Agility Must Be At The Core Of Your Customer Experience Ecosystem

This past June, my colleague Rick Parrish alerted customer experience (CX) professionals to a dire problem: Their networks of customers, partners and employees that affect customer experiences are fundamentally broken. Rick’s diagnosis reveals numerous organizational, cultural, and and partnership issues across businesses’ sprawling CX ecosystems. I admit it — this description makes the challenge of fixing these problems sound daunting. So where do you start?

The problems Rick identified in CX ecosystems seem to be the result of ossified organizations, cultures, and business relationships. This means CX leaders must drive new levels of responsiveness and creativity into their ecosystems. And the way you drive these attributes into your ecosystems is to seize on the concept of business agility. My colleague Craig Le Clair outlined 10 dimensions of business agility that provide the market, organizational, and process frameworks necessary to embrace market and operational changes as a matter of routine. This is merely setting the strategy, though; executing it requires a marriage between the business and technology strategies.

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Collaboration Technology Should Be Part Of Your Customer Experience Tool Kit

Businesses invest considerable sums of money with vendors like Box, Cisco, Google and Microsoft for a collection a technology we call collaboration tools. As an analyst, though, the question that has dogged me in watching this space is "why?" As in "what is the actual value a business gets from investing in collaboration technology?" The vendors' rationale for acquiring collaboration tools has shifted in emphasis over time, going from a conversation on cost savings to one on productivity gains. However, cost savings is an undifferentiated and limited message while "increasing productivity" can feel ephemeral because it is difficult to measure. Yet my inquiry queue remains full of companies trying to figure out how best to deploy these technologies and my briefings calendar is filled with startups and incumbents pitching new offerings in this space. This brings me back to my original question: Why?

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Your Technology Reflects The State Of Your Customer Experience Ecosystem, So Plan Accordingly

The business press has come alive over the past few weeks as companies as diverse as Delta, Facebook, and Tesla have publicly declared that they want to own software development for key applications. What should catch your attention about these announcements is the types of software these firms want to control. Delta is acquiring the software IP and data associated with an application that affects 180 of its customer and flight operations systems. Facebook is building proprietary software to simplify interactions between its sales teams and the advertisers posting ads on the social networking site. And Tesla has developed its own enterprise resource management (ERP) and commerce platform that links the manufacturing history of a vehicle with important sales and customer support systems. Tesla's CIO Jay Vijayan, in describing his organization's system, sums up the sentiment behind many of these business decisions: "It helps the company move really fast."

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Compelling Content Experiences Prove To Be Google And Microsoft's Rich Opportunity In 2014

In November 2013, we published a report laying out what will be the key points of differentiation between Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 by 2016. At the core of this report is a simple message: The value of these cloud collaboration suites isn't inexpensive email; their value is in their role as an interaction point for your business ecosystem. And at the center of each of these interactions is content of some sort -- contracts, marketing collateral, product specifications, customer records, and more. As more of this content lands in Google Drive and SkyDrive Pro, the market will reward the vendor that makes it easiest for information workers to author content, share it with others, manage its use and distribution, and be aware of any changes to this content. We call this combination of capabilities content services.

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Simple Isn't Always That Simple When Moving To Google Apps Or Office 365

I spent the past three months talking to Google and Microsoft professional services partners, as well as Google Apps and Office 365 clients, to better understand how cloud collaboration and productivity suites are implemented and the value clients get once they move into these environments. One word that came up quite a bit during these conversations was "simple." As in "We think moving to [Google Apps or Office 365] will simplify our [costs, IT management, user experience, etc.]." This got me thinking: Should CIOs think moving collaboration workloads to the cloud actually simplifies their job? Well...yes, but there's a but. Simplicity in these environments comes with costs. Business and IT leaders must be sure they're willing to pay them as a condition of getting the benefits of the cloud. So what does this mean?

  • These platforms simplify contracting if you can live with the standard service agreement. One Google client told us one of the reasons they rejected the incumbent players was because they felt the licensing agreements were "convoluted." Yes, cloud collaboration and productivity suite providers have straightforward per user pricing for clearly defined feature/function tiers. But the devil's in the details. These players are able to deliver highly efficient, low-cost services because they do not permit a lot of deviation from the standard service agreement. So, healthcare clients looking for business associates' agreements will not find a willing partner in Google.* And smaller enterprises that require a dedicated collaboration environment will find that Microsoft enforces a minimum seat count on Office 365's dedicated SKU.
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How Does A CIO Build The Workplace Of The Future?

