Posted on May 18, 2013 by

Inside out vs Outside in

In my previous post we talked about the need for a focus on the outcome. I hope the importance of an outcome has struck a chord with you and you have started to think about outcomes in your organisation.

Before we take our friends, colleagues and bosses down the outcome path we should also consider the scope of an outcome. This is sometimes an area which is not as obvious as it seems.

What do I mean by this…..

Most businesses tend to focus on their inner workings. The focus tends to be on their capabilities and all the aspects that make up a business (including products and services). So why am I telling you this, you are all probably saying; well we know how a business runs, that is obvious.

I did miss a word out on purpose; which may not have been so obvious, due to the usual suspects that I mentioned (capabilities etc).

That missing word is “Customer”


Our missing part of the business was indeed the customer and it might surprise you when I say that most transformation initiatives which are either planed or undertaken, do not consider the customer.

You may hear phrases such as “this is an internal change, it does not impact our customer”.

The counter argument to this is simply, how do know?

  • Do you have a view of our customers?
  • Do you know which ones use our services?
  • Do you know which capabilities and processes support them?
  • Do you know what technology those processes use in support of our customer?

The points I raise are valid and should be considered but they are still not the full picture we are looking for.

So what else do we need beyond that list?

To understand the customer through their eyes we need to look to another industry to help us. The design field focuses on the needs of the customer with the aim of designing products and services, which align to the customers needs.

customer 1

A big part of the process is building up a picture of the customer experience and their motivation.

What is a Customer Experience?

Put simply the experience of your customers with your products, services, communications, operations etc., allowing you to look at the big picture of all the aspects of your business comprising these experiences. It involves touch points via automated routes into the business such as web sites or self-service, but also human interactions.

It includes not just the product itself, nor just the things around its delivery or just the customer service – it is about everything that makes the relationship between an organization and its customers.

While the customer is at the centre of this view, a Customer Experience initiative needs to look at everyone involved in this relationship, including front-line staff and other actors.

Customer Experience

What is this Inside out vs outside in phrase?

Ok so now we know what businesses tend to focus on and we also know what a designer looks at when they view a business.  So the next question is how do we align these two perspectives?

Using something called an inside out and outside in view.  At this point it is worth mentioning this viewpoint is part of a broader disipline which is called business design but we will save that for another post.


In the example above I have chosen a customer/service journey map to tie together the actions the customer performs (outside in) with the business internal resources (Inside out) needed to deliver the customer need

There are many other modeling techniques we could have chosen for this but the key is by linking the customer to the internal workings of the business you start to build up the 360 degree view.

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 23.27.32

Once we start to understand this picture we can also start to get a feel for how information flows around the business. Overtime this viewpoint will enables us to trace the true customer value in relation to our services whilst also visualizing the harder values which our shareholders care about i.e. profit and loss.

So what is in it for me?

As always I like to close off with a “So What Moment“.  Hopefully through reading the post you have gained an appreciation of how important it is to also look at a business through the eyes of the customer and not just through the usual business lens.

However, as good as all this sounds, if I was in your shoes I would probably want to know what the benefits are for me. Why should I do it and will it make a difference.

As always there are a few benefits worth mentioning:

  • More Targeted Products and Services – You start to understand your customer and are able to offer them the products and services which align to purchase patterns or common experiences
  • Customer Driven Change – Understanding your customer motivations and their experiences will lead to more customer focused initiatives.
  • Transformation Full Picture – The full 360 picture of the business is considered which removes the chances of customer value added resources being removed or impacted.
  • Identity – Greater understanding of how customers view your brand
  • Technology Impacts – Full view of customer impacts if and when technology changes occur.
  • Holistic Regulatory View – a full view of how and where regulatory constraints either manage or impact the business and the customer.
  • Information Flow – A full understanding of the flow of data between the  customer and the various business resources.

In terms of additional benefits beyond this list, it is important to stress at this point that marketing and voice of the customer initiatives will only you lead you so far as they are not totally customer focused.  The key to making a difference is to also understand how your design choices and initiatives impact peoples lives and experiences.

The point that hopefully comes across is that to truly understand a business you must look at it from all perspectives as an integrated model.  Only then can you fully understand how best to implement your various strategic initiatives, without impacting not just the internal business but more importantly the experiences of your customer in using your services.

Image credits: Milan Guenther / Intersection, published 2012 by Morgan Kaufmann