Visualize this scenario: you’re a top executive of a major technology firm or service provider. You’re about to walk into a meeting with your very best customers and/or partners – the revenue from whom will absolutely make or break your company’s business plan for the year.

As a senior leader, you understand the value a strategic customer advisory board (CAB) or partner advisory board (PAB) can bring to your company. But are you confident that the meeting will be well organized, properly attended and expertly facilitated? Will it uncover priceless, insightful input to your corporate, product and service strategies? Or are you now second-guessing the long ago-made decision to have your internal team assign a junior associate – someone with minimal insight into corporate priorities and worse, no experience managing CABs – run the program part-time as part of her other daily responsibilities?

What could possibly go wrong? A lot.

Indeed, a poorly run customer or partner advisory board can do more harm than good. After all, nobody “majors” in customer advisory board management in college, CAB management training has only recently been made available, and many well-intentioned professionals simply learn — often the hard way — as they go on the job. And with your best customers and partners as the guinea pigs.

With all that’s at stake, a better alternative is needed. And long overdue.

Simply put, outsourcing management of customer or partner advisory boards is an idea whose time has come. Today, there are experienced, battle-tested consultants, who leverage a formalized set of proven best practices to establish, manage, facilitate and measure CAB/PAB programs. These professionals ensure such programs operate the most effectively as possible to deliver maximum benefit to their client companies – and participating members. Being former internal CAB leaders themselves, many specialize in B2B technology or business or IT services, and have deep understanding of software, storage, hardware, telecomm, banking, insurance or other business realms. As such, their learning curves are minimal and their impact is immediate.

Outsourcing management of customer advisory boards or partner advisory boards is a natural alternative to any company that wants the benefits of a world-class CAB/PAB, but is challenged with:

  • Limited internal resources: as described above, asking marketing, event, sales or product management personnel to establish and run a CAB/PAB as a hobby to their “day jobs” can lead to inferior – or disastrous – results.
  • Short timeframe: Maybe your CAB/PAB is a key component to your current customer-focused business strategy. Perhaps you need immediate feedback to your product roadmap in order for such input to be incorporated into the next version coming out next year. Maybe you need feedback from your partners to ensure they’re aligned for revenue generation within the current fiscal year. In any case, you need a CAB/PAB meeting NOW. However, a properly designed, recruited and managed CAB/PAB takes months of prep work to ensure optimal results. Rushing the process will only lead to a disappointing outcome – for you and your board members.
  • Lack of in-house experience: Effective management of a CAB or PAB can take years of experience and “seasoning” to balance the science and art such initiatives require and deserve to be successful. Too often, management of boards are assigned to talented, but inexperienced junior associates whose training or experience lies in other disciplines.

Other benefits of outsourced CAB/PAB management include the impartiality of third-party operations and facilitation (do you want your marketing director, whose acting as meeting facilitator, cutting off your EVP of sales to keep the meeting on track?), the ensured professional experience of your key customers or partners, and the optimal overall program benefit and success.

Indeed, leading technology and business services companies are recognizing the advantages of outsourcing management of their CAB/PAB programs to the proven experts. With all that’s at stake and the available benefits such programs can deliver, outsourcing allows companies to reduce risk and utilize internal resources more effectively.

Something to think about as you walk into your next CAB or PAB meeting.


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