In the age of the customer, only organizations that focus first and foremost on winning, serving, and retaining customers will survive. This era will define the next 20 years of business, with the marketing department gaining increased power over the overall success of a company.
But what happens to IT?
In recent reports, Forrester has looked at what the age of the customer means to the marketing department and also what it means to the technology department.
As marketing takes greater ownership and responsibility for technology investments, its confidence in the technology management organization drops: Nearly one-third of marketers believe the technology management group actually hinders the business.
Moreover, out of all business units, marketing is the most aggressive in planning to spend money on technology, increasing its "private" technology spending two to three times faster than IT overall.
Forrester Vice President and Research Director David Cooperstein says: "Executives who lead customer-obsessed enterprises must pull budget dollars from areas that traditionally created dominance—brand advertising, distribution lockup, mergers for scale, and supplier relationships."
According to the new research, they need to invest in four priority areas:
- Real-time actionable data sharing.
- Contextualized customer experiences across touch points.
- Sales efforts tied to buyers' processes.
- Content-led marketing and customer interactions.
Of equal importance is the role technology management groups play in retaining and serving customers. It is Forrester's contention that technology management splinters off into two vital agendas for the CIO. "We believe that tech management must embrace two agendas: IT and BT," says Forrester CEO George F. Colony. "The CIO and team must continue to manage and improve IT (infrastructure)—the supply chains, financial systems, HR systems, and production systems that operate the corporation. But in addition, the team must take on the business technology (BT) agenda—building technologies, systems, and processes to win, retain, and serve customers. The CIO and team are best qualified to manage the complexity of emerging BT systems. As an example, systems of operation that contain critical customer data must be transformed to become agile systems of engagement capable of serving mobile customers with the right content, in the appropriate context, with the highest possible convenience."
According to the new research, BT investments must include key capabilities for four key imperatives:
- Engaging customers undergoing a mobile mind shift.
- Providing superior customer experience in all customer interactions.
- Understanding customers through big data and analytics.
- Adapting to—and ideally driving—digital disruption.
Can the CIO and CMO work hand in glove in the age of the customer? If they can't, it may well mean the death of well-established brands and companies we are all familiar with.