An Introduction to Outside-In Thinking

Answering Four Fundamental Questions

“Outside-in” thinking is a philosophy and management approach that places the interests of customers ahead of the organization’s capabilities. Organizations that adopt an “outside-in” approach focus on satisfying their customers by efficiently and consistently delivering a combination of superior service experience and successful customer outcomes.

In economically stressful times, management teams may focus almost entirely on internal processes—improving productivity, downsizing and so forth. Decisions are made based on internal knowledge and instincts. This is “inside-out” thinking, and it can cause you to lose touch with your customers. This is particularly true for enterprise IT organizations.

Outside-in thinking, on the other hand, emphasizes the need to look at everything you do from the customer’s perspective, and to manage your organization’s performance as a service provider or business based upon customer satisfaction levels. An explicit customer-based justification is sought for every decision.

The what and how of process engagement and activity performance are driven by the why. Outside-in thinking ensures that your organization is customer-centric, not just customer-aware, and it gives you the ability to answer the following key questions:

  • Who are our customers?
  • What activities do our customers perform in the pursuit of success?
  • How do we help our customers perform these activities?
  • How satisfied are our customers with the service and/or support we provide?

Organizations that can answer these types of questions are able to commit effort and resources where they will have the greatest impact on customer satisfaction, easily adapt to changes in customer behavior and needs, and make targeted improvements to internal operations and offerings.

Outside-in thinking is the key to success in the “age of the customer.”