In his book "Good to Great," Jim Collins examines organizational mission statements and concluded that client focused statements promote different behavior within organizations as it maintains the organizational focus on value. This is amplified by Simon Sinek in his book ‘Start with Why’ which encourages organizations to ask themselves why they exist.
Both of these authors speak to the value of being a purpose driven company. Technology has fundamentally changed both how we live our lives and our expectations. The technology we have available today is outrageous compared to even ten years ago and the rate of change is increasing.
One clear outcome of this technology revolution is that the world has become significantly more competitive.
The competitive world we live in
The ability to rate a transaction immediately, to expect instant and personal response, to be able to demand personalized services at any time across a multiplicity of devices has set consumer expectation levels that defy belief when compared to only a decade ago.
To survive and thrive in the modern world, organizations have to deliver consistently great service. Failure is, quite simply, not an option. There is nowhere to hide.
Technology isn’t simply about delivering the same thing faster and more efficiently. Great technology drives behavioral change. Traditional taxi services are monopolistic and services non-recurring, and because of that there is little motivation for service excellence. A taxi journey was quite simply a one-time commercial arrangement. Payment for service is delivered with little or no viable option for the customer to influence the service.
Uber and their competitors have changed that. There are many anecdotes about the technology, the efficiency and the different commercial model but the fundamental change that Uber delivered was exposing the entire experience to scrutiny.
Drivers are reviewed, companies are evaluated, competition is introduced. The experience is examined and evaluated from all available angles. This holistic assessment is a powerful tool and drives constant improvement in services.
The service goes from good to great because the journey is no longer a simple commercial transaction. The service has a far greater purpose than transport from A to B. The purpose now is to deliver a great experience.
Client centricity in IT
Although technology is the primary enabler of much of the change that we experience, the IT Service industry often lags behind this shifting world.
IT service providers have evolved against a culture of error avoidance that are governed with watertight, locked down contracts that are designed to assign blame for failure.
The consumerization of technology that has driven the widespread change in perception and demand from users and created an expectation of transparency has not yet been fully reflected in the service provider community. Many service providers persist in building their business model to protect themselves against failure and error. It is not just the external service providers that are caught in this trap: internal IT functions often adopt the same, inward looking approach, seeking to avoid error and protect themselves.
As IT has become infused into all aspects of business and now has many stakeholders, it is no longer a separate cost of sale activity. IT is now as integral a part of business, a fundamental element of the customer experience.
A boarding pass application for an airline, the in-progress meter on a pizza delivery website, and the entertainment system in your automobile are all examples of this. This means that IT needs to adopt a far more customer centric approach than ever before.
This means unpicking years of legacy behavior. Over the past 20 years or more, IT and service providers have developed patterns of thought and working. One approach is to rebuild IT from the ground up and inject customer centric agility into the ethos. This does not mean a wholesale removal of the existing IT Department or a complete cull of service providers but it does require a change in approach.
The hammer and the nail
Successful organizations are spreading IT across multiple areas of the business, removing the traditional single central IT function and engaging with service providers who have developed multiple offerings that allow them to deliver the right platform for the right workload. When all a service provider has is a hammer then everything looks like a nail, but a service provider with a comprehensive toolkit provides an independence of thought to address different situations, leveraging public cloud when it makes sense, but meeting the clients where they are on the journey to get there.
That toolkit is partly the technology that is developed, but a significant element of the toolkit is culture: having multiple tools is only of use if the underlying culture supports change and transformation.
A successful service provider needs to engage across a client, across technology services and the business and create a commercial relationship that allows ease of movement between platforms with the change being driven by the business needs not by commercial or technology limitations.
No guarantees with lock ins
Constructing contracts or solutions for the purpose of lock in is not going to cut it anymore. “Lock in” should be created by nothing more than excellence in service and a client first attitude – a client voluntarily choosing you because of service excellence and continuous improvement is becoming the only true retention mechanism – and this is a very good thing.