option is “just as good,” or that the supplier isn’t budgeted to spend what we’re asking. In my book, this is just evidence that our offering just isn’t resonating with the buyer — that it doesn’t sufficiently address our customer’s needs and strategic drivers. But I also think about what my former CEO used to tell me: “Todd, budgets can be changed. If you put a newer and better option in front of me that creates real economic value, it will get funded.”

Willingness to Pay (WTP). This refers more specifically to whether your customer is actually willing to pay for your option over its next best alternative, whether that means buying from a competitor or sticking to the status quo. It is critical to understand that WTP fluctuates as a company’s needs change. And so it’s critical for you to understand that Procurement’s needs differ from the end user’s needs, so they are going to value certain qualities — and hence their willingness to pay for them — less. While your end user may be willing to pay a premium for decreased downtime or better systems integration, Procurement won’t be unless you can quantify and document the value in business terms.

So how do you build your organization’s ability to succeed at selling value? Based on the work of myself and others, many companies have begun creating ROI/value quantification tools, but often these value initiatives aren’t leading to bottom-line results. Research shows that, all too often, suppliers focus only on helping marketing and sales sell value but not creating a simultaneous culture change that actually incentivizes and encourages them to *WANT* to sell value. Recent research from SAMA shows that, while pretty much every company in the world knows it needs to quantify customer value, only 30 percent actually have a disciplined process for doing so. And in my experience, of those 30 percent most could stand to do it much better.

Below, you can see a handy chart I created with James Anderson, the distinguished professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management (or, as I like to call him, The Value Guru), which shows the factors that influence a salesforce’s ability AND desire to sell value.

Causes of Value Selling Success 1.png

Let’s tackle these concepts one by one…

Value conceptualization. During your new product/service development process, are you thinking ahead about how much this new offering would be worth to your strategic customers? Are you building the formulas and test case examples in advance, so when you’re ready to launch you already have sample ROI calculations to share with customers?

Value-selling process. Do you have a process that pushes Sales and Marketing to interact earlier in the buying cycle so you can frame your customer conversations around value from the start, rather than reacting to an existing demand via RFP and trying to push value when it may already be too late?

Customized ROI tools. Have you created a tool for Sales to create customized ROI analyses for all your solutions, and is it easy to use, intuitive for the customer? Does it save and track cases as you build them, and can it track actual realized value for customers who have begun to adopt your solution?

SAM/sales team training on value selling. Have you given your teams the training they need to be able and comfortable selling on value? A one-off seminar isn’t enough. Training needs to be robust, ongoing and challenging, with exercises, role-playing and tests. Selling is a skill, and like any skill it requires training and ongoing fine-tuning.

Rewarding the right behavior. To give just one example, many companies still measure their SAMs/sales staff on sales versus target. But if I’m a SAM who is only being measured on the top line, what incentive do I have to push my customer to pay a price premium, even if I know the value is there to justify it? I’m much more likely to cave and offer a five percent discount and move on. But that five percent comes off the bottom line, and for most companies that’s 50 percent of net profit. One tell-tale sign you’re not rewarding the right behavior is that your SAMs and field sales are either continually pushing for discounts or complaining that you’re not priced competitively. This is a sure sign they don’t have the tools, knowledge and, most importantly, incentives to have the right kinds of conversations with your customers.

Value-based contracts. Have you created contracts that allow the customer to pay based on the actual, mutually agreed-upon and delivered value? If not, it’s a lot to ask of a Procurement expert to just “take your word for it.” Words and PowerPoint slides will not get you the traction you need to sell on value. While many companies have built processes around offering discounts, very few have ones that guarantee delivery of value.

Business Culture. What does your company stand for? Does your CEO talk about customer value? Is it part of your company’s annual report? Does it get discussed at your investor day? For true business culture change around value, you need a person working full time to drive the concept of value and its adoption at every level of the organization.

Customer Culture. Are you engaging customers earlier and, most importantly, differently? Are you discussing early in the sales process that, when they buy your offerings, that they need to consider value and not simply buy at the lowest that meets the minimum requirement? It takes a different sales and marketing approach to be seen as a thought leader in your industry and to drive a change in how your customers value value.

Tools to help quantify and demonstrate value are critical, but underlying those tools your company has to have a holistic value mindset that runs across and through the entire organization. For much more detail, see my book (co-authored and -edited by Andreas Hinterhuber), “Value First Then Price: Quantifying Value in Business-to-Business Markets” (Routledge, 2016). And of course, remember to register for my SAMA Academy workshop in San Diego on Oct. 16, 2018.

Todd C. Snelgrove is the former Global Vice President of Value at SKF, where he drove the creation, tools, processes and results of a 20-year value journey at the company.

 

Making Brainstorming a Highly Effective Creative Tool

 

By Mick Carroll, PhD

Brainstorming is easily the most common activity that an organization turns to when it needs to be creative.  First, let’s take a look at what brainstorming is and why it is so ineffective as most commonly practiced.

