Systems of Engagement for Customer Jobs

Keshav Murthy, Senior Director, Couchbase R&D
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Keshav Murthy, Senior Director, Couchbase R&D

Keshav Murthy, Senior Director, Couchbase R&D

On a sunny spring Saturday, I spent a lovely afternoon staring at the beautiful Monument Valley. How did I plan this picture perfect afternoon? Every spring, vacation planning starts with many options and much uncertainty. After weeks of Googling, debating and planning, I decided on a sunny canyon trip. This was a family spring break vacation job to be done.

Professor Clayton Christensen et al have defined jobs to be done as:

“Progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance—what the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what we’ve come to call the job to be done.”Planning a vacation or a wedding, deciding on a car or a college, are all customer jobs. A job from thought to finish is a series of smaller jobs. Series of steps from start to finish (or abandon) is a job loop. Here’s a vacation job loop.

 

A job goes from one state to next—like a transition from one state to next in a finite state machine. For a customer to transition from a state, something needs to happen. That’s a job state machine.

  Customer needs the right information, the right level of information or service at each state 

What is this something?

1. Information Example: Location information, Room availability, etc
2. Service Example: Buy the tickets, check-in
3. Blocker Example: wait to hear from the doctor
4. Cancel Example: Cancel the vacation
5. Spawn Example: Side trip
6. Done

What are the characteristics of enterprise systems to support this job?

The first step of research is Google. As Gerald Sangudi noted, Google is the biggest system of engagement. It helps you progress. Further research on Tripadvisor, Expedia, and Kayak will help you create a short list. You haven’t bought anything, but you’re making progress.

In the next state, you search on Expedia, Priceline for a suitable package, pricing, and options. Still browsing. All these systems provide accurate information on flight seats, hotel rooms—quickly and effectively.

The system should have:

• high performance
• high availability
• low latency
• low cost

This system of engagement has seemingly incompatible requirements! Distinct from traditional systems designed for transactions where higher throughput demand higher price.

When you finally decide to buy, you give your credit card details and WAIT. This usually takes few seconds. Reliability of this step is extremely critical. This is a system of record.

The system of record was designed to reliably record, reliably record a change in the status: buy, sell, return, and maintain a single version of the truth.

In 2011, Geoffrey Moore defined systems of engagement: “Amidst the texting and Twittering and Facebooking of a generation of digital natives, the fundamentals of next-generation communication and collaboration are being worked out…So at a minimum, if you expect these folks to be your customers, your employees, and your citizens (and, frankly, where else could you look?), then you need to apply THEIR expectations to the next generation of enterprise IT systems—Systems of Engagement—will overlay and complement our deep investments in systems of record."

Clearly, enterprise customer engagement isn’t about the LIKEs or RETWEETs. The enterprise systems need to help customers to progress in their job loop, one state at a time.

An effective enterprise system design understands this:

1. What job is the customer trying to accomplish?
2. What state is the customer now in within the job?

Customer needs the right information, the right level of information or service at each state. Otherwise, the customer will abandon the company or the job. Non-consumption is the biggest market in most market segments.

With due respect and recognition to Geoffrey Moore, I am redefining systems of engagement based on customer jobs to be done: a system of engagement helps customers to get the right information, in their context, and to make progress on their journey to get a job done.

Systems of engagement tasks include:

• Understanding the customer job, context to help them progress
• Providing answers to questions in addition to search
• Understanding the customer’s context to give relevant information
• Improving customer experience
• “Going a day later will reduce the ticket price by $200.”
• “Are you sure you want to visit Death Valley, CA in July? It’ll be 120F. Best times are in April and November.”
• Working well with other internal and external systems.

This applies to all jobs: plan a vacation or a wedding, decide on a car or a college.

Systems of Engagement

Systems of Record

Context Matters. Speed is of the essence.

Contract matters. Guarantees record of action.

Helps to make the progress and decisions

Implement the decisions

There are technical differences between the two systems.

Systems of Engagement

Systems of Record

A large number of concurrent users with low latency responses.

Reliability is paramount.

Information is reasonably accurate

Reliable, reliable, reliable. Acts as a source of truth.

Gets information from multiple sources and services

All the data is kept locally. Data to other systems for downstream actions.

Complex criteria search.  

BUY

Customers hire your company products and services to get a job done. Each job loop acts like a state machine. The systems you build need to understand the customer job, the context (state) and help the customer to transition to next state effectively. This is done through systems of engagement and systems of record which coordinate the backend actions. Building these systems to do the job effectively is the key to improving customer experience, engagement, and progress.

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