CWS 3.0: October 30, 2013

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Branding: What’s in a CW Program Name?

Consider this scenario: A multi-million dollar CW program spends a great deal of time and effort developing the correct multi-level sourcing strategy, implements the essential risk mitigation framework, installs the required automation and performance measurement platform and other core CW program elements, only to limp along and fail to drive the change and expected organizational adoption. This implementation scenario is not as unusual as one might think. Many well-established, existing programs still struggle mightily with achieving adoption rates required to capture initially envisioned ROI and quality goals.

There are many reasons for this experience. But one common cause is the lack of marketing and program brand management deployed to sell the benefits and added-value of the program from the get go.

A CW program’s brand management is key to driving adoption across the organization. It is the mission and value message platform that helps clients, stakeholders and partners to understand what is in it for each of them. When one’s brand name, brand marketing or messaging is limited, or inadvertently bureaucratic or administrative, then constituents of the program will be hard-pressed to understand why they should participate in the program.

A weak brand management strategy also creates an opportunity for vendors to inadvertently highjack your CW program’s brand and image. Program snipers also can and will negatively paint the brand image or reputation of your CW program because of brand mismanagement, or worse, not paying attention to controlling your program’s brand/image effectively.

Here are two examples of challenges actual CW programs face due to poor branding.

Weak Names. A solid, domestic CW program takes flight at a major Fortune 500 company. It is internally managed with a fairly successful implementation of a well-known vendor management system. The program is not overly ambitious, but is getting some modest traction and capturing some of the improvements targeted in its initial years. But there is some confusion and frustrating hesitation in adoption rates by targeted business units.

Why? It picked a plain vanilla, invisible brand name: Temporary Labor Program. Such nebulous, names communicate limited value to clients, stakeholders and partners. It could even carry a bureaucratic central controlling theme and limited engagement support that does not necessarily inspire a supportive business hand in competitively accessing required quality talent. Worse, the brand is so weak that some program constituents refer to the program as the “[VMS tool] Program.” While there isn’t anything wrong with the VMS involved, the CW program has its own strategic and tactical goals and aspirations and needs to stand on its own to achieve its highest potential.

Letting dissent rule. A second challenge of poor or neglected brand management is letting the mission, values and image of the program be defined by rogue dissenting elements in the organization. A CW program drives big and small change throughout an organization on a constant basis. Even a mandatory base program implementation faces strong resistance to change. Program snipers will emerge to kill the program’s progress and/or slow the adoption of an undefined and poorly branded and marketed program implementation and strategy.

The effectiveness of the change management communication and the brand marketing tools deployed will affect the success of the CW program’s adoption and growth. CW programs are like a small business unit operating within an organization, whether it is managed internally or externally via an MSP partner. Hence, it is going to need a robust marketing, sales and communication plan to break through to its natural client base in the organization. Otherwise program constituents may not notice you or even know you exist.

Long-term goals. CW programs today are naturally expanding in terms of geographic coverage, skillset breadth and type of CW engagements, so program managers should be thinking long-term — three to five years — when developing the program’s brand. For practical purposes, one may indeed be focusing on controlling the chaos today, but in a couple of short years, the program may be responsible for competitively executing access to more than 25 percent of the workforce requirements of the organization. 

A CW program’s brand name and management platform exemplifies the mission, objectives and aspirations of the program’s value for clients, stakeholders and partners. When that messaging is targeted correctly and the program services are delivered as promised, adoption rates will hit target target levels and constituents will demand program capabilities to expand rapidly.

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