X marks the spot for digital transformation

Getting customer experience right is becoming a make-or-break for many businesses. And best-in-class digital transformation must be underpinned by enterprise, business, and IT roadmaps -- that is, by enterprise architecture

Looking at the Google Trends data below, it's clear that in 2015 digital transformation has hit a sweet spot. Managed by the newest CXO, the Chief Digital Officer or the Chief Transformation Officer, it is seen as the route to the nirvana of a successful customer-focused digital enterprise, able to pivot to meet customer needs immediately (or at least very quickly indeed).

Digital Transformation google trend

Digital Transformation trend

The ideal digital business is calm, responsive, and anticipates what customers want. Lift the hood and you will find these smooth operators rely on a very active and agile digital business strategy (and on their enterprise architecture team -- but more on that later).

An inefficient digital infrastructure and badly planned Customer Experience (CX) can mean millions in lost revenue due to missed sales, customer defection, inefficient supply chains and uninformed strategic decisions.

So can businesses -- particularly those with a large legacy of somewhat cumbersome digital processes -- become a "transformable" agile customer-focused enterprise? And what does a best-in-class digital CX strategy look like?

The backbone of a strong CX function is the team managing the digital infrastructure -- often enterprise architects or IT professionals and their collaborators throughout the company.

This infrastructure is underpinned by an enterprise and IT roadmap that is continually being updated and optimized with new information about market forces, KPIs, costs, requirements and information from partners and suppliers. The team can monitor these systems to ensure they're resilient and to hit business goals.

An effective digital CX strategy does these five things well:

1. Model

First the business needs a collaborative model which draws together data from across the company. Enterprise architects, subject matter experts and executives need to monitor and manage the systems which impact CX and trace them back to the internal IT and business architecture.  This model should be easily updatable from multiple data sources such as CMDBs, ERPs and SharePoint (so it is continually "current") and designed to provide the 'bridge' between the CX metrics and the IT and business systems underpinning them.  Customer journeys can then be traced back to business architectures, business capabilities and continuous business services.

2. Analyze

Enterprises that continually analyze and improve CX improve their performance and achieve operational excellence.

What type of analytics are most useful?

Metrics need to be industry and channel specific, easy to obtain and consistent.  They need to be targeted at the appropriate organizational level.  For front-line staff, response time is important.  For senior executives, brand perception is high on the agenda. (You can find a useful guide to CX metrics here)

Choose analytics which enable groups across the business to take a data-driven approach to planning CX strategies. Again, these should be either very easy to keep up-to-date (through a web-based portal or an API) or automatable. Anything requiring "swivel-chair integration" is brittle and will be too easily abandoned.

3. Adapt

Customer trends change, goalposts move and in a customer-focused business, analysis should be an everyday habit.  Business strategy and enterprise planning tools should have the capacity to continually change the way they model.  For enterprise architects this means having the ability to adapt and create their own hybrid frameworks and meta-models, tailored to business needs. E.g. BIZBOK + TOGAF or BMM + P3O + UML.  Those responsible for CX can then scrutinize their digital ecosystem to ensure customer, IT and business goals are aligned.

4. Plan

Anticipating customer requirements and reactions requires data, and planning. Teams need to chart multiple scenarios: project architectures, transition architectures and target architectures, weighing which are best against the chosen CX KPIs. This sophisticated approach, known as "roadmapping", is the key to staying a step ahead of customers, competitors (and possibly your boss).

5. Present

Communication is the most important element to ensuring that a long-term IT-business engagement such as CX is consistently successful. Don't skimp on the time and tools you will need to explain complex information to a variety of levels of the business -- including C-level, IT, and marketing.

Start communicating early in a project, and make sure you can do it well and often. Reports and presentations are likely to be the mainstay of your efforts. But to make sure you reach everyone you need to efficiently, intelligence needs to be accessible in the cloud and on mobile devices.  Aim to provide your key reports with self-service access to real-time data, including the ability to perform ad-hoc queries and analytics on it themselves.

Digital transformation is impossible without the ability to understand and model the digital ecosystem including the business capabilities and technology involved. Then selecting the appropriate metrics, running scenario analysis, reporting on outcomes and most importantly adapting quickly to customer needs -- this is the domain of the enterprise architect. The two must go hand in hand.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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