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10/4/2012
03:29 PM
Kyle McNabb
Kyle McNabb
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Digital Disruption: Don't Get Left Out

Is your company's customer experience changing as fast as say, smartphones are progressing? Forrester shares advice from digital disruptors.

Today's rush to reach customers on their smartphones and tablets is just a sign of things to come, thanks to the explosion of software-fueled digital touchpoints. In this rush, it's easy to overlook the more important and fundamental shift taking place that will define the next decade.

Software-fueled digital touchpoints empower your customers, your employees, people, and society. Mainstream media has picked up on this shift--look no further than CNN's recent report "How Smartphones Make Us Superhuman." But have you picked up on it, too?

The Executive's Challenge

Your customers, your employees, and society overall continue to internalize technology. Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, games, smart TVs--and even goggles--fueled by software provide people with access to computing power that exceeded our imaginations 10 years ago. They also empower people to connect, engage, and share with each other at a pace most firms cannot easily keep pace with.

Today's disruptors are people and companies using digital capabilities to remove traditional barriers to entry, produce better products and services, and build great digital relationships with your customers. They do so better, faster, and stronger than you can today by taking advantage of your legacy. And they have your executives rethinking competitive strategy, and your product strategists scrambling for ideas on how to use digital and software capabilities to deliver new products, or complement existing ones.

More than two-thirds of customer experience leaders recently surveyed by Forrester say that their firms want to differentiate based on customer experience, which is a premise Forrester tackles in its new book, Outside In. Why? The high correlation between customer experience and a consumer's willingness to consider follow-on business, the likelihood to recommend to friends and colleagues, and brand loyalty mean millions in additional revenue.

Avoid Being On The Outside, Looking In

Our research shows most executives, while believing technology is essential to helping meet the digital disruption challenge, turn to outside digital agencies and systems integrators first for help determining how to engage with empowered customers. IT leadership, if engaged at all, occurs when tactical projects get prioritized from these strategic efforts--e.g., "build this mobile app," "integrate this website with our transactional systems," or "support this listening platform."

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Our interviews with executives increasingly show that the aspirations for partnerships between marketing and strategy executives and IT leadership is a myth. Marketing executives don't believe IT leaders can match their pace and innovation needs.

For example: "We'll work with IT leaders on long-term projects requiring integration with backend systems. But most of our strategic efforts are really experiments ... a lot of trial and error that we don't think our IT leaders are ready for," said an Atlanta, Ga.-based channel executive for a global retailer.

Product strategists--the people charged with coming up with the firm's own disruptive response--view IT leadership as too tied up in policy and procedure, being the center of "no," rather than the center of "let's try that." In many cases, IT leaders find out months after the fact that product strategists have been working with small, unvetted app shops that promised quick development times and a lower-friction operating model than working with internal resources would impose.

IT leaders can avoid being on the outside, looking in, while their firm charts its digital disruption future. Working with new stakeholders in marketing and product strategy leadership will require a shift from partnership aspirations to trusted vendor.

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