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How to manage MPS in a VUCA world 3/5

By Jean-Louis de la Salle

As we continue along this series of postings, we come to the next letter U.

U = Uncertainty. The lack of predictability, the prospects for surprise, and the sense of awareness and understanding of issues and events.

When it comes to planning the evolution of the Printed Page market place in its transformation from Transactional to Services, it is a very difficult navigation.

There is no good data available.

We have good data from market studies at the macro level. But in a company, the level of data needs to be much more granular and there is very little good consistent data available. It can be that the territory is too small to be covered by Global studies or that we are down to a certain customer set. Thus the only providers of data are the Sales teams (direct or indirect). Let us face the fact that they have never been primarily paid to collect data on their customers.

So decision-making at the local level is blurred by multiple factors. Some are industry wide and some are within the organisational reach of local field units. The first and foremost is the lack of properly delineated MPS definitions.

In France we have a joke, which says that if you have more than 3 people in a political party, it breaks into two different factions. MPS definitions are quite similar. It is fascinating to see that after 10 years, I have met very few companies where the definition of MPS or its value proposition to the customer/partner is similarly articulated by the whole staff.

Behind the lack of content definitions, we encounter too rarely solid customer/partner data collection processes. Beyond the usual revenue and margin figures that are available, it should include factors like total business potential, account penetration, decision-making circuits, sensitivity to newer organisation techniques, etc…

And because customers themselves are in this transformation phase, the counterparts are changing and their needs or potential are largely unknown to current sales people.

So yes data driven decision-making is a very difficult task in our Industry and this creates a lot of Uncertainty in decisions. The issue with uncertainty is that, unless there is a very strong management, it enables rumours to abound. As the dictionary goes, a rumour is “a currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth”.

I do not want to hurt anybody but “very strong management” is not for everybody that has been appointed a manager. It follows the usual bell curve and I do sincerely wish companies do not rely too much on “very strong management” to navigate the currently transforming state. The statistical odds for survival are very much against it. Normal good management needs to align the staff to be able to articulate the promise made to the customers, such a promise being regularly tested to be attractive. It sounds simple, but is difficult to execute on and certainly reduces Uncertainty.

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This article was written on 03 Apr 2014, and is filled under Business Forecast, Managed Print Systems, VUCA.

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