The experience that companies provide for their customers has become incredibly important to many senior executive teams. They see it as a source of competitive differentiation in world where many people feel they already have “too much stuff,” and where they want companies and brands that represent their own outlook on life (see point 2).
As digitalization causes managers to rethink their whole approach to customers, products, markets, and internal operations, the right collaboration with IT has become particularly important, and especially for customer experience teams. Unfortunately, however, although a recent survey of customer experience leaders highlighted that they considered collaboration with IT as very important, they also said that IT, along with legal and compliance, were the most difficult functions to work with (see chart 1).
It’s no coincidence that these functions are the most likely to say “no” to efforts to improve customer experience – at times for good reasons, such as information security. But there are other factors which make interactions with IT far from effortless.
Chart 1: Relationships with different stakeholders Source: CEB analysis
Click chart to expand
Why IT’s Own Customer Experience is Far from Effortless
When it comes to “external customers” – those actually paying a company money for a product or service – 96% of those that expend what they consider “high effort” in a customer service interaction are more disloyal, while 9% of those with low-effort interactions are more disloyal, according to CEB data.
Ultimately, IT’s internal customers (i.e., managers from across the rest of the company) have the same expectations when they engage with the company’s IT team. Today business leaders have outgrown traditional IT-business engagement models, whereby they dealt with a single IT contact, and IT owned end-to-end delivery of the service.
Instead, business partners’ needs are much more diverse and are shaped by their digital ability and ambition. For example, some business leaders are passionate about digitalizing their business processes, and have the ability (or not) to manage technology initiatives. Others still have little understanding of digitalization, and need much more support.
At the same time, digitalization presents a much broader range of business opportunities, making it harder for a central team to provide meaningful expertise. All of these elements have increased the effort business partners have to exert when engaging with IT.
How IT Can Build a Low-Effort Function for the Digital Era
Forward-thinking IT teams reduce effort by constantly adjusting their approach to business engagement based on the type of support business partners need, where, and when. They do three things in particular.
Flex IT’s engagement role: IT leaders should equip their teams to shift between a range of activities based on the digital ambition and ability of their business partners. All IT employees should be prepared to flex between educating business partners about digitalization opportunities, providing technologies that exploit these opportunities, and acting as a coach and broker (see this post for more) to help them deploy digital technologies by themselves.
This simplifies business partner engagement, as business leaders understand they can come to IT with requests for help, without the risk of their project being shut down unless IT owns end-to-end delivery, and often then does so for good reason.
Accelerate access to technical expertise: IT leaders should put in place processes that guide IT employees to the correct engagement posture. Governance groups such as Enterprise Architecture, Information Risk, and the Project Management Office (PMO) can reduce the customer effort by automating and devolving accountability for lower value processes to business managers.
This allows those groups to allocate more resources and respond more quickly to higher value priorities. For instance, the PMO could help improve business partners’ project management capabilities by providing tools and resources through a self-service portal, allowing the PMO to focus on the most critical requests for help.
Build digital acumen in the rest of the business: It’s not just IT that has to change; business leaders have to change too. Business leaders must improve their understanding of how digitization can be used to improve business outcomes. Progressive companies make digital acumen a formal leadership competency and invest in building digital acumen through leadership development programs.
Such programs equip business leaders with the knowledge of the company-wide changes required for success with digitalization, helping them navigate engagements with IT more successfully as they will have already thought about factors that often stop projects in their tracks, such as risk or data access.