Optimizing the Old to Enable the New
The New Reality for Customer Engagement
Rather than joining the rush to invest in emerging technologies, smart companies will first assess and optimize their existing IT infrastructure.
By Sadagopan Singam
There's no question we are entering a brave new corporate world in which customer experience will be the only differentiator between which enterprise succeeds and which fails—no matter the size of the company, the industry it operates in, or the market it sells to. Customers will possess greater power than ever before, and they won't hesitate to assert it.
Customer power will be the driving force behind a digital revolution, one in which mobility, social media, big data and cloud computing converge to anticipate and meet customer needs in a hyper-connected and personal manner. The customer-driven digitization of the economy will generate information at far greater levels of personalization, across a wider variety of activities, and around more customer touch points than any of us have ever known. With social networks, mobile check-ins, engagement apps, online and offline sales transactions, and customer support interactions, the entire customer experience, from brand awareness to after-market upselling, will be digital, creating an unprecedented volume of new data.
It's no wonder that organizations will be inclined to jump headfirst into emerging technology initiatives that promise to help them take advantage of this new data and prepare for the customer-driven future. However, these companies risk falling flat rather than gaining a head start. Smart companies will take a different approach, looking back before leaping ahead to ensure that their existing infrastructure is optimized to exploit the new technologies.
Transformation will not take place by implementing the latest data-analytics software or social media platform. That's a fairy tale. Real transformation will not take place in a vacuum; it will be built on existing IT systems. Those systems will have to provide a foundation that ensures cost-effective operation and can accommodate and enable speed, agility and scale.
At the most basic level, optimizing your IT infrastructure will generate substantial savings and unlock money that can be redirected toward new technology initiatives. A major obstacle for a company trying to transform itself into a customer-centric organization is a flat or reduced technology budget. By optimizing its current operations, the average company should be able to cut its infrastructure budget significantly, freeing up funds for new initiatives.
One characteristic of an optimized IT infrastructure is its alignment with business processes. Such alignment will, among other benefits, increase a company's speed to market. A retail chain that wants to open 10 stores in a quarter might face a nine-month wait in terms of IT planning and readiness. With a more flexible infrastructure, the chain could achieve its goal in three months or less. An optimized infrastructure will also enable enterprise IT to scale vertically and horizontally depending on demand, making it a better foundation for the new customer-centric technologies that will drive corporate competitiveness in the future.
In the coming years, tech-savvy companies will be able to detect changing customer needs in near real-time, interact with customers consistently, and change product offerings on the basis of this feedback. Cloud computing, mobility, and big data will present IT organizations with new options for rapidly deploying and scaling online applications and business services. What will separate the corporate winners from the corporate losers will not be whether they're big or small, but whether they're fast or slow.
The savviest IT organizations, though, will pause and take the time to reflect, rethink their existing infrastructure, and rebuild it for a customer-driven future.
About the Author
Sadagopan Singam is global vice president of cloud computing at HCL Technologies.
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