“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” - Winston Churchill – November 1942
We’ve come a long way since 1942, and the context with which Winston Churchill delivered those words is very different than the context that I’m talking about here today. Although Churchill’s message was delivered under circumstances with far greater weight attached, the words in the quote above are a perfect description of what we are all experiencing in today’s digital revolution.
The internet, email, ecommerce, social media, etc… these are groundbreaking, historic advancements in human achievement. If we use a simplistic overview of the history of the United States as an example, we can acknowledge that colonizing the east coast, venturing out west, and discovering the Pacific Ocean on the other side were significant achievements. However, that was not the end of the adventure. This merely laid the foundation for everything that was to come after.
In a 2014 Gartner survey, the number one business priority among CEOs was identified as growth. Now that the digital foundation has been laid, what can we expect for post-nexus innovations? How will businesses leverage the digital foundation to create opportunities for growth?
The first step is to identify the goal, or business priority. According to the survey mentioned above, the current hot priority for business executives is growth. The next step is to determine an obstacle to achieving growth. Since we’re living in the age of the customer right now, let’s focus on improving the customer experience as a means to grow the business. Even for organizations that already provide a great customer experience, there are often still areas that can be improved. How do we identify those?
We can start with our business culture. Try switching from a culture of “Why should we do that?” to “Why not do that?” Get a few ideas on the table and map out a couple of scenarios to see which ones are the lowest hanging fruit.
Let’s consider a couple of examples:
A group of taxicab company employees were sitting around talking, trying to figure out how to improve the customer experience and grow the business.
Person A: “What is a pain-point for our customers in the taxi-transportation process?”
Person B: “Is it the cleanliness of the cabs? Is it the lack of payment options?”
Person A: “No, before all of that – what blocks us from getting more customers?”
Person C: “Access to cabs. People struggle to find a cab in a timely manner when they need one.”
Person A: “How do we get more people access to more cabs?”
Person B: “We could double the number of cars and drivers we have around the city.”
Person A: “True, but the operating costs would skyrocket. Is there a better way?”
Person C: “What about a phone app that allows the customer to request a cab, and they’re immediately notified that a cab driver (name provided in the app) is ‘x’ minutes away and will be there shortly? The customer is also given an expected cost and time of arrival at their destination to remove the uncertainty from the experience."
A group of clothing retail employees were sitting around talking, trying to figure out how to improve the customer experience and grow the business.
Person A: “What is a pain-point for our customers in the process of purchasing clothing online?”
Person B: “The fit. They don’t know how the clothes will look on them when their order arrives.”
Person A: “What can we do about that? We want to encourage people to shop through our website.”
Person C: “We can ship the customer a wearable tech garment … a smart shirt … that takes their exact measurements and communicates that data back to our website. Then, when the customer orders any clothing item, they automatically receive the item in the perfect size.”
Person A: “Person C, you’re a genius!”
Other companies, like Nike, are leveraging the borderless enterprise to provide value to the customers while simultaneously reaping value for the company. The Nike+ FuelBand helps the wearer to track their physical activity and amount of energy burned, allowing users to set fitness goals and monitor their progress. At the same time, that data is tracked by Nike, who can then send automated alerts to the customer suggesting they may need a new pair of sneakers or other fitness gear (… oh, and here’s a discount code if you purchase now.)
If we’re going to execute on these concepts, let’s look at expectations and actions from different roles in the organization to understand who needs what to move forward…
CIOs and other executives are looking for methods to:
Enterprise architects and project managers can support these things by:
Churchill’s words are a brilliant summary of what the world is facing in this digital revolution. What is going to be the next thing your business does to leverage the digital foundation?