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3 August 2010

Core value

By Andrew Clifford

To explain value, you have to look deeper than features and benefits, and understand how your products add value to your customers in a way that distinguishes you from your competitors.

At Metrici, we typically work with partner organisations. This lets us reach more customers than we could by ourselves. It allows us to focus our efforts on our areas of expertise, which are materials, methods and software for automated consultancy tools. It gives partners innovative products to introduce to their customers.

With each partner, we have to begin from the start. We have to explain the proposition, explore how it can add value to the partner, and then develop with them appropriate solutions for their customers.

Going through this process recently, I have been struck again by a recurring problem. The problem is how to explain how the products bring new value to the partner's customers.

This is doubly hard for us. A lot of the benefits of our approach are benefits to the partner. It is much quicker and cheaper to develop consultancy tools using our methods and software than it is to program from scratch. But what are the unique selling points of those solutions to our partners' customers?

The solutions have a lot of good features. The partner organisation can add their content. The expert system we use brings an extra level of insight not available from other tools. We can organise materials and assessments, and automate analysis, to make the whole process very streamlined. We can tailor the solution for each customer. Everything is available on the web. These are all good, but they do not of themselves provide a compelling reason for the customer to use the product, or explain how we add value in ways that others do not.

After scratching at this for a while, I think I can now explain what our unique value is.

Most of the normal ways we try to improve IT involve looking at IT from the viewpoint of the things we are responsible for. We manage projects and teams. We optimise processes. We consolidate technology.

Our approach is different because it looks at IT from the viewpoint of whole systems, which cut across the layers of people, processes and technologies that we typically manage. Because we look at IT in a different way, we can spot opportunities that other methods can not see. And because the way that we analyse IT is more closely related to the structure of IT as perceived by its owners and users (who see services and systems, not layers of people, processes and technology), it is much easier for us to articulate the business case for changes and improvements.

I can now explain the core value of our products. They identify additional opportunities for increasing business, reducing risk and reducing cost. Like an onion, this is wrapped in layers of other benefits which make it easy to run the process, and easy for partners to provide services, but which can make it harder to understand the tangible, unique, value-adding benefits of the products.

Try this for yourself. Can you explain the core value of your products? If you are like me, you may find it harder than you think.

Next: Embracing steady state

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