The origins of brainstorming can be traced to back to the 1940s and ’50s to an American advertising executive, Alex Osborne.  This process was based on the creative characteristics of:

Fluency, i.e., the ability to generate a multitude of ideas

Flexibility, i.e., the ability to change perspectives and thought patterns

Originality, i.e., the ability to express new concepts, relationships or ideas

Awareness, i.e., the ability to see beyond the given rules and principles

Drive, i.e., the motivation, energy and confidence to take chances and fail

The biggest problem with these creative characteristics is that they are not normal ways that the human brain functions. The brain is programmed to immediately search for solutions.  The brain has evolved to be a survival instrument always looking for the quickest ways to size up a situation or challenge it — and then quickly provide the best path to resolution.

Brainstorming requires the following rules, which make intuitive sense:

  • No criticism. The atmosphere for brainstorming is supposed to be open; the purpose is to encourage ideas, not judge them prematurely.
  • Freewheeling discussion and free expression are desired — more than carefully thought-out ideas.
  • Quantity over quality of ideas is desired.
  • Combining, improving and adding on to ideas are highly encouraged.

So why doesn’t brainstorming typically result in many creative and useful ideas?  It has to do with how the brain is wired and what people know.  The thought process is driven by neural connections that people make based on something called “knowledge clusters.”  This is a fancy way of saying that people have created ways of knowing and processing information, and this becomes deeply engrained, habitual and many times automatic.  Simply putting people in a room and telling them to be creative has no impact on their highly patterned ways of thinking.  Often, this is described as “stuck thinking.”  Unless tools and mental processes that make a person make new associations, relationships and thought patterns are introduced, very few new or creative associations and relationships will occur.

The main purpose of this post is to answer the question “How can you make brainstorming a highly creative and generative process?”  The main ingredient of creative thinking is to achieve new combinations, relationships and associations among the knowledge points or clusters that one has stored in his or her head.

Keep in mind that, for brainstorming to succeed, you have to change  the patterned ways in which your brain wants to think. Here are some steps that can be immediately taken to improve your next brainstorming session:

Two weeks before the planned session, send out a notice that there will be a brainstorming session. Include on the notice a clear statement of the issue/problem/opportunity the session will be addressing, e.g., “The purpose of the brainstorming session scheduled for two weeks from Friday will be to generate ideas around how we find more effective ways to process internal workflow to speed up our delivery to customers.”

Have participants rewrite this statement at least two different ways and send them  to you within two days. Depending on how many people will be attending, give individual or team pre-assignments.  Depending on the purpose of the brainstorming session, the following assignments should be given:

  • Have participants research three companies in your industry and report back on how they handle your issue.
  • Have several people go on small “field trips” to different places (e.g., museums, restaurants, sporting events) to see how these environments might have possible solutions/ideas about your issue.
  • Similar to above, have several people search for analogous activities (e.g., an election, air traffic control, Library of Congress cataloging) that might be similar to how you handle your issue.
  • Have participants draw a picture or pictures of the problem/issue that you will be addressing at the brainstorming session.

Here are a few guidelines for the actual session:

  • Have each person or team report on their assignment.  Allow time for ideas to flow during each report.
  • Periodically during the session, ask three questions and document the answers on a flip chart: (1) What is the purpose here? (2) What is happening here? (3) What is the value here?
  • It is critical that someone in the meeting organizes, illustrates and displays the ideas for the group.  Pictures are key stimulators of ideas.  It is also extremely helpful that someone draws out the current process that you are trying to improve upon.  Seeing what you currently do can help the mind look for alternatives.
  • When harvesting ideas, don’t throw any away — rather, drop them into different buckets, such as: ready-to-use, “seedlings” (i.e., the beginnings of a good idea) and “useful directions” (i.e., useful broad concepts), ones that aren’t ready at the moment but may have future value.

Alternate approach to classic brainstorming:

“Six Thinking Hats” Ideation Each hat color (see below) represents a persona, attitude or approach.  Have each participant pick a hat color/role that represents qualities that are out of their comfort zone. The idea is to change the way you normally think about things.  (Have fun with this; humor relaxes the mind and causes new connections.)

Another variation calls for everyone wearing the same color at the same time.  At a designated time,  everyone will change to the next color and assume the associated thinking approach or attitude.

White Hat:  Data and information. “What data is available?” “What data is needed?” “Let’s run some projections.” “How do we get the data?”

Red Hat:  Feelings, intuition, emotions, no data or evidence. “My gut tells me…” “I don’t like the feeling of this.” “This just feels right.”

Black Hat: Caution, risk averse, critical judgment. “This won’t work.” “We’ve tried this before.” “We don’t have the resources.”

Yellow Hat: Optimistic, positive, benefits, figure a way to make it work — opposite of Black Hat. “Let’s pretend money is no object.” “What do we need to do to make this work?” “Who needs to be involved?”

Green Hat:  Creative thinker, new ideas, variations, challenges conventional thinking, movement.  “What are the main concepts we are looking at?” “Let’s look at five great companies inside and outside of our industry.” “Let’s have weekly ideation sessions around this.”

Blue Hat:  Process, control, manages process, keeps process moving. “Let’s summarize.” “What are next steps?” “Let’s go back and review Red Hat’s points about _____.”

Could these tactics help prime the pump at your next brainstorming session? Or are they too zany to fly at your organization? Let me know what you think by connecting through LinkedIn. I’d love to hear from you!

Mick Carroll holds a PhD in educational philosophy and is the founder of BetterThink, a business consultancy specializing in using creative thinking to solve problems.