Focus on strong capability

In this second principle of the Proposition Mantra, I will explore the next fundamental rule of developing compelling propositions – Focus on strong capability. One that matches the customer need. This is the doability rule and any business development effort should be able to address it before progressing to the next steps of building a new offering.

So far, we covered the Relevance to customers principle  and went though how to identify that a business opportunity is relevant to  customers and the market a company operates in. We have done our research uncovering strong data points, we have been given strong customer feedback that the opportunity will be improving your offering. Now what?

Let’s move to the Focus on strong capability element, whose main concern is what product or service capability you are offering to address the market opportunity? Or even simpler:

Can we do it?

No matter how relevant and direct the tie between the business opportunity to the market, if a company cannot deliver a strong product or service to match it, we do not have a compelling proposition.

This is the step where many business development efforts find their Rubicon. Good intentions and strong insight are worth nothing if you cannot deliver a capability that relates to what customers wants.

Focus on strong capability

Let’s use the same two examples from the Relevance to customers post – a startup company and a big corporation to examine two real scenarios.

Developing a strong product or service is a popular topic and a whole library of books is dedicated to it, but here I want to illustrate how Propositions and Commercial professionals go through the principles in order to establish if an idea or an opportunity has any legs.

Focus on strong capability

Small start-up example: The startup has launched a rich software suite and customers are excited. Sales increase and with those the customer feedback to provide 24/7 support from software developers to those customers that want to implement the software and need near constant developer-to-developer interaction.

Now following the Focused rule, the company has to analyse whether they can deliver such a support wrap.

On the face of it, around the clock support is a great service shout but implementing it means that the company has to provide extra time for its precious software developers to deal with customer queries or hire more software developers to deal with support issues. Another third option is to outsource the support function entirely to a third party software development team offshore.

The startup proposition team really wants to make this happen and decides to hire more software developers in order to expand the core team. There is little room for trial and error, so before progressing with the hiring campaign they test the idea with current employees who are willing to spend a chunk of their time supporting customers in order to improve their communication skills and general business awareness.

In addition,  another idea of the propositions team to boost the 24/7 support capability is implementing a “10% support” rule,  across the whole software development team. This is where 10% of the time of each software developer will be dedicated to supporting customer questions, issues or asks. They believe that this drive even greater customer focus in their product development process and improve Agile techniques.

Big corporation example: Our devices team have found a remarkably strong unmet need in their consumer segment for a Do Not Disturb capability on their phones, one which prevents unwanted calls and gives customers peace of mind when they need it most.

What does it take to develop a Do Not Disturb functionality on your phone? Well, this must be a new product feature, which requires a series of steps to make it real. For simplicity, lets outline the most obvious ones:

  • Add Do Not Disturb to the user experience specification,
  • Develop the software rules managing how Do Not Disturb manages calls – how the phone behaves when this option is switched on,
  • Build a relevant capability for the answering machine,
  • Perform good testing of the new feature,
  • Update user guides and training documents.

It does sound like a standard process for adding a new feature to an existing product. Yet, the team is worried about the impact on customer experience if this new feature prevents too many calls to reach their intended recipients. It is a very valid concern, which the proposition team needs to test further.

In both examples, the companies need to develop this functionality from scratch, and go through testing the idea before weaving it into their existing offerings.

Building a strong capability and making it real is the hardest part of proposition development, but before any business takes the decision and gives a green light it needs to explore two more parameters: Build it better than the competition and Monetise it.

Next in the series in how to Build it better and how to differentiate from the competition. Stay tuned! 🙂


If you have any questions, or you want to share stories, lessons learned around proposition development and commercial innovation please feel free to leave a comment.
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