All of our organisations are in some way accountable to and dependent on our stakeholders. Whether it’s through the products and services we offer our clients, the tools we provide for our employees or the way we cooperate with our suppliers: what you do has an impact and how they perceive you has repercussions on your organisation.
Both you and your competitors share the challenge to keep those stakeholders as engaged and satisfied as possible. One of our clients was as well and I will use their case as an –anonymized-example to illustrate how to tackle this challenge in a way that fits your needs.
I would usually advise you to first take some time to figure out who all of your company’s stakeholders are, what their expectations are of you and what your current relationship is with them. From that analysis you can then choose on which ones you want to focus first and will gain you most by working on your collaboration with them.
In this example, our client is a service company with a large client base. Most of their communication with their customers went through e(mail) and telephone. They had already chosen the stakeholder groups for which it would be most beneficial to improve their collaboration. Working on the cooperation means would be an improvement both for those stakeholders and the company.
They mainly chose their customers, which won’t be a big surprise for you as it is the stakeholder group most see as their most important one. What their customers needed, was more insight into the services that our client was managing for them at that moment. They wanted to have an overview that they could easily access, without having to ask for it.
From our client’s side, they noticed they were losing customers to companies that could already offer this. On the other hand, if they wouldn’t have to deal with the time-consuming information requests from their customers, their employees would win a lot of time in their daily work.
The other stakeholder group were their suppliers. They wanted to streamline the elaborate administrative process, which was costing time on both sides. Automatizing would once again gain their employees a lot of time, freeing them from purely administrative work that wasn’t part of their core tasks anyway.
When you know what collaborations you want to improve, you then need to know where you actually want to go. You need a vision so that you can create a strategy. For this, you first need to dream big and try to get loose from concerns or practical obstacles. What could you do or offer to these stakeholders to improve your collaboration tremendously?
In this case, the answer was simple yet immensely complex. The dream was a portal, where both clients and suppliers could find everything they needed. It would also serve as a platform for communication.
After the dream, comes the reality check of course… What is actually possible? What risks do we have to mitigate?
One of the concerns, for example, was the adoption of the platform among their digitally less proficient clients. We decided to tackle the platform piece by piece, both in design and implementation. This way, our client could stay flexible and answer to the changing needs of their stakeholders while making sure not to lose anyone because of the changes.
Since you are creating something you hope will involve your stakeholders more, it is a good idea to involve them in it.
In this case we had an interview with some of them early in the process, asking them what information they needed most from the company.
During the design process, their trusted clients were asked for feedback on the platform. This way, we were sure that we were answering their actual needs and not only working from our own assumptions.
It also strengthens your relationship with those customers because they know that their opinions are valued. I would really recommend taking the time to do this!
Within a bit more than half a year, we went from idea to a first working prototype that their customers and suppliers can work with. Customers are now more engaged and easily have access to the information they need, while our client has gained efficiency because a lot of dull, administrative work has been taken away from their employees.
Hanne Spruyt is one of our digital analysts who envision, imagine and design digital workplaces of the future.