Tech Management In The Age Of The Customer

We are now in the age of the customer, with buyers using technology to gain control over institutions. That power flows from customers’ newfound ability to seamlessly price, critique, and direct their purchases.
 
What does this mean? At the risk of being overly dramatic, the future belongs to customer-obsessed enterprises.
 
All of this holds many implications for your company — especially around marketing — and in future posts I will explore those dynamics. But one question intrigues me at the moment: What will the age of the customer mean for the techies in your company?
 
We believe that tech management must embrace two agendas: IT and BT. The CIO and team must continue to manage and improve IT (infrastructure) — the supply chains, financial systems, HR systems, and production systems that operate the corporation. But the team must also take on the business technology (BT) agenda — building technologies, systems, and process to win, retain, and serve customers. As an example, systems of operation that contain critical customer data must be transformed to become agile systems of engagement, capable of serving mobile customers with the right content, in the appropriate context, with the highest possible convenience. The CIO and team are best qualified to manage these complex, highly technical transitions.
 
Building BT will not be easy. Forrester estimates that 30% to 40% of technology executives do not have the appropriate skills for this work. And some may not have the stomach to engage in the messy and often taxing collaboration with marketing and business executives that BT implies. To make the grade, CIOs must be able to manage two very different mindsets: containing IT costs while using BT to win and delight customers. Yes, it’s a harder job than just managing IT — but yielding BT to a rump organization (the Chief Digital Officer, anyone?) will create confusion, chaos, and ultimately an inferior customer experience.
 
In the future, all companies will be software companies. The business of tires, insurance, or banking services will all have a customer software component. Tech management leaders must step up to this, and a wide array of approaching BT challenges. Then, and only then, will their companies have a shot at prospering in the age of the customer.

Comments

IT will sink before it sails this far

George, you're asking a lot of a drifting, demoralized organization. IT has seen its hub role rendered less and less germane by consumer mobile devices, apps instead of ERPs, and off-premise servers and storage.

Rather than seeing IT as the unlikely white knight that finally rescues customer intimacy, isn't it equally likely that it will be disintermediated by nimble and sophisticated third-party services that need no persuading about customer engagement?

Once the business units realize they can bypass IT and be more responsive to customers, they won't go back.

BT:IT::Amazon:B&N.

Auto industry's digital car has no engine

George,
In 1995' I drove into the auto industry with the first web for an auto magazine in the the U.S. and a new multimedia organization of experts specializing in auto and ethnic cultural consumer content. Some of the top media professionals served as advisors and editors (Kiplingers, car and driver, Robb Report, Washington Post, etc.). Also, many CEOs and presidents of top companies funded and supported me. The story is long, but you'll be more interested in the research part of the platform, which included free consulting to R.L. POLK to improve their research on multicultural consumers. The goal was to narrow marketing down to consumers who were in the market for new vehicles. Out of the 10 million annual retail sales about 25% are by multicultural consumers. I formed one of the most diverse B2B networks of businesses, politicians, Motorsports, suppliers, dealers, media, and many more. Over 2,000 of them converge at the wards annually, which is sponsored by almost every major auto company. However, their agencies are not engaged.
Although the auto industry leads the world in new vehicle technology, many major auto markers are still trying to drive a classic car on the digital highway without an engine (product content), or trunk (storage capacity for any engagement). A Forrester partnership could help to change this ..
I go to ford and GM and show them how to cut an a $4 billion marketing budget in half by using content on their own products to drive new media, and were directed to the company that stands to lose the two billion Ford saves, what would be its recommendation? After 19 years, none of the industries minority agencies use auto content to marketing to and engage consumers who are using new media tech to find and engage with the trusted content to make decisions and form long term relationships. New media has turned marketing into a science.