Why IT departments don

Got an intriguing e-mail message from Accenture today with theheadline, “Capture the next-generation customer.” I’m not sure thatmany companies have successfully captured the old-generation customers,but according to Accenture that may be beside the point. The issue maybe that IT departments aren’t customer-centric, period.

Astrid Bohe, Accenture’s executive director of InformationManagement Services, says that its studies with enterprise firms showthat only 28 per cent of IT application investments arecustomer-focused. Of those that exist, they tend to be thepoorest-performing, Bohe adds.

“Companies are coming to grips with the new customer behavior —more specifically, the ‘next-generation customer,’ whom the Internethas granted unprecedented power and choice — and gauging how to respondaccordingly,” she says in the Accenture message. “Many large retailerswould now be at a disadvantage if they did not offer mechanisms thatlet customers tailor their own product comparisons online, createinformation in the form of user reviews, and share it with others usingsocial networks like Facebook. Participation, sharing, creating andpersonalization are no longer theoretical concepts; they are becomingintegral to the overall offerings that the customer expects.”

As I read on, I realized that all this was part of a convolutedpitch for companies to use more analytical business intelligencesoftware, which I can hardly dispute. It doesn’t really explain,however, why customer-centric applications take such a back seat.Another way of asking this question may be, if they’re not working oncustomer-centric applications, what are they working on?

The obvious candidates would be business-centric (as in, those thatrun the internal operations of a company like payroll and collaborationtools, which serve employees) and perhaps process-centric, or thosethat monitor the health of things going on in the data centre whichsupport the business operations as well.

You could argue that these applications take priority becausewithout them there wouldn’t be an organization capable of servingcustomers at all. These applications also tend to have much greaterinterdependencies with legacy systems that require lengthy integrationand trouble-shooting.

In contrast, the customer-centric applications are often dealingwith myriad security issues, involve immature products and are moredependent on business units articulating very clear requirements andmeasures from the outset. No wonder they tend to perform more poorly.

I think analytics can definitely help corporations do a better jobof serving customers in the way they want to be served. But no oneshould expect the customer-centric ratio to shift very much. Ifcustomers are the cart and customer-centric apps are the horse,business and process-centric apps are the ones driving the whole thing.

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