OpenView Labs: Tools and Methodologies
In a previous post, I describe in details how OpenView Labs currently work with the portfolio companies, principally in 3 models of engagements. An important part of our aspirations is to gather and create new best practices across all functional areas, as well as the internal development of best practice tools and methodologies as an integral part of our priorities and resource allocation. Some of these are operational tools to help us organize our consulting engagement, others are consulting tools built for specific types of projects or functional areas. Ultimately, our goal in developing these artifacts is to create basic tools that the portfolio companies can master and customize for themselves across all of their operational departments.
In this post I will describe the key items in the OpenView Labs consulting and operation support toolkit, how we use them, and what we have in plans for the near future.
Frameworks are laid out in a very comprehensive, overarching document that aims to describe the essential pieces of a business practice area and their inter-connectedness and interdependence. We typically present a framework in a high level visual graphical form that is accompanied by a more detailed document that addresses the components of the framework. The graphical representation often provides or suggests a systematic “way” to understand and utilize the Framework for the following purposes:
- Defining the ideal organization of the business function and using it as a benchmark/checklist for the current state of the organization
- Defining the ideal organization of the business function and using it as a blueprint for the development of that business function
- Using the framework as a template to brainstorm how each component can be developed, improved, or restructured to improve the overall performance
- Defining the overarching objectives of the business function in relation to the company’s highest level goals, and defining lower level goals/initiatives that contribute to those objectives.
Examples of Frameworks that we have developed or customized are: The Customer Acquisition Framework, The Market Targets Lens Framework, The Product Management Framework, The Inside Sales Framework, and the Strategy Maps Framework (as adapted from Norton and Kaplan’s Strategy Maps)
An important activity in our engagement with the portfolio companies is to assess the development level of a business function, both as part of due diligence, as well as part of the initial phase of any major, full-fledged consulting engagement around that business function. Assessments are typically medium-length online surveys that are completed by relevant portfolio company’s team members, the composition of which depends on the assessment. OpenView Labs typically coordinates the surveys, and then analyzes the results or assists our Senior Advisors in doing so. The output of the assessment process is typically a measure of the maturity level of the organization in a particular functional area, its outstanding issues, and a list of suggested initiatives that can address the identified issues.
Examples of Assessments that we use are: Product Management Assessment, Product Development Assessment, Customer Service Methodology Assessment, Customer Service Technology Assessment.
We are currently working on another series of Assessments centered around the Market Target Lens Framework: Market Clarity Assessments, Target Buyer Persona Assessment, Target User Personas Assessment, Marketing Channels Assessment, Sales Channels Assessment.
3. Practice/Research Kits
If Frameworks and Assessments are high-level tools meant to be used by senior level executives to understand the issues, frame the discussion and brainstorm solutions, Practice Kits (and Research Kits) are hands-on packages of step-by-step manuals that explain how certain project or activities can be executed to the maximum impact.We have built a variety of kits that serve the needs of both CEO/Senior Management Team as well as managers within Sales, Marketing or Product Management functions. Each Kit contains both a Main document that describes the overall objective and methodology of the activity, and a set of hands-on manuals and templates that are used by all team members involved in the activity, depending on their roles in it.
Example Kits that have been built are: Keyword Generation Research Kit, Influencer Marketing Practice Kit, Retrospective Practice Kit etc. Practice Kits that are in the works include: Marketing Channels Discovery and Prioritization Research Kit, Best Current Customer Segment Research Kit, Web-based Trial Conversion Optimization Research Kit, Lead Scoring Analysis Research Kit.
4. The Scrum Methodology
The Scrum Methodology is fundamental to the way OpenView operates. Our work is prioritized and planned on a weekly basis (into “sprints”), and the Scrum Methodology encourages a disciplined project planning process (whereby activities are planned carefully, sized and prioritized every week) while still supporting our agile ability to timely accommodate important requests from the portfolio companies. The Scrum Methodology helps our team be in full control of our time, gives our project managers the ability to reallocate resources and time according to changing needs, yet with minimal disruption to the work week. The Scrum Methodology shines when our counterparts at portfolio company also follow Scrum, as this creates a natural synchronization of efforts, and thus dramatically simplifies the process of coordination and keeping pace between the two sides.
Much of our consulting work is done remotely, and the results are often delivered in a document or presentation format over the phone or via Web Meetings. However, we also organize intensive, high-impact workshops on or offsite with the portfolio companies if that is the most appropriate mode. Workshops we have done in recent years include: Extraordinary Execution Workshop (2 day), Rapid Strategic Planning (1 day), Sales Planning Workshop (1 day), and Content Marketing Planning Workshop (1 day). In these workshops, our main tools will be the above mentioned Frameworks and Assessments, as they are most appropriate for the high-level executive audience we typically have at these workshops. Typically, a senior OpenView team member (a Partner or Principal) will lead the workshop as a facilitator and guide for the discussion, with the secretarial assistance of other OpenView Labs team members. Workshops are most effective when there are major high-level, conceptual concerns to be discussed and when the objective is to set strategic, high-level goals and initiatives that are fully bought in by the senior management teams.
Sales handbooks are effective training documents OpenView Labs developed and honed through our many Sales Team Development projects with the portfolio companies. They are used in when the OpenView Labs team take the lead on developing and training a new inside sales force for a portfolio company, or even when we are supporting a portfolio-led sales development initiatives. Most sales people find the concise and well organized document helpful to their productivity and efficiency, and that it can be readily customized and reused for future sales team members.
7. Other Documents: Blog Posts, Prior Projects Outputs, Compilation of Industry’s Best Practices
It would not be right to exclude a whole diverse groups of documents that often are very useful for us in working on projects with the portfolio companies. Sometimes, what we wanted to get across is already written as a blog post by another OpenView team member, or has been featured in the OpenViewLabs.com website. Similarly, an advantage we gain over time is that as since we document comprehensively each project completed, we usually have a full set of original documents such as work plan, data templates and final outputs for each of OpenView Labs’ projects. Whenever embarking on a new project, we can always relate it to prior, similar projects and initiatives, for which we have a head start with the knowledge and process already honed for the same challenge. In our role as learners and documenters of industry’s best practices, we are also able to create compilations of best practices that can be used as benchmark or guidelines to our portfolio companies that are interested in replicating those best practices.
That’s a lot, but for more information on OpenView Labs’ unique engagement approaches, please:
Read about OpenView Labs’ engagement models with our portfolio companies.
Read an analysis of over 100 consulting projects OpenView Labs have worked on with the portfolio companies in the last 5 years.
Read our case studies for more information on specific consulting projects in the last 3 years.