When it comes to digital the C-suite must unite for the customer

Every year IBM uses to deliver a study on a given field of business activities based on CxOs interviews. One year CEOS, another CHROs etc. Their latest one, the C-Suite Study 2013, offers a new approach and addresses the whole C-Suite both from a collective and individual standpoint. So 5000 Cx0s from all over the world have been interviewed what is an undisputable credibility proof.

This approach is very interesting. It’s obvious that CEOs, CHROs, CFOs, CMOs have something to say and most of them are trying to find a programmatic response to the changes at work. But most of times they don’t have the same maturity, the same understanding and don’t agree on how critical changes are. More, there are  few synergies between their imitative that are often deployed into silos what can be counterproductive while they’re all trying to address the same stakes.

The name of the study, “The customer activated enterprise” sets the tone.

Technology bridges the gap between markets and businesses

First learning from a general standpoint : CEOs see technology as the most important external force regarding to the future of their business for the 2nd year in a raw while it used to be market factors the previous years. The fact markets comes in second does not mean – in my opinion – that it’s becoming less important but that the bottleneck in the enterprise capability of understanding and addressing it is at the technology level.

external factorsAs for the other members of the C-Suite, their analysis depends on their role. People skills does not matter that much while there’s a large consensus on technology and markets.Maybe the difference comes from the fact CEOs have a global vision and accountability while the others consider things based on their own challenges.

Some food for thought for those matter why the HR dimension often comes last…

But the most important learning is about the growing importance of the customer in the organization. Until now his influence was limited to matters directly linked to him. Businesses sued to protect themselves againts any external factors and customers are external factors. Designed for a predictable word where variability was a risk, businesses now understand that it’s the norm and have to connect with the market to understand it and adapt.

Even more interesting : customers are seen as the 2nd more influential force that impacts strategy. After the C-Suite but before the board of directors, corporate strategy functions or management. For CEOs the field where the importance of customer influence will grow the most is corporate strategy.

Taking digital out of its silo and put experience forward

Another worthy point : digital is not locked in a silo anymore. Businesses understand that business and customer relationship innovation is not in the physical or the digital word but at the crossroads. The purpose is to design new models of enterprises, not to digitize what exists. Without transforming work models, digital/social has a poor added value. But the integrated digital strategy is not for tomorrow : the C-suite members don’t know what the balance should be between physical and digital.

Another tipping point : leaders pay more attention to the customer experience than to technology and IT operations. And customer experience is not the problem of one or the other but a joint accountability. What matters is not what one can do but to make the C-Suite collaborate on the matter.

Mobile, digital, but not social

As paradoxical as it may look, businesses made significant progresses on digitization with a real focus on mobile but are lagging on the path to social. Surprising as we know that it’s the customer’s prefered field. That points that a weakness most of current organizations share because of their DNA : collaboration. Either internally or externally, businesses know how to do things for others, act instead of them but struggle to act with them. What leads to poor internal collaboration, few co-creation with the outside and incoherences within the C-Suite which members don’t work together.

Staying outside of the customer’s territory means going without joint actions and the ability to understand what happens while social data are a goldmine no one can refuse to exploit.

What does the big picture look like, function by function ? Here are the ongoing trends in the outperforming businesses

CEOs to share control with customers

More transparency, more collaboration. But I’ll add a flat : no collaborative customer-oriented system will work without internal collaborative practices to support it. To be able to give something to customers, employees need to receive it from the organization. But we see too many businesses giving up on internal collaboration – too complex , too much politics – to focus on customers without building the needed capabilities.

CFOs looking for better information

CFOs are key to bring a sustainable growth back. The most advanced try to get rid of uncertainty and grey zones by integrating more data, financial or not.

CHROs are using technology to rework work

No good customer experience without alignment on the employee side. A good customer experience relies on more collaboration internally and a better understanding of people and what makes them engage. The most advanced CHROs use more and more Big Data and analytics. They also try to work closely with CIOs.

CIOs focusing on value creation

There is more and more pressure on IT departments to make them increaste their contribution to value creation by the lines of business. The most advanced are working on decision systems and the use of both structured and unstructured data. What will be hard without an infrastructure able to process large amounts of information and the use of Big Data.

CMOs are ambitious but still face hurdles

They are the ones that made the most effort to improve customer experience and build a unified digital experience. They have invested a lot on mobile but are not ready for big data and can’t keep up with the pace of evolution of social media and networks. They suffer from the lack of internal coherence regarding to digital and sometimes from too many siloed initiatives that are often counterproductive.

CSCOs are reinventing the supply chain

They try to make the supply chain more collaborative and open and use data to improve operations. Their challenge is to better integrate the supply chain with business operations.

When the C-suite faces the digital world : unite or perish

The study mostly shows that the biggest challenges for the C-Suite is to work together, unite their initiatives in a global strategy and  understand each one contributes at his level to the customer experience.

No technology here. But this is the hardest part of the challenge.

The C-Suite Study 2013 can be downloaded here.

Bertrand DUPERRINhttps://www.duperrin.com/english
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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