How Category Leaders Disrupt the Org Chart

Traditionally, software companies have made relatively little investment in their user communities. Most will offer training programs, but the primary motivation for these offerings is to reduce the number of calls coming into the technical support phone line and website. But category leaders do training because they want to. They view it as strategic. It supports their mission and vision. And the best category leaders go way beyond simply training and certification programs. Training is just one part of a larger vision that they have around re-imagining the workforce.

This is the first in a new series of posts around how business application vendors define new software categories.

Category leaders ask bigger questions such as:

  • How can we disrupt the org chart to create new roles and functions at our customers?
  • How can we get CEOs to fundamentally reorganize their corporate structure to prioritize our new category?
  • How can we get new employees entering the workforce to choose a career path around our vision?
  • How can we create a new job market for talent, skills and experience built on our ideas?

Gainsight – A Case Study

As an example, consider Gainsight, the category leader in Customer Success software. Gainsight is trying to do more than sell subscriptions to its software. Gainsight wants to fundamentally disrupt the organizational chart. New functions only get added to corporate org charts every 20-30 years. The last new organization to be introduced was IT in the 1980s. Today, no company would dream of operating without a CIO and team of technologists underneath. Gainsight wants Customer Success will be the new team that CEOs add to the org chart in the early 21st century as companies flock to subscription business models.

Defining New Organizations and Roles

In the founder’s book and the company’s other publications, Gainsight defines the mission and vision for the new organization as well as specific roles such as the Customer Success Manager (CSM). Gainsight not only explains what a CSM does, but how the role collaborates with the other posts-sales functions within the business such as Implementation, Training, Professional Services and Customer Support.

Training the Workforce

To accelerate growth of the new Customer Success organization, Gainsight takes a programmatic approach to talent and career development. For just a few hundred dollars, interested professionals can take three levels of online courses (101, 201 and 301) at Customer Success University training them on how to become a CSM. Those that complete the training receive a Certified CSM designation, a resume-builder that will help them be more competitive in job search efforts.

Making a Market for Talent

Gainsight goes one step further beyond training and certification programs, the company also invests to make the job market for the talent. Gainsight devotes a section of its website called CareerHub to allow companies to post jobs for Customer Success professionals. Job seekers and hiring managers converge on their platform.

Developing a Career Path

Long term success building a category requires the ability to not only train and attract new talent to the profession, but to retain the workers. Category leaders not only offer entry level positions, but they offer a multi-staged career path. At Gainsight’s annual Pulse conference there is an entire track dedicated to the career journey for CSMs, to support continuing professional development opportunities. Sessions include How to climb the CSM ladder to the C-Suite, the Future of the CSM Profession and How to be a Kick-Ass CSM.

Publishing Benchmarks and Metrics

And, of course, category leaders not only define a vision, execute upon the strategy, and they measure their success.  Gainsight, for example, publishes an annual salary benchmark which offers data on the salary, seniority and job growth of the CSM profession.

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