Beyond the Finish Line: Understanding the Art of Value Enablement
We recently needed some repair work done to the roof of our house, so called some local roofing firms. Understandably, roofers don’t always answer their phones immediately (I guess they are often out on site working), so we left voicemails for three different roofers.
Out of the voicemails we left, only two of the roofers replied. Both came round, inspected the roof, and explained what needed to be done. They both said they had availability and would send over a quote showing how much the work would cost. However, only one of the roofers actually sent a quote. We accepted the quote and I’m pleased to say that the work is now complete. But this got me thinking about business, business analysis, and value-enablement more generally.
Close, But Stopped Short
Let’s examine the approaches that the different roofers took. The first one didn’t reply. We might argue that this is bad customer service, but if they knew they were busy and had no shortage of business, then not replying might be an acceptable thing to do. It might not be a good long-term approach, but it doesn’t waste any of my time or their time. So while I might have preferred them to drop over a quick reply, I can understand why they didn’t.
The roofer who I really don’t understand is the one who came out, inspected the roof, but didn’t follow up with an estimate. They were so close to actually getting the work, but they failed because they didn’t carry out the final task. They’d spent time (and gas) driving out to see the roof, only to implicitly ‘give up’ by not following up. I found this really puzzling!
When Is Value Enabled?
This led me to think about value in a broader context, and I think it has some interesting parallels with business analysis. The roofer did all the work to potentially enable some value for him (payment) and for me (a fixed roof), but stopped just before a crucial moment.
In a project or product context, usually we are building (or changing) something with the purpose of enabling value for a range of stakeholders. The value that is enabled may vary for each stakeholder group. A retail bank releasing an app might provide convenience for its customers, while also saving money (and increasing profit) for its shareholders. For the app to be a success, it needs to balance the different perspectives on value. If it’s inconvenient, or hard to use, it’ll backfire—it might actually increase the number of times people call the call center, meaning operational costs increase. Knowing what different groups value is important so that this balance can be struck.
Yet as well as knowing what value can be enabled, it’s important to know when that happens and what the precursors are. Imagine a bank released a self-service banking app but didn’t advertise it to its customers. Sure, some early adopters might find it in the app store, but there would be a range of people who would use it if they knew about it that probably aren’t actively looking for it. Delivering the app without a communications and engagement plan alongside might end up being similar to the roofer who didn’t send a quote… it stops just short of the line for value enablement.
Finding The Finish Line
It is worth fostering discussions over what needs to happen not just for a product or project to be delivered, but what needs to happen for value to be enabled. It is too easy to stop just short of the finish line and declare success prematurely. “On time” and “on budget” are important aspects, but “on strategy” and “on benefit” are things that make a long-term difference. In the fog of urgency, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of these.
As James Clear comments in his book Atomic Habits, there’s an old saying that “the last mile is the least crowded”. Perhaps that’s just as true in a project and product context, and by focusing on the last mile and cultivating conversations about value we can help achieve better results for our stakeholders and communities. And surely that’s worthwhile?