The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes: Each race is unique, just like each team working on a consumer online property – but they must all work together to be successful.

Let’s take a look at how each race aligns with the teams we are tracking from a consumer experience perspective. Now, I know I’m taking liberty with the concepts here, but my goal is to get us to think beyond your day-to-day responsibilities and visualize how each of our teams impacts the end-to-end journey. In this case, the end-to-end journey we’re looking at is that of a horse named American Pharoah.

The Kentucky Derby – Churchill Downs, Kentucky – 1 ¼ miles
First Saturday of May

This race marks the start of the Triple Crown series and the point where pressure starts to build. The first Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and the tradition has continued every year since. The Derby is often called “The Run for the Roses" because a blanket of 554 red roses is awarded to the winner every year. Crazy, maybe, but definitely an “experience” to remember.

In addition to the race itself, there are number of traditions that are part of the Derby. The mint julep is the traditional beverage of the race, women wear large crazy hats (this is the part I love the most), and the horses are paraded before the grandstands while the marching band plays “My Old Kentucky Home” to the crowd. Ah, you’ve got to love the visual.

The Kentucky Derby race is quite similar to Product Management and Marketing in the online world: There’s a never-ending litany of “experiences” that can and will affect the consumer. Although we often measure metrics such as time on site, conversion rates, revenue, COGs, etc., they tell only part of the story. As Joel Maynes and Alex Rawson (McKinsey&Company) point out, the journey and success is about the “end to end experience,” and nothing can or should be considered in a silo.

Although American Pharoah was paraded around along with the rest of the thoroughbreds as part of the “experience,” no one on Bob Baffert’s team ever forget why they are there and the prize they hoped to claim. He was listed as a favorite in a field of 18 horses, but American Pharoah ended up winning the 2015 Kentucky Derby by only a single length. That one length could have changed everything. Just like that “simple” challenge your security team implemented on your site (without your knowledge), to prevent ATO which drove a 50% increase in customer support calls and negatively impacted the consumer experience. Remember, the experience is not a single integration or touch point, but a journey upon which all teams can have an impact – either positive or negative.

Preakness Stakes – Baltimore, Maryland – 1 3/16 miles on a dirt track
Third Saturday in May

First run in 1873, the Preakness Stakes was named by a former Maryland governor after a winning colt at Pimlico. The race has been called "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" because a blanket of yellow flowers, altered to resemble Maryland's state flower, is placed around the winner's neck. Funny though, since that flower is never in bloom at that time of year, no black-eyed Susan has ever been used.

Just a couple of weeks after the Kentucky Derby, American Pharoah took the Preakness Stakes after starting from the rail, a position from which no horse had won since 1994. The track had been drenched with rain prior to the start of the race, but American Pharoah had experience running in less-than-favorable conditions. He held onto the lead throughout the race and ended up winning by a full 7 lengths - an amazing feat.

In the Preakness, however, horses with good tactical speed and the ability to “stalk” (running just behind the leaders) tend to do better than horses who charge to the lead or come from way behind late in the race.

Similar to a good security and risk team with responsibility for securing high volumes of consumer traffic, it’s often best not to be on the bleeding edge of new security technologies. But it is a must to be on the cutting edge with the best, frictionless solutions. While rolling out the newest biometric pulse response authentication technology may sound cool to the security team, just imagine how the 80-year-old consumer shopping for pet supplies would feel if he/she was faced with that authentication method – just to buy cat food. Once again, the key is to consider the end-to-end customer journey and how the success is not only measured by your organization, but also experienced by your consumers.

So, as much as Bob used best practices and science to determine how to train American Pharoah, creating a winner is more art than science. In the end, you are part of a team. For that team to win, keep in mind that it’s imperative to consider your consumers AND your internal teams when you adopt a security solution. Together, you will win – or you will lose.

Belmont Stakes – Belmont Park, New York – 1 ½ miles
Held on a Saturday between June 5 and 11

The race nicknamed “The Test of the Champion” is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. First run in 1867, at 1.5 miles, this is the longest of the three races. The race is also known as the “The Run for the Carnations” because the winning horse is draped with a blanket of white carnations after the race. Can you see a floral theme among the horse racing crowd?

Anyway, this race, being the longest and last of the Triple Crown, is where many contenders fail. Just imagine how anxious the owners and trainers are at the run up to this race. They have won two huge racing victories, but now they find themselves competing against fresh horses, those who are not contenders for the Triple Crown. The excitement and nervousness must be palpable.

And there was Bob Baffert, watching American Pharoah. He had made it this far three times before, only to come up winless in each case (Real Quiet lost by just a half-nostril in 1998). As you can imagine, each loss was devastating. This time, however, he told the jockey, Victor Espinosa, “He’s ready – ride him with confidence.” Ultimately American Pharoah won by 5½ lengths. Confidence, training and an amazing horse won the Triple Crown – after a 37-year search for a great racehorse.

In my mind, racing in the Belmont Stakes is like a being part of the fraud team. Its hard work and you have to be more cunning than the fraudsters who are out to do bad things to your bottom line – and your consumers. Being part of the fraud team is seldom glamorous or exciting, but this is the work that prevents loss and wins the hearts and minds of consumers – without them even knowing it. These are the unsung heroes of a successful online property. The team that has to implement risk mitigation and fraud prevention solutions that identify the “bad guys” but let the “good guys” in.

Even though the fraud team is tasked with fraud prevention, they must be aware of how much they impact each of the other groups, and ultimately how important it is to have collaboration across all functions.

Think of it this way: The Fraud Team is running the last leg of the Triple Crown, and needs the support of each and every person on the other teams across an organization to be successful. They all need each other.

Next up:

The Consumer is key