C-Suite Insights: From Digital Transformation to Customer Advocacy

Farland Group has the honor of helping our clients host forums that convene the top 20% of their customer base. At a recent gathering of 150 CIOs, it struck me that CIOs were engaged in a different set of discussions than in the past – discussions that started with business model transformation, organizational change, omnichannel and the need for comprehensive customer or client engagement, and ended with technology as the enabler.

Significantly, the CIOs were sharing an overwhelming sense that the need for speed at scale required them to consider different partnerships and different approaches than most had experienced before. In the words of one CIO “The complexity of this change is unique; the challenge of new and vast amounts of data is magnified exponentially by mobile, and further again by the need for real-time. This is a difficult time for CIOs to keep up with the pace of change and the speed of technology.”

As I brought these challenges and insights back to the Farland team we began to consider how these changes also affect marketers, customer experience leaders, chief customer officers and engagement specialists. CIOs – and others in the c-suite – sought an engagement model or roadmap to help them understand the new engagement models and the technologies required.

Building the Digital Enterprise without a Roadmap

Yet the roadmap – as one CIO noted – needs to support an Autobahn speed on a back road with many twists and turns. So if we are to create roadmaps and journey maps, the challenge is to build an engagement plan that shows where customers want to go in a convincing way, but doesn’t lock the organization into a commitment and a structure that is inflexible. One CMO in our discussions suggested that “perhaps it isn’t a roadmap at all, but a series of experience partners that guide us and help CIOs and others to navigate the safari based on their experiences.”

Perfection is No Longer the Measure – Speed Is

For so long, CIOs have been measured on how well they stood up a system to meet the needs of an organization. While this is not likely to go away in some parts of their work, several CIOs noted that customers (both internal and external) are no longer measuring based on perfection, but on speed. As one CIO pointed out “It is no longer about building programs, strategies and plans, seeing them through to perfection, and proving out the business case. We are evolving businesses cases in real-time, tweaking measurements, and evolving the business case. No one stands still – perfection is no longer the measure, being first is the measure.”

And while this notion of speed is one that we hear from all corners of the c-suite, differentiation comes when speed is combined with scale. Achieving this is a challenge that few feel they have overcome because of the underlying need for new skills to support these mandates. “The silver bullet is speed and scale. We can achieve one of them fairly effectively, but to achieve both requires exceptional technology and a new set of skills.”

How to Adapt Engagement Programs to Agile Modes:

So what does all of this mean for customer engagement? How can marketing leaders focused on driving forward new engagement programs change their modes of operating?

  1. Co-creation is Required: There are hundreds of thousands of blogs about co-creation and the power of co-creation – but this isn’t optional anymore. You must be in ongoing discussions with your most influential customers. It is critical to set up programs to listen and collaborate and adjust in real-time. Customer Advisory Boards, co-creation workshops, innovation labs, etc. are all important to create this environment.
  2. Journey Mapping is Foundational:Many companies talk about journey mapping, but are only engaging in an agency-driven journey mapping exercise for products and services. This is fine, but customer journeys affect more than your marketing campaigns and need to be thought through in a much more strategic way. Work with a partner that can influence beyond the campaign – try an IBM Interactive Experience that can work with CMOs and CIOs and others to ensure these maps can be useful across the enterprise.
  3. End Campaign-Mindsets: As CIOs say – speed and scale are the new currency – this translates into the end of the long drawn out marketing campaign. We have to build, try, and evolve in real-time in front of the customer. But our marketing muscles are built for the campaign marathon, not the test-and-learn sprint. This requires a complete rethinking of skills, plans, and models… it won’t happen overnight, but we need to get there and we must take our agency partners with us.

Each of the above require focus and investment to build new approaches to engagement.  In a future blog post we will dig into each of these and provide further examples of how.

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