Used to be enterprise technology was designed for finance and/or manufacturing first – and all other functions, especially those directly affecting customer experience, as an afterthought. Still today finance and manufacturing technology needs are typically taken more seriously than other functions requirements. But that’s changing.
Increasingly, the business community is viewing technology’s first obligation as enabling and improving process. When process design starts out at the customer end, rather than deep in the bowels of the company, technology must start there too. Otherwise, process and technology inevitably wind up misaligned. Plus, as it turns out, supporting finance in particular with technology is much less demanding than supporting customer-affecting work. So why would any systems architect let the less demanding functions dominate systems design and decisions? For example, we’re working now with a client that hired us to redesign process and then help select a new ERP system to support process. But they now realize that managing service operations is their major challenge, while they have tons of accounting and finance options. So we’ll design around the application layer.
This customer-driven turn of events turns systems architecture and IT overall on their respective ears. But we would do well to step back and look at other functions to anticipate customer primacy turning them outside-in as well. Your observations?
Will sales be able to switch from proactive to reactive?
A good friend, colleague and long-time client – Joe Lethert, founder of Performark – recently wrote an eye opening piece about the role of sales in the organization, especially in B2B. Joe described how customer use of the Internet is supplanting sales’ prospecting role, which is gradually transforming sales’ role from proactive “hunters” into reactive “information providers.” Customers go find the vendors they want to consider and then ask sales for information. They want (and expect) to bypass the persuasion piece.
The past couple week I’ve been reminded of how far behind the eight-ball sales has fallen. I’ve been prequalifying project management and inventory management technology for two clients, which has put me in contact with countless software vendors. Of course, we all know gambits like “see our web demo” (but first reveal all your info so we can pepper you with sales calls). But one aspect of the process really struck me as anachronistic. “We’re going to assign you a relationship manager.”
That’s bovine waste matter. All it means is “we have a commission plan to protect,” and if no one “owns” you from a commission standpoint, you’ll get scant or not attention. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted playing phone tag with traveling reps I “have” to go through to get information. “Relationship manager?” Not hardly. A true relationship manager would want to get me the information I need as quickly as possible, no matter who gives it to me. But software companies playing this game lose in the end. I downgrade or eliminate them as soon as the game begins.
Research House Harris Interactive just released a ranking of U.S. companies by reputation. The ten worst? From worst to next worst: AIG, BP; Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Chrysler, Bank of America, GM, Exon-Mobile, J.P. Morgan Chase, Delta Airlines (do you regret buying Northwest…now?). For the 10 most reputable – including several surprises – visit http://tinyurl.com/3cm95fo.
But how about globally? I’d love to see some “competition” on CustomerThink to see which continents are most extreme. Let’s hear nominations for best and worst from everywhere – and then look for the patterns. Not to mention comments about the U.S. list, which I could not resist starting.
Hey, venting your spleen is cathartic. Let it fly.