Forty-three organizations in DEJ’s 2019 IT Transformation research reported that they are looking to make their IT more customer-centric. Organizations that are already taking this approach are reporting that their level of customer engagement and ability to connect with customers via different channels improved by 64% and 81% respectively.

So what is customer-centric IT? It is an organizational approach for managing the IT that puts quality of experience for both internal and external customers as the key area of emphasis in all aspects and functions of IT’s activity.

What is driving it?

DEJ’s research shows that customer expectations for engagement and experience increased over the  last 12 months for 68% of organizations. Additionally, 46% of organizations reported the increasing need to process and analyze customer data in real-time. Most importantly, due to digitalization and increased power of customers, the direct impact of customer satisfaction and engagement on revenue growth is continuously increasing.

As a result of organizations becoming more customer-centric, the IT has to play an important role in this process. That calls for a departure from the way that IT has traditionally been run, which creates a new set of challenges and requirements for transforming IT and an organization as a whole.

1 – It takes organization-wide effort to implement and sustain it. As any transformational effort in the enterprise, making IT customer-centric requires clear strategy, buy-in from all key stakeholders, changes in organizational culture, etc. This is very hard to do especially for organizations that are still treating IT as a cost center and don’t have a clear vision as to how technology can impact key business goals.

2 – It is cross functional and requires a redesign of processes. Creating customer-centric IT doesn’t require just changes in tools that are being used or even a mindset or skills of IT staff. It requires a redesign of processes and organizational structure and calls for coordination and collaboration of multiple functional areas within the organization.

3 – Requires a new set of tools. Measuring user experience, collecting and analyzing customer data, sharing actionable insights about customer behavior, satisfaction and engagement are just some of the areas of transforming IT to become more customer centric, those in which organizations will have to address by investing in a new set of technology capabilities. Depending on legacy tools that are designed to make IT run and just “keep the lights on” is not an effective strategy when IT is asked to support transformation and growth.

4 – Requires a new set of metrics to be tracked. In a customer-centric environment, IT can no longer solely focus on traditional metrics that are mainly focused on availability, performance, utilization or cost. Customer-centric IT has to evaluate its performance based on metrics that show quality of customer experiences and the ability to quickly adjust to changes in customer expectations.

5 – Cost. Deploying customer-centric IT can increase the cost of running the IT which goes against how many organizations are currently being run and evaluated. However, if executed effectively, creating an IT organization, culture and processes that are focused on customers creates a business value which largely outweighs a potential increase in IT cost.

How to create it?

Each of the five areas listed above can be very challenging to address and implement. However, DEJ’s research identifies actions that organizations who are ahead of the curve in creating customer-centric IT are taking and ,as a result, are reporting significant improvements in customer experience.

1 – Right set of metrics. As Digital Enterprise Journal’s article on Digital Experience Monitoring (DEM) stated, IT organizations have to implement a new set of performance indicators that go well beyond traditional metrics, such as availability and speed of applications. Including customer centric metrics, such as usage levels and patterns, engagement, benchmarking against the industry and contribution to creating new and better customer experiences, is the approach that customer-centric organizations are nearly three times more likely to be taking as compared to the rest of the market.

2 – Focus on internal customers. Even though the term “customer-centric” usually relates to external customers, IT organizations also need to focus on the quality of experience of their customers within the organization. Fifty-two percent of organizations in DEJs research reported that the quality of experience of their employees when using the technology has a direct impact on customer satisfaction and engagement.

3 – Implementing new culture. As we mentioned that transforming IT to become customer-centric requires a cross-functional approach, sharing customer insights throughout the organization becomes very important. Also, 46% of organizations that are leading the market in creating customer-centric cultures reported that they are including their IT staff in interactions with customers and have defined channels for customer-facing employees to communicate and collaborate with IT.

4 – Self-assessment. Another best practice that leaders in creating customer-centric organizations are taking is conducting a detailed assessment of the areas that constitute user experience and identify where (and how)  IT can help improving in each of these areas. For more accurate and actionable results, this assessment should come from both business and IT. This helps organizations to identify both gaps and alignments of their strategy to create customer-centric IT.

5 – Being proactive. DEJ’s 2018 research on Modernizing IT Operations revealed that many organizations are still struggling with adopting a proactive approach for managing their IT infrastructure and services. Taking this approach is not only critical for addressing challenges of traditional IT organizations, but it becomes even more important as these organizations are looking to transform and become customer-centric. With the constant increase in customer expectations and ongoing changes of how they would like to engage, organizations need to be proactive and address these areas before customer experience starts declining.

Also, two general areas that cut across all recommended actions for creating customer-centric IT are: 1) changes to organizational structure; and 2) constantly measuring progress. Organizations need to realize that having IT become customer-centric is not a project  with start and finish date, but an ongoing agile process of taking actions, measuring and adjusting. DEJ’s research shows that organizations that are taking this approach are experiencing revenue growth at the rate that is, on average, 37% higher than that of other organizations. On the other hand, organizations that are not interested in taking this approach were 2.3 times more likely to report changes in customer expectation as a threat rather than an opportunity. That shows that even though the process of creating customer-centric IT can be difficult, going through it is both rewarding and unavoidable.