AIMing at long-term partnership: deconstructing the customer experience

Posted by Ben Robbins

This post is the second in a series about how the AIM Model came to be. In our previous post, we explained why we were so determined to discover what it takes to optimize every project for long-term partnership


In today’s fast-moving global market, partnerships are vital to successfully growing a business, and of increasing strategic importance. Partnerships allow companies with differing competencies and at varying stages of maturity and agility to leverage each other’s strengths. When partnerships fail to deliver on either party’s hopes, or struggle to realize their full potential, it is generally not because of flaws in what was agreed upon. More often, disappointing collaborations are the result of what wasn’t agreed upon or even discussed at all. This is because beyond all of the software requirements and scheduling questions being discussed early in a project, there are too often larger strategic considerations that go completely unmentioned.

As usual, there were important answers in the data

Our company’s focus on continuous improvement means we gather data proactively on many processes and activities. Among the metrics tracked during projects were various measures of customer concern and satisfaction at key project stages. One key insight was that our customers would often embark on projects without having fully considered how our engagement fits within their long-term strategy, or how their needs might change throughout the course of the project. We weren't doing anything to remind them either.

Of course, it's normal in the courses of a project for project stakeholders to change, needs to evolve faster than expected, or for other unplanned changes to occur. It seemed clear to us that nearly all of these changes can be anticipated, or at least better accommodated. Upon reviewing a number of specific cases, the pattern indicated that early lack of alignment between a customer's corporate strategy and our own project planning may have caused otherwise promising collaborations to conclude long before they reached their full potential. 

Our company has long been proactive around the adoption and continuous improvement of processes and methodologies related to the SDLC but, like many companies, we were hesitant to over-indulge in costly pre-sales efforts. It became clear as we examined historical data however, that often it is when we invest the most before formalizing an agreement that the collaboration lasts longest. Most of this investment had been spent simply on a deeper understanding of what each party hoped to accomplish, and it required our customer to commit more effort to the process as well. The data was clear; putting in the extra effort early on is well worth it.