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Companies are recognizing that, in order to grow, they must change their strategy to engage with their customers. But doing this requires new technologies


  • Extract insight for personalization and relevance
  • Create amazing experiences, both online and in-person
  • Flawlessly execute business processes so that they don’t become apparent to the customer (e.g. – wrong goods shipped, incorrect bill, etc.)

The problem is that there is no one organization that is set up to own these technologies.  It’s unclear who should be responsible for buying and implementing them.

IT or “The Business”?

While IT might seem to be the logical choice to ‘own’ engagement technology (because they are responsible for the rest of the technology in the enterprise) they are not a shoe-in.  IT ‘s traditional focus has been with the internal customer. They have been the ones to “call the shots” with regard to delivering on technology and are not set up to respond to respond to changing demands in real time. IT also doesn’t necessarily understand the inner workings of marketing, sales and service organizations, so it’s hard for them to be proactive about identifying innovative technical solutions to the challenges the business faces.  Finally, IT is generally far removed from regular contact with the external customer – and a true understanding of their specific needs.

So what about marketing, sales, and customer service?  They are close to the customer and have a clear picture of their needs.  They also have their finger on the pulse of industry trends and are aware of the technical innovations occurring in the marketplace.  However, business operations teams (like sales operations) generally don’t have the technical expertise on staff to pull off what’s required to deliver a system of engagement that’s integrated with anything else.  Additionally, as a consequence of the organizational structure, each department generally focuses on its own challenges and does not think about engagement across the entire customer journey. Operations can administer point solutions, but they simply aren’t equipped to do much more.

The Cloud Complication

This lack of clarity on ultimate responsibility for the ownership of customer engagement technologies is further complicated by a recent trend.  An increasing number of cloud point solutions are available to marketing, sales, and customer service professionals.  These point solutions are presented as solutions that provide an easy path to addressing specific challenges that the business faces.  They also promise a quick implementation and administration requiring very little technical skill.  This trend has motivated marketing and sales groups to go out and, buy cloud-based services on their own to address their very specific needs, such as improving pipeline reporting or executing outbound email campaigns.  If the analysts are right, this scenario is will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

The problem with point solutions, however, is that they don’t necessarily address the underlying challenge: creating customer engagement.  Point solutions don’t create a seamless experience as the customer’s interaction with your organization moves from talking to marketing, to talking to sales, to talking to customer service.  Point solutions can’t translate customer insight into flawless process execution, nor can they extract value from the millions of customer data points that are stored in various databases around the enterprise.

CIO Becomes Chief Experience Officer

This brings us back to the CIO, who has the opportunity to look across the customer journey and identify ways of making the experience more consistent.  CIOs can meet with business leaders to understand their needs and then propose integrated solutions that leverage existing processes and customer data while capitalizing on the speed and innovation that cloud products deliver.  The challenge CIOs face is balancing the demands of the customer against the operational demands of the enterprise.  After all, the financial system can’t go down during year-end activities, and network security tends to be obsolete almost as fast as it is upgraded.

So, what is CRM? Who should own customer engagement technology?  Should it be the CIO, and by extension IT, with their technical skills and ability to cross departmental lines?  Should it be the marketing, sales, and service lines of business and their operations teams with their deep understanding of their business processes and customers?   Is there a middle ground, and if so what does that look like?

There is no easy answer, but there are a lot of opinions and examples of what’s working and what’s not.  Tune in to the Customer Edge TV webcast on Thursday, December 12th to hear expert opinions on this topic as well as how CEMEX, one of the world's largest suppliers of cement and building materials, manages this challenge in their U.S. business.