The axiom that “customers come first” is one that few CEOs would challenge. In an environment where consumers have an endless supply of options at their fingertips—literally—failing to deliver value can be a death sentence for any company. But considering the importance of understanding the customer and delivering on their wants and needs, it’s curious that most companies have organizational processes that are driven by factors that have little to do with truly understanding the customer’s needs, motivations, and pain points.
In 2017, KPMG conducted a survey of approximately 180 consumer goods and retail CEOs worldwide concerning issues such as growth, corporate strategy, risk, and more. Among those surveyed, 68% of CEOs in the U.S. say they are concerned that they’re not leveraging digital tools to connect with their customers as they should.
Organizing teams for success
One of the most important considerations for any company that wants to become a leader in digital is speed and scale. In other words, are teams able to adapt quickly so they can meet the constant changes in customer preferences? And can this type of agility be realized across the entire organization, rather than being isolated within individual teams?
The age-old witticism about “the tail wagging the dog” cautions us against allowing unimportant factors to drive decisions. However, within many teams and departments, that’s exactly what’s happening. Rather than customer-centric data and analytics, teams are spending the bulk of their time on legacy systems, internal bureaucracy, and a range of other distractions that keep them from delivering value to customers.
Let’s face facts: mapping out an innovative strategy and taking it across the finish line is not for the faint of heart. And it’s also a huge investment in time and resources. In fact, at CI&T we have worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies over the years, and it’s been our observation that launching a new digital initiative can take an average of two years to complete—though it can stretch to as long as four years.
Because digital innovation is such a massive—and strategically important—undertaking, it’s critical that teams include people from departments that may typically be walled off from the innovation process but are no less crucial to solving problems or delivering value to the end user. This is why we always advocate for having cross-functional teams to work together, and harmonizing organizational processes using customer-centric data. Otherwise, there’s really little hope that the innovation process will realize speed or scale.
Data as a basis for teamwork
Perhaps you’re thinking, “O.k., we put a bunch of people in a room, and then what?” Make no mistake about it, we also agree that launching innovative digital initiatives entails more than simply asking people from different teams to begin working together harmoniously. Creating a seat at the table is no guarantee for success.
Instead, leaders need to organize these teams such that they have a solid basis for decision-making, not to mention metrics for success. Understanding customer-related data and using these inputs as the basis of teamwork is the only way to deliver on the promise of being customer-centric. For instance, what are the most important goals of your digital initiative?
- Delivering a better customer experience
- Enhancing the quality of business decision-making
- Increasing operational efficiency
- Improving our products and services
Further, what can be learned about customers and the services you deliver through social media channels, Google Analytics, mobile app ratings, product reviews, transactions, server logs, and more? This is just the tip of the iceberg, but you can see how this type of focus allows teams to use data as a steering wheel rather than a spare tire.
Delivering data-driven innovations—at speed and scale
Customer-centric data and analytics arms teams with insights for consistently delivering the right high-quality experience through testing new ideas, experimenting with different approaches to delivering value, collecting customer feedback, and starting all over again until you get it right.
In the end, data-centric teams will have captured raw business data to understand how users interact with your product or service. This makes it infinitely it easier to both reduce complexity and focus on what matters—the two essential determinants of success in this digital economy.