Actually, we are already in a new age - the age of the customer – where power has shifted from companies to customers. This unprecedented competitive pressure affects the pace of innovation in all companies, and enterprises must now drive the change to simply continue to exist.
In the United States, one of the largest bookstore chains – Borders – has disappeared because it failed to turn its business into an online business similar to Amazon. This example is unfortunately not isolated: Blockbuster, then the largest video rental company, went bankrupt almost overnight because it missed the opportunity of video streaming that Netflix had seized.
This digital disruption does not happen in just a few industries, but everywhere, and not only in the consumer industry. For example, many B-to-B software companies are moving from a perpetual licensing model to a subscription model by developing applications in the cloud. This transition allows them to develop new services and to deploy their applications more easily within a client company.
These new technologies represent a real opportunity for companies, and lines of business now want to take advantage of them to generate new revenue streams. Today, to be successful, companies should understand customer journeys and identify key digital moments in the buying cycle. It is essential to engage with customers across the entire purchase process through these new services, otherwise customers will move to competing services by themselves.
CIOs must take into account this new reality by better understanding customers. To do so, they must work closely with the business, but also analyze customer data – such as Big Data - to understand the impact on existing business processes, and how to support them.
Unlike back-office applications, systems of customer engagement need to evolve quickly based on market trends to improve customer experience. A smooth integration of systems of engagement and back-end systems is therefore key, and CIOs need a clear picture of their IT landscape to fully understand the interactions between back-end and engagement systems.
To support new projects, IT departments must also allocate more resources to innovation, but many IT departments keep focusing on maintaining IT systems. The focus should now be on rationalizing the IT landscape and leading the innovation.
A method of streamlining the IT landscape consists of making an inventory of IT assets and to evaluate them based on business value, costs and risks. This assessment will allow IT departments to identify redundancies and inefficiencies (such as technological obsolescence), and reduce costs. By performing this assessment, CIOs will be able to consolidate their IT assets while improving decision-making.
This approach will allow IT departments to gain visibility and agility, so they will be better able to integrate these new systems of engagement with back-end systems. By engaging in a process of transformation, CIOs must also manage associated risks, cost overruns and compliance risks due to the volume of regulations that have dramatically increased over the past several years.
In conclusion, businesses face a new paradigm where customers have gained a power advantage over companies thanks to the endless possibilities now offered by new technology. To stay competitive, companies have to develop new systems to engage customers throughout the entire buying cycle. To achieve successful change, CIOs must optimize their costs by rationalizing the IT landscape. This will enable them to gain flexibility to integrate new systems of engagement into back-end systems, while taking control of risks.
To learn more about the challenges of enterprise architecture in the age of the customer, please join our webinar “Succeeding in the Age of the Customer: Turning IT towards Innovation” on March 12, 2015.