The digital age has made customers more IT savvy than ever before, so listening to their needs involves finding ways to innovate digitally – providing the most intuitive interfaces and experiences for them as possible. That means the IT team in any organisation now plays a critical role in the very important end goal of making customers happy.
So how to understand the exact needs of your organisation’s customers? IT needs to know each department’s requirements inside and out. Rather than just being a third party, separate entity, the IT team must become entwined with the business’ operations as a collaborator or, indeed, a strategic partner to make sure that this is happening.
Are IT departments integrating themselves? We wanted to see what the current situation was like. So, in November 2015, we commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey 385 IT and business decision makers across EMEA to understand the role of IT in becoming a strategic business partner and improving customer service. The survey resulted in our identifying three different types of IT department, each at their own stage of maturity on the path to being a business partner – the Utility Providers, the IT Contributors and the IT Innovators.
Here’s how they break down:
- Utility Providers – More than half (53%) of IT organisations fell into this category, the first of the three categories to becoming a business partner. Utility providers are IT departments who provide traditional IT services to the rest of the business in the most cost-effective fashion, but do little more. These IT teams don’t have much to do with the Board or business decision makers, aren’t required to have an understanding of the business’ goals and, as a result, they don’t align their strategy accordingly (if one is even in place). These teams tend to be reactive rather than proactive and their main focus is on tasks such as protecting data and information, regulatory compliance and improving employee productivity. So should we mention that a focus on customer experience is not a priority or target for them?
- IT Contributors – These organisations are slightly closer to the business in this second category, with nearly one-third (32%) of organisations falling into this category. It is in this category that boosting customer experience, making operational expenditure savings and protecting data and information become a key driver. Contributors are IT teams who have responsibility for providing IT services and running projects that are based on the priorities of different departments within the business. There’s some consideration of the organisation’s customers, but they find themselves siloed to each business unit and it becomes hard to implement one organisation-wide IT strategy.
- IT Innovators – The most advanced IT team, with 16% falling into what we classify the ‘innovator’ group. These are the IT teams who operate the closest to the rest of their business. Not only is there regular communication between the CIO and the outside organisation, but the IT team has support from the C-suite in general. These teams work across the company and all IT projects are delivered to provide the best experiences for customers and suppliers as well as employees. IT Innovators are tasked with improving customer satisfaction, which means proactively suggesting new ways to adapt to changing business needs, encouraging the organisation to differentiate and innovate.
So which are you? Come back to take our ‘IT Business Partnership Quiz’ and see if you’re getting close enough to your organisation to make your customers happy.