Technology, Process, & People

I’m still deeply considering the Customer Experience content that I created and delivered at Banrisul.

A few weeks ago I wondered if I could train our sales people on the content. I’d have to develop a methodology rather than just share some slides, but the idea would be to help our sales people speak the language of our prospects’ customers. Doing so would help them present and rationalize solutions that better resonate with buyers.

That idea must have been frothing underneath because today it bubbled up with some good maturation.

Customer experience as a language

One of the things I find powerful about my customer experience insight is that it can serve as a unifying vocabulary to keep IT and business in agreement.

A big challenge in the past has been that IT and the business don’t always communicate well. Agile processes help, as they reduce the time between communication of an idea and the deliverable so it’s easier to prevent miscommunication.

Preventing miscommunication not the same as communicating well.

Integration as a commodity

The best things in life, and I’ve led a charmed one by any measure, have happened in spite of me trying hard.

I landed at TIBCO by accident. It’s been over 20 years and I’ve spent the bulk in the integration space. When I started, we’d have requirements. System A needs to speak to system B using a given pattern of “back and forths” and a certain service level agreement.

These were highly technical situations. In fact, TIBCO would often claim we had the highest percentage of PhD’s as employees in Silicon Valley. (It might have been true.)

As the technology matured, it became more accessible. The technology also infused business.

The business began to think along the lines of business processes, and software companies created business process management solutions.

BPM solutions were a process vocabulary layered on top of integration solutions.

People thought that finally, BPM would enable technology people and business people to communicate well.

The products were still too technical, but the idea was good. And, instead of worrying about the commodity of integration, companies looked to standardize and improve their processes.

A customer-first world

So, now we’re in a customer first world. Streamlined processes are table-stakes to the ability to connect to customers in a personal way.

What if, like business process management before it, customer experience could become a layer on top of business process management / integration?

What if that layer became a vocabulary as well as a set of technologies to help visualize and deliver solutions? (There is at least one company doing this.)

If we’re going to sell integration technology, and we think of business process management as a language to help expand how people think about integration, then customer experience is just the next language we use to expand and grow the integration space.

Customer experience is another language we can use to deliver better solutions and measure success for what is otherwise a very opaque and complex set of technologies.

The further from integration we can abstract the problem, the more value can be added by the proposed solution.

A maturity curve

That got me thinking further. We always talk about people, process, and technology as three elements of a successful project. What if… what if we think of those three terms as a way of expressing complexity over time.

We start with technology, not quite for technology’s sake, but because people who are versed in the technology see an opportunity.

Then we move to process. How do we use technology to process-cize something for efficiency? Process experts, not just technologists will see the benefit. Think about supply chain people for this stage. They get the benefits of technology, but it’s less about technology and more about driving efficiency using the best tools possible.

Finally, when it’s for “regular people” (defined as not technology people and not deep experts who needs specialized tools), it becomes about the experience.

Digital transformation and value creation

The digital transformation turning all companies into software companies has to change the north star used for navigating the company through change. Digital transformation presumes (mostly incorrectly) that all processes are optimized by technology, and that from that optimization companies can get “out from behind the counter” and build relationships. Not as a process, but authentically with the support of the organization’s technology.

Enterprise sales people, they’re not used car salesmen trying to offload lemons. The best enterprise sales people are looking to create value for their customers because when they do, they get to participate in the value creation (by selling something).

What better way to frame the creation of value than from the ultimate customers’ perspective?

Because, you know, if you don’t your competitor will.