He enjoys long walks on the beach and in his spare time, he writes. Please welcome Rob Bernshteyn, CEO and President of Coupa, and author of the book Value As a Service.
Side note: I’m not entirely sure he likes long walks on the beach.
Rob poured his years of experience implementing SAAS (Software as a Service) into this book but his cornerstone belief is that Value, not functions and features is what will keep customers. To support this idea, he makes a few key assertions that are worth reviewing.
ASSERTION #1: Customers still approach SAAS software like they did when they purchased software in the 90s. They would use the number of features as a critical measure to determine success.
AGREE – I’ve seen too many customers approach SAAS like a custom development deployment. This is particularly true for customers that force an RFP (Request for Proposal) process.
ASSERTION #2: Value has to be measurable, and it has to be known by both the vendor and the customer.
AGREE – I’ve also seen that customers that have a clear understanding of value when engaging with us are much quicker to see that value. I have even begun to have value discussions very early in the engagements. Too often, however, I’ve seen a disconnect between the team implementing the software and the team that purchased the software. Value is often confused with using the tool but that narrow definition fades as soon as an Executive leaves the company or a cheaper software comes along. Value has to be something that is business-driven NOT necessarily personnel-driven.
For more: Read our Shared Vision post here.
ASSERTION #3: Culture matters. If you want to implement – the knowledge worker needs to be: 1) engaged and 2) operate within a standard set of values.
AGREE – I’ve seen this work, and we’ve seen culture kill well-planned implementations. Culture does matter.
PREDICTION #1: Shared Risk, not just Value, will be a model going forward.
UNCLEAR BUT LIKELY – We have seen customers start requesting this kind of approach. This is entirely possible, but the biggest issue on the software side is that there is too much unpredictability within a company’s culture. If there were ways to determine a customer’s ability to implement change and price it accordingly – this plan might work. However, way too often, customers claim expertise they don’t actually have in order to reduce the cost. This sets up both the Vendor and the Customer for a tense discussion during implementation.
“The operation was a success, but the patient is dead.” That’s one that I often use, as well, to describe a software solution that passed all of the QA checks but no one uses.
Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked customers what they had wanted, they would have said faster horses.” This is an important quote when debating satisfaction vs. success. Satisfying the customer in the Henry Ford example would have yielded more horses. Obviously, Ford didn’t go that route and that’s why you aren’t stepping in horse poop on your daily walks. Success means striving for something greater than what is known sometimes – even if it contradicts the customer’s wants.
Overall, the book is definitely worth the read. It’s quick, sprinkled with personal gems and while you stare at your copy of Principles by Ray Dalio sitting on your desk – all 500+ pages of it, you’ll be thankful that you picked this one up and finished it. I’ll get to you someday Ray.