Implications of customer-centricity on IT architecture


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I was recently asked by an enterprise IT architect “What’s the difference between a customer-centric and product-centric organisation, as far as the IT architecture is concerned?” That got me thinking, and here’s an answer.

The problem – silos, silos, silos. One of the major challenges faced by an enterprise IT architect in designing for or enabling a truly customer-centric organisation is that very few of their colleagues have enterprise-wide responsibilites, or therefore any end-to-end responsibility for the customer. At some level, large companies all have siloed structures such as Product (e.g. credit cards, mobile phones etc.), Channels (e.g. online, call centres, shops) and Life-cycle functions (e.g. Marketing, sales, service). Historically a company’s IT projects & funding has been driven by these different silos.

Result? Customers are not treated as a customer of the company, but only as customers of a product, geography, channel or function. We’re all famililar with the symptoms of these failings. And in today’s age of ‘enterprise-transformation’ programs, we still end up in the same siloed place all too often.

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Symptoms of failure

IT challenge

Product centric

Customer data in product silos.

“Yes Sir, I know you have a mobile phone with us, but I will need all your personal details again to order your home internet service.”

True single view of customer.

Company firstly recognises that a person/business is a customer of their organisation. Product choice is secondary. See article about Gerd Schenkel at Telstra for typical problems in solving this.

Channel centric

End-to-end customer interactions not linked well across channels.

“Sorry Madam, I know you applied online for a credit card, but once I’ve completed this step over the phone it will take another 8 working days before your application is approved.”

End-to-end process control for customer interactions.

Individual channel owners improve the performance of their channel and their step in any process. IT & process architecture must create an end-to-end process which is efficient and customer-centric.

Life-cycle centric

Customer life-cycle processes not aligned.

Marketing tells customers what it wants to be true, or pushes direct marketing campaigns. Sales team naturally focus on pricing and features, and Customer Services pick up the pieces.

Information and messages given to customers consistent across life-cycle. Knowledge management, customer analytics and proactive tools assist staff and customers to achieve this.

The hardest for IT to influence – heavy on culture and people factors.

So, the role of the enterprise architect in enabling a customer-centric organisation? To see past the silos, build to avoid these symptoms, and loudly remind silo-centric colleagues of the customer impacts any narrower decisions will take!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Severn
Co Founder and Director of The Customer Experience Company. Expert in Customer strategy, and delivery of customer improvements in service, sales and marketing, and across online, call centres and retail channels.


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