For businesses from every consumer facing industry, the digital opportunity is well recognised. It’s the opportunity to embrace new digital technologies and respond to customer demands quicker, to deliver customer experience and operational benefits for the business and increase competitive differentiation. And yet, despite knowing what’s at stake, many organisations are missing out on one of the biggest shifts in business to occur in the last century.
IT departments are being placed under intense pressure to integrate and manage new digital technologies, but often face the uphill battle of delivering more at a rapid pace, with fewer resources and less budget. They face barriers such as controlling the growth of ‘shadow IT’, a lack of control and standardisation, disparate data sources, and fragmented system estates.
Despite facing these challenges, IT departments are responsible for enabling the digital service transformation journey their business has embarked on. The chart below details the digital destinations that businesses must invest in working towards with their IT departments to transform the digital service delivery and innovate their customer engagement models.
So, what needs to happen to reach these digital destinations?
Shifting the focus of digital transformation to the customer
While it is near impossible to convert, re-engineer and integrate the legacy back-end systems in the IT infrastructure, with the right approach, silos can be readily bridged. This can be accomplished by abstracting the processes and data that delve into each silo and presenting all customer interactions through a common, integrated communications model. This can be extended to encompass all digital channels, giving customers a seamless experience as they move across channels at the front end, and diverse systems at the back end.
This requires a restructuring of the way applications are accessed, developed and deployed, but there is an impetus from the business for rapid change and there are steps that CIOs can take immediately to transform the approach into one that is more flexible. This will involve organisational changes as well as the adoption of a platform approach to solution development and service delivery.
Changes to the organisation
IT organisations face a struggle to balance the need to support existing operations (‘keeping the lights on’) and innovation. The former, plus financial pressures have caused a shift in IT culture to be conservative and risk averse.
Sometimes it has been characterised as the department where the default response is ‘no’. Perhaps, as a consequence, the role of the head of IT has been diminished in many organisations. Sometimes no longer reporting to the board, perceiving a loss of influence as others are appointed (Chief Security Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Digital Transformation Leads), and seeing money spent on IT from outside the IT department (Shadow IT).
It does not need to be like this. Digital transformation applied to customer experience is an opportunity for the CIO to rapidly regain any lost credibility, influence and retain their seat on the board. By adopting a different approach, they can create an IT function able to both support day-to-day operations as a digital service broker, but also a catalyst for, and leader of, technology innovation.
Lack of technical talent is one of the biggest obstacles to change. Almost two-thirds of UK IT decision makers rate availability of required skills as an important or very important prerequisite when funding IT projects¹. Organisations need to find ways to fill the gap between software need and capability to deliver.
This can be done in several ways:
- Outsource capability as well as capacity by brokering services from the cloud.
- Adopt visual tools and platforms that exploit latent development skills elsewhere in IT and in the business, without requiring significant technical expertise or coding.
- Restructure to take advantage of diverse skills available; build multi-functional teams.
Some changes might be uncomfortable for those in established technical roles, but CIOs are in the best position to marshal the resources available, and shift the culture towards adding value to the business, especially through improved customer interaction and engagement.
Innovation and transformation need to become embedded in the culture, not regarded as a one-off change.
Development and deployment needs to be agile, taking advantage of re-use and rapid assembly based on business workflows, not traditional application models. Remove the boundary between lines of business and the IT department to bring shadow IT into the main stream. First, foster innovation in the business, then rapidly develop a pilot in partnership with IT, and finally hand over to IT for full-scale production, deployment and management – and then outsource once stable.
To further drive innovation, small, smart technology projects should be initiated in conjunction with other cross functional or external groups. These might be described as skunk works, red teams, incubators, accelerators, boot camps or crowdsourcing, but in every case, the goal is the same – a catalyst for new ideas that might in future be incorporated into IT.
There is no ‘right path’ to transforming customer experience and nor should it be considered a huge indivisible project. By adopting an iterative and collaborative approach that permits failure and uses it as an opportunity to refine concepts, both new technologies and the IT function can demonstrate their innovative value to the business at each step along the journey.
To learn more about the changes needed to create a service delivery model that readily supports digital transformation, read the new white paper from the IT analysts at Quocirca.
Produced in partnership with IMImobile, the paper explores the challenges faced by IT in its pivotal role in digital customer experience transformation, and examines the changes that must be made to enable rapid CX innovation and deliver competitive advantages to your business.