Thinking Ahead: Goodbye to the Internet, hello to connected customer journeys

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The world is forever changing on June 1, 2016: the word ‘internet’ will no longer be capitalized (we’re starting early, because we’re forward thinking like that). Whether you agree or disagree with this long-debated grammar rule, it’s an interesting reflection on the state of society and our relationship with the internet. It is no longer ‘the Internet’, it’s just the internet. It’s truly ubiquitous. It doesn’t replace offline interactions, but it’s definitely integrated into everything we do. And this is changing the way we, at OpenRoad, and the way our clients, do business.

Today, Jessica Evans and I share our views about how the omnipresent internet is changing technology projects, and what project sponsors can do to create more value for their customers.

Customer journeys as the new norm

In today’s world, the distinction of “digital” has become increasingly irrelevant. Organizations have shifted to focus on the customer journey over individual touch points and channels. To succeed, products need to exist seamlessly in the larger context of the customer’s life.

There is growing awareness across all industries that connected experiences are important—but many companies are stuck with archaic back-end systems and sprawling graveyards of digital properties. Siloed systems and websites create a disjointed customer experience that is often more about company policies and procedures, than fulfilling customer needs.

If we want to change the experience, we need to change how we approach planning and execution of technology projects. Companies that can get it right have the opportunity to surpass their competition by creating real value for their customers.

Planning for connected customer experiences

Traditional system integrator and agency methods are broken. Monolithic waterfall implementations leave no flexibility to adapt to changing customer needs. Meanwhile, campaign-driven projects (sometimes called “disposable digital”), focus solely on campaign goals, with little consideration to the overall customer experience.

At OpenRoad, we’ve been thinking about this problem a lot lately, particularly as we help many customers through their own customer journey mapping exercises. Our fearless Project Services Director, Jessica Evans (avid cyclist and unicorn believer) is leading the charge on aligning OpenRoad’s service offerings to deliver more connected customer experiences.

As a technology industry veteran working for both large system integrators and digital agencies, Jessica has seen first-hand how software is shifting from project-centric to customer-centric.

“It’s easy to fall into a ‘my project first’ mentality,” Jessica says, referring to the pitfalls associated with waterfall implementations and campaign-driven microsites, “with each project sponsor doing everything they can to ensure their single project is pushed through on time and meets objectives. But we need to shift towards a ‘customer-first’ mentality, where we approach projects more holistically.”

“How do the goals, projects and timelines across the organization align to make the best possible customer experience?”

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“How do the goals, projects and timelines across the organization align to make the best possible customer experience?”

Take advantage of new research tools

Creating customer-centric experiences starts with understanding the customer. At OpenRoad, we’ve been long-time “problem definers” and user research nerds. Within the past couple years, we’ve branched out to provide more service design capabilities, where our design consultants research how services work together along the customer journey, and make recommendations about improving the entire customer experience.

Jessica recommends: “it’s all about good research. When you have clear customer research, there is less discussion about what each stakeholder imagines the customer wants, and more sound decision making around customer goals.” Jessica helps clients understand how our new offerings can benefit them, as well as helps our team refine them and turn them into well-defined processes that can be delivered consistently.

Focus on customer-centric outcomes

Your organization likely has numerous technology projects on-the-go simultaneously. Coordinating efforts across projects, programs, portfolios, and divisions is undoubtedly complex. Jessica suggests “instead of describing your goals as project deliverables like ‘we need to launch an X by Y date’, try putting them in customer terms like ‘we need to improve the customer experience of X by Y%’.”

When you describe goals as customer outcomes, it’s easier to look at them from a big picture perspective, and make sure that projects support one another. Jessica’s team meets with clients for roadmap planning sessions to discuss desired customer outcomes, and make sure that current projects are aligned to deliver on a holistic customer experience, as well as longer-term business strategies.

Manage for the unknown

The hidden and less-talked-about underbelly of innovation is risk. Organizations are looking to create competitive advantage by doing things that have never been done before. But that also means managing projects with large degrees of uncertainty and many unknowns.

Jessica compares managing projects to navigating a ship through unknown waters; “it’s easy to focus on the sunny calm waters ahead, and ignore the unknowns. The key is to talk about risks as soon as they’re visible, so you can avoid or address them. If there’s a storm brewing far on the horizon, note it for discussion and keep tabs on it, in relation to your course.” Once new techniques and prototypes have been tested, clearly documenting methods helps turn them into repeatable services, and reduces unknowns on future projects.

Thinking Ahead

As the internet becomes more and more integrated into daily life, connected customer experiences are no longer a novelty—they are an expectation. Nimble organizations who adapt this mindset have a huge opportunity for competitive advantage. They should seek technology vendors who aren’t simply siloed contractors, but strategic partners in delivering on the customer journey.

Some of this keeping you up at night? Ready to put some of these ideas into action? We can help. Get in touch today. And stay-tuned for the next article in our series.

Do you have thoughts on the end of ‘The Internet’ and the rise of the customer journey? Leave a comment or drop us a line and let us know what you think.

This is part 2 in our Thinking Ahead series

We asked some folks on the leadership team here at OpenRoad to share their thoughts on what successful organizations will be thinking and doing this year. The key theme seems to be something we’ve believed in for the last 20 years (suggesting that what’s new isn’t all that new, really, but it’s just the context that matters). At the centre of everything, is the user.

Check out Part 1: The evolution of content management—the Decoupled CMS, and stay tuned for more articles in the coming weeks, and follow us for updates.