The period between W. Edwards Deming and Dotcom (let’s say 1950-2000) ushered in ERP and the modern software revolution. Over decades, highly refined processes and perfected workflows shifted from paper and clipboards into mainframe environments – from conveyor belts to computing and from ledgers to LANs.
In the progression to slightly less monolithic server-based business applications, millions of lines of customised code are transferred into configurable data fields, coupled with ready-made workflow connections, and processes based on standards set by leading companies and their representative bodies. The standardisation of business systems lowered the entry point for new enterprises, spawned new industries, and ultimately allowed SaaS to proliferate.
ERP was a true revolution in automating process and quality management systems and building the modern world. Cloud was then a transformation for ERP. It was an innovation on an original idea, but it wasn’t the next revolution. In many ways, by standardising business systems, we went too far. The vendor market over-estimated what configuration over customisation could achieve and ultimately set unachievable expectations in relation to client outcomes. On the client side, end-user organisations seized on vanilla processes and workflows and got lazy about working out solutions to their own problems. In chasing out-of-the-box software they sought to expedite, and even outsource, the hard work. In doing so, the core driver of 20th century post war economic prosperity was forgotten.
In business transformations there are no short cuts to results
One of the defining social drivers of the 21st century is a move towards the concept of individualism. We see it everywhere. In the transformation of traditional marriage, family, and identity structures. In the migration away from the concept of houses and homes, in the rise of the gig economy, and even in the regulatory schemes of government, financial and insurance services. The individual sits at the centre of new globalisation economic design and is giving rise to the next business systems revolution. At ServiceNow Knowledge 2022I was fortunate to hear Dr Catriona Wallaceand the Hon Victor Dominello MPdiscuss it in the context of their recent research. Dr Wallace described the trend as, “know me and care about me”, and discussed the requirements to operate within a world of both hyper-personalisation and ethical restraint.
This time however the business systems revolution to support this change is not being driven by process efficiencies and quality management, though they remain important tools. It is being driven by the pursuit of Experiential Excellence. You’ve heard it many times before and once you’ve seen it you can’t unsee it – Customer Experience, Employee Experience, Digital Experience. These are all ambitions of populist organisational and service transformation agendas with Experiential Excellence at their core.
For business and technology leaders it requires a mental shift. Traditional ERP alone will not get us there. It means a new business systems methodology is required to accompany, and reflect the challenges of the modern world, not one created more than 70 years ago.
An Experiential Excellence platform isn’t just a new ERP. It’s a new type of system capable of operating at speed and with breakthrough power; but it is also capable of breaking the intellectual shackles of pre-configuration to help organisations recapture the essence of what Deming started so long ago and we somehow lost along the way: The ability to think about and solve any kind of complex, innovative and multi-objective, multi-stakeholder problem. And I think that ServiceNow, and the Now Platform, is the first company (and business system) to do it.
The sense of something special was clearly evident among ServiceNow staff and partners, at the event. But I don’t think they have yet nailed the messaging. And the reason is because there is still such a strong gravitational pull towards the old ERP model among end-user clients. This reinforces a need for ServiceNow to still define itself by the last 50 years of system technology rather than the next 50.
That needs to change. So, next time when a client asks, is ServiceNow an ERP or is it an RPA platform or something else, the answer is – it is neither, and both, and all, and sometimes at the same time. This wonderful superposition, the same quantum computing characteristic that allows a particle to be one thing, or either, or both, all at the same time, is the very essence of their opportunity – should they wish to take it.
To be a leader in the new quantum age of computing will mean taking the brave step of unshackling themselves from the 20th century view of ERP and lead the redefinition of business systems for the quantum age. Let the revolution begin.
Through Ecosystm research and interviews with organisations we have found that businesses that are already creating a consistent, effective, and memorable digital customer experience have these traits in common:
Had CEO and Board-level support for their strategy. Your ability to create a memorable and consistent digital experience lives and dies by the support of your senior management team. Without the CEO telling the rest of the business that this is a priority, the employees simply won’t come along for the ride.
Gained Employee support for the strategy. There is no point in creating a digital customer strategy at the Board and senior management level if it is not consistent with the lived experience of employees. An Australian bank made the mistake of making all their digital experience decisions at the most senior levels without taking the employees on the journey too. Change needs buy-in from all levels of the business – so make sure all levels are heard and that they understand why and how you will change the way they work and deliver customer value.
Made the delivery of a brand-consistent experience into a key KPI. In these businesses, a consistent CX is a given. That doesn’t mean they are not personalising their customer experiences or optimising them for specific touchpoints – it means that collaboration with other teams and channels is a base expectation. Changes are not made without the knowledge of other teams.
Prioritised governance over management. The risk of collaboration and including many people in decisions is that it slows decisions down and impacts business agility. To enable their collaborative approach to digital experience delivery, these businesses have set rules and guardrails into their decision-making processes to ensure they continue to deliver on-brand and consistent experiences. Many also have created cross-channel teams or sewn their digital skills across the different channel teams to ensure consistency of customer experience.
Consolidated on fewer platforms and CX ecosystems. Five years ago, businesses needed to source smaller, more innovative CX software and cloud components just to keep up with customer expectations. The trendsetters had built their own CX capabilities and weren’t relying on the traditional ISVs for their CX innovation. Smaller providers were emerging to fill these gaps for businesses who were not digitally native. Sourcing best-practice solutions is much easier today. Some of those smaller vendors have emerged to create their own platforms and CX ecosystems, and other suppliers have acquired and innovated their own software to meet and exceed customer requirements. For example, you no longer need multiple content management systems or platforms – a single content source can now meet the different needs of your different channel teams and feed consistent content to all customers tailored to their journey stage or chosen touchpoint.
Used data for their customers – not against them. Many personalisation or automation attempts have failed. Not because they used the wrong data, but because they were driving the wrong outcome. They were designed to corner a customer into a decision, versus helping them make the best decision for their circumstance. We all know what that looks like – if an interaction feels “creepy” like they are following you around the web and across touchpoints, or they seem to know too much about you. This is when a business is using data against you to try to force an action. Smart businesses use data to help customers achieve their goals – in the knowledge that happy customers will not only return to the business or brand, but also tell their friends and family about the experience.
Creating a consistent and on-brand digital experience will drive many positive outcomes for your customers and your business. Your customers will know what to expect and be comfortable in their interactions with your brand in whatever channel or touchpoint they desire – with the knowledge that the experience will be consistent and integrated and their time will not be wasted. They’ll return to your business over and over again. The consistent experience will also drive down your costs – with less rework, fewer platforms to support, more automation and hopefully a simpler technology architecture. Done right, it will also create a single unifying digital initiative across the business that will help to break down barriers, improve collaboration, and unlock innovation in and between your business teams.