"The Customer-activated Enterprise"

posted Oct 17, 2013, 3:28 PM by Greg Laudeman   [ updated Oct 17, 2013, 3:29 PM ]
IBM has just released a fascinating study about technology strategy, based on interviews with over 4,000 executives. Karstin Bodell did a wonderful presentation for the Chattanooga Technology Council on the study. The big take-away: "the most successful organizations actively encourage customers and citizens to influence the decisions [the organizations] make." What does being "customer-activated" have to do with technology? Everything.

IBM says three themes will determine an organization will succeed, or not. The first is openness to customer influence. The executives IBM interviewed, particularly those from high performing organizations, saw sharing control with customers as a competitive imperative. They are expanding their partnerships and empowering employees to increase collaboration with customers. And, they are using digital technology as the means for customer engagement.

A related theme is that high performing organization create  engaging customer experiences; for customers as individuals rather than targeted market segments. Executives in high-performing organizations are increasingly personally focused on customer experiences tailored to individual interests and needs. How can an enterprise with thousands or millions of customers hope to do this? Digital technology.

Actually, it's more than that; high-performing organizations are developing integrated digital-physical strategies. "Say what?!? What the heck does that mean?," you may ask. IBM says, "the very distinction between the virtual and material is evaporating." It means that physical products have computers built into them, and software products are built into places and things. Phones with GPS are the tip of this iceberg. Organizations that figure out how to integrate the digital and physical will be the winners. More practically, if your IT strategy is separate from your overall business strategy, you are at a disadvantage.

The really fascinating conclusion IBM's study is that "The most flourishing enterprises are typically those that liaise with closely with the customers, partners and suppliers, and actively promote the development of employee networks." Or, in regular language, if you want to be successful you have to work really well with folks inside and outside your organization, and you have to make technology a big part of this, without making it all about technology. Its just a means to an end. The goal is to have customers, employees, and suppliers guide your organization to success.

You can find "The Customer-activated Enterprise: Insights from the Global C-suite Study" online at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/en/c-suite/csuitestudy2013/.