enterprisenetworkingmag

Customers and Employees Are In Charge - Now What?

By Laurent Philonenko, SVP of Corporate Strategy & Development & CTO, Avaya

Laurent Philonenko, SVP of Corporate Strategy & Development & CTO, Avaya

How Open Mobile Engagement is Forcing Enterprise Convergence

The idea of enterprise-wide digital convergence is not new. CIOs have been on a quest to create a converged digital enterprise for decades. Achieving enterprise-wide convergence results in a 360 degree view of the customer and employee. Fifteen years ago, this vision might have seemed like a business utopia — now it is within our grasp.

The adoption of cloud technology and the merging of IT infrastructure with consumer devices have fundamentally changed how businesses and their customers engage. Customers are proactively letting companies know which digital channels they prefer—voice, SMS, social, video— while businesses are responding and proactively communicating across those channels to drive loyalty. But it is not just about customers. Convergence is about employees, too.

"Companies that have not yet developed a mobile strategy are missing opportunities to drive business innovation, develop new revenue streams and deliver higher quality experiences"

Employees are bringing their ‘all about me’ consumer behavior to their jobs. The ease of living in an ‘app for everything’ world is what they have come to expect, including from their employers. And why not? If immediate and easy access to information, people and processes simplifies daily life, then that same access at work can predictably improve employee contributions which equates to better overall company performance.

According to a 2014 report by Gallup titled Why Customer Engagement Matters So Much, the engaged employee’s individual contribution to a company can result in 22 percent higher profitability, maintain a 21 percent higher productivity level, and demonstrate a 10 percent higher rate of customer engagement. Likewise, the engaged customer is more loyal and profitable in good and bad economic times. A customer who is engaged with a company represents an average 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth. In contrast, a disengaged customer represents a 13 percent discount while a disengaged employee costs a company on average $2,242 per employee per year. These are significant figures to any size organization.

Enabling better engagement outcomes—employee and customer—is the result of digital convergence. The evolution of digital convergence is just that, an evolution. It begins with the realization that legacy hardware and equipment are no longer helping the enterprise succeed. Renewing legacy maintenance licenses and upgrading hardware are risking the company’s ability to compete. Creating a convergence bridge between legacy challenges and meeting business needs is how the evolution to a full-fledged digital enterprise begins.

Open to Agility

Digital convergence requires agility to adapt to the demands of mobile-empowered consumers. People, like enterprise technologies, can no longer be kept in siloes. As Forbes reported earlier this year, mobile-empowered consumers— who are also employees—are driven by their own ability to try before you buy, return at will, and click their way to new options and choices. Companies that have not yet developed a mobile strategy are missing opportunities to drive business innovation, develop new revenue streams and deliver higher quality experiences.

However, there is no point in transforming the top layers of the business when the foundations are cracking under the pressure of old systems like client-server technology and closed software that have been patched together in an (often failed) effort to converge rigid systems. Scaling capabilities with older systems tend to be very limited and elasticity is non-existent. The business can only move at the speed of its slowest support component.

If companies want to move convergence forward, they need to rethink what convergence means to the business and strip away all unnecessary, clumsy and cumbersome infrastructure protocols and hardware that stand in the way of agility. A key step that can begin to build a convergence bridge to digital is the move to an open, extensible, workflow software development platform.

Such environments enable a “publish and subscribe” application-development process built as a set of micro services talking to one another or talking to other applications. No single application or developer assumes any esoteric protocols or programming or storage requirements; they are free to adopt whatever platform or programming language that makes the most sense for the ultimate user experience. These environments enable creation of secure communication and notifications between applications and objects that cannot be achieved in a closed environment. They enable workflow automation for both real time and non real time tasks and processes.

Leaders Drive Change

Obtaining the digital enterprise through convergence is an attractive vision, but not easy to achieve, especially for established companies with legacy systems, or complacent with proprietary rules and siloed business units. As with any major enterprise shift, early buy-in from key leaders such as the CEO and CMO can be instrumental in driving success. The leaders need to be committed to creating a new corporate culture that prioritizes open teamwork and collaboration for people and technology.

Companies also need to work with external players to adopt an open-mobile cadence for their development processes and to tap into the expertise of those who understand how to harness the benefits of open engagement for better customer, employee and partner engagement.

This kind of transformation, one that requires change in how companies think about and use their technology infrastructure, can be difficult—but those that successfully navigate it will be rewarded with significant bottom-line value and increased customer loyalty for decades to come: Thrive with enterprise-wide digital convergence or die from sclerotic systems.