January 30th, 2013

I want to talk about “expert systems” – specialized systems you develop inside your business to take the “know how” for a core process and replicate that (in whole or in part) in a systematized way.

You can use this powerful concept in many areas of your business, but today we’ll focus on using expert systems in the creation and delivery of your core product or service.
Here are the 6 biggest reasons to learn about and USE expert systems in the production and fulfillment of your core product or service:

  1. To build the “expertise” into your business instead of letting it sit vulnerably just in the grey matter of your team.
  2. To help you reliably fulfill on your promises.
  3. To increase the value you generate for your clients.
  4. To differentiate your value offering from your competition.
  5. To help you scale your production and fulfillment capacity.
  6. To drive down your costs and hence increase your profits.

Okay, so let’s quickly walk through the 4-step process for building an expert system.  Use this  a template that you PRINT up and use when you’re redesigning how you produce and deliver on your core product or service.

Step One:  Define all deliverables.

  • What are all the “promises” you’ve made to your customer about what they’ll get from you?  (Explicit deliverables)
  • What are all the “understood” promises that come along with what you’ve promised them… in other words, the things that you’ll have to also deliver on in order to meet your explicit deliverables?   (Implicit deliverables)
  • What are all the deliverables that you didn’t make, but that your customer “heard” anyway?  (Phantom deliverables)   NOTE:  If they think it’s a promise you either need to make it explicitly clear that it isn’t OR deliver on it anyway.   The alternative is to have an upset client.
  • What are all the deliverables that you have to do INTERNALLY in order to produce and fulfill on the above three kinds of deliverables?  (Internal deliverables)

Step Two:  Determine what level of expertise is needed to produce each deliverable, doing your best to push DOWN the value chain the deliverables to lower your costs and increase your capacity.

Here is your “expertise” value chain from TOP to bottom:

  • World class expert
  • Expert
  • Semi-skilled
  • Clerical or unskilled
  • Templated
  • Semi-automated
  • Automated

Step Three:  Lay out your process to produce each deliverable. As you do this, now is a chance to take a fresh look at how you can redesign the process to:

  • Push each /more deliverable down the expertise chain
  • Upgrade its value to your client
  • Reduce steps
  • Reduce costs
  • Increase pricing based on the increased value
  • Etc.

Step Four:  Control for consistency.

In this step you have to build in simple mechanisms (“controls”) to make sure that your quality stays consistently high.

I hope today’s blog provoked some new thoughts and perspectives for you.