Enhancing the customer experience (CX) has dominated the digital transformation discussion for the past several years. It’s a worthy goal for any IT department, but customer experience improvements cannot be achieved without first addressing the basics.
And those remain the same as they have always been – achieving operational efficiencies by enabling your resources to go farther. If you place the CX cart in front of the operational improvement horse, you’re likely to falter because the people, processes and technology to support your goals simply won’t exist.
In its 2018 predictions report, Forrester posited: “CX quality plateaued or declined for most industries and companies. Why? CX initiatives tackled low-hanging fruit to put early points on the board, and most CX initiatives had too little clout to force meaningful operational change. Customers’ expectations will outpace companies’ ability to evolve or invent experiences, and the deferred transformation in 2017 means that companies can’t adjust fast enough or well enough.”
Forrester made the bleak prediction that 30% of companies would see further CX performance declines, and that downslide would hinder growth. This could explain why, anecdotally, an increasing number of business and IT managers are emphasizing cost-cutting and operational efficiencies in their digitization strategies.
The focus on cost and operations isn’t that surprising. It has been a constant business driver for the brunt of technology advances we’ve seen since the 1980s. What’s perhaps surprising is that it remains so high on the list of priorities. And the fact that it is points to an undeniable reality – the mission hasn’t been accomplished yet. We might have a clearer vision of where to go because we’re closer to the end game, but business can’t stop focusing on the fundamentals.
As companies embark on digitization strategies, many see automation, business process transformation and data analytics-driven decision-making as new ways for them to cut costs and achieve efficiencies. This is true, but only indirectly. The truth is that IT investments that target better efficiency and lower cost will directly or indirectly enable the ultimate end goal of improved customer experience. Thus, you cannot ignore the former if you mean to impact the latter.
Operational efficiencies differ from one industry to another. While transportation and logistics companies, for instance, focus on the number of stops a shipment makes on its way to a customer, manufacturers want to hone production processes and the sourcing of raw materials: How far do those materials have to travel and how large should each shipment be to achieve the right balance between cost and production needs?
Certain improvements apply to all industries. IT departments can steer organizations to subscription-based services for applications such as productivity suites, email and CRM, thereby eliminating the cost of deploying and maintaining on-premise hardware and software.
IT can also make improvements to its own operations. Helpdesks often struggle with troubleshooting tickets because they lack advanced tools. Issues can be resolved faster and more satisfactorily by automating the ticketing process to route problems to team members with specific expertise. Giving the helpdesk the ability to remotely take over users’ PCs to troubleshoot issues also makes a big difference.
IT departments that invest in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as part of digitization strategies should expect significant benefits. The use of advanced algorithms to sift through data to resolve issues and secure the network will ease the burden on IT teams that now rely on manual processes for these tasks. By improving operations, AI and machine learning will also have a positive effect on CX and the overall user experience.
Achieving operational efficiencies is highly dependent on network flexibility and performance, which is why companies are moving toward software-defined networking (SDN) as part of their digitization strategies. SDN brings flexibility, simplicity and scalability to network management – all attributes that legacy hardware-controlled networks didn’t do a good job of delivering.
In fact, network complexity is a major problem for administrators. The sheer amount of tasks and functions the typical administrator has to handle is mindboggling – and has become even more complicated as environments have evolved into hybrids that combine premise and cloud-based resources.
SDN and other advances such as automation and network function virtualization (NFV) will ease the pain for IT administrators. As organizations invest in these technologies, they can map network performance improvements to business goals, such as improving processes that allow users to accomplish tasks better and in shorter amounts of time. For instance, traffic prioritization through SDN can improve access to cloud-based resources such as a CRM or content management system (CMS) that feeds marketing content into a company’s website.
IT teams feel tremendous pressure to deliver better performance with less money, as more and more of the technology budget is allocated to security and resiliency. But with the right investment in transformative network technologies, IT can satisfy the demand to do more with less – and deliver the operational efficiencies organizations so badly need. Only then can organizations truly set their eyes on other important digitization goals such as innovation, speed to market and customer experience excellence.