MAKE SURE THAT YOUR FIRM IS OBSESSED WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS. Lead by example, and spend more time with customers. Remember that Gerstner and other top CEOs spend upwards of 50 percent of their time with customers. Many companies, even several of the best ones, suffer from NIH (not invented here). Make sure that your company adopts an outside-in perspective to counter NIH.
TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO ASSESS YOUR INDUSTRY WITH A FRESH EYE. Jot down four or five ways in which solutions and services will change your industry. Is there a possibility that your firm can either develop or expand its services component? Is there something that other managers (or past senior managers) may have missed?
STUDY THE COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE OF YOUR INDUSTRY BY SPENDING TIME ON YOUR COMPETITORS' WEB SITES, LOOKING AT THEIR NEW PRODUCTS, ETC. How are your competitors making their businesses more solutions- and services-oriented? Incorporate the lessons you learn into your own company's playbook. Make a habit of this by allocating a portion of your time each week to studying the competition.
IF APPLICABLE, WRITE DOWN FIVE TO SEVEN SOLUTIONS-ORIENTED PRODUCTS THAT YOUR COMPANY COULD CREATE WITHIN THE NEXT 3 YEARS. This can include servicing existing products. Make sure that these products are feasible given your company's product line and capabilities, and that they are consistent with the company's strategic direction.
WORKING WITH THIS LIST, WRITE A MORE DETAILED BUSINESS PLAN DESCRIBING THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO CREATE THESE SOLUTIONS-ORIENTED PRODUCTS. Be sure to include an analysis of the market (current and 3 years out), a detailed analysis of the competition, and revenue and profit potential. This need not be a 20-plus-page document; it can simply be a brief summary or a draft of a working plan. Be sure to include realistic timelines and revenue and profit assessments based on solid research.
SHARE THIS PLAN WITH YOUR PEER MANAGERS AND BOSSES. ASK THEM FOR THEIR COMMENTS AND REACTIONS. If your ideas are well received, work with other senior managers to implement the plans and expand your service/solutions business.