Empowered customers, armed with ever-increasing digital capability, increasingly expect any information, any service, at their moment of need. We call this the age of the customer. Innovative brands, from Delta to Southwest, T-Mobile to Verizon, Home Depot to Walgreens, and Caterpillar to Rolls Royce, are sharing with Forrester how they are disrupting the way they work to meet their empowered customers’ needs, to become customer-obsessed. Becoming customer-obsessed gives you, the CIO, an unprecedented opportunity: to overcome the nagging frustration of IT gravity that suppresses your and your team’s ability to influence the direction of your business, to build new competitive advantage. But you have to be willing to change the way you work.
You’re in an enviable position and are more essential to your firm’s success than ever. Together with your CMO, you have the best overall knowledge of your customers and the technology know-how to deliver a superior customer experience and drive growth.
We’ve begun to identify how leading firms change their operating models to deliver more value and become truly customer-obsessed. Much of that change falls on the CIO to drive. This research is ongoing, but the actions leaders take to shape their customer-obsessed operating model — focused on customer loyalty, innovation, and most importantly, growth, and fueled by customer insight — are becoming clear:
But saying CX is a priority is easy, making it actionable speaks volumes. Frankly, if your firm isn’t taking action to relentlessly pursue CX improvement, to become customer obsessed, you’re making a mistake.
Those actions give CIOs and their teams an incredible opportunity. Technology empowers your customers, members, clients, and buyers today. And your business leaders need you to expand beyond using technology to support or transform internal operations - what we call the IT agenda. Today, business leaders need your help to compete for customer loyalty. Today, business leaders need you and your teams to help them apply technology, systems,and process to win, serve, and retain customers- the business technology (BT) agenda.
Executing on the BT agenda gives you and your team the opportunity to make the biggest, most visible contribution to your firm I can think of - top line growth. Keep three things in mind as you strive to take advantage of this opportunity:
Your business executives seek top line growth – 7 out of every 10 we survey state growth is their top priority. Growth requires competitive advantage, but hanging on to yesterday’s competitive advantage will doom your firm. Your technology empowered customers have more power over your brand than ever before. And today’s world of global sourcing and efficient supply chains allows your competition – old and new – to copy or undermine any move you make to compete. Technology has fundamentally changed the competitive landscape.
We believe the only source of competitive advantage is an obsession with understanding and engaging with your customers. Your business leaders across Sales, Customer Service, Marketing, and Product Development now look to technology to help them obsess about your customers. Unfortunately, the majority of those same business leaders don’t think you and your team can accelerate their success.
You can start changing the dynamics in your organization, and build new competitive advantage, by crafting a business technology agenda. That agenda must focus on what you do with technology, systems, and processes to win, serve, and retain customers. And it starts with putting your customers at the center of your decision making. Once you do, you’ll start to reshape your technology portfolio and prioritize the technologies that help your business obsess about its customers.
In advance of next week’s Forrester’s European Business Technology Forums in London on June 10 and 11, we had an opportunity to speak with Greg Swimer about information management and how Unilever delivers real-time data to its employees. Greg Swimer is a global IT leader at Unilever, responsible for delivering new information management, business intelligence, reporting, consolidation, analytics, and master data solutions to more than 20,000 users across all of Unilever’s businesses globally.
1) What are the two forces you and the Unilever team are balancing with your “Data At Your Fingertips” vision?
Putting the data at Unilever’s fingertips means working on two complementary aspects of information management. One aspect is to build an analytics powerhouse with the capacity to handle big data, providing users with the technological power to analyse that data in order to gain greater insight and drive better decision-making. The other aspect is the importance of simplifying and standardizing that data so that it’s accessible enough to understand and act upon. We want to create a simplified landscape, one that allows better decisions, in real time, where there is a common language and a great experience for users.
2) What keys to success have you uncovered in your efforts?
Digital technologies, and the software running on them, have done more than just make it easy for consumers to connect with each other and entertain themselves. Digital technologies have changed both business and society. Look around you now, and increasingly, people — your customers and employees — are perpetually connected to the Internet, able to connect, share, and transact with the firms they choose to do business with. Look even closer and you’ll see digital capability thrusted into emerging products and services across industries: from automotive (GM partnering with AT&T) to sportswear (Nike Fuelband) and from agriculture (Monsanto acquires software firm) to grocery (Tesco launches virtual grocery store).
Business leaders have revenue growth first and foremost on their minds. On average, 70% of these business leaders place a high or critical priority on revenue growth, customer acquisition and retention, and addressing rising customer experience expectations for 2013. Our data suggests business leaders are 50% more likely to identify these as critical initiatives than they do margin improvement or reducing operating costs. Growth and customer experience improvement take business priority.
That’s what one front office development leader who attended our Digital Disruption Summits and Forums in London and Orlando told us after hearing stories of how to survive and thrive in this age of constant consumer-led, software-fueled digital disruption.
And this front office development leader—whose scope ran the gamut from CRM and customer service to Web and mobile apps—wasn’t alone. In this age of digital disruption, where empowered customers and employees demand new levels of engagement with your firm, what mightyoube doing wrong?
If you’re not reaching out to stakeholders in your marketing and product development organizations, you’re doing it wrong.
The team and I have been testing a hypothesis for the past year while meeting with business and IT leaders in large enterprises, agencies, and smaller firms, and I'd like your input. My working hypothesis is this:
In this age of digital disruption and a society empowered by software-fueled technology, firms that can cultivate competencies in software development and delivery will establish competitive advantage, as they will be better equipped to meet and exceed the engagement and experience needs of their customers, employees, and constituencies.
Every day our clients flood us with inquiries on what to do about mobile and social software and smartphone and tablet adoption—not just as it pertains to their customers but to their employees too. Many firms seem to be scrambling to develop their mobile application strategy, spinning up new teams or working with outside agencies in a rush to introduce their own “killer app” or deploy some mobile capability on their CRM platforms. Smartphones and tablets are just the beginning of an explosion of digital touchpoints we will use to engage with each other, commercial enterprises, and public sector institutions. Gaming platforms, smart TVs, goggles, “magical mirrors”—there’s no end in sight.
Last December, I published three things I'd tell your CIO. Since then, I've spent time with dozens and dozens of sourcing and vendor management professionals, CIOs, and leaders of application development and delivery, including last week's Paris Forrester Forums. Most days, I share our ongoing research on what impact today's software-fueled, consumer-led digital disruption has on your ability to meet and exceed the expectations of your customers and the employees serving them. For some folks, software and software development remains a commodity. But for many, the need to deliver great software has taken hold of 2013 planning discussions. With July just around the corner, and as you start 2013 planning, focus on what you need to start delivering great software (remember, software is your business), and keep these three things I'd tell you and your CIO in mind: