Customer-Focused Process, Facilitated by Technology

Realizing transformational results through technology begins with defining purpose and process.

by Gray Hollins

Technology is a foundation for doing business today, and winning organizations use it to enable efficient, scalable and responsive customer interactions and business processes. An organization’s approach to, and implementation of, technology determines whether or not its systems are accelerators or anchors. It dictates whether or not customers are able to self-serve, if employees can effectively respond to customer needs, and if operations are cost effective. So how does implementing new or enhanced technology go wrong? Why do many investments in technology aimed at improving customer experience actually create a hindrance? 

It should be simple, right? With the sophisticated technology available today, there must be readily available technology solutions that immediately solve customer needs, automate business processes and transform an operation into a streamlined machine. If this is true, why do technology implementations often fail to deliver intended business value?

There are several contributing factors, but root cause often comes down to two things: 

  1. Starting with an unclear or undefined purpose for your technology
  2. Implementing technology without defining customer-focused business processes

Far too often, technology is scoped, developed and implemented without a clear definition of purpose, or the processes required to meet that purpose. It’s like a golfer with a terrible swing expecting great results after purchasing a $500 driver, when he or she should be focusing on swing improvements. Or like an operations manager hiring the best and brightest talent without defining the role he or she will play. They’re forgetting the two critical steps: defining the purpose and ideal process. It sounds so simple, but it’s rarely easy to get these steps right. 

Defining the appropriate purpose is complex, especially when stakeholders have competing goals and agendas for their respective teams. In order to successfully define purpose, it is critical to engage the appropriate leaders and empower them to make the decisions necessary. Be careful not to involve too many, and only those that are absolutely required to make an informed decision that sets the stage for success. If defining the purpose struggles or stalls, focus on incremental goals and objectives that will lead to greater purpose. Also, try involving an objective party, either internal or external, to facilitate the conversation and guide the team. With the purpose set, the next step is to define the business processes, starting with the customer.

Realizing impactful, transformational results through technology begins with exploring and defining customer-focused processes that will take an organization to the next level. The processes or interactions that make a customer say, “Wow, that was easy!” Once defined and understood, identifying how technology can enable these processes becomes a bit easier. A natural step to bring process and technology together is to walk step-by-step through the processes, or customer journeys that will occur, eliciting technology requirements along the way. I like to start with the high-level steps and discuss the activities and outcomes for each step. It’s amazing to observe as requirements become apparent during the conversation. Here’s an example of a simple map I used recently while discussing a customer-focused process to gather technology requirements. By the end of the session, use cases and user stories filled the space below each step of the process.

Story Map

With requirements tightly tied to purpose-driven and customer-focused processes, technology decisions, development, and implementation are more likely to remain aligned to purpose. Basically, taking this approach prevents technology projects from resulting in this experience.

The next time your organization is considering implementing or enhancing technology, be sure those driving change define and understand the real purpose of that technology, and the processes required to achieve that purpose. Taking these steps could be the difference between processes and systems that are anchors for your customers and your business, and ones that are accelerators for all involved.

Gray Hollins
Gray Hollins
Senior Consultant
Contact Gray

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