Enabling CIOs to Digitally Transform the End-to-End Customer Journey

Digital transformation has been a top priority for many companies and organizations over the last few years and has had a major impact on the role of CIOs. Given the technical nature of digital transformation, it is only natural that management and the board look to the CIO to lead the way. However, digital transformation is more than just a technical challenge. It is primarily an organizational challenge that has challenged CIOs to change internal perceptions on collaboration and the need to break down functional silos.

COVID-19 has presented additional challenges but, on the whole, has provided CIOs with an enormous opportunity to make progress with digital transformation plans. COVID-19 has forced companies and organizations to embrace digital solutions that previously might have been treated with skepticism or distrust but now are successfully deployed on a broad scale. According to a recent survey by Gartner [1], this has increased the profile of CIOs and strengthened their relationships with the CEO:

Increased use of digital products and services driving new customer demands

The improvement in the CIO profile comes at a crucial time, as the consumption of new digital products and services is increasing dramatically. According to the same survey by Gartner, 76% of CIOs report that they are seeing an increase in demand for new digital products and services and that they expect an 83% increase in 2021.

In addition, CIOs saw a 65% increase in the use of self-service by their customers and expect that trend to continue in 2021 with a projected increase of 79%[2].

This is a significant trend, as it speaks to the digital transformation in how companies are doing business with their customers. It recognizes a significant shift in customer preference to use digital solutions and tools to support themselves during the pre-sales research process through to customer support and service. This means that customers now expect a seamless and cohesive experience from first awareness of company offerings all the way to maintenance and service and that this experience should be digital.

CIOs need to think along new vectors

What does this mean for companies going forward and how they are organized? McKinsey recommend that CIOs think along three different vectors[3]:

  • The first vector focuses on reimagining the role of technology so that it becomes a foundation for business innovation in both products and business models to deliver better user experiences. It requires a rethink on how products are designed and delivered with tighter integration across organizational silos.
  • The second vector requires a rethink on how technology, products and services are delivered. McKinsey encourages IT to change how it functions by embracing agile processes and thereby improving IT services with next-generation capabilities such as end-to-end automation, platform as a service, and cloud.
  • Finally, CIOs are encouraged to future-proof the foundation by implementing a flexible architecture supported by modular platforms with data ubiquity protected through advanced cybersecurity.

Addressing shifts in customer preferences challenged by organizational structure

These recommendations require a focus on breaking down functional silos and encouraging cross-functional collaboration on how products and services are designed and delivered. End-to-end automation based on agile, flexible and modular platforms that embrace data ubiquity provide the foundation for future innovation and for a seamless digital customer experience.

There are two major challenges in addressing shifts in customers preferences:

    1. The first is the user experience challenge of ensuring a seamless customer journey with reliable, up-to-date information on which products, services and options are available, at what price and when they can be delivered.
    2. The second is the technical challenge of extracting the relevant information from functionally-focused systems, identifying discrepancies, validating options and then ensuring that this information is provided in a uniform manner to both customers and internal employees across functional boundaries.

The fact of the matter is that organizations are not organized to provide a seamless end-to-end customer journey. Companies are functionally organized with a focus on specific competencies and skills. Product engineering focuses on designing new products, procurement focuses on sourcing the required materials, manufacturing focuses on production, sales on orders etc. Each of these functional silos have chosen digital solutions that enable them to be more effective in their functions, but without consideration for the end-to-end customer journey.

What this means is multiple digital solutions and tools in each function with duplication of data that might or might not be synchronized, but usually reflects the priorities of the function rather than the business as a whole. For example, PLM systems provide a wealth of data and insight into product designs including thousands of potential product components and options. Manufacturing can import this information into their MES and ERP systems, but will also need additional information that supports manufacturing options. Sales can import production options and delivery options from all of the above systems into CRM systems, but will also need additional options concerning pricing and business terms that are only relevant to sales.

Ensuring that the data in each of these systems is synchronized, up-to-date and reliable is a major challenge. Replacing all of the functional systems with one cross-functional monolithic solution is not realistic.

So, what is the alternative?

Enabling true collaboration to digitally transform the end-to-end customer journey

Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) solutions provide a proven path forward. A Configuration Lifecycle Management solution provides a “single-source-of-truth” on the thousands of product configuration options that can be shared by all functions. Configuration Lifecycle Management solutions are designed with cross-functional collaboration in mind allowing each function to share data on product design, manufacturing, sales and service options that can be delivered with immediate notification if certain options are no longer possible.

Rather than replace existing PLM, MES, ERP and CRM solutions, the Configuration Lifecycle Management solution extracts information on all possible product combinations and options building a model that enables a specific combination to be validated immediately. This model is constantly synchronized with each system to capture any real-time changes in combinations and options and availability of specific product combinations.

This ensures that any product options communicated to potential customers, whether that be through digital online solutions or sales representatives or channel partners, is validated, up-to-date and can be delivered. This avoids potential mistakes due to out-of-date information, unavailability of key material or other real-time issues that occur on a daily basis.

The result is a seamless customer journey where the information provided is up-to-date and reliable throughout. Leveraging this capability enables CIOs to explore increased digitalization of the customer journey confident that there are no risks of mistakes and delivery issues as affected options will never be offered to customers.

CLM as a platform with a single-source-of-truth for cross-functional collaboration

More importantly, Configuration Lifecycle Management solutions provide a foundation for cross-functional collaboration. Since Configuration Lifecycle Management solutions do not replace existing systems, they do not impose a new way of working, but rather provide additional insight and benefits addressing the real issue of product misconfiguration. This avoids the potential disagreements that can occur between departments due to sales offering product options that can’t be delivered. It thus increases trust and collaboration across functions as data is shared openly and willingly.

The model-based approach of Configuration Lifecycle Management can act as an inspiration for how to bridge the organizational gap between vertical functional decomposition of work and responsibilities and horizontal support of end-to-end customer journeys.

Could your organization benefit from a Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) solution?

Find out by using our step-by-step checklist.