Inspired by the "Me Generation", companies are rapidly rebooting to deliver the digital capabilities that customers want: more personalization, greater transparency, convenience and a seamless Omni-channel experience. The ultimate goal is to deepen relationships with customers so they buy more products and services and become powerful fans. Too, digital capabilities represent a significant opportunity to grow and drive earnings.

Leading technology organizations are building modular architectures that rely almost extensively on cloud-based solutions and delivery models. New tools and processes are being built to analyze vast amounts data on a real-time basis enabling products and services to be continuously engineered and re-engineered. A new digital supply-chain that relies to a large extent on fast moving and evolving content is setting pace for how companies engage with customers and partners on a global scale, driving production forecasts and schedules and ensuring the right mix of products or services are available when and where needed.

As the rise of digital products and services set the pace for how a business is perceived, it has become increasingly clear that digital window dressing alone in the form of cool Apps, responsive websites or other short-term tactics fall short of transforming the business to one that is agile enough to compete with traditional peers or more nimble startups. Consequently, companies regardless of their industry in most cases are reinventing critical internal and customer engagement processes and methods. The goal; become fast, furious, creative and agile market innovators.

But will these new processes and tools work if organizational culture and behavior remain unchanged? This article examines 4 key topics: Changing Culture, Rethinking the Customer Journey, New Governance structures, and Transforming IT capabilities. 

Moving away from Business As Usual.

Successful companies grow. As they grow, they become more complex and eventually complexity undermines what made the company successful in the first place. Bureaucracy increases, centralized control breaks innovation, progress slows and the entrepreneurial spirit upon which the company was founded disappears. Eventually the company loses touch with their customers.

Whether culture drives technology adoption or whether technology changes culture is still an open question. What is certain is that digital strategies at maturing companies go far beyond pursuing short-term technology tactics. They target improvements in innovation, decision-making and ultimately, transform how the business operates and responds to market dynamics. However, improvements in innovation including digitization of critical processes and the technology that underpins new operating models are most successful when a company's culture shifts from "business-as-usual" to one that becomes increasingly impatient about change recognizing that new customer connections are the only way to go. In fact digital strategies and underlying technology enablers don't drive change, people and culture do.

Although business leaders don’t need to be digital transformation experts, they must understand what can be accomplished at the intersection of business and a new era of technology enabled digital capabilities. They should also be prepared to lead the way in creating new, dramatically different business aspirations driven by how a new dynamic culture and innovative technology can transform the business.

Understanding Customer Engagement

When it comes to rethinking how a company engages in a new digital era, mapping out customer journeys—the specific interactions and progression of touch points of how various personas engage with the business across all channels, becomes a critical first step in identifying critical change drivers.

Focusing on these interactions ensures customer engagement expectations are front and center to any change. Too, understanding customer journeys forces the business to not only rethink critical outdated processes but also how to deliver an exceptional experience (digital or otherwise). The end result is a fundamental rethinking of culture and attitude and in many cases means getting back to a customer centric product/service model, which often is what made the company successful in the first place.

Companies subsequently focus on how digital capabilities can make each touch point better, faster, and more efficient, while integrating these into one coherent experience that ensures customer excitement rather than brand disillusionment. New customer attitude metrics and performance incentives will need to be defined to track and reward improvements across various customer journeys instead of the typical financial/product indices.

"Tackling the end-to-end customer experience."

Digitizing select stages of the customer experience may increase efficiency in specific areas of the process as well as some burning customer issues, but it is not a recipe for delivering a truly seamless Omni-channel experience, which often leaves customers disappointed. To tackle end-to-end processes such as Order-to-Cash, process-digitization teams need involvement of key domain leaders. The end customer should be heavily involved too. The biggest mistake businesses make is to assume they know what the customer wants. To do this, some firms are creating start-up-style, cross-functional teams consisting of functional domain owners and technology leaders involved in the end-to-end customer experience. These teams have the mandate to challenge the status quo and create new meaningful experiences. 

"Digitizing Customer Engagement impacts Culture."

Customer journeys drive businesses to organize themselves around the customer and mobilize employees to deliver value and a consistent experience in line with the customer's expectations across critical touch-points. Companies are finding out that traditional organizational hierarchies often become inhibitors in providing new digital era customers with a unified view and experience across every domain of the business. Whether a customer interacts through an on-line chat, social media, a web site, a mobile APP, in-store cashier, or a customer service call center, they expect a consistent experience. Channel strategy (your view of customer engagement) and touch points (the customer's view on engagement) must be synchronized. 

However, breaking traditional organizational boundaries and behavioral habits can be especially hard when a system of incentives exists that rewards performance within specific silos. In fact most incentive programs are built around performance metrics that have little to do with the successful engagement with customers across channels and touch-points. In some cases these incentives actually go counter to achieving cross-organizational integration of the customer's experience. 

In an attempt to address the gap, businesses most often create centers of excellence with creative staff to digitize processes quickly. However, this solves only part of the problem, leaving many companies still wondering how to reorient traditional silo-based cultures with new behaviors around enabling a cohesive end-to-end customer experience. 

New Governance Structures

Initiating a customer-centric governance makeover is the foundation for change. Appointing a chief customer officer who jointly with the company's executive team overseas all cross-functional customer journeys is a first step. Channel focused customer engagement teams dynamically restructure engagement processes based on real-time customer feedback and analytics. A new incentive system that rewards customer experience and customer journey satisfaction becomes key. 

The next step is establishing a distributed but coordinated organizational structure represented by division stakeholders and market leaders that becomes the hub for measuring and reshaping how the company continually measures customer satisfaction and in turn provides both process and technology tuning recommendations. 

While the above are just the first steps in restructuring a business around customer experience and customer journeys, they create the foundation upon which to drive collaboration among departments and establish responsibility and accountability to govern the customer experience at different levels of management.