For an organization to really adopt experience management (XM), it must change how it operates across many areas. If all of the necessary pieces aren’t coordinated and headed in the same direction, there’s little chance that XM efforts will get off the ground, much less succeed. In fact, XM professionals cite a lack of funding, lack of strategy, and internal conflict as three of their top obstacles to XM progress.
Successful XM programs need to overcome those challenges while maintaining a systematic focus on making changes that will last over multiple years. This requires strong leadership, not only in the form of senior executives and those in dedicated XM roles, but also through a clear vision and plan that aligns XM priorities with the organization’s overall business and brand priorities. For those reasons and others, LEAD is one of 6 essential XM competencies. It includes the skills and actions required to architect, align, and sustain successful XM efforts.
With strong leadership in place, XM efforts can establish and sustain momentum thanks to a number of things, including:
- Strong executive commitment. When executives commit to XM, their behaviors reflect it. Their day-to-day actions align with the XM vision and they hold the rest of the organization accountable to change. When employees see leaders changing, they’re more likely to believe in the importance of XM and adapt their own behaviors as well.
- Collaborative planning. Rather than identifying priorities and plans in a vacuum, the XM team has the attention and involvement of key stakeholders across the organization required to agree on XM priorities that support key business objectives. As a result, key stakeholders are not only bought-in to the plan but also understand the role they and their teams play during execution.
- Appropriate resourcing and support. Once they have a well-defined strategy and roadmap, the XM team can ensure that functional business plans reflect their respective XM commitments and that the necessary financial and people resources are in place to support what the XM program needs.
Three Skills for the LEAD Competency
The LEAD competency includes three XM skills:
To stay aligned, organizations must develop and maintain a clear and shared vision for their XM efforts. Some of the actions related to this skill include utilizing a strategy that ties to business and brand objectives, developing that strategy with cross-functional input, and reviewing and updating the strategy to ensure it continues to focus on the right priorities.
- It is critical to broadly communicate the strategy to everyone across the entire ecosystem so that they understand it and are open to being part of working towards the same goal.
- The strategy should reflect the key attitudes and behaviors the organization needs to elicit in individuals (customers, employees, others) that drive outcomes that support targeted business objectives.
- The strategy should be actively used not only to structure planning activities and manage the portfolio of XM projects but also should be translated into design principles and guidelines that are used to shape employees’ behaviors and how experiences come to life.
XM Program Roadmap
XM success requires organizations to coordinate across a number of different teams and projects over a long period of time. So they must develop and track XM progress against a plan with well-defined streams of effort. This includes identifying which experiences are the key area of focus, defining and prioritizing activity streams that will persist over several years, and assigning teams and individuals to be accountable for executing on the projects within those activity streams.
- The program roadmap should encompass the current and anticipated initiatives encompassing development across the entire XM Operating Framework: technology, culture, and XM competencies.
- It should also establish evaluation points to assess the effectiveness of the activities and allow for adding, modifying, or retiring activities based on the organization’s needs.
- Technology management shouldn’t be overlooked on the roadmap – data, administrative, and integration elements all have a place in a well-defined program roadmap.
Since XM affects the entire organization, it requires establishing and maintaining organizational structures that provide appropriate decision-making, alignment, accountability, and conflict resolution. An effective governance model includes establishing a strong core team to catalyze the XM efforts by defining methodologies and approaches and managing the day-to-day activities of the program. It also includes engaging senior leaders to work with the XM executive sponsor to prioritize initiatives and hold the organization accountable for taking action, along with identifying a cross-functional working group to tackle roadmap projects and to activate their respective teams in supporting XM.
- It’s important that the XM core team have a clear charter that defines the team’s responsibilities and scope of work in a way that sets clear boundaries and helps identify the right talent and resources needed to deliver.
- The executive sponsor or senior-most XM leader should work across the highest levels of the organization raising awareness and support for XM, getting buy-in from key influencers, and clearing obstacles to XM progress.
- The cross-functional working group acts as the “arms and legs” of the XM core team to spur action across the business. For that reason, members of this group require both the positional influence and decision-making authority to make commitments and drive accountability on behalf of the area of the business they represent.
The bottom line: Don’t overlook the importance of having a well-defined approach to lead your XM efforts.
Aimee Lucas is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute.