One of the more profound changes working its way through business circles today is a renewed focus on customer experience management. Instead of marketing through diverse sets of online and offline channels, businesses of all sizes are trying to aggregate all the data they have about a customer in a way that allows them to have a more meaningful relationship with that customer across multiple channels.
That obviously has a lot of implications for IT organizations that are being asked to work more closely with chief marketing officers to make that actually happen. But all of these customer experience management efforts require not only a significant amount of IT time and effort to pull off, they cut across most of the lines that define most organizations. That could be a very good thing for IT departments that historically have had to service the needs of sales, marketing and manufacturing in isolation. As organizations move to coordinate how they go to market better, the politics associated with having to manage disparate systems that often contend over limited IT resources should be sharply reduced.
That's not to say that level of infighting is going to disappear tomorrow. But organizations that have business units that generally invested in the same process goals are far more likely to want to cooperate with each other. And as a centralized resource charged with serving the needs of multiple departments within the organization, the more common their goals become, the easier it becomes for the IT organization to actually succeed.
In the meantime, Joel Reed, IBM product line executive director for B2B and commerce, says there will be a lot more IT work in this area because a lot of companies are starting to move to take direct control over the Web customer experience, versus relying on massive e-tailers on the Web such as Amazon. For example, IBM has been helping retailers such as Target and C&A to build out a massive Web presence that will in time replace the Amazon systems that Target, for example, previously relied on to sell products in the Web. The reason for this, says Reed, is that companies have come to realize that customer data is actually valuable proprietary information.
Reed says that for this reason IBM keeps investing in marketing systems that use social media and mobile computing technologies. In addition, IBM is now extending those technology investments all the way out to the supply chain via a new IBM Commerce on Cloud offering, announced this week at the IBM Smarter Commerce Global Summit, that is designed to allow an organization to set up and maintain an online storefront that can be integrated with any number of backend suppliers via the cloud.
Clearly, a major transformation in terms of the way businesses manage their customer relationships is under way. The good news from an IT perspective is that IT is going to be a central element of making that transformation possible.