Almost 20 years ago, I attended a presentation by the then-GC of General Electric. He asked the audience a question that has stayed with me.
We were all asked to introduce ourselves and explain what business unit of GE we worked for. One by one we spoke about the business we were in: healthcare, plastics, aircraft engines, etc.
While that was all true, the real lesson the GC taught us that day was that no matter what product our unit sold, the business we were all truly in was the business of trust.
In the modern economy, it is impossible to personally witness how and where the goods we need are being produced. Therefore, we must trust the people selling those products. Companies in the business of trust approach sales from a perspective of: buy us because you can trust our name, because you can trust our services, because we have built a reputation for being trustworthy.
As digitization, AI and machine learning transform every business, trust has become even more important: Trust in the data that is used in AI/ML, trust in the way personal information and privacy issues of customers are handled, trust in the security of a technology platform.
For business leaders and especially those in legal and compliance, the question is: How does one build that trust with customers and stakeholders? How does a company know how it scores on trust? What should a trust metric look like?
What got me thinking about trust was a recent report published by Forrester.
"The Forrester Wave™: Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM), Q1 2019" analyzes the current state of the contract management software. Forrester evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of top CLM solution providers against 30 criteria–evaluation criteria that you can trust. Key criteria for these solutions include contract creation; support for existing and third-party contracts; contract repository; contract types supported; contract approval; contract fulfillment tracking; contract optimization; contract process management; related applications; integration; technology; and the ever-important customer references.
As businesses digitize the foundation of commerce (their contracts) and use sensitive contract data to improve risk management and gain a competitive edge, the leadership of a company need to have a way to trust the solution they buy.
GCs, compliance heads, and other C-suite executives who have a stake in contract management software usually don't have the background to make a decision based on IT specifications. Rather, their strength is in understanding and addressing strategic challenges and opportunities. They must trust that their technology providers will provide the service needed to achieve their goals.
Take a look at this figure from the report:
It's a visual representation by Forrester of who the most trusted solution providers are. It separates the Challengers from the Leaders and the strongest current Offering to the Strongest Strategy.
Analyst insights like these are so valuable because they provide guidance on who companies can trust as they embark on critical, but often times disorienting, digital transformation journeys.
A business is not merely an organization that creates value or exchanges goods and services for money. It is the promises we make to our customers in return for their trust.
A report like the Forrester Wave, with validation from current customers, goes a long way in establishing that trust.