Business-IT alignment has been a dream talked about for decades by analysts, speakers, technologists and business leaders. Did the Covid situation finally force things into line?
Look at the growing emphasis on customer experience (CX) among tech staffs, which has shifted their priorities from caring for and nurturing back-end systems to caring for and nurturing actual customers. Not every organization is there yet, and many technology professionals still feel disconnected from the ultimate delivery of products and services to consumers. However, the world of technology is changing, requiring new mindsets and ways of working — including greater collaboration and greater empathy.
The good news, says Michael Wallace, senior manager or solutions architecture at Amazon Web Services, is that most technology professionals and managers don’t need a major skills refresh to deal with these new priorities. Wallace, who shared his observations on the new technology workplace, points to the last two years as a major sea change.
“The pandemic showed IT groups that they can now improve the customer experience without having to learn new skills,” Wallace says. For example, IT professionals in contact centers “are wondering how they can move from monolithic constructs to something that is fast, adaptable, programmatic and easily managed by developers. They want the ability to seamlessly integrate operational services quickly with commonly understood programming languages, and without the need to upgrade additional infrastructure.”
The Covid crisis, for all its tragedy and disruption, has brought together people who previously existed within their own silos and often did not see eye to eye. “The pandemic and its subsequent work-from-home model served as a powerful pressure for IT and business-centric teams to come together and be more resilient to changing market and world conditions,” says Wallace. “Before the pandemic, IT teams often had competing priorities that left CX teams deprived of the customer experience. This led to IT projects hidden from the business and CX teams that were never implemented well because they didn’t have purchase or full IT support.”
There are still headwinds, of course, that stand in the way of such collaborative nirvana. Wallace makes the following recommendations to achieve greater reach:
- Identify existing inertia in the corporate culture: “From a corporate culture perspective, many large organizations have made huge investments in their technology platforms and the skills needed to run those platforms,” says Wallace. “Changing these technology stacks can be daunting, so customer experience teams are forced to continue with the status quo instead of improving the customer experience — ‘good enough is good enough.’ “
- Identify areas where technologists should be more deeply involved: “The most common issue is not knowing what is needed or where to start. For example, an organization may have a lot of data but may not know the best way to analyze that data,” Wallace explains. . “IT professionals need to take a deeper look at what’s working well and what’s keeping them up at night as it relates to their current technology stacks, and how they can best use AI and machine learning to overcome this challenge.”
- Embrace design thinking: “The best thing a tech professional can do is think about a great customer service interaction they’ve had that can be used in future CX models,” says Wallace. “Most likely, the great experience was due to agents’ access to technology. Integrations into cutting-edge systems, gathering meaningful data, and leveraging machine learning to get agent information quickly are all critical components to understand and better serve customers.”
- Look to emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning:For example, in a contact center environment, improving the agent experience is essential to improving the customer experience. In the past, it was common to have separate back-end systems trying to work together. This can be cumbersome and require more agent effort, which then increases costs and results in negative customer experiences. By using technologies such as machine learning, you can ensure that agents have access to the information they need to help the customer quickly and accurately, ultimately improving experiences for both the agent and the customer.
We may eventually see the word when technology and business priorities are indistinguishable. Until then, keep an eye on how CX is handled and who makes it happen.