Anyone who's been following this blog knows that I've invested a lot of time recently laying out the case for why CIOs should take more ownership over employee engagement and workforce experience. With the foundational argument in place, it's now time to turn to the critical question: How should an IT department act? This can be a paralyzing question because owning the workforce experience means IT leaders must step outside of traditional technology provisioning and maintenance roles. That's why the path forward for IT leaders is to implement a series of changes in how they view themselves, employees, and the technology landscape:

  • Pivot benchmarks to account for engagement's link with IT satisfaction. Traditional IT benchmarks concern the performance of the infrastructure and employees' satisfaction with the service they receive. These are indeed important measures, but they do not give a complete view of how technology helps engage employees. We recently published our benchmarks for workforce experience that lay out what CIOs should be evaluating in addition to their customary metrics. These include employee engagement measures, employee technology attitudes, where employees learn about technology and how IT plans align with employee expectations. Evaluating both IT and the workforce in such a fashion requires the buy-in of executives, particularly the head of HR who traditionally owns employee engagement and satisfaction surveys.
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The Five Questions We Don't Get About Office 365 And Google Apps But Should

The era of cloud-based collaboration technology is here. Forrester's last survey of collaboration software decision makers showed that 67% are planning to or already deploy collaboration software-as-a-service (SaaS). Buttressing this stat is the incredibly high volume of inquiries I've received over the past two quarters from business and IT leaders trying to decide between Microsoft technology and the Google portfolio. The questions were so numerous that we published a report to answer our clients' basic queries. The increased activity, however, obscures the fact that we're still in the early days. As our report shows, IT leaders are still trying to get acquainted with cloud technologies: What features are in the suite? Is it secure? Are businesses like mine using it? These are essential things to know, yes. But they don't fully tell the story of how a company can get the most out of a cloud collaboration and productivity suite implementation. So, as you examine Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business, here are five more questions you need to address at the outset:

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Lessons From A CIO Forum Conversation On Employee Engagement

Yesterday afternoon, I moderated a panel on the role the IT department can play in the business's employee engagement efforts. Any follower of this blog knows that this is a topic I've talked about a lot lately (see previous posts here and here) because hiring, developing and retaining talented and productive employees is critical in the Age of the Customer. The panelists were Ed Flahive, Vice President Global Learning & Development at State Street, Mike Peterson, CIO and Vice President at CHG Healthcare Services, and Ray Velez, Chief Technology Officer at Razorfish. As you've probably observed, this was an eclectic group, representing human resources, IT and client delivery groups respectively. Well, that was on purpose. This topic requires perspectives from both business leaders and technologists. Having had 24 hours to think about that discussion, I thought I would share a few a-ha's I had from my conversation with these gentlemen:

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Engaged Employees Expect IT Leaders To Understand Their Needs

My colleague Simon Yates and I have spent a good bit of time recently discussing the role of IT in creating engaging experiences for employees. We've proposed that IT leaders concern themselves with helping business leaders convert that engagement into productive actions that achieve positive business outcomes, like good customer experiences and employees advocating for the company. But what does this mean for IT leaders in practice? Well, let's look at a group of employees who are currently creating the types of outcomes businesses seek: those willing to advocate for their business as a place to work and as a place to do business. According to our Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q4 2012, around two-thirds of this group feel IT understands and meets their needs (see figure below).

These positive attitudes toward the IT department's performance stand in stark contrast to the views of employees who aren't achieving these outcomes. For example, while 65% of employee advocates are satisfied with the service they receive from the IT department, just 27% of employees not fully advocating for the company share a similar opinion. So what creates this chasm in opinion? We find clues when we look at some of the attitudes employee advocates have about what their organizations allow them to do:

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The CIO Is The Facilitator Of Engaging Employee Experiences

Employee engagement is a hot topic in many C-suites today. There's a growing body of research that says engaged employees are productive employees, contributing positively to the bottom line. Forrester's own workforce research shows those who feel supported by managers, respected for their efforts, and encouraged to be creative are more inclined to recommend the company as a workplace or a vendor. So, we see a debate within the upper echelons of organizations on how best to create engaging workforce experiences which give an employee's contributions meaning, provide the flexibility they require to be successful, and continuously develop the skills they need to serve customers. It's critical that the CIO is at the table during these conversations. Why? Regardless of the talent retention and management strategy, technology will be necessary to help unlock the potential within the workforce.

The CIO at a large software vendor with a reputation for great employee engagement said it best: "Technology is expected, but [business leaders] do not think about how it enables people." Technology is an ambient part of the workspace. Businesses outfit their workforces with a range of gadgets and give them access to numerous systems which facilitate interactions, manage orders, track projects, store data, and more. Of course, deficiencies in these corporate toolkits lead employees to find and embrace things like iPhones, Galaxy Tabs, Dropbox, and Evernote on their own. But has anyone given serious consideration to how these disparate tools come together to help engage employees so they can properly support the customer?

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