conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published –
October 29, 2012
Mr. Ables, C5 Insight’s tagline is “Listen,
Understand, Connect, Know”. How does C5 Insight put that into practice?
“Listen, Understand, Connect, Know”, or The LUCK Principle™ is the founding
principle of the company. We have found that technology has given businesses
better tools for building customer relationships, but most businesses have
mis-managing these tools and are often over-complicating the process of
relationship management. As a result, businesses are grasping for ways to
boost the velocity and effectiveness of relationship building – whether
those are with customers, colleagues or partners. Getting back to the basics
of listening to people, understanding their unique needs, connecting with
them in a relevant way and knowing the results helps businesses re-imagine
how they can use technology to improve each of these four quadrants of
Take an individual sales
person as an example. Without the help of any technology, the best sales
people start relationships by listening. They carefully listen and ask
questions so that they can understand the person they are trying to form a
relationship with. By taking the time to build a foundation first, they can
then more effectively connect what their organization provides with what the
prospect needs in a personalized manner. When they then observe the results,
they know if they were effective or not, and can improve how they work with
them in the future. When you see someone following The LUCK Principle on an
individual basis, it is beautiful to observe how naturally and effectively
they work with others to achieve results.
But The LUCK Principle needs
a helping hand when you group individuals into employees, customers and
partners that all want a seamless way to interact. For even the smallest
business, the potential of The LUCK Principle cannot be realized without the
help of consistent processes and enabling technologies. They need a way to
deliver workplace conversations from one person to the next and retain that
in a corporate memory. That’s where collaborative systems like customer
relationship management (CRM), content management, business analytics and
enterprise collaboration portals are required. The larger an organization
is, the more of those tools they need, and the more work they need to put
into getting those tools to talk to one another in order to reap the
benefits of LUCK.
The harder a company works
at making The LUCK Principle a part of their everyday work process, the more
“luck” they will have in making their work force more productive and
CEOCFO: Do you find most companies
realize they are missing something, or do you have to educate them?
Most companies lack the self-awareness to realize that they have a
collaboration problem. They do, however, recognize the symptoms of the
problem – faltering sales results, high customer attrition, dissatisfied
employees or ineffective partners. Some businesses have realized that
referrals between sales teams are non-existing, or that project teams lack
the necessary tools to understand issues and share ideas, or that their
sales team is getting blindsided with service issues that they should have
known about. When a business identifies one of those symptoms, that is a
great place for us to make our entrance and help to solve that problem
through better customer management processes and supporting technologies.
CEOCFO: When you are called into a
company and they tell you their problem, what is your process, what do you
look at and how do you decide what they need?
It’s very simple – we practice what we preach. When working with clients, we
follow The LUCK Principle. It’s how we run every part of our business.
When we engage with a client
we spend a lot of time listening to them. When we have asked our customers
why they have continued to choose us for one project after another, what we
hear back is that we take the time to gain a deep understanding of how their
business works and what issues are specific to them. Our consulting teams
invest a significant amount of time asking a lot of questions, running work
sessions, going on “ride alongs,” and understanding the fabric of the
company. That listening process is absolutely critical to delivering a
successful project. We then work to transform what we have heard into a
project plan uniquely crafted to meet the client’s goals.
Many of our clients find us
after working with one of our competitors who has simply sold them software
licenses and provided a bit of training. They wake up to find that the
project was not only a failure – but it has left them off worse than they
were in the first place. Improving how you collaborate means people will
have to change how they work and even think about their business – so part
of what we deliver is technical and part is the coaching and consulting
required to adopt evolutionary changes in their daily work processes.
How do you change the mindset of people?
Some say that corporate change is bottom up and some say it is top down. Our
experience is it has to be both at once. It is something a company has to
be committed to at all levels – particularly when it involves changing the
way that you work together – and it cannot be a short-term process. To get
an organization to change how they think, we work with them to adopt The
LUCK Principle internally – to commit to changing how they work together by
listening to each other, understanding their business, connecting that
knowledge to their plans and constantly improving by knowing their results.
