The idea for Excelsa started to formulate when Paul and I were still at Salesforce. As Head of Customer Success for MuleSoft across the APJ region I had seen too many clients fail for reasons that were entirely predictable and preventable. Customers understood the need to transform their digital offerings using modern tools such as cloud, AI and APIs, and yet failed because they did not know how to go about running a structured program of work to implement these technologies and build out the supporting processes and practices to deliver real value to their businesses. This was despite having good technical people who knew how to deploy and configure the technologies. They concentrated on a project based approach and simply picked the wrong projects, with no real definition of business outcomes and quantifiable return on investment.
Given this situation the response from those employed to help business fell short. Internal teams simply did not have the skills to implement programs on their own. While many companies and leaders are under pressure to deliver digital transformations they face significant challenges such as rising stakeholder expectations, flat or declining budgets, or increased globalisation and outsourcing. Expertise is also in short supply, with those in industry competing for the best talent against the major tech companies, fintechs and other startups. The staff left are busy dealing with technical debt and legacy systems and do not have the bandwidth to become experts in transformation.
Software vendors promise to fulfil the gap with modern software that is straightforward to implement, easy to maintain and crucially outsources many tasks such as infrastructure, setup and ongoing deployments. Yet, while these vendors are great at selling their products with the promise of business outcomes, they fall short when it comes to advising the clients how to maximise the value realised from these new tools once they are installed. Customer Success teams, whose primary mission is to help clients realise value out of the products they have already purchased, often fall into the trap of focusing on upselling and cross selling clients even when they are struggling to implement the initial solution. Many Customer Success leaders will privately admit their number 1 challenge in too many clients with under-utilised subscriptions, either struggling to adopt their software, or to work out new use cases beyond the initial project They have limited ability to influence clients as their teams are largely comprised of Account Managers with little actual experience of the software or the business requirements of the clients they are supposedly advising.
System Integrators and the big consultancy firms are supposed to provide the expertise that firms need, yet our experience shows they fall short in two significant areas. Firstly, they are generally structured around practice areas that are often siloed from each other. The digital team rarely interacts with the data or platform engineering teams, let alone strategy and business transformation and having product specific practices such as Salesforce or SAP only makes things more complex. This hampers their ability to deliver the kind of whole-of-company transformation that is required in this era of rapid change with the ongoing emergence of new technologies.
Secondly, while they have plenty of experts with impressive sounding qualifications they rarely have the skill sets to deliver long-running change. This is due to their background working in consultancies, where they move from engagement to engagement rather than being accountable for delivering upon the strategies they recommend. Unfortunately the proof of this is in the amount of reports from the big consultancies collecting digital dust in the electronic shelves they are stored on. Unfortunately it is also a truism in the industry that many of these reports are also just documenting what the customer has told them rather than providing genuine insight and guidance.
So why is Excelsa different you may ask? Firstly, while our consultants have experience in Software Vendors and consultancies, we have also worked in industry, delivering actual business change. Need to rationalise systems after a merger? Or overhaul an outdated OSS/BSS platform? Or even continue the march of digital transformation through an API program or the implementation of Artificial intelligence (AI)? We have experience of all these. This leads us to our second and most crucial difference from traditional consultancies. Rather than providing people to create reports and supplement projects on a time and material basis, we deliver specific packages of work with clear pre-defined outcomes. These packages are based upon our experience in delivering these programs for other organisations and therefore are tried, tested and highly optimised.
We know the scope of work required to implement an AI platform that takes into account the novel risks and ethical issues with this unique technology. Looking to monetise your data, increase automation and unlock new business models through an API program? We have helped many companies achieve these precise outcomes and we are still continuing to help these companies. This is our third key difference, our business model is not based upon high turnover short term engagements, rather we partner with a select number of organisations over the long term. Our ‘Customer Success’ package is tailored to ensure that our clients have ongoing access to our experts as they need advice through the life of a program. We know an Open Banking initiative or a digital program is not a one year initiative, and for companies to be successful they need advice and guidance over the duration.
We are now a year and a half into our journey with Excelsa. As you will appreciate it has been a bit of a whirlwind. In future blogs, I will outline our methodology so those interested can more fully judge our approach. What I would be interested in hearing from others is if their experience with traditional consultancies and vendors resonates, and if you agree a new approach is required. Please get in touch or leave comments to continue the conversation.