I really enjoyed IBM Amplify 2016, held in May. An array of insightful presentations and great speakers, the profiling of some fantastic new tools and techniques to help take the customer experience to the next level, and some time to think and prioritise how to bring ideas together. It's an exciting time, but the one consideration that is resonating most for me right now is the stand-off on perfection.

There are two fundamentally simple concepts in play here:

1. that all execution should be flawless
- vs -
2. you should focus on progress over perfection

In the red corner we had Alex Alexander, CIO of Yoox Net-a-Porter group. Amongst some fantastic insights such as 'fashion is now regarded as perishable', Alex said flawless execution is key to success.

Also supporting the red corner, I'm placing all those who relayed connotations of the core impact on their time-to-value with enabling true personalisation being down to the time and effort required in getting the data right first.

I'm not contesting that if you have a flawless execution it will give you an advantage, or that getting every intricacy of your data perfected will afford a level of optimisation, but I will challenge the overall value of this over delivering incremental enhancements that drive progressive improvement to the customer experience.

In the blue corner we have Stephen Ingledew of Standard Life, who in his session with Chris Wang of IBM stressed the importance of progress over perfection. Effective customer engagement has to break down the walls and structures and influence across the whole business - using progressive disruption and innovation to drive progress. 

In this light there is a paramount need to be contextual, starting with the customer: build retention initially and then drive advocacy as you enhance your customer offering - which has the additional benefit of your customers being your key marketing pillar.

Speaking of curiosity and humility, Nike board member Michelle Peluso supported the progress camp, enlightening that "the game is never over". And in a similar light, Lisa Cleas of ING Direct Australia set down that you can't be all things to all people - you need to identify which customers are going to get you where you want to be and prioritise helping their cause first.

It's about knowing your audience and taking them on a journey with you, in context...

What you see as perfection at the outset may not be what transpires as what you and your customers really need in due course. It's vital to be taking reality checks along the way and ensuring that your investment is aligned to the priorities demanded by the compelling customer experience.

Obviously it's easier for start-ups and challengers to be incremental in delivery and development: they don't have legacies and continuation of service to deal with. But it can be done: When we delivered what is understood to be the world's fastest implementation of inbound and outbound decisioning (a little over 4 months end-end, if you're interested), we didn't line up all the ducks first: we built an MVP. What we have is good, but we're still working on it, and the vision is being delivered incrementally over what is likely to extend to a 4-5 year period. But the customers and the business have seen benefits quickly and will continue to see greater benefits as the vision is realised.

Think: People > Process > Technology.

To me this is all about being FLAWESOME - doing the best within your gift and being committed to continually making things better, but not being afraid to start without having all of your ducks set out, or having a clear picture of the destination. Commitment, Co-creation and Evolution. Flawesome.


Note: I'm making no claim over the term 'Flawsome'. I first heard it from my former colleagues Dave Ward & Nathan Fulwood, and they advise that they first saw it here: http://trendwatching.com/trends/flawsome/. Wherever it originated from, I find it rather fitting.

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Rob Mcleod

Head of Digital and Customer Experience

Rob leads the Digital and Customer Experience function within the Strategy and Insights practice at Comet and is Principal Consultant at Standard Life. He is passionate about positive customer experiences and committed to using insight to drive value and effective ROI through the marketing process. Rob has extensive cross-sector experience, including Financial Services, Travel and Tourism, FMCG and Media, with over 15 years working at the forefront of strategic communications consultancy, digital and integrated marketing.