Andrew Addison
Andrew Addison 24 October 2022

CX Transformation Approaches – Big Bang vs Crawl, Walk, Run

We’re all used to stock phrases like ‘benefits realisation’, ‘agile methodologies‘, ‘disruptive’, ‘crawl, walk, run’ and other buzz word bingo checkboxes. So to give you a couple to tick off today, we’re going to review the approaches to delivering lasting customer experience (CX) transformation. For this we’ll look at two core strategies, ‘big bang’ and ‘crawl, walk, run’.

As a consultancy we keep our goal simple, we plan how to deliver client needs and objectives in a way that maximises the potential of their success for their long term vision, delivering incremental value throughout and keeping our work relevant.

When we are working with clients, they are typically looking to make changes to the way they manage their customer experiences, driven by a much bigger strategic objective. These changes will impact many facets of their business, from technology platforms, to people, to processes and beyond. 

This wide ranging objective and its impacts should not be taken lightly, but the benefits from making this customer experience focussed transformation can be significant.

The Approaches to Customer Experience Transformation

There are two common approaches to this customer experience transformation – Big Bang and Crawl, Walk, Run.

The Big Bang Approach

Big Bang is a great story. It goes like this…

‘In a relatively short period of time (*) we’re going to pivot the marketing business, rearchitect our data integration, deploy new best of breed platforms and ensure our teams share our vision and deliver our capabilities in the new ways of working.’

(* typically 2-5 years)

The problem is that for large organisations these projects tend to slip or not deliver long term, due to unplanned or unforeseen challenges which emerge and put the whole strategy into jeopardy. Over my career I have seen:

  • Chosen technologies close their doors
  • Key project sponsors move on, without a full handover of benefits and business case history
  • Strategic direction changes before final delivery
  • Teams not being properly engaged or enabled
  • Global (pandemics) or other organisational crises hit
  • …and others

Often this results in loss of momentum, and as faith and confidence in the path of the project goes down, so does the appetite to continue the delivery and direction. Projects become challenging to get support on and as a result eventually fizzle out.

Ultimately planning for a big bang/big shout in a few years is a great story, but opens up risk.

The Crawl, Walk, Run Approach

This is why we prefer to take an incremental, ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach with our clients, delivering quick wins and tangible benefits over time. This is not to say we don’t have the big picture/long term strategy in mind, or that the time scales or costs change, but the approach allows us to flex in the appropriate directions as the client organisation evolves.

Putting it into marketing terms – as marketers we talk about building customer journeys as incremental steps to deliver an end goal (e.g. a purchase) – but importantly we also recognise that sometimes our target customer will take a different fork in the road.

It’s our job to understand how to react and respond to each customer decision. Delivering an internal customer experience transformation is no different. Decisions made two or three years ago are still important, the rationale, business cases and end-goals persist, but other aspects can change.

The danger of the crawl, walk, run philosophy is that occasionally each step or phase is treated as wholly separate engagements. They’re not … each phase/activity/deliverable takes into account the future state; knowing that whilst some refinement may be required longer term, we put the building blocks in place up front.  

Each step delivering real and tangible benefits, the delivered work providing value now, with more being delivered over time, as the next piece of the jigsaw clicks into place.

The transformational roadmap we build with our clients identifies the same vision, but builds a path of steps that deliver change consistently over time. There are three particular quotes I like in this context.

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Thomas Edison

If we set a vision for what great customer experience is, or feels like to us, then we need to deliver and work towards achieving that.

“There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

Peter Drucker

If we deliver new capabilities without considering the long term objective, we invest in the wrong areas and most likely zig-zag around the wrong business areas and never truly know if we’re close to our objective.

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”

Lao Tzu

Recognition that vision can change or evolve is imperative. Our ability to assess, understand and respond to internal and external factors in a timely and effective way enables us to move as our needs move. Fixing a target in stone and working towards that at all costs, irrespective of what we learn on the way, can result in missed benefits.

Revisiting What ‘Great’ Looks Like

I had a brilliant meeting with a new-to-us client recently. The team were committed and interested in understanding what they had from a technology and capability standpoint. They had been doing a good job over the last few years, but didn’t feel like they were really doing all they could.

Decisions had been made a number of years ago, stakeholders and business objectives had changed, business-as-usual had taken over. The team knew they had all the moving parts – the people, processes, plans and platforms – that they needed to deliver great customer experience, but had started to forget what they were working towards.

Revisiting what a great customer experience looks like today for them has re-energised everyone, but also allowed us to start putting in place the next 3-5 years vision and the shorter term activities that work towards it.

Using a strategy focused on current, relevant behaviour and immediate feedback from customers can transform a company's marketing, as detailed in this whitepaper - Real-Time Marketing.

A big bang approach to customer experience transformation is fraught with risk but a focussed and co-ordinated, phased approach will deliver a consistent and robust solution, supporting your plans, people, processes and platforms.

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