Separate Agency Hype From Reality: Evaluate Service Providers' Technical Competencies

“Often, my IT group isn’t even aware of what application development and implementation is being outsourced. Eventually, this creates a big problem for us ...We have to clean up a lot of messes.” (North American manufacturing organization)

“Our marketing group paid an agency $250,000 to launch an app and didn’t tell IT. There was no QA done, the agency had no idea how to measure satisfaction, and the app was unstable. The app had just a 2.5 star rating in the iOS app store, and eventually marketing had to kill the app because it just wasn’t working.” (Fortune 500 company)  

Do any of these anecdotes sound familiar? More often than not, we talk with organizations where the business uses agency partners to work around IT. But IT pros need to be marketing’s eyes and ears when it comes to evaluating a service provider’s technology expertise. We recommend asking some of the following questions:

  • What’s your mix of offerings? Vendors come in all shapes and sizes: marketing/ad agencies, creative design agencies, SIs, and consultants. When it comes to digital experience, these vendors are converging. It’s not about which vendor is “best,” but rather which service provider has the right mix of skills for your initiative. Are you looking to launch an innovative campaign to strengthen your brand messaging? You probably want a marketing/ad agency with strong creative skills. Are you looking to implement a killer mobile app? You want an agency strong in technical and design skills. Do you need a thought leader to help you revamp your omnichannel experience, helping create an overall strategy and implement a new website and mobile app? You need a partner strong in consulting, design, and technical skills. 
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What's Your Digital Experience X Factor?

I recently had the pleasure of participating in Mike Gualtieri’s Technopolitics podcast. We discussed why digitally enabled customer experiences are no longer a nicety; they’re an obligation. But the problem is that IT and business don’t always work well together because:

  • Business relegates IT to a uncreative computing utility.
  • IT chuckles at business’s technology naïveté.

I think the gulf between business and IT is closing — I don’t see that the clash is quite as big as it used to be, and the IT pros I speak with already have been working on getting closer to the business. But often, they’re not going fast enough. Why? You cannot separate technology from customers’ digital experience and you cannot separate business from technology.

My solution: You need to hire IT pros who have the digital experience X factor. This is going to be increasingly important as the emerging role of “marketing technologists” and tech-savy customer experience professionals continues to evolve. I discuss in the podcast what I think the X factor is, but some of its major components are:  

  1. Customer-oriented, customer-centric values (even if they’re not customer-facing or customer service agents)
  2. A marketing and business mindset
  3. Creative and design thinking (not just technology-minded)
  4. Strength in strategic and design skills
  5. A “digital first” mindset
  6. Competancies in a  breadth rather than depth of skill sets (e.g., developers with knowledge of multiple programming languages instead of just deep knowledge of Java)
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2013 Digital Customer Experience Survey

Our application development and delivery (AD&D) team has recently launched our survey on digital customer experience initiatives, and we’re looking for information on your digital customer experience strategy and technology investments. Some of the questions we’d like to get answers to include:

  • What projects (if any) you have planned for this year.
  • Details about what those projects look like (e.g. budgets, staffing, and primary decision-makers).
  • What investments you plan to make in technology.
  • How you will use third parties (e.g. agencies, consultants, SIs) to help with your digital customer experience projects.
Not planning anything for the coming year? That’s okay — we still want to hear your thoughts! It should only take you 10 to 15 minutes to complete the survey. The information you provide will help shape an upcoming report. What’s in it for you? To thank you for your time, we’ll send you a free copy of that report when we publish it.
 
Here’s the survey again, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.