This week a customer insights manager posted a really good question on my CAB Resource Center:

Is there an industry preference on who should own a CAB Program?

The answer is not always obvious nor uniform. Let me explain. As I write this, I am working with seven clients on their upcoming CAB meetings. The owners of their CABs are:

  • President
  • CMO (3)
  • SVP Product Management
  • VP of Customer Experience
  • VP of Marketing

So, what’s going on here?

It’s not about job title

At first glance, this list seems random. The only thing consistent about “job title” is that the program is owned by an executive leader. And this is exactly the point! CABs, to be taken seriously internally AND by your customers, must be driven from the top. Any CAB program run by a first line manager or event manager won’t succeed. The term “customer advisory board” connotes a very specific executive-level, strategic conversation between high ranking executives. Your CAB is not “just a single meeting”. It represents a commitment to inviting an ongoing strategy-level conversation with a subset of your most important customers.

Marketing vs. Product ownership?

Ownership of the CAB program best belongs with the one executive tasked with mapping out the company’s longer-term strategy. This person spends more than a little time thinking about your company’s vision, mission, and value proposition. This person also has feelers on how the market is changing.

Since the CAB is best thought of as a strategy level intimate discussion with a dozen of your executive decision makers, the focus tends to be at a business or operational level, not the product level. The customer is the center of attention, with focus on how their business is changing over the next three years. The focus is not your product. Roadmaps are discussed but only at the value proposition level because you want to better understand the problems your customers are trying to solve, and how you can help them accelerate their success. Hence, the conversation is about roadmap strategies and priorities. It’s not about prioritizing product features. (For that, use a product focus group.)

CAB Executive Sponsors are also highly regarded within their companies. They have skills in aligning the executive team — not by dictating action (although sometimes that is necessary and appropriate), but by sharing knowledge, asking good/hard questions, and facilitating internal discussions. Often, this skill set is found in the role CMO which is why that role is often tagged as the CAB Executive Sponsor.

It is also common to find that the CAB Executive Sponsor is also tasked with driving the annual cross-functional business planning exercise.

Successful CABs require a team effort

No matter who owns the role in your company, the success of your CAB program will require a cross-functional team effort. Every member of your CEO’s staff is a potential stakeholder in the success of your CAB. However, your core team will be doing most of the prep work.

With a specialty in CABs, Mike Gospe is a professional facilitator with more than 18 years of CAB experience. He’s helped some of today’s most innovative companies deliver more than 100 world-class CAB meetings. He leads KickStart Alliance‘s CAB practice. Interested hiring a great CAB facilitator or perhaps honing your own facilitator skills? Contact Mike