You can rant and rave all you want, but it won't change the fact that practicality weighs heavily in business decisions. "But systems shouldn't set strategy!" you'll cry. And you'll be right...to a degree. Case in point: a complex discount scheme that even your brainiest operations specialists can't figure out. Or, how about those add-on product specials with graduating discount levels based on the number of items ordered within certain timeframes? I can pretty much guarantee the results driven by these well-intentioned schemes don't make up for the operational nightmares they cause.
Remember, if it's complicated for your experienced operations team members, it's probably impossible for your customers.
How, then, do you balance the need to create urgency to drive business with straight-forward, customer-friendly operations? The answer is simple in concept and challenging in execution. You need a review board made up of dreamers, doers, and deciders. All functions must be represented. The deciders should have the most experience and be able to represent all viewpoints equally. (Are you seeing the challenging part yet?)
Every company has a different name for this group, but it always exists. To get a strategy approved, you have to run it past "the ops board" (or whatever you call it). The biggest challenge is getting the right mix of people on the team. At least one of the deciders should be a dreamer with a passion for trying new things. Another needs to be near sainthood on the customer evangelism scale. A third should carry the scars of many hard lessons learned on the process front.
As with everything, a yin must be paired with a yang. There will be sides, factions, quasi lobbyists, and everything else that comes into play when votes are cast. Your operations board members need to have thick skins. They need to be comfortable in the knowledge that junior marketing coordinators lose sleep the night before they pitch proposals to them.
I have had the dubious honor of serving on several such boards. I also have sweated it out preparing sound arguments that justified the implementation of new system capabilities in favor of customer-centric processes. I was challenged by both roles, and even loved the drama of the impassioned pleas, complex problem-solving, and earnest negotiating that kept our customer-business-operations triangle balanced.
However you appoint your operations board, remember they need compassion and support. It's difficult being "the no guy." It wears on people's souls knowing they're hated (at times) for their practicality. Boost their spirits and strengthen their resolve with praise and occasional perks. Steak dinners are always welcomed and appreciated. It's a small price to pay for smooth operations that don't drive your customers crazy.
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