At a recent Comotion Breakfast Briefing, Stephen Ingledew, who until recently was the Managing Director, Customers and Marketing at Standard Life, presented ‘Five key steps in developing a customer driven business’ based on his many years of experience and lessons with established financial services businesses.

Most recently this was with Standard Life, where he led the transformation of the marketing and customer functions using the latest creative thinking and new technology capabilities in digital, data and disruptive innovation.

This is the third of 3 blogs about the insight and learning Ingledew offered and provides a roundup of the core concepts and practical steps suggested by him in his talk.

There was a huge amount of useful insight and themes in Ingledew’s talk. Previous blogs have examined two of the core themes in detail (The internal changes required and creating a customer led business). The aim of this blog is to highlight a number of the key ideas suggested by Ingledew to successfully deliver change. These are broken into two sets: the core concepts, upon which success can be built and a guide to the practical steps that can be taken.

Core concepts

Ingledew based his thinking on several core concepts. These are, he said, key to shaping the thinking of an organisation wishing to implement the fundamental changes required for successful customer led transformation.

Business as usual no longer applies

Whatever the drivers for transformation in a particular organisation, it’s important to understand that they create an environment where ‘business as usual’ no longer applies and ‘disruption as usual’ becomes the norm. All levels of the business should be made aware that change is certain and work towards the goal where this is fully accepted.

Innovation is for everybody

Innovation should be seen as something for everybody, not just ‘the big brains in the corner’. Innovation on both a small and large scale can be triggered by any part of the business. Indeed, it is likely that some of the greatest insights into the changing needs of customers will be found in the operational parts of the business, especially where there is regular in contact with customers such as the complaints team.

Change is bumpy

Organisations should accept that change of this type is bumpy, with set-backs just as likely as gains. It also needs to be rolled out in gradual stages. It is also important to recognise the need to not attempt big tranches of effort. The programme has to be broken down to smaller projects within an overall guiding framework of change.

Culture change is vital

However well-constructed the strategy, the business MUST consider the culture adjustments required to support change. This is particularly true in an organisation that has well established legacy thinking, processes and systems. Culture change is vital to help overcome corporate stagnation.

Learning from Failure

If an organisation is being truly innovative, failures will happen. Accepting failure in some projects and initiatives should be seen as part of the process of learning. If failure is not tolerated, new thinking and ideas will be suffocated at the outset and will get little support. So failure should be celebrated as a learning experience and a key part of the “implement, test, learn” cycle that is so important for creating genuinely new and innovative ideas that contribute to commercial value.

Marriage is the new collaboration

Most people involved in the scale of changes suggested by transformation and becoming customer-led recognise that it requires the collaboration of various parts of the organisation. Ingledew was keen to expand on this and say that this must be a committed relationship to truly bear fruit. He suggested that businesses should think of collaboration in terms of marriage – where teams work together, live together and manage together in order to make collaboration work. This thinking absolutely demands co-location of cross functional skills and experiences.


As data-driven insight becomes available, and teams collaborate across functions to create ideas and possibilities they must be given the power to act on their thinking. There is no doubt that in being given the freedom to act, make mistakes and learn from that activity, teams be more engaged and are likely to make rapid gains.

Practical steps

As well as covering the more strategic thinking and approach, Ingledew was keen to suggest several practical steps in the process of transformation.

Build stakeholder support in stages

The importance of building internal support in appropriate ways was a clear message in the talk. Ingledew emphasised that this takes an investment of time as well as persistence as well as recognising that not everybody will accept change at the same pace no matter how logical the rationale

Own the data

Everything in this thinking is founded on insights derived from good data. It’s not a trivial step – legacy issues and incomplete data sets will be problematic – but getting control of how data is acquired, stored and managed is key.

Create a single customer view

Ingledew feels that one of the greatest barriers to being customer led is failing to recognise all the various interactions a customer has with the organisation. This should extend out to any possible touchpoint that a business has with the customer and requires end to end customer journey understanding.

Don’t try to do everything at once

A repeated learning was that programmes should be broken down to smaller, more agile projects. Limited both in scope and time to ensure a sense of constant movement. However, it’s equally important that these should also be a part of an over-arching framework of positive change to support the ultimate vision.

Use the data to create customer focused metrics

Demonstrate practical outcomes, to both the EXCO and the customer. There can be a direct link – reducing customer attrition through having customer led conversations

Be willing to bring in outside expertise

Use the diversity created in these mixed skill teams to create and acceptance of bringing in outside expertise. Teams will become used to the fact that even internal people think and act differently, and can see that these differences drive progress.

Put the customer high on the executive agenda

Use the metrics and the emotional understanding of the customer as a tool to build awareness within the broader leadership and  executive. Put the customer high on the exco agenda with both quantitative and qualitive measurement. The aim is to develop ‘real’ conversations at the highest level about the customer and taking away the view that they were in some way separate from the performance of the business.


There is no ‘silver bullet’ in the process of becoming customer driven or implementing the transformation processes that stem from that. The concepts and practical steps described above combine to provide the foundations from which change can be built.

Nor can this be seen as a finite activity. The expectation of change, agility, and welcoming diversity should be baked into organisational thinking to ensure that everyone is best placed to embrace the fact that ‘disruption becomes is the norm’ in this changing world of ours.


Article by Staff Writer