Most content about Experience Management (XM) is written for XM practitioners. Not this post. I’m writing this for any senior executive who has heard about XM and is wondering what it could mean for their organization.
Despite what you may read in different places, the ultimate goal of your XM efforts shouldn’t be to create some isolated wow moments. Don’t think about XM as a mechanism for improving experiences. Instead, think about it as a discipline that enables faster, smarter decisions
To succeed in a world of demanding customers, a fluid workforce, and shrinking product lifecycles, you need to better understand and respond to people’s thoughts and feelings. Today, most organizations have a giant blind spot when it comes to picking up on those people-centric signals. XM fills that strategic void.
XM blends experience data with operational data and embeds the capability to continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt throughout all operational processes, all the way from “procure to pay” to “order to cash.”
When fully embraced, XM is a platform for enterprise transformation that will help your organization more quickly sense and respond to changes. As with any large-scale improvement programs, XM requires the support of the executive team.
What do the leaders of an organization need to do to propel XM? As a guide, I’ve developed an executive agenda for XM transformation based on Five A’s: Aspire, Assemble, Advance, Accelerate, and Ascend.
Any significant transformational effort requires dedication and commitment over a long period of time. That’s why you need to make sure that your leadership team’s aspirations are strong enough to warrant the effort. Here are three components for ASPIRE:
- Learn XM together. The first step on this journey is for the executive team to have a clear and consistent understanding of XM. Our launchpad, “Introduction to Experience Management” can be a great place to start. You should also bring in an XM expert to run an educational event (or two) for the group.
- Envision a better future. The executive team’s motivation for XM needs to come from a vision for how the organization will be able to perform better in the future. The group should develop a common vision for how different parts of your organization would look if they had the capability to continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt.
- Align on ambition. One of the key problems with a transformation program is when the efforts outpace the commitment level of the leadership team. This causes a lot of energy to be spent on activities that fizzle out. So before starting, make sure your leaders truly believe that XM is a key foundation for the organization’s future success.
Ambitious change doesn’t happen on its own or with a part-time focus. It needs dedicated resources to successfully initiate and guide the program. In this phase, the leadership needs to establish the infrastructure for driving change. Here are three components for ASSEMBLE:
- Build the core team. A key part of any transformation is a dedicated XM team, which is often called a Center of Excellence or program office. This group defines the roadmap and provides expertise across a number of areas that either don’t exist or are currently scattered across the organization. The executive team should select a leader of this group who they believe has the capability and clout to drive change across the organization.
- Endorse a multi-year plan. The executive team should anticipate making investments to support the XM transformation, so this should be part of a three- to five-year plan that identifies key metrics. At this point, make sure not to be so granular that you eliminate the opportunity for learning and adjusting along the way.
- Embrace governance. There will always be resistance to change, so the executive team needs to maintain responsibility for ensuring that the transformation efforts succeed. The group needs to identify how it will receive regular updates and help the core XM team overcome obstacles.
Once the resources are assembled, it’s time to pick an initial set of projects. These efforts aren’t aimed at achieving the ultimate goals, but are instead selected to establish momentum in the context of a multi-year transformational program. Here are three components for ADVANCE:
- Spread the word. Employees across the organization need to understand why XM is important and see that the leaders are committed to a long-term transformational journey. The executive team should participate in organization-wide communications, and each executive should also create an ongoing XM communications stream with their organization.
- Cascade responsibility. As the XM program spreads across the organization, the executive team needs to hold the leaders in each of their organizations accountable for supporting those efforts. XM should be important enough for it to show up on their leaders’ goals and to become a recurring topic at their staff meetings.
- Learn and adapt. The executive team should anticipate the need to make adjustments along the way, so it’s critical that it stays informed. The group should encourage the core XM team to share what they’re learning, and each member of the executive team should regularly share what they’re learning from within their organizations.
With the XM transformation underway, the initial efforts need to be replicated throughout the organization. This requires active nurturing by the leadership team. Here are three components for ACCELERATE:
- Propel XM successes. With a portfolio of efforts underway, some will be more effective than others. That’s why the executive team needs to actively encourage the expansion of the activities that are most successful. This means publicly celebrating those successes (and the people involved) along with potentially diverting focus and investments into those areas.
- Demonstrate XM behaviors. As the executive team asks more of the organization to adopt XM and change how it operates, it’s critical to show that you are making changes to how you personally operate. Each executive should identify a set of activities that they will do differently by leveraging the capabilities of XM. And, of course, make sure to do them that way.
- Reward XM adoption. The spread of XM across the organization will affect many people, but they will likely respond to those changes differently. The executive team needs to acknowledge and reward (through celebrations, promotions, and compensation) the people who are most actively adopting new XM-centric behaviors.
As XM becomes embedded across many parts of the organization, the leadership team should rethink its entire business. Why? Because the capability to continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt will likely open up opportunities that were previously unavailable or unattainable. Here are categories of questions you should be asking when you’re ready to ASCEND:
- Reimagine strategy. Your organization’s enhanced XM capabilities will provide it with the ability to address new markets, so you should be asking questions such as: What new businesses should we be in? What new product lines should we launch? What new acquisitions should we make?
- Redesign operating models. XM will change how you operate, so you need to step back and take a larger look at the overall organization and consider questions such as: How should we change our in-sourcing and outsourcing mix? What organizational changes should we make? What processes should be completely re-engineered?
- Reassess XM aspirations. With a foundation of XM in place, there will be additional opportunities for XM that were not previously apparent. So it’s time to address questions such as: How can we accelerate our ability to sense and respond to changes? How can we automate more insights-based workflows? Where should we focus our next wave of transformation?
The bottom line: XM can be transformational if the executive team is committed to it
Bruce Temkin, CCXP, is the Head of the Qualtrics XM Institute