That translates into spending a significant amount of time in training;
continuing to listen to those who are having to change their processes so
that we can tweak the technology to better enable them; and constantly
This whole realm of
collaborating using technology is new for many business people whether it is
a cloud based social collaboration tool, a CRM solution, or Microsoft
SharePoint. They will not know what they do not know about until they have
been using it for a while. Then they will have epiphanies about how to
revolutionize their part of the business using the new tools. They will need
help bringing those ideas forward, making technology simpler and more
useful. No matter how good of a job any company does with upfront planning,
they have to listen to the people on their team and respond quickly. The
people who have to work with the technologies that we support have the best
ideas about how the technology can help them – we work with management teams
to tap into this rich source of ideas.
At the same time, nothing
will break a project faster than managers who are not committed to it. Many
managers have an attitude of, “I chose to fund it and I sit in on the
planning meetings so that means I am committed.” A real commitment from
managers means that they are going to jump feet first into the same system
that their team is using every day. Here is a great story that happened with
one client we are consulting with. We sat down with two managers and one of
them said the cloud solution they were using to collaborate was horrible.
The other manager said that they thought it was wonderful and it was really
helping them to manage their work processes. When asked how they run their
meetings, the first manager said, “I don’t even open that system because I
do not believe what is in it, I make all of my guys give me reports on Excel
and we work through those together.” Manager number two said, “When we are
in our weekly meeting, I open the system and if someone tells me something
that is not in the system, I tell that as far as I am concerned, it did not
happen. It only took a few months of that for people to get the message.”
That was a crystal clear case study of one manager who made the same project
an abject failure, while another was able to make it into a smashing
CEOCFO: What is the general competitive
landscape for C5 and how do you get people to recognize the difference?
The market is fiercely competitive. We have been able to differentiate
ourselves in three key areas that have translated into ongoing opportunities
for us over the past 10 plus years.
Firstly, we find our
competitors tend to differentiate themselves into two different areas:
smaller firms that focus mostly on technology and are low-priced, and very
large firms that focus mostly on large team consulting projects and are very
expensive. C5 Insight has built itself into a solid mid-sized player that
has the business knowledge to provide outstanding consulting services, and
the technology muscle to tackle the most challenging work process problems.
Secondly, we have found that
our competitors tend to focus on either cloud solutions or on-premise
technology. We’ve approached the market as an agnostic partner and have
worked with numerous clients in the cloud or in their own data centers.
We’ve also helped to migrate clients from a self-contained data center to
the cloud and from the cloud to a data center.
Thirdly, most organizations
tend to align with a single technology platform. C5 Insight has chosen to
align with a diverse range of technologies. For instance, we work with the
two leading CRM solutions - Salesforce.com and Dynamics CRM. We also work
with business intelligence in SharePoint and LogiXML, and document
management in M-Files or SharePoint. We’ve also selected to work with
industry leading data integration firms Informatica and Scribe.
One of our unifying
principles is to provide objective guidance to our clients. By choosing to
be agnostic about the data center and neutral about technology solutions, we
are uniquely qualified to aid our clients in making the right decision for
their business. This has led to tremendous growth opportunities because it
is increasingly difficult for businesses to find partners that they can
trust to give those unbiased recommendations and feedback.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about C5
Insight’s new corporate website?
We formed C5 Insight by merging two companies at the beginning of 2010. Both
of those individual companies had strong web presences but when we merged
the two entities together and gave them a new name, we quickly found
ourselves overwhelmed with work and a new website was not a priority. What
we wanted to accomplish with our website was more than just hanging out our
shingle. Our goal was to communicate not just our services, but also our
unique philosophy and approach to the market that is both cutting-edge as
well as based on timeless values. You asked about our LUCK Principle because
you saw that on the site. You’ll also find our PI-Cubed project methodology,
our STARS training approach, our timeless values communicated in the SOLVE
statement of company values. All of those are different things that are very
unique ways that we approach the market, and all of those are geared towards
delivering a level of excellence that isn’t available anywhere else.
CEOCFO: How has the current economic
scenario helped C5?
To be honest, it hasn’t. The last 5 or 6 years have been
difficult for almost all businesses and although we’ve experienced some
success, we’ve had to work very hard for it. But there is a silver lining.
We started our business during the dot com bust and as a result, we learned
how to survive in a lean environment. We took a two-pronged focus to the
market during this long-term downturn. First, we brought in more cloud
options for our clients – cloud solutions make it possible for organizations
to bring more efficiency to their business at a lower cost. Secondly, we’ve
focused on business agility. One of the core benefits of moving a business
into The LUCK Principle is that the business becomes much better at
recognizing trends before it is too late. When the marketplace had
significant setbacks about 4 years ago, it caught many businesses by
surprise and they had to make drastic decisions very quickly. Through more
predictive business analytics, businesses have now learned to see problems
coming further in advance, and make incremental changes to prepare for them.
Through better collaboration systems, businesses are able to change the
direction that they are going with greater agility, responding more quickly
to changes in the marketplace. Many generals say that, “those who change the
fastest will win,” and many businesses have felt that they’ve been put into
a war zone in recent years and have found it helpful to adopt new approaches
that make them more nimble.
Put into technical terms,
many businesses are saying that they don’t want to have to support a large
number of different systems anymore. Some are even saying that they want to
be out of the technology business altogether. The cloud and easy-to-extend
collaboration platforms have made it possible for organizations to shed
technology in the same way that they were able to shed their old power
generation technology at the turn of the last century.
We recently had a higher
education client tell us that over the next five years they literally wanted
to get rid of all their applications, even most of their accounting
applications, and run their entire organization in Microsoft SharePoint and
Dynamic CRM. Between the two of those platforms, they can do about 90% of
what they need to do. With some additional customization, they can get that
close to 100%. When they accomplish that, all of a sudden they need a
fraction of the technical resources they have today because their IT team
needs to support a much smaller number of different platforms. Learning
curves are shorter because their team always has a familiar user
experience. In addition, all of these are cloud-enabled so, if they choose
to migrate to the cloud, they don’t need people in their data center to
manage the servers. Bottom line: they can focus on what they are in the
business of doing, and not on technology.
So you might say that our
silver lining IS the cloud!
CEOCFO: Why should investors and people
in the business community pay attention to C5 today?
Today there are three different factors coming together to create a wave of
demand. C5 Insight is positioned to ride all three of these to build a
Businesses will migrate
from their own data center to the cloud. We are at the very beginning of
this wave. Ten to fifteen years from now, people will plug into applications
in the cloud the same way that they plug a TV into a power socket. During
this time, there will be an increasing amount of hype about what this is all
about and they will be looking for trusted partners to help them make good
decisions about this transition. Most of the companies that they are turning
to are either 100% in the cloud or 100% in the data center and cannot be
relied on for unbiased counsel.
Creating applications is
requiring less and less code and a greater focus on architecture. Businesses
are looking for partners who can help them use a “near codeless” platform to
differentiate their business, but who can also provide the coders when
necessary. There is hunger in the marketplace to cost-effectively deploy
technology that works the way the business does while enabling the business
to continuously improve the technology without bringing expensive full-time
coders on board. Very few companies can provide the full range of services
required to: fully understand the business, provide a deep solution
knowledge, quickly configure without writing code, develop code where
appropriate, and transfer the knowledge to the client to take a project over
once it has gone live.
Lastly, we are at the
very beginning of the social collaboration revolution. Kids getting out of
college today view email as a dinosaur – they expect to exchange information
using the social metaphor that they have grown up with. This will change the
business world. Most of our competitors are focusing in the wrong place – on
using social networking as a marketing tool. While that is important, the
real transformation will take place inside the business. If you asked a
business person today what the impact of cutting off email would be, most
would respond that their ability to communicate internally would be
seriously damaged - - they might not even mention marketing. The same will
be true of social collaboration.
C5 Insight is a
professional services firm posed to ride the crest of all three of these
waves of change, providing our clients with objective counsel, technology
experts and proven solutions.
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