The irony of the event’s title was not lost on attendees at this year’s Constellation Research Connected Enterprise. This was the first time many of us had travelled and attended a major event in person for quite a while. The year’s theme – “Building for Digital Giants: Recharge, Reimagine, and Rebuild” – reflected the fact that the past few years have only accelerated the demand for innovation and different ways of doing business.
Persistent had several speaking sessions at the event, including a keynote session moderated by Ray Wang with our client, Regina Wallace-Jones, Senior Vice President for Product and Engineering at Mindbody, with Persistent’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Landis. We also had Karthik Balasubramanian, Senior VP and Head of ISVs and Emerging Verticals at Persistent, join a panel on discussing how industries deeply impacted by the pandemic- Travel and Hospitality, Retail, Entertainment- can teach us valuable lessons applicable in other industries. And Joe Paxton, Senior Vice President for Life Sciences at Persistent, spoke on a panel exploring how monetization and new business models are enabling improved patient-centricity in the Healthcare industry.
- Those that succeed own the relationship with customers
This may seem obvious but it’s harder to do than it sounds. The importance of Customer Experience (CX), with tangible examples of companies that truly own the full client relationship- Facebook, Tesla, Apple and Google- have all been able to increase their revenues by 6x during the pandemic by taking a direct-to-consumer approach. Another surprising contender, Domino’s, has been able to reap the dividends of owning their customer relationships end-to-end. Unlike many restaurant chains, Domino’s developed its own app so in addition to ordering, customers can track the journey of their pizza from oven to table. This approach, layered with advanced analytics, enables a deeper relationship with customers focused on their needs and journey.
- Positive employee experience requires a “make it amazing” approach
Companies traditionally took a “make it work” approach to employee experience, focused on productivity and the ability to drive outcomes. The past 18 months ushered in a new hybrid work model, requiring rapid technological transformation. At first, the approach was simply how to get the work done. Today, the focus has evolved to how to optimize and improve the employee experience. To do so requires trust, communication, and the ability to foster meaningful human connections. Companies must focus on going above and beyond to improve the employee experience, to truly “make it amazing”.
- Digital behaviors are part of every shopping journey
Even when shopping in person, people browse online first. This is the new reality. The digital experience is now always part of the customer’s journey, even when they shop in a physical store. Fulfillment often remains in stores – whether picked up or shipped from, in many cases. Companies must focus on the client’s digital journey, regardless of the industry.
- All businesses need to lead with software innovation at speed of today’s market
To keep pace with today’s shifts and continue to drive competitive advantage, organizations must build or partner to access the required software engineering expertise. This new broader set of expertise builds on traditional product engineering skills, with industry and domain knowledge as well as a comprehensive understanding of the disruptive technologies of the day. Companies require this new skillset to deliver seamless platform integration, capture the full potential of their data, create differentiated CX – all the while ensure tight enterprise security.
- Personalization enabled by unbundled services
Tailored customer journeys require access to critical data, which requires integration with multiple data sources and advanced data analytics. But it’s also a fine line to keep personalization from becoming creepy; it is possible to know too much about the customer or overuse their data. Striking the right balance requires empathy and responsibility.
- Bias is unavoidable
Despite the immense quantity data now available to guide decision making, decision models must still be evaluated to avoid unintended bias. Leverage data to uncover trends we don’t see, for example, using pattern recognition. Beyond the data, make sure there is diversity in the room and an openness to having difficult conversations about unintended bias. For the new age of digital engagement, there’s a place for sociology and anthropology to also help guide decisions.
- Move beyond fear as a reaction to increased competition
Fear is a justifiable emotion given recent big shifts and increased performance pressure, and leaders cannot ignore emotions – in their industry, within their teams and themselves. Overcome this fear by taking a “zoom out, zoom in” approach – zoom out to see the 10-20 year horizon with bigger opportunities and a focus on customers. Zoom in to drive tangible, short term (one year to 18 months) processes and set goals.
- Embracing fiction (the good kind), leads to brand connection
Don’t forget the basics of good storytelling. All good stories have their ups and downs, which leads to engagement, keeping a customer on the edge of their seat wondering what happens next. One way to do so is by playing hard to get in brand building, notably well-done by exclusive brands such as Hermes and its Birkin bag. The bag is exclusive and expensive, with a wait list to buy one and even harder to come by limited edition versions released periodically. Don’t under-estimate the emotions this exclusivity can illicit in customers.
- Focus on “explorer passion” to drive performance
Maintaining a high degree of curiosity – explorer passion – leads to sustained high performance. It can be understood as the excitement to have an impact and face challenges, connecting with others to solve problems. We all know strong leaders are usually the ones with the best questions and who freely admit they don’t have all the answers. This curiosity is contagious, as their passion is amplified and communicated to their teams.
- Following your passion leads to lasting impact
On a more personal note, the conference discussed the idea of leaving a company and leaving your department better than when you got there. What is your personal narrative, and the legacy you wish to leave behind? Know what you do uniquely well and embrace what makes you “weird”. Build your network with good people and know what you contribute and of course, don’t forget to pay it forward.