Q2C Optimization: Outside-In


  • Ken Tomlen
  • Viewpoint
  • January 27, 2016

We’ve all seen this quote. When I first read it I thought: “Well, duh. That’s common sense.” But as I reflected on how many companies go about transforming their business, I noticed that there is often a lack of focus on the customer.

We are all guilty of this. After all, it is easy. We come to work every day, we do our job, and we see the world through our lens (inside-out). It takes a little work on our part to pause and think about how our customers interact with our business and how we impact them day-to-day.

You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology – not the other way around.Steve Jobs

At ATG, one thing we do is help our clients understand and improve their Quote to Cash (Q2C) lifecycle. That is, optimize the continuum that encompasses sales, contracting, fulfillment/delivery, billing, through to revenue recognition. I’ve been part of many of these programs and I have observed that often times the focus (and language) of stakeholders are of an internal view of the world and less about how the Q2C lifecycle performs from the perspective of the customer (outside-in).

Q2C Transformation: Understand, Plan, Implement

When we work with our clients to help them transform their Q2C lifecycle, we take an agile yet methodological approach to understanding, designing and transforming their Quote-to-Cash framework.

Typical activities include:

  • Connector.

    Interview various organizational owners to understand the current Q2C environment

  • Connector.

    Inventory and analyze systems including the user community, integration points, and the Q2C capabilities enabled

  • Connector.

    Review operational metrics and financials

  • Connector.

    Analyze the product/service catalog definition and maturity

  • Connector.

    Inventory pain points and observations and socialize across key stakeholders for consensus

  • Connector.

    Perform future-state visioning workshops that allow stakeholders to align toward a common vision

  • Connector.

    Develop recommendations and a strategic roadmap that outlines prioritized initiatives to address people, process, and technology improvements

So where does the customer fit in to these activities? Everywhere!

Say you’re going to improve how you provision service for your customer – that’s great, but how will it impact the steps your customer takes to change their service within the online portal? What will that user experience be like? Or, say you are migrating to a new cloud-based CPQ system. The new platform may drastically improve how sales discounts are approved, but so what? What does it do for your customer? How will it make their experience with your company better? Or worse?

This may sound like nitpicky, but I have found that by challenging stakeholders to take an “outside-in” view – from the customer’s perspective – can introduce a new dimension of understanding as well as more creative solutions.

Outside In

So how do you maintain focus on your customer as you’re transforming your internal processes and systems? Here are some ideas:

Ask often: “How does this impact the customer?”

Furthermore, in order to answer this question, you need to be able to answer: “Who is our Customer?” You may be surprised at the different definitions you receive when you ask this question within your own organization.

Perform Customer Journey Mapping

Journey Mapping is a high-level view of the journey a customer experiences as they interact with your company. Here are some typical Q2C customer journey scenarios as well as some common customer drivers:

  • Receiving a Proposal and a Quote: Did the sales rep listen to my needs? Does the solution solve my problem? Was it produced timely?
  • Receiving and Processing an Invoice: Is it clear and understandable? Is it accurate? Are changes represented correctly?
  • Changing a Service (Online or Via the Phone): How easy is it to change? How long did it take to provision my change?
  • Calling Customer Care to Resolve Billing Issues: How many times did I provide my account info and problem? How many agents did I speak to?
Find the Moments of Truth

That is, identify those customer touchpoints that provide an opportunity to form a lasting impact (good or bad) on your customer. Pay special attention to those capabilities that enable these critical customer touchpoints. Design them right.

Include Future-State in Process Modeling

When process modeling, build a customer swim-lane into the future-state process documentation that depicts the steps a customer would take as they transverse your Q2C continuum. What systems do the customers interact with directly? What organizations?

Leverage customer segmentation

Leverage customer segmentation that may already exist within your organization. Different segments typically have different goals and expectations as they work with your company. For each segment as these questions:

  • What is their goal?
  • What are the steps they must take to achieve that goal?
  • How do you help (or hurt) them achieve this goal?
Dive into the customer metrics

While operational and financial metrics such as churn, ARPU, ARB, and conversion rates are important; don’t forget direct customer metrics such as Net Promoter Score, CSAT, and Customer Effort Score.

Utilize Organizational Data

Leverage surveys, focus groups, or other “Voice of Customer” programs your organization may already have.

In closing, to improve your Quote to Cash lifecycle you need to understand it and lay out the vision to make it better. As you do this, don’t forget the customer. Remember they are not only your lifeblood; they are the people that are interacting with your Q2C continuum and will feel the changes you are making.

Share this Post

Ken Tomlen is a former Executive Director for Advanced Technology Group (ATG) and has over 18 years leading transformation programs within all aspects of business.