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Customer Centricity and the Role of IT

There is a general trend that we have observed in business organizations of every type: they are becoming more ‘customer-centric’ – that is, providing their customers with a higher-quality, more personalized and integrated experience, particularly over the Internet. Generally speaking, customer centricity means moving away from the traditional, inside-out, ‘we know best’ orientation of most companies, and towards an outside-in perspective in which the customer is placed at the centre of the relationship, and the supplier’s organization boundaries are largely transparent. Customer-centric firms also recognize that customers live in a wider business ecosystem, where communities, aggregators and other actors play an increasingly important role.

We usually find that IT needs to change to support changes in the business and its organization. But in this case the reverse also appears to be true. When a company begins to do substantial business over the web, customer centricity often becomes an imperative and begins to drive larger cultural and organizational change within the firm.

Achieving true customer centricity requires a number of specific organizational goals, actions and skills that few firms or their IT departments have fully in place today. Technology is blurring the lines between the Marketing and IT functions, as companies and their staff require a double-deep mix of skills that leverages the marketing potential of the web, but also meets the complex information management needs of the enterprise. While historically corporate Marketing and IT often had a distant and not particularly warm relationship, now increasingly they need to function as one effective team. The CIO often faces the choice of aggressively seeking to build this new partnership, or of watching Enterprise IT get passed over in favour of other alternatives.

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