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Rethinking “Business Agility” — Now It's All About an End-to-End Focus on Business Outcomes
Welcome to The Digital Experience Report, your source for news, analysis, and insights on the ExTech (Experience Technologies) market and all things related to the Digital Experience.
In this report, a conversation with a global CIO of a multi-billion dollar manufacturing firm causes us to rethink "business agility" — and is backed up by conversations with Make, EasyVista, and Gainsight. Also, a proposed brand-vendor treaty by Charlie Cole, CEO of FTD (in case you missed our special publication) and new analysis for Skuid exploring how to fully realize the potential of Design Thinking by embedding it into your development process and throughout your experiential landscape. A refreshing take on Customer Journey Management by Thunderhead and a simple reminder from Seth Godin. Plus news from Appian, Tome, Snowflake, Celonis, Zenoss, Gainsight, Webex, Emplifi, Applause, Microsoft, and Talldesk.
Rethinking “Business Agility” — Now It's All About an End-to-End Focus on Business Outcomes
This week, I had a fascinating conversation with the global CIO of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national manufacturing company (and DXO Council member). He shared an interesting tidbit: he's basically banned the terms Agile and 'business agility' from his corporate lexicon.
He explained that he simply found them to be too distracting. They led his team away from focusing on the real-world issues they needed to address. Instead, he and his leadership team talk about innovation, adding value, and collaboration.
Likewise, he is often frustrated by vendors and pundits who talk breathlessly about strategies and technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, and cloud-native (among many others) as if they’re the answer to all challenges. “No executive I know is able to look at these as a full strategy,” he told me.
The real issue, he shared, is that in a world moving as fast as it is — even for a decades-old manufacturing firm — they need to have an unrelenting focus on two things:
Creating an end-to-end perspective that incorporates their entire technology stack and gives them the flexibility to accommodate the differing needs of their various constituencies and the adaptability to prepare for the future.
Aligning their efforts to the business outcomes that will make a meaningful difference in the market.
For me, it was crystalizing as it also flavored his viewpoint on the importance of the digital experience. Given the needs of his organization, the experience was all about creating meaningful partnerships with the company's customers by taking an end-to-end business outcome perspective.
It's a valuable construct for any enterprise leader to leverage. It's also an essential frame of mind for every tech company to understand.
The Importance of an End-to-End View
Not long ago, I published a piece on this topic entitled How an End-to-End Perspective and a Low-code Mindset will Transform Your View of Enterprise Automation.
Produced in partnership with Workato, it examined the need to look at automation and integration from this end-to-end, outcome-oriented position. "The most significant inhibitor to most organizations' growth is structural constraints," I wrote. "These constraints can come in many forms, but most are based on the limits of human interaction. The more complex any process, the more we must break it down and add in controls to ensure it doesn't fall apart as it passes between people."
The challenge, I explained, is that this deconstruction process leaves enterprises vulnerable. It creates a myopic view of everything and inhibits the end-to-end perspective necessary to deliver meaningful business outcomes.
During a conversation last week with Fabian Veit, he sounded many of the same notes. Veit is the Chief Operating Officer of Make, a no-code integration and automation tool. He shared that the company has evolved in some surprising ways.
He explained that while the company began by focusing on making integrations simple, its customers started using it to connect and automate complete end-to-end business processes — essentially creating full-fledged data-driven applications in the process.
It was a similar story, albeit from a completely different perspective, during another conversation I had last week. In this case, I was speaking with Nancy Louisnord, Chief Marketing Officer with EasyVista.
The company is laser-focused on helping IT organizations deliver IT services more effectively and easily. Here again, this end-to-end perspective came through. Through a combination of organic development and some recent acquisitions, the company now offers a suite of services that help IT manage service delivery, operations, and the employee experience as an integrated whole. Louisnord explained that the company believes that it's only by bringing these elements together in an end-to-end fashion that IT can truly deliver on its promise.
It’s a story that I believe is resonating.
If you’re going to create the type of flexibility and innovation (and business agility — shhhh!) that you need to compete in a fast-moving and ever-changing market, end-to-end is the name of the game.
But that’s also not the whole story.
Business Outcomes Reign Supreme
When I asked my CIO buddy what two emerging technology domains he was watching, his answer was enlightening: edge computing and analytics and operational technology (OT) security.
Given that his organization is a large, global manufacturer, these may not be that surprising. But what struck me was how completely aligned his answer was to the business outcomes he had talked to me about earlier in our conversation.
I know — that seems like a completely obvious, “duh” sort of thing to say.
But it is amazing how many conversations with tech vendors seem to be so centered on the tech itself and entirely skip this alignment to the business outcomes it's meant to deliver or support.
It’s also why I was pleasantly encouraged by the conversation I had last week with Kellie Capote, Chief Customer Officer at Gainsight. The company is a champion of the discipline of customer success and provides a suite of technologies that help its clients ensure and sustain successful customer engagements.
As she explained, the company views the creation of customer success as the intersection between delivering an exceptional customer experience and being laser-focused on customer outcomes.
The industry appears to be taking notice. The company just released a study that shows a staggering 95% of B2B companies now have at least a nascent customer success functional team. Moreover, the study shows that these investments in an outcomes-oriented customer success function reduce churn, improve product adoption, and directly increase revenue.
The message seems clear: focusing on business outcomes is the clearest and surest guide to crafting a winning strategy and experience — precisely what enterprises require to adapt to the experience economy.
Net Retention Rates for Everyone
Perhaps the most striking part of the conversation with the manufacturing CIO was that when I asked him about the impact of the digital experience on his business, he immediately went to the fact that it was a crucial aspect of retaining customers.
It was striking because we tend to think about industrial companies and legacy enterprises as being less susceptible to churn and customer switching risks.
When I spoke with Capote, she told me that one of Gainsight’s chief values was its ability to help its clients improve net retention rate (NRR). It does this, she says, by reducing churn and improving the totality of the customer journey. Because of this focus, however, the company has chiefly served SaaS and other tech companies.
While she made clear that the company has made recent inroads into traditional enterprises, it seems evident that there is plenty of open selling space as the need to leverage the experience to improve retention is an issue that now impacts every organization.
The big message here is that if you’re an enterprise leader, don’t get sucked into a technology-driven focus. Stick to your guns and remain steadfast in your focus on end-to-end solutions that deliver business outcomes. And, if you're a tech company leader trying to serve these enterprise leaders, focusing on these same things will both differentiate you and ensure that you're serving your customers authentically.
In case you missed this week's special publication of this guest analysis by Charlie Cole, CEO of FTD. In it, he proposes a treaty between enterprises (what he calls 'brands') and the tech companies that serve them. It's an important and worthwhile read no matter on which side of the table you sit. [Read the Treaty]
You Bought Into Design Thinking. But You're Missing Its Full Potential. Here's How to Bring it to Life.
I'm excited and encouraged that Design Thinking seems to finally be taking root in the enterprise. Still, too many organizations are missing out on its full potential. I explore how to overcome this gap in this new analysis produced in partnership with Skuid. [Read the Analysis]
In preparation for my upcoming report on Customer Journey Management, I came across this refreshing blog by Thunderhead. It's definitely worth the read. [Read the Blog]
If you're not already a Seth Godin fan, well, you should be. His simple, to-the-heart-of-it perspectives and advice are always valuable. This quick read hits home for all of us concerned with crafting and sustaining the customer experience. [Read the Post]