Every company is a software company.
Customer experience is a well-recognized pivot point that more and more organizations rely on as a competitive differentiator and enabler of growth. Not at all surprisingly, the experience customers have as they transact and interact with a business has become increasingly dependent on digital touch points – online and electronic points of interaction for customers and partners – and the connectedness of these individual touch points as customers traverse the stages of their journey, and interact through different channels.
This digitally enabled customer experience makes the phrase “every company is a software company” truer than ever. With technology driving every aspect of business, including experience, nearly every company, no matter how non-tech they might appear, is evolving into a software and data company.
Look no further than the banking industry for a radical example of this trend – not only is the FinTech revolution disrupting traditional notions of banking, but traditional banking institutions are adopting strategies to fit into the digitally driven market of today. Bank of America has said it plans to have 80 percent of its workloads running on software-defined infrastructure inspired by web companies, and Santander recently became the first bank to offer cloud data storage services to corporate customers. Wow.
Take down the walls between business, IT and customers.
This accelerating trend means that traditional notions of IT are obsolete. Today, no company can afford to write business requirements that take months or years to turn into software solutions. Likewise, IT can no longer remain in the shadows as an organization that plays little to no role in driving external customer experience. Traditional walls between IT, business, and customers must be taken down.
The historical separation of IT and business must shift to collaboration. Customer experience must be the pivot, with common goals and a laser focus on customer wants and needs. By making business and IT jointly accountable for business outcomes, the results are both measurable and significant.
More and more, IT leaders get this – in fact, over the last few years three of the larger customer experience improvement projects our firm has worked on have been driven directly by the CIOs of forward-looking, multi-billion dollar businesses in manufacturing, retail and technology. In one of these alone, this collaboration drove a 60 percent reduction of duplicate or needless processes, and slashed time-to-market software upgrades and feature additions from 90 days to 7. Yes, you read that right.
Your CIO and IT are uniquely positioned to drive and transform the digital customer experience.
Unfortunately, business leadership’s behavior appears to indicate an overall trend toward further separating rather than integrating these two groups. Beyond just marketing spend on IT, a CEB study says that across the organization “Business executives now spend an additional $0.40 on technology for every $1 managed in the traditional corporate IT budget.” The implication being that the enterprise increasingly views IT as a commodity rather than a strategic partner.
This must change. IT can no longer take a “Just tell us what to build and we’ll build it to spec…” stance with delivery coming a couple quarters down the road. And business – marketing, sales, service, etc. – can’t run out and purchase or license a point-solution just because they’re dissatisfied with IT. To bridge these gaps, IT needs to get closer to business; business needs to get closer to IT; and together, they BOTH need to get closer to the customer.
We recognize that other parts of the business don’t usually think of IT as a piece of the organization integral to the experience of external customers. But the importance of connected, digital touchpoints across channels – and IT’s unique line-of-site across silos and into processes and systems – means that the CIO and the IT team are uniquely positioned to provide the innovation and leadership necessary to drive and transform the digital customer experience.
It’s up to business and IT to work together
To create the cross-functional leadership necessary to radically transform how the organization approaches the customer experience challenge, business and IT must work together - because only integration of these groups will deliver the complete end-to-end experience that customers expect, and demand.
From the customer’s perspective it’s not as much about the quality of the experience at any one stage – though a poor experience at any stage is likely to cause defection – it’s about the quality, connectedness and seamlessness of the experience across the entire journey.
Which is why the organizations that leverage collaboration between business and IT will be able to create the frictionless, cross-channel customer experiences that proactively serve customers’ needs.