What is it?
Business Retrospectives (or Business Impact Retrospectives) help you improve the business impact of investments in initiatives. They enable ongoing verification of benefits delivered by initiatives. They are most useful at organizations that launch invest in new products/features capabilities based on gut-feel (or business case analysis) but neglect ongoing verification of benefits.
What's more, Business Retrospectives help address the attribution problem. Let's say your churn decreased by 5%. How much of that can you attribute to initiatives that improved customer experience or engagement? How much can you attribute it to a competitor's new offering? Were there other factors at play? To support this, Business Retrospectives includes a light and powerful innovation accounting framework. It allows you to track initiative performance at an individual or portfolio level with metrics such as benefits realization ratio and normalized contribution. They help you decide future funding in a methodical and unbiased manner. Here's a sample snapshot.
The initiatives enrolled in Business Retrospectives may be any of the following:
Digital or otherwise.
Cost-saving, revenue protecting/enhancing, risk reducing, CX improving, etc.
Please don’t read too much into the word “retrospective”. When you develop a product iteratively, a retrospective is a forward-looking activity for the next round of effort. Besides, Business Retrospectives is not a single meeting or event. It is the culmination of a set of practices designed to improve the business impact of initiatives.
What problem does it address?
How long can a business keep investing in a chat-bot (virtual assistant) development initiative without understanding how much call volume is actually being saved at its call centers? How long can they keep investing in efforts to improve customer engagement without understanding what level of engagement is needed to avoid churn?
Not very long.
The honeymoon period of unquestioned investment in all-things-digital is drawing to a close. Soon, the COO, CFO, and even investors will want to know exactly how these investments are paying off. There's a theoretical answer in the business case, but that's only a projection, a forecast. What are the actual benefits? Most organizations don't have an answer to this question. That's unsustainable.
Too much focus on output, too little on outcome
Most organizations apply nowhere near the level of effort and rigor in planning and tracking/verifying outcomes as they do for output (delivery). The table in the illustration depicts how non-digital-natives (and some unicorn+ status digital-natives too) apply a different set of standards to outputs and outcomes, to the detriment of their own business. Business Retrospectives focus on the highlighted area.
In the post-pandemic digital era, if you are still not thinking about how to regularly verify the impact of initiatives on business metrics, your business is at real risk of falling behind. Determining the ROI of initiatives has always been hard, but you don’t have to go that far. Business Retrospectives offer a more realistic and practical solution.
How does it work?
Business Retrospectives are designed to make an impact from the very first phase of their rollout. For instance, at a travel company, the introduction of the alignment module immediately improved the quality and depth of alignment between the lead product owner and his business stakeholders. It made them realize that one of their initiatives was really about the productivity of their travel advisors while they had been thinking all along that it was about conversion. They also realized that another initiative contributed to two different outcomes: margin improvement and pre-trip guest experience. They could split the initiative into two and prioritize the one with the higher priority outcome.
Here's a 20 minute video that dives into the first two modules in the context of the situation at a streaming media business. Access is available to potential clients on request. Please get in touch.
What's in it for me?
Business Retrospectives nudge the whole organization towards greater focus on business outcomes. Everyone wins once they let go of old habits and get comfortable with the method.
Are you a CFO, COO, or Chief Performance Officer?
You will have a much better answer for how your investments are paying off.
You will be able to introduce a bit of accountability for initiative performance. No more free funding without evidence of performance.
You will be able to witness cross-silo collaboration as a result of the demands of showing evidence of performance.
When adopted fully, Business Retrospectives provide two metrics of portfolio and initiative performance (portfolio benefits-realization-ratio and initiative karma). You could use them to decide on new requests for funding.
Are you a Business or Product Leader?
You will get a level-playing field with other initiatives when funding gets tied to performance. No more worrying that the squeaky wheel gets all the grease.
You will no longer suffer from a deficit of measurement infrastructure to collect evidence for the success of your product or initiative.
You won't have to wait for financial impact to report success because you will have reliable, peer-reviewed proxy metrics.
Are you a Technology Leader?
You will be able to make a contribution beyond tech (delivery) outcomes and thereby get recognized as an equal partner to the business.
Your teams will find their work more purposeful and that will improve their motivation levels.
You will be able to overcome the delivery trap and escape the feature factory.
Who is using it?
A financial services business, a media business, and a travel business are among the early adopters. Please get in touch directly if you'd like to know more. Signing-up for a pilot is easy and inexpensive.
Business Retrospectives has evolved rapidly thanks to great engagement, feedback, and validation from business and technology leaders such as the ones listed here.
The COO of a major food ordering and delivery platform business in India.
The CEO of a provider of a AI-based capital market solutions.
The CTO of an American supply-chain visibility solutions provider.
The Group Product Director of a European provider of technology (gadget) rentals.
Established Businesses (Classic Enterprise)
An SVP of Corporate Strategy at an American Data Storage company.
A VP of value-based care at a multinational managed healthcare and insurance company.
The CFO of a provider of eCommerce solutions for B2B businesses.
The CTO of a provider of telecom and cable TV business support systems software.
A hedge fund.
A general partner at a leading venture capital firm.
If you are a decision maker, please get in touch with me and I'll be happy to discuss how to make it work for you.