A lesson coming from a seemingly mundane mapping gig

Updated: Apr 1

I was asked to prepare an engagement narrative for a particular customer (X) who wanted to engage its supercustomer A. The challenge was that the supercustomer A did not seem to be interested in services delivered by X. Representatives of A picked up the phones, were polite, provided a lot of positive feedback, but orders were not flowing.


This is not new work for me. I think that, by now, the provocative function of #wardleymapping is widely recognised. When people see a map that is wrong, they tend to correct it, which can reveal a lot about their situation and usually helps in the identification of business opportunities.


What I typically do is a short, internal mapping exercise to figure out how the landscape of the supercustomer can change, and then a mapping of the customer X products to figure out whether there is a fit and what narratives can be built around it. This process changes usually makes the sales team focus on building customer understanding and providing value.


Once I get more or less consistent view, I help the team to build a narrative that will be later presented to the super customer A.


In this particular case, to get maps, we have decided to reverse engineer the strategy for 2015-2020 and 2021-2025 to figure out where the opportunities may be.


The older strategy document, 85 pages, got translated into a single map and showed certain disconnect between vision, goals and actions. It felt like a mix of wishful thinking with massive big bang approach to project management. If I would summarise it, it would be something like this:


cloud + office365 + big data = success

and all of this without changing any practices


This is usually a very good sign, as even a simple map can provide tons of value.


The strategy document for the next period of time, however, was completely different. Very down to earth. It had lots of small, specific, safe-to-fail actions actually listed in it, and those actions not only seemed well connected to the vision and goals, but they have also covered changing practices.


It turned out to be the sort of a document that indicates high situational awareness, and reverse engineering it was not possible without having broad knowledge of the supercustomer A internal situation and spending lots of time actually mapping things.


The contrast of both approaches was so stark that I got suspicious and gave up mapping in this situation, and started thinking who could shed more light on the situation. And I should have known better - it turned out that in our community I have managed to find two persons that worked for the supercustomer A, and here comes the twist:


Supercustomer A publicly announced the change of their approach to strategy in 2018, and it involved, you guess it, mapping. This is what the sales team of the customer X missed, probably not because of their lack of capabilities, but because of incorrectly set priorities.

In the end, X lost contracts (painful but redeemable) and social connections (painful and almost impossible to rebuild), and tried to aimlessly win the customer again by trying to build proofs of concepts of new solutions, but A was not interested in cooperation. Actually, A was not interested in cooperation with X at all.


Having no situational awareness can be expensive.


Self-check questions for you:

  • Would you have noticed your customers embracing #wardleymapping?

  • Why not to be proactive and use mapping to drive conversations?

Best,

Chris

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