Foster Customer Relationships beyond Sales

Foster Customer Relationships beyond Sales

Alvina Antar, CIO, Zuora
Alvina Antar, CIO, Zuora

Alvina Antar, CIO, Zuora

A key learning that I’ve gathered over the years is to use products for what they are primarily built for and not extend their capabilities to areas outside of the product’s core competency. For instance, when you want mountaineering shoes, you won’t settle for sneakers. They might still offer some protection for your feet but definitely not the kind you need high up on a mountaintop!

Similarly with technology, just because you have invested heavily in a stable end-to-end architecture, doesn’t mean you have an ecosystem that supports all your business needs. As your company pivots and transforms, so should you. You need to know when to let go of your comfortable surroundings and realize the capability gaps that prevent you from supporting your business’ growth. When your current quote to cash architecture isn’t able to support your go-to-market strategy, it’s time to supplement your investments.

If a new business model emerges in which traditional pay-per-product (or service) moves towards subscription-based recurring revenue models, it’s time for change. This shift isn’t designed or supported by your ERP systems. You will need to determine how to adapt your systems to monetize ongoing customer relationships rather than simply selling one-time products. With most ERP systems, the transaction ends with the sale. There’s no relationship beyond the sale. Legacy ERP systems don't really understand how subscriptions work and the long-term relationship between customers and subscribers inherent to the model. They aren’t able to manage complex use-cases like cross-sells, up-sells, timed promotions and constant price adjustments. The hard reality is that you're unable to support these new paradigms and need to design for a new quote-to-cash architecture for the Subscription Economy.

  ​The challenge for most CIOs is to leverage existing technologies but not be limited by them   

You may receive pushback from your tenured architects and engineers who have built a career off of a deep understanding of business processes and solutions - none of which are documented. These are the people who are averse to change and unwilling to challenge the status quo. It’s called job protection and the only job at risk is yours!

The challenge for most CIOs is to leverage existing technologies but not be limited by them. It’s really about understanding the boundaries of what a product is and isn’t. Flexibility is critical to survival. I've seen people spending years and millions of dollars trying to implement a solution using the wrong technology only to come to this realization. As a technology leader, you have to have the confidence to take calculated risks, manage through bureaucracy and make that bet.

It's also about knowing your business enough to anticipate needs. Don’t allow your 3-5 year strategic roadmap weigh you down and force your business to go around IT and develop CSS’s (Customer Supported Systems) to meet their time to market needs. You need to be nimble and provide the agility your business requires to stay competitive in the marketplace. Your business will not wait for IT to catch up